Gambling Terminology for Beginners

By in Sports & Betting on
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Blackjack Table and Odds

Gambling can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t have any idea what’s being discussed. At times, it can seem like a foreign language. But having the proper vocabulary can take some of the pressure off so that you seem like a high roller (experienced bettor) instead of a square (inexperienced bettor).

Having a basic understanding of the terminology used is instrumental in giving off the confidence that’ll keep you from being another easy target for the high rollers. It also improves your experience and ensures that you get the most out of your time and hard-earned cash.

Terminology Used in Blackjack

One of the most played games, and one of the games with the best odds, is blackjack.

In case you’re unaware, blackjack is a card game in which your goal is to beat the dealer’s hand up to a maximum of 21. You start with two cards, which are assigned values.

For example, cards two through 10 get the number value of the card. Face cards (jack, queen, and king) are assigned a value of 10, and the ace is assigned a value of 1 or 11, depending on whether the value of the combined cards exceed the maximum value of 21.

A hit means you want another card to increase the value of your initial two cards.

Stand means that you believe you can beat the dealer’s hand with the cards you have, and bust means that you’ve exceeded 21, and it’s game over, man!


To double down, you’re doubling the bet you initially made, and you get one more card, or hit, in the hopes that the single extra card will give you the maximum of 21.

To split cards, you must first get two cards of the same value. By splitting, you are laying down another bet equal to your original, and now you have two hands to play against the dealer.

You can hit as many times as you’d like on each hand.

Terms Used in Texas Holdem Poker

Next, we’re going to delve specifically into a popular type of poker called Texas Holdem. This is one of my personal favorite games and can be extremely exciting.

First, some basics of the game. The goal of this game is to get a hand of five cards that beats every other player at the table.

Texas Holdem

Before gameplay, the two players to the left of the round’s designated “dealer” have to put down blind bets (bets that are made before you see everyone’s cards).

The first puts down the small blind, which is half what the second player puts down (big blind). These bets are put down before any cards are dealt to ensure each round has some type of pot, or the amount in the middle that the winner of the round collects.

Each player is dealt two pocket cards that are hidden from every other player at the table. These are the cards you use with the community cards to build the best hand.

After the blind bets are played, each player looks at their pocket cards and determines whether they want to fold, match, or raise on the big blind amount.

After this first round of betting, the flop is laid down—three community cards that everyone includes as part of their hand.

After another round of betting, a single community, or turn card is played. After another round of betting, the final community, or river card is laid out, followed by a last round of betting.

Whoever has the best five-card hand (made up of any of the community cards combined with any of that player’s pocket cards) wins.

Basics in Sports Betting

First off, let’s get through some basics so you’ll know what I’m talking about throughout the following section. I’m going to cover some specifics that you’ll want to take note of, but let’s get some terms out of the way before we get more complicated.

Your sports betting bankroll is made up of the funds you have available to bet. A dime is a bet of $1,000. A draw is a push in which a game has no discernable winner and all bettors receive their money back.

Key numbers are the most common margins of defeat, such as in football where a lot of games end with one team winning by a multiple of three or seven.

The limit is the most money a sportsbook will take on a single event. A tout is an individual that sells their expertise to others.

The Bookie

You’ve probably heard of a bookie. A bookie is the central character in sports betting. This individual takes bets and pays out winners. They also normally sets the odds, the probability that a particular outcome will occur (sometimes this is set by the oddsmaker or linesmaker).

A typical way of representing odds is moneyline odds. These are numbers that show the amount each side will pay out. When a negative number is displayed, this indicates that a team or competitor is the favorite, or expected to win. A positive number, on the other hand, indicates an underdog, or anticipated loser.

Next, I’ll give you a scenario that shows you what these numbers really represent.

Moneyline Odds and Vigorish

Following is an easy-to-follow example of how to read moneyline odds.

Team A vs Team B
Moneyline Odds
Team A
Team B

As you can see from the previous description, team A is the favorite. The value -115 represents the amount of money ($115) you need to bet in order to make a profit of $100 if that team wins.

The value next to the underdog team B +175 represents the amount ($175) you stand to make on a bet of only $100. Because the underdog is a higher risk, you stand to make a higher reward.

Vigorish (also called vig or juice by high rollers) is the money made by bookies in drawing a commission on bets, which comes from the Russian vyigrysh (winnings).

This is most easily seen in the favorite above (-115). Your bet of $115 will make you a profit of $100 if you win, and that extra $15 goes to the bookie. Sometimes, a bookie will lower the juice in order to incentivize bets on a particular side.

Action is another word for a bet placed with a bookie. Setting and adjusting the lines and juice, bookies strive to attract equal action on each side to ensure money is made regardless of the victor. As a bettor, a good strategy is to hedge a bet, or put action on both sides of a bet in order to minimize losses.

Types of Sports Betting

Playing the Moneyline

These are the bets we discussed earlier. You are simply betting on which team is going to be the victor without any other considerations.

When betting on the favorite, you’re laying the price, where wagering on the underdog is called taking the price. Moneyline bets are most common on sporting events where the final score is low, as in baseball or hockey.

Points Spread

When you bet the spread, you’re essentially betting on whether a certain margin of points will be met. Though there are a few ways a bet like this can go, here are the basics: if the spread is 6.5 and a team wins by 7 or more, said team is said to have covered the spread.

Betting on the favorite is called laying the points, and on the underdog is called taking the points. The juice is typically expressed as a moneyline standard -110. These bets are most common on events where final scores tend to be higher, as in football or basketball.

Totals, Over/Unders

A totals bet is a wager where the combined scores of both opposing teams are used as the basis of the bet. With this bet, whichever team is the victor is irrelevant.

Instead, you’re betting on whether the combined score will be higher (betting the over) or lower (betting the under) than an amount set by the sportsbook. Points are usually set at half point increments to avoid a tie. Moneyline is typically set at -110, denoting a juice of 10%.

Prop Bets

This is an irregular bet not for the faint of heart.

If you’re fairly new, you’ll likely want to stick with a straight bet, but if you’re feeling wild, a proposition bet may be just what the doctor ordered.

These bets don’t concern themselves with who is going to win, nor even the points scored by either team. These are bets about random events which may occur during a game.

For example, if you’re watching a hockey game, and you have a team of hotheads that love to fight on the ice, a prop bet could be whether #55 will lose his cool and land a right hook on the opposition.

Parlay Bets

This is when you combine more than one wager, and now, your money rides from one bet to the next.

This can be quite risky because if you make one bad bet in a parlay, you’ve given up all winnings up to that point. This is another example of high risk, high reward.


A special bet in which you are able to adjust the point spread or total for a game. For a teaser bet more you change, the lower the payout.


Though it can be very intimidating to play with the high rollers and professional gamblers, just a little bit of research and studying can ensure the fun and excitement of gambling isn’t clouded by confusion and fear.

Are there any terms I missed that you think are important? Let me know in the comments!

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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