Glossary of terms

Online betting has a language all of its own, and sometimes it can be difficult to really understand what all the terms mean.

Below we have listed some terms you may come across, that you’re not sure what they mean, so hopefully this little cheat sheet will help

Fixed odds betting

Fixed odds betting is the traditional form of betting where you predict what’s going to happen, and then place a wager or bet on the appropriate selection. The term “fixed odds” is used because the odds are agreed when the bet is placed. If a bet wins, the payout is based on those agreed odds & it doesn’t matter if they subsequently moved up or down.

Selection

The selection is basically what you are betting on. For example, if you think Chelsea are going to beat Liverpool, then your selection (on the bet slip) would be ‘Chelsea’ to Win.

Stake

The stake refers to the amount of money being risked on a bet.

The relevant amount is paid to a bookmaker at the time the bet is being placed. The bookmaker keeps the stakes from losing bets & returns them (in addition to the winnings) for winning bets.

Most bookmakers will require bettors to stake at least a certain amount, known as the minimum stake. This is usually a very low amount, such as £1. Most bookmakers also have a maximum stake, which limits the amount bettors can stake.

Odds

Bookmakers offer odds for all available selections. These odds determine how much a bookmaker must pay you, relative to your stake, if your selection is correct. They are closely related to the chances of the selection being correct. If the chances are low (i.e. the selection is unlikely to be correct), then the odds are usually high. If the chances are high (i.e. the selection is likely to be correct), then the odds are usually low.

Odds are usually expressed in either decimal, or the traditional fractional.

For a more detailed look at odds, and how they are calculated, visit our Betting Odds page

Payout

The payout is the total amount that the bookmaker must pay you if your selection is correct. It’s usually quoted including the initial stake, as this is returned to you along with your winnings (& it looks like a bigger number, so more appealing!)

For example:

Djokovic – 1.75  /  Murray – 2.1

So, you think Djokovic will win, so you bet £20 at an online bookmaker. There are just two possible outcomes.

  • Djokovic wins. Your selection was correct, so our wager wins. The payout is £35 (£15 profit)
  • Murray wins. Your selection was incorrect, so your wager loses & the bookmaker keeps your £20 stake

Most bookmakers offer fixed odds betting markets for virtually every sport that’s played at a professional level, but increasingly bookmakers offer a range of different wagers, too (& this is where things can start to get a little complicated & overwhelming)

Spread betting

There are no fixed odds involved at all in spread betting, and a bet doesn’t simply win or lose. You have to choose whether a particular number will be higher or lower than the bookmaker’s posted spread, and the amount you win or lose will depend on HOW MUCH higher or lower the number is.

For example, you can bet on the total number of goals scored in a football match. A bookmaker might post a spread of 2-3, and you must decide whether you think there will be more than three goals or less than two. Backing more than three goals would mean “buying the spread.” For every goal scored past three, you’ll win one multiple of your initial stake. So if four goals were scored, you’d win an amount equal to your initial stake. If five goals were scored, you’d win twice your initial stake.

If less than three goals were scored, you’d lose one multiple of your stake per goal below three. So if two goals were scored, you’d lose an amount equal to your initial stake. If just one goal was scored, you’d lose twice your initial stake.

Backing less than two goals would mean “selling the spread.” Your payouts or losses would be calculated in the same way as we’ve just outlined, but in reverse. You’d stand to win if there were less than two goals, and lose if there were more than two.

In-play/live betting

This is based on the same fundamental concept as traditional fixed odds sports betting, as bets are still placed at fixed odds. However, with traditional fixed odds betting, bets must be placed before an event starts. With in-play betting, however, bets can be placed during an event. This opens up a whole new range of betting opportunities, and it’s proved to be incredibly popular in recent years.

Exchange betting

Exchange betting also uses fixed odds, but there’s no bookmaker involved. Instead, two parties to a bet are always bettors. One bettor is backing a selection, while the other is laying that selection. The person laying is effectively being the bookmaker, and offering the other party fixed odds on their selection. If the backer’s selection is correct, then the layer has to pay them out at the agreed odds. If the backer’s selection is incorrect, then the layer receives their stake. The main exchanges in the UK are betfair, smarkets & matchbook

Handicap betting

Handicap betting is used in many parts of the world, and for several sports. It’s similar spread betting. Points (or goals) are awarded and deducted from teams for the purposes of the betting, but the aim is not specifically to make the participants equal favourites. Instead, it’s about presenting different options. Handicap betting effectively gives you the opportunity to improve your chances of winning.

For example, West Ham v Chelsea with the following odds:

West Ham – 3.5  / Draw – 3.4  /  Chelsea- 2.2

The bookmaker is offering the following handicaps for Chelsea.

  • Chelsea +1: 1.30
  • Chelsea -1: 4.33
  • Chelsea -2: 11.00

Backing Chelsea +1 means that Chelsea would be awarded an extra goal for the purposes of the betting. The odds are obviously lower than backing Chelsea on the standard win draw market, as there’s a better chance of them winning with this “extra goal.”

Backing Chelsea -1 means that they’d be deducted a goal, and backing Chelsea -2 means that they’d be deducted two goals. The odds for these two wagers are higher than backing Chelsea on the standard win draw market, as there’s a smaller chance of them winning with goals being deducted.

