Sports Betting Lingo – Even Underwater Boxing has a Silver Lining

I’m not much of a betting man. I’ve been to a casino only once in my life, and even then it was only for the free drinks. But where I lack in “betting” knowledge, I have ample curiosity. So after having watched Silver Linings Playbook recently, I was inspired (or rather, confused) by all the sports betting lingo that Pat Sr. – Robert De Niro – was going on about.

So I did a bit of investigating and quickly realized that a) people actually do bet on sports… that’s not just something that the mafia do in movies and b) online sports betting is bigger than ever. You know… the internet and all that. Who would have thought?

Lingo… Lingo Never Changes…

People have been betting on the success or failure of sports teams since the ancient Mesopotamian people first invented zebra polo in the early 1400s, and the sports betting lingo has changed little since then. So for those of you that were as ignorant as I was, here are a few of the basics.


Sportsbook: Also known as the book, a sportsbook is the person or business that accepts and manages bets on sporting events. In online sports betting, a sportsbook is a website that allows bettors to manage a bankroll and place bets on multiple events. The site might specialize in a specific sport, such as Swedish Dodgeball, or allow bets on games in multiple sports. A bookmaker, or bookie to use the mafia term, is a specific person who takes bets. A bookmaker may or may not be associated with a specific sportsbook.

Juice: No, not the stuff that you inject into your ass to get buff. Juice is actually the commission that a bookmaker or sportsbook makes on a bet. In some sportsbooks, juice is known as vigorish or vig; for others, juice or vigorish refers to the commission taken on a losing bet. Before signing on with a sportsbook, determine the exact terminology it uses to avoid, shall we say… unpleasant surprises.

Bankroll: Your bankroll is the amount of money you’ve set aside for wagering. When you establish your sportsbook account, you’re required to make a deposit, which serves as your bankroll. As you win or lose wagers, money is added or subtracted accordingly. Basically you want this to keep increasing, because… you know, money is kind of nice.


Unit: Few sportsbooks allow wagers as dollar amounts, but instead manage bets in terms of units. A unit is a way to measure the amount of your wager. The most common unit is one percent of your total bankroll, meaning if you have a $1,000 bankroll, a unit is $10. When you place a wager, you bet a set number of units (usually no more than 5-7 percent of your bankroll) on the event’s outcome.

Money Line: Money line betting is the most common type in the U.S. and expresses the odds in terms of actual money. If the odds are marked by a (-), that means you must bet that amount to win $100 (or the established unit) while odds marked with a (+) reveal how much you win for each $100 you wager.

Bet You Don’t Know These…

Following me so far? I know… not what you expected, right? I always figured there was a lot of screaming, yelling, and throwing money down on tables. But anyway…

Once you’ve established your bankroll in a sportsbook with a low vig and know what your unit is, you can start getting into the action or making wagers on events. However, it’s usually not as simple as choosing one competitive juggling team over another. There are multiple types of bets you can make to maximize your winnings so you can afford to drink even more high quality Ron Jeremy rum.

Parlay: Parlay is a way for bettors to walk away with a big payday, but only if they correctly wager on the outcomes of two or more events. For example, you think the Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles will all win their games, so you add all three to your parlay ticket in your sportsbook. Each game’s odds are multiplied to determine the potential payout, which will be significantly higher than if you bet on all three games individually. However, if even one team loses, you lose the entire wager and will probably cry or commit suicide.

Spread Betting: When bettors want to bet on a game and win a decent payout but don’t want to parlay, they often turn to spread betting. Spread betting is best explained via example: If you are betting on two basketball teams and the odds say Team A will beat Team B by 10 points, if you bet on Team A to “cover the spread,” that means they must win by 10 points or more for you to win your wager.

Prop (or Proposition) Betting: These are special bets on unique topics. They might be related to sports – such as who will score the first touchdown in the Super Bowl — or other events, like the Academy Awards or presidential elections. These are usually money-line bets and can be a quick and fun way to add to your bankroll.

The Silver Lining

I mentioned earlier that even underwater boxing – a clearly unpleasant experience – has a silver lining. It’s simple… as a person who bets on sports, well… you don’t actually have to do it. You can leave others to suffer, toil, and sweat (well… maybe not underwater), while you make a bunch of money. If you play your cards right, perhaps you can nail a parlay like Pat Sr. did in Silver Linings Playbook, or… you know, lose all your money and live on the streets. One of the two.

(Photos by Mick Gleissner, Unknown, and Jesus Solana)



Power & Money

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I'm a co-founder and writer here at Unfinished Man. I write, manage the look and feel of the website, and make sure that nothing breaks. I also reply to the vast majority of our emails, so if you're sending one through, I suggest you be nice. Everyone says I'm the least offensive of our writers, so they gave the email jockey task to me. When I'm not improving the site, I write about fashion, video games, politics, and anything related to science and technology.

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