The sports betting sector has been expanding dramatically since the turn of the millennium, fuelled by ever more sophisticated internet and mobile technology, and by the liberalisation of betting markets across Europe and around the world, most notably in the US, where sports betting was effectively legalised by the Supreme Court decision of May 2018 on the PASPA Act.
This expansion of sports betting has meant that people from all over the world are coming into contact with sports betting jargon and phrases with which they are unfamiliar. A good example is the use of the phrase ‘straight up’ in sports betting. This is a US sports betting phrase that doesn’t always translate well to a non-US audience. In fact, straight up refers to one of the most common forms of sports betting, enjoyed across various sports and nations.
Types of sports bet
The phrase straight up refers to one of the two main ways to bet on sport and can be applied to a range of markets covering many different sports.
These two types of bet are best described as the straight bet or handicap bet. With a straight bet, you are picking one possible option for an event. For example, you might bet on Manchester United to win a game at odds of 2/1. If they win the match, your bet is a winner. If not, you’ve lost your bet.
With a handicap bet, the equation is a little different. A handicap bet on the same game might involve goals, as is the case with the various Asian Handicap markets that you can find at most sports bookmakers’ sites. In this case, you might bet on Manchester United at -1.5. This means that in order for your bet to be successful, they would have to win by two goals or more.
Of these two types of bet, the straight up bet refers to the first type. It is a straight bet on a team to win a game, rather than involving a handicap adjustment to calculate the winner.
Betting moneyline or against the spread
The same principles apply in US betting, but as is often the case, the terminology is a little different. In the US, the two main types of betting are the moneyline and the spread.
A typical moneyline bet on an NFL game might look like this:
- Atlanta Falcons -150
- New England Patriots +250
In this bet, the -150 for the Falcons indicates the amount of money you would need to bet in order to win $100, while the +250 for the Patriots shows your potential profit if you backed that team with $100. This is the equivalent of the European Match Winner market.
Betting on the spread involves a different type of calculation. A spread market might look like this:
- Atlanta Falcons -7 (-110)
- New England Patriots +7 (+110)
In this market, you are betting on the margin of victory as much as the outcome of the game. If you bet on the Atlanta Falcons, they will have to win by 8 points or more in order for you to win your bet. The odds on this bet (-110) indicate that you would need to bet $110 to win $100.
As you can see, betting on the spread is the equivalent of the European Handicap markets, and operates in exactly the same way, despite the terminology differences.
Straight up or points spread
So should you bet straight up or against the spread? Let’s suppose you have an NBA game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers are offered as a 7 point favourite on the spread, but the moneyline puts them at -200.
If you bet on the spread, you not only need the Lakers to win the game, you need them to win by more than 7 points. By contrast, if you bet on the moneyline or straight up, you only need them to win the game.
As you can begin to see, betting straight up requires a different type of calculation to that involved in betting against the spread. Some punters prefer the simplicity of a straight up bet, while others find they can get more of an edge by betting on the spread or handicap markets. Which option you go for will depend on your personality or your betting style.
Tipping straight up
You may also sometimes find the phrase straight up used to describe a tipster’s overall record. Say, for example, that there was a pundit in the media making picks on every game in the NFL season.
In this case, you will sometimes see them give two different records, one referring to their record against the spread, another detailing their straight-up record. This distinction is an important one and worth bearing in mind if you are talking about your betting with others. Since both types of betting are popular, it is a good idea to differentiate and to refer to either straight up or against the spread (sometimes abbreviated to ATS) so that there is no confusion.
Betting is full of jargon and specialist phrases and if you are to be fully effective as a sports punter, it is important to gain an understanding of what these phrases mean, including those, such as ‘straight up’ that is taken from the US market, the fastest growing sports betting arena in the world.