General Betting Concepts

So, you want to follow along on my journey of ecstasy and misery but don’t quite understand the lingo?  This is the page for you.  Here’s a quick rundown of common sports gambling terms for the novice. 

Action is a live bet – a bet that could still go either way.  When you’ve got a bet on a game that you could still win or lose, you’ve got action.  When you don’t, you are likely bored and/or sad.

Bankroll refers to the amount of money you’ve made available for your wagering activities over a given period of time.  Understanding your bankroll and how it relates to the optimal size of your wagers is key to not avoiding having to decide between ending the gambling year in March and risking your house, your marriage, a kneecap, etc…

Backdoor covers are sports gambling gifts, or at least, that’s how they’re often viewed by the bettor.  The term gets misused all the time in reference to any late game cover.  In actuality, it only covers situations in which (a) the circumstances of the game being played provide no reason for a team to take a certain action that would allow the bettor to cover his bet, but (b) the team takes such an action anyway, covering the bet.  For instance, in a 2017 Monday Night Football game, Derrick Henry picked up a few yards for a first down with Tennessee up 7 points and could have taken a knee as time ran out to seal the victory.  Instead, he ran 70+ yards to the house, sending bettors with Tennessee -7.5 into celebration and those with Indy +7.5 into depression.

Bad Beats are the opposite of backdoor covers and occur when the bettor feels as though they should have/would have won the bet but for some unusual occurrence.  Classic examples of this are bets that lose on meaningless hail mary passes in football or full court heaves in basketball.  The points scored by these plays have no effect on the outcome of the game, AND their scoring is highly unlikely.  So, the bettor who has Arizona -10 when they are up 12  points with one second left against UCLA will feel he has suffered a “bad beat” when UCLA hits a full court buzzer beater to lose by 9.

Bookie/Bookmaker/The Book/Vegas are all monikers for the person or entity who is taking the action.  They’re in the business of setting lines that are accurate enough to allow them to make more off of lost bets and juice (see below) than they payout in winnings.  This used to refer to guys who would break your legs if you didn’t pay them.  Now it mostly refers to big corporations who employ PhDs to make statistical models Wall Street would be proud of.

Expected Value is a concept from economics that allows you to measure how much a certain action is likely to improve or subtract from your current value if you pursue it over the long term.  It does that by factoring in all potential outcomes weighted by their probability of occurring.  It’s an extremely useful tool when sizing up different bets and betting strategies. 

Juice/Vigorish/Vig refers to the % of a bet that the bookmaker plans to profit.  It’s the principle this site was named after.  It sucks.

Push is synonymous with “tie.” When a bettor and the book push, no one nets money from the bet.

Unit/Betting Unit is a term that allows different bettors to communicate the size of a given bet relative to the size of other bets they normally place. This is difficult to do when simply describing a bet in currency terms, as two bettors may have very different bankrolls (a $200 bet may be very large for one bettor and small for another). The concept of a betting unit allows one bettor to communicate that he believes a bet is good enough to merit twice his usual wager (“two units”), which any other bettor can easily translate into the dollar figure appropriate to their own situation.

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