Sports Betting Idioms , Phrases With Meanings

Date:2023-02-08 Category: Sportsbooks
Sports Betting Idioms

Sports betting is booming in popularity, and by 2023, its popularity is expected to double. Like any other gambling involving particular terminology and jargon, bettors use slang while wagering on their favorite sports. If you are a novice sports bettor, read this article to learn the 14 most common sports betting terms, phrases, slang, and jargon.

1. Down To The Wire

You might not know, but this phrase comes from horse racing. In the old days, a thin wire was strung above the track’s finish line during horse races to help the horse that crossed the line first become easily recognizable to the officials. Later, the wire was used in modern tracks for the same purpose to help cameras better recognize the first finisher. Tight races went literally to the wire, meaning first and second finishers pass the line so close to each other.

Today, the expression is procrastinators’ favorite! Because it refers to something being incomplete, unfinished, or unsure until the very last possible moment. For example, this paper is coming down to the wire! This means you think you can finish it, but you are unsure.


2. All Bets Are Off

This is another gambling expression indicating the end of a pre-existing agreement or a situation has become unpredictable. The phrase is not specific to sports betting and is usable in any form of gambling. For example, suppose an unexpected change in circumstance forces you to change your viewpoint or opinion about the bet you already placed. In that case, this is where all bets are off!  Another example might be you planning to picnic, but suddenly a rainstorm occurs. In this case, your plan could be canceled or continue as scheduled. Every situation that seemed certain but now is unclear can be described as all bets are off!


3. Ace In The Hole

This phrase is poker-originated. However, it is no longer limited to the world of poker. In general, an ace in the hole refers to a resource or situation reserved to be used later for an advantage.

In poker, specifically stud poker, a hole card is a card that is kept facedown until played for its winning value. However, the phrase can indicate an advantage being reserved in any game, sporting event, business, political race, economic competition, negotiation, etc. For example, if a talented player is kept on the bench until the right moment of the match, then he goes to the field and makes the team win; the player is referred to as the team’s ace in the hole!


4. Win Hands Down

This is another phrase that originated from horse racing. Since the  mid-19th century, win hands down was used in horse race coverage when a horse was way far ahead and expected to finish first. In this case, the rider can relax, lower his hands, and loosen his grip on the reins, which indicates a confident finish. Situations like this, where you can win easily or by a large margin, are known to win hands down!


5. Dark Horse

As the horse in the phrase suggests, dark horse is another horse racing phrase that entered the politics slang glossary. The phrase also is used on sports and non-gambling occasions.

In horse racing, dark horse refers to a horse that is unknown to track organizers and odd makers. The word dark has nothing to do with the horse’s color; instead, it refers to the unknown characteristics of the horse, like sire and breeding lineage.

In politics, the phrase refers to a candidate who comes out of the blue and suddenly gains popularity. In general, anyone who comes from nowhere but experiences sudden fame can be referred to as a dark horse!


6. Behind the Eight or 8 Ball

As you may have guessed, this phrase comes from billiards or pool called 8 ball. This phrase refers to a situation where a player’s ball is positioned behind an eight ball, making it a very disadvantageous and difficult shot. As you may know, in the game of billiards, each player must shoot and hit numbered balls(in numerical order) into their corresponding pocket before the ball number 8.

The phrase behind the eight ball refers to a disadvantageous, awkward, or losing situation. For example, I am really behind the eight ball this semester; I have a lot of pending projects due next week.


7. Win By a Nose

In horse racing, the horse’s nose is the first body part that passes the finish line, and it is the measure for officials to declare a winner. Although the human’s nose is not the first body part crossing the finish line, win by a nose expression is used in all sporting events to describe a close contest. The expression also indicates a neck-and-neck competition, where only a small margin,i.e., nose margin, differentiates a loser from the winner.


8. Bet The Farm

This is a general gambling-inspired idiom, which is mostly heard in the US and North America. When someone says you should bet the farm, they mean you must risk everything on what you think is true or what you think will succeed. The expression is similar to the all-in while playing poker. In this situation, the player bets all his chips because he believes he has the winning hand. Similarly, in daily life, when you bet the farm, you risk everything you have or spend all your money hoping to succeed.


9. Home Stretch

This is another daily expression we borrowed from horse racing! The home stretch refers to the closing portion of the track, which is the last straightaway between the final turn and the finishing line. The phrase generally refers to the last stage of a project, process, journey, etc.


10. Across The Board

In horse racing, the phrase refers to place and show, i.e., to wager on the same horse to win. Out of the track, in daily life, across the board means to include everything or everyone in a given scenario, like across the board layoffs.


11. Call a Spade a Spade

The expression comes from somewhere other than where you think it does! “Call a spade a spade” has nothing to do with the Spades cards. Instead, its roots go back to ancient Greece, where it was first found in Plutarch’s Apophthegmata Laconic: “…to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.” Years later, the expression was translated and interpreted into Latin by a Deutch scholar who was the first to use “…to call a spade a spade.” Spade, in this expression, refers to a gardening implement.

On the other hand, in the US, Spade was used in the 1920s to humiliate African-Americans. For this reason, although the expression’s roots go back to late antiquity, in the US, it has racist connotations. Hence, although the phrase means to speak frankly and the unvarnished truth, you better be careful when you use it in the United States!


12. Play The Percentages

This phrase comes from statistics! In fact, it encourages you to wager according to facts and not follow your heart. Outside the gambling world, “play the percentage” suggests making a decision or taking an action that has the highest possibility of success. For example, I think you must play the percentages instead of randomly betting on horses.


13. Play the Ponies

This is what you think it is!! When you cannot help yourself from playing the ponies, you cannot stop betting on horses and horse racing!


14. Busted Flush

Although the phrase sounds so pokerish, it can be used in the case of sports betting and even our everyday living. As you might have guessed right, a busted flush refers to a winning hand, flush, which is busted rather than winning! Hence, the phrase is used to describe a failure, someone or something that seemed very promising at first but turned into a disappointment!

Sports Betting Idioms

To Sum It Up

I have listed the top fourteen commonly used sports betting idioms, phrases, slang, and jargon. Gambling and sports betting phrases are not limited to those you read in this article. As a newbie, there is more to get familiar with. However, if you learn what you read in this post, you are halfway there!


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