Sports Betting Terms


Common Sports Betting Terms

"That’s not the preferred nomenclature, Dude."

Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

Words, lingo, nomenclature… You thought getting a medical degree was difficult, memorizing all those bones and muscles and what not… The nomenclature surrounding sports wagering can be similarly complex. But we aren’t saving lives here, we’re just trying to earn a little money.

Betting Limits

Betting limits are the largest wagers sportsbooks will take from its clientele. The limits will differ based on the sports book, sport, event start time and other factors. Often sports books will set lower betting limits when the line is initially released. As the line gets hammered into shape, the sports books will typically increase the betting limits. The betting sheets available in every sports book will usually mention the limits in place at that time.

Betting Syndicates

Betting syndicates are groups of sports bettors, usually skilled handicappers, who combine their knowledge, resources, bankrolls, systems and strategies to bet as much money as they can with the biggest edges possible. Betting syndicates will often combine their resources to bet sports futures, then hedge against those wagers as seasons or tournaments wind down.

Contrarian Betting

Contrarian betting strategies take advantage of public money by tracking situations where recreational bettors are overvaluing a particular money line, side, spread or total, creating value on the opposite bet. A contrarian bet will often by placed on the underdog in a contest. The public tends to bet on favorites. Betting against the public opinion (conventional wisdom) is contrarian betting.

Opening Line

Also referred to as the “opener,” this is the first line a sportsbook posts for a specific event. Different sports books may have different opening lines. In the olden days, sports books would often hang their own lines. Now days, most Opening Lines are established offshore by the internet-based sports books. Some Nevada sports books say they establish their own lines, but I doubt that is really true. If you are wagering in a state other than Nevada, your opening point spreads and point totals were very likely developed somewhere else and not at your local sports book.

Reverse Line Movement

Reverse line movement (often abbreviated RLM) occurs when the betting line moves in the opposite direction of the betting percentages.

An example of reverse line movement: The Atlanta Falcons are 7.0-point favorites against the Houston Texans and 75% of spread bets are coming in on the Falcons, but the line moves down to Falcons -6.5.

In this example, sharp money forces oddsmakers to move the line in the opposite direction of the popular side, to account for sharp bettors taking the Texans +7.0.

Public Money

People who bet for fun or recreation, as opposed to those who bet for value or with an edge, are known as “the public.” Hence, public money is money wagered by this group of casual bettors. Make no mistake, “the public” will often bet a lot of money on an event, but public money is considered to be based on opinion, not fact or analysis.

Sharp Money

Sharp money is money wagered by handicappers who are, very often, professional sports bettors.  Sharp money that is bet on events comes from handicapping lines and totals. Sports books will often move lines and totals based on the sharp money wagered by respected bettors.

Steam Move

“Steam moves” occur when bettors with the bankroll to wager large amounts of money do so at multiple sportsbooks, at the same time. Steam moves will drive betting line movement across the entire sports betting market and is a sure sign that professional bettors and possibly betting syndicates bet hard on a side or total.

Public Sportsbooks

Public sports books cater to recreational bettors and will often establish lower betting limits than sharp sports books. These sportsbooks are quick to limit or flat-out refuse to accept action from winning bettors.

Sharp Sportsbooks

Also referred to as market-setting sportsbooks, sharp sportsbooks have the highest betting limits and therefore attract professional bettors. Because these books accept large wagers, they are also the most respected references for opening, current and closing lines.

Move on air

Sports books will often “move on air” when adjusting a line to coincide with what other sportsbooks are offering. For example, if a public sportsbook is offering the Warriors -10.0 against the 76ers and a sharp sportsbook opens the game at Warriors -9.0, the public book will “move on air” from -10.0 to -9.0 to get in line with the sharper book, even without taking any action on the Pelicans. This practice to move on air is becoming very common.

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