The bookmaker is also offering similar markets for the draw and for West Ham. They are as follows:

  • West Ham -1: 8.50
  • West Ham +1: 1.67
  • West Ham +2: 1.18
  • Draw -1: 4.80
  • Draw +1: 3.75
  • Draw +2: 6.00

The same principle applies to all of these options. Backing West Ham -1 means that West Ham would be deducted a goal for the purposes of the betting. Backing West Ham +1 means that they’d be deducted a goal, and so on.

Totals/over-under

Totals and over-unders are two different terms for the same bet. This type of wager is extremely popular, very straightforward, and available on a wide range of sports.

The idea here is that a bookmaker sets a line for the total number of points, goals, or runs to be scored in a game. They then give you the option of betting on whether the actual total will be higher or lower than the line they’ve set. Betting on higher is referred to as backing the over, while betting on lower is referred to as backing the under.

Specials

Prop bets (short for proposition bet) and specials are more for a bit of fun than anything else, and many experts advise that serious bettors should leave them well alone as a lot of specials involve little more than guesswork, but some of them can present good opportunities for making informed decisions about which way to bet.

Broadly speaking, specials are wagers on specific aspects of a sports event that do not necessarily have a direct effect on the final outcome of that event, e.g. which team will score first in a game, or total number of yellow cards given out.

Popular specials include:

  • First player to score a point/goal
  • Time of first point/goal
  • Time of first corner
  • Will there be a penalty awarded?
  • Will any player score a hat-trick?
  • Will {Player} score a goal?
  • Will the team that scored first win the game?

Futures

Future and outrights are the same thing. Either of these terms can be used to describe bets on the winner of a specific tournament, league, or competition in advance of the relevant event starting. This is also known as ante-post betting.

For example:

  • Backing an American Football team to win the Super Bowl at the start of the regular season
  • Backing a golfer to win the U.S. Masters before it starts
  • Backing a football team to win the English Premiership at the beginning of the season
  • Backing a tennis player to win the French Open before it starts

Accumulator/ACCA

Accumulators, ACCAs, or Parlays are what we call multiples. They involve making more than one selection as a part of a single bet. For example, if you wanted to back five football teams to each win their next game, you’d include all five teams in an accumulator or ACCA.

Wagers of this type are hard to win, as you have to get EVERY selection correct. If just one selection is wrong, the whole wager is lost. The upside is that the returns can be very attractive when you do win.

Payouts for ACCAs are calculated using one of two methods. The first is commonly used in the United States, especially for parlays involving selections on point spreads and totals lines. Payouts are at a fixed level based on the number of selections made. The odds of each individual selection are, therefore, effectively irrelevant.

The fixed payouts vary at different bookmakers and betting sites. The following table shows the payouts offered example. The payout is expressed as a multiple of the stake and does NOT include the initial stake. That’s returned in addition to these payouts.

Payouts in the UK are the odds for each individual selection, multiplied together. The total payout from each selection is effectively rolled over to the next selection if it’s successful. With this method, the overall payout can be huge.

Combination bets (full cover bets)

Combination bets or permutation bets, like ACCAS are multiples that involve making more than one selection. However, they don’t just combine all the selections into one single wager. A full cover bet is basically a series of wagers that covers ALL selections in EVERY POSSIBLE combination.

For example, let’s say you made two selections. There are three possible combinations of wager on these. They are as follows:

  • A single wager on selection 1.
  • A single wager on selection 2.
  • An accumulator on selections 1 and 2.

A full cover bet would basically place each of these three combinations at once. Each combination would still effectively be a stand-alone bet, though, and not reliant on the other selections. If “selection 1” proved to be correct but “selection 2” was incorrect, your single bet on “selection 1” would still generate a return. Your single wager on “selection 2” and the accumulator would both lose, though.

The number of combinations grows exponentially as the number of selections increases. With three selections, the following combinations would be included in a full cover bet:

  • A single wager on selection 1
  • A single wager on selection 2
  • A single wager on selection 3
  • An accumulator on selections 1 and 2
  • An accumulator on selections 2 and 3
  • An accumulator on selections 1 and 3
  • An accumulator on selection 1, 2, and 3

A full cover bet covering three selections is known as a patent. There are also specific names for full cover bets covering four, five, and six selections. We’ve listed these below, along with details of the combinations they cover.

  • Lucky 15 (covering four selections)
    • Four singles
    • Six two-selection accumulators
    • Four three-selection accumulators
    • One four-selection accumulator
  • Lucky 31 (covers five selections)
    • Five singles
    • Ten two-selection accumulators
    • Ten three-selection accumulators
    • Five four-selection accumulator
    • One five-selection accumulator
  • Lucky 63 (covers six selections)
    • Six singles
    • Fifteen two-selection accumulators
    • Twenty three-selection accumulators
    • Fifteen four-selection accumulators
    • Six five-selection accumulators
    • One six-selection accumulator

Bookmakers also offer full cover bets that don’t include all the relevant single wagers. Again, these have specific names. Here’s the full list:

  • Trixie (covering three selections)
  • Yankee (covering four selections)
  • Canadian or Super Yankee (covering five selections)
  • Heinz (covering six selections)
  • Super Heinz (covering seven selections)
  • Goliath (eight selections)

When placing a full cover bet, each individual wager is usually placed at the same stake. So, if you did a £1 Lucky 15, for example, the total stake would be £15. This is because a Lucky 15 is made of up fifteen individual wagers. A £1 Lucky 31 would cost you £31, and so on.

Learn more about Types of bets and Betting odds