A glossary of sports-gambling terms
Copyright © 1989, 1999 by Dan E. Moldea
Republished by popular demand, the following is the glossary of sports-gambling terms that appeared in my now-out-of-print 1989 book, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football.
Please remember my long-time admonition: Bet what you can painlessly afford to lose with a friend not with an illegal bookmaker, because when you bet with an illegal bookmaker, especially one who lays off, a piece of your losing bet could wind up in the pocket of some Mafia guy.
Bagman: An intermediary who picks up and delivers money.
Bank: The financial backer of a gambling operation.
Beard: A proxy bettor, a front man.
Betting cards: A system of betting in which gamblers must pick between three to twenty winners from a list of upcoming games.
Betting line: The posted list of upcoming games and their point spreads.
"Black Book": The list of undesirable people who are forbidden to enter any casino in Nevada.
Blue box: A device used by some bookmakers to make illegal long distance calls.
Bookmaker: A broker who accepts wagers from gamblers, usually taking a commission on losing bets booked.
Bottom sheet: A bookmaker's accounting of gambling debts.
Circled game: A contest in which only limited action is accepted.
Closing line: The final list of point spreads offered before game time.
Covering the spread: Beating the posted point spread.
Edge: An advantage that one believes might improve one's ability to predict the outcome of a game.
11-10: The traditional bet with a bookmaker in which the gambler puts up $11 to win $10.
Fall guy: A guilty or innocent person who accepts the full blame for a crime in order to protect others.
Favorite: The predicted winning team in a particular contest.
Fixed game: A game in which one or more participants willfully manipulate the final outcome of a game.
Flip: To turn state's evidence.
Front man: One who has a facade of legitimacy but secretly represents the interests of his underworld backers.
Grease: A bribe.
Hack: A sportswriter who provides extraordinary loyalty to a particular team or sport in order to maintain his access and sources.
Handicapper: One who determines the conditions and sets the odds that will equalize two teams in an upcoming game.
Handle: The total amount of money bet on a particular game or series of contests.
Hedge: The covering of a bet with a second bet; a layoff.
High roller: A high-stakes gambler.
House: The operator of any gambling business.
Injury report: A description of the status of an injured player, which is frequently used as a variable in betting equations.
Inside information: The data obtained on a particular team or its players and/or staff that may impact upon the final outcome of a game.
Juice: The money owed to a bookmaker or a loan shark.
Juice collector: One who collects the juice.
Lay: To bet.
Layoff: A bookmaker's bet with another bookmaker made in order to help equalize the excess action he has accepted from his customers.
Line: The posted list of games and their point spreads.
Loan shark: One, usually mob-connected, who loans money at a high weekly interest rate.
Lock: A sure winner.
Man-to-man betting: Gambling without either party taking a commission for the bet made.
Marker: An IOU.
Middling: Betting on both teams in a game at different point spreads, in the hope that the final score comes in between so that both bets can be won.
Moving the line: Making alterations in the line based on the volume of betting or other factors, such as injuries.
Odds: The ratio of money that may be won versus the amount of money bet.
Oddsmaker: A person who sets the line.
Off the boards: A situation in which bookmakers will accept no further action.
Opening line: The initial list of point spreads for upcoming games.
Outlaw line: The early, private line set by professional gamblers, which is financed, distributed, and enforced by the organized crime syndicate.
Over/under the total: Betting that the combined score of two teams in a particular game will be over/under a predicted number.
Pari-mutuel: A betting system in which the amount of money paid out to winners is based upon the total pool of bets.
Parlay: Betting on a combination of two or more games.
Pen register: A device attached to a telephone line that maintains a record of each number dialed.
Pigeon: An uneducated, naive, or unsophisticated gambler.
Player: A gambler.
Point spread: A form of handicapping in which oddsmakers predict how many points one team needs against another in order to even out the public betting on a particular game.
Power rating: A number created by a handicapper on the basis of the strength of a particular team.
Press: To increase one's bet.
Price: Point spread.
Pricemaker: An oddsmaker.
Push: A bet that falls right on the point spread; a tie in terms of a money decision.
Runner: A messenger.
Scalping: Selling tickets to a contest at a price above their face value.
Shaving points: The act of one or more participants in a contest manipulating the outcome of a game so that the final score does not cover the spread.
Skim: The cash siphoned off from an operation before it is reported.
Spike mike: An illegal electronic surveillance device.
Sports book: A legal sports bookmaking business.
Stand off a bet: To tie or push.
Straw-man: A front man.
Taking a lead: An early bet with a favorable price in anticipation of a subsequent movement in the line.
Title III: The section of the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, that permits court-authorized electronic surveillance if certain conditions are met.
Tote board: A device that posts teams, contests, and either the odds or the line.
Tout: An individual of questionable credentials who sells his predictions of the outcomes of games.
Thrown game: A game lost intentionally by a participant.
Underdog: The predicted losing team in a particular contest.
Unnatural money: Large wagers that suddenly appear against the conventional wisdom of the oddsmakers and handicappers.
Vigorish: The bookmaker's commission.
Wagering stamp: A federal occupational tax for gamblers.
Welch: To refuse to pay off a bet already made and lost.
It is no secret that I believe that beat reporting on NFL teams is the whorehouse of American journalism. But could someone please tell the executives at these newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and televisions networks which print or broadcast the betting line--and hire oddsmakers and handicappers to predict the outcomes of games-- that they are helping the illegal gambling economy to become an adjunct to the First Amendment?