Sports Betting Terminology for Dummies: Learn About Parlays, Outright, Against the Spread Bets and More

Sports betting is in Maryland with BETMGM at MGM National Harbor. Shannon Finney/Getty Images for MGM National Harbor/AFP

With Major League Baseball taking its annual summer break, the NBA, NHL, NFL and college football awaiting their postseason antics, July is famous for being one of the quietest sports wagering months in the calendar year. 

However, this is the perfect time for the new arrivals of sports wagering to broaden their knowledge, especially when sports betting is now legal in 30 U.S. states and rising. Don’t be that friend who looks confused at the bar when a betting topic arises, and read our sportsbook guide that covers the most common terminology used in betting.  

Against The Spread 

No, this isn’t jargon for describing a motion of spreading butter on bread, but it is one of the most common terms in American sports betting, so you’ll want to know the facts. 

When you wager on a team or athlete against the spread, you’re essentially receiving a handicap against or in favor, to level the playing field of the overall contest. If we take the NFL as our prime example, it’s hardly an even contest when the most in-form team in the league is up against the worst. To settle this dispute, sportsbooks will provide a spread number such as -8 for the favorable team, with a comeback of +8 on the team least likely to win – known as the underdogs. 

Favorites and underdogs are established with the minus or plus symbol. With a spread number of -8 on the Los Angeles Rams, the favorites must defeat their opponents by 9 points or more for bettors to cash their wager successfully. On the flip side, those supporting a +8 underdog wager on the New York Jets must witness a loss by 7 points or less. Should the game result in an 8-point deficit, the bet ends in a push, and stakes will be returned on either end.  

Against the spread, bets can be found in most sports betting markets, and the same rules generally apply across the board. Although you should pay attention to the sport you’re wagering on, as the MLB slightly differs in its approach, and you’ll notice the league’s version of a spread bet is referred to as the run line. 


A parlay is when you combine multiple betting selections into one ticket, often utilized by bettors to increase the overall odds of their wager. For every sports betting selection you add to your parlay, the odds will readjust, and if you’re successful, the pay-outs can be astronomical. 

To understand the significant rise in price, against the spread bets are usually priced at -110. However, if you added three against the spread bets into one ticket, this three-way parlay would pay close to 6/1. A $100 wager on this example would net the customer $600, but of course, the betting picks need to win for this to come to fruition. 


Once again, using the NFL as our example – as it’s the most popular sport to bet on in America – most newcomers don’t realize you can wager on the NFL season before it’s even begun. These are known as future bets. 

Whether you want to predict which team will win the Super Bowl or which player will receive the MVP award, maybe you want to bet on which teams will win their respective divisions. Future bets are a fun way for avid football goers to get involved while the league is prepping for the new season.  


If the above methods seem too complicated, keep it simple and begin your sports wagering journey with an outright bet. The term outright is regularly used for sports like golf, NASCAR, or tennis, as bettors are simply tasked with selecting the athlete they believe will win an entire sporting tournament. 


Similar to a parlay but lower in odds, teasers are amongst some of the most popular bets in sports wagering today. Bettors are gifted with the opportunity of creating their own spreads, so if you believe the spread number of -8 is too high on the LA Rams, you can lower that spread and even position them as an underdog with a + number of points. 

Simply put, a teaser allows you to buy points on the spread, therefore increasing the likelihood of your prediction winning. Let’s say you’re interested in multiple 8-point NFL favorites, but you don’t believe they can only achieve a win by 7 points (a touchdown) or more; reducing their spread to 6 points would assist your betting prediction. Of course, the odds will be slightly lower, but your probability of success is significantly higher.