What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting


If you are new to sports betting and looking for an edge, it would pay to understand some common betting terms. You may have heard of the term ‘chalk’ but are unsure what exactly this means. At Sports Hub, we strive to educate all bettors on betting terminology.

Chalk simply refers to a favorite in a sports bet. By understanding what this term is, bettors may come out on top more often than not when betting on sports. Keep reading to learn all about what chalk is and how it relates to you becoming a successful sports bettor.

What Is Chalk & Where Does It Come From

We’ve defined chalk as a favorite in a sports bet. For example, in the following bet, Philadelphia is the favorite in its game against the Arizona Cardinals

  • Arizona Cardinals +8.5 (-110)
  • Philadelphia Eagles -8.5 (-110)

The Eagles are an 8.5-point favorite over Arizona in this example. Philadelphia can be referred to as “chalk.” The term itself comes from the early days of sports betting.

Chalk goes back to the days when horse racing tracks didn’t have computers. They didn’t have tickers either. Instead, all horse odds were updated on a chalkboard. Oddsmakers would write the odds on the board. Whenever there were changes to the odds (which happens a lot in horse racing), the oddsmakers would update the chalkboard. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Odds at horse tracks used to be written on a chalkboard

Because bettors have a tendency to bet on favorites more often, the favorite’s odds would get updated more frequently. As a result, the favorite in a horse race would often be covered with chalk dust. Hence, the term chalk became associated with a betting favorite.

Introducing Chalk Betting in Sports

Sports enthusiasts, fans, and even casual viewers are always in search of something innovative and exciting that enhances their viewing experience. That’s why many fans get into sports betting. It’s incredibly popular these days, especially in the U.S. where new legislation has opened up new betting opportunities to millions of gamblers.

Understanding betting chalk may be difficult for new bettors. However, they most often follow the idea of betting on favorites. The betting public most often bets on favorites as well as popular teams or teams with popular players. 

Professional bettors will dive deep and determine whether or not betting on the favorite is a good bet. Too often, the betting public gets it wrong. That’s why sportsbooks are still in business and thriving in today’s hyped-up betting market. 

While betting on chalk is typical of newer, inexperienced bettors, the professionals will still back favorites at times. It’s picking those times that sets them apart from the average bettor. How do bettors use chalk betting to their advantage?

Benefits of Chalk Betting for Bettors

Betting on the team favored to win may seem like a safe bet, but it’s more than just blindly picking the favorite. There are actually many benefits to chalk betting for bettors. The most obvious benefit is that favorites often win. By betting on the favorite, you increase your chances of winning your wager. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Favorites win more often than underdogs

Additionally, betting on the favorite allows you to capitalize on public perception. The general public tends to bet on the favorite more often. By betting with the public, you can avoid the pitfalls of contrarian betting. Too often, inexperienced bettors will want to bet opposite the public and they end up losing big.

Finally, chalk betting can be a good way to manage your bankroll. By sticking to favorites, you can limit your losses and potentially turn a profit over time. Consider the benefits and see if it’s the right strategy for you.

How to Place a Chalk Bet

You should understand by now that the term “chalk” refers to a betting favorite. Placing a bet on the favorite may seem like a safe bet, but it’s important to do your research beforehand. Start by looking at the odds and the betting lines to determine which team is favored to win. That, of course, is the chalk.

You’ll also want to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each team and any other factors that could influence the outcome of the game. Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to place your bet. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Most bets are placed using a smartphone

Whether you go to a physical sportsbook or use an online betting platform, you’ll need to provide the relevant information and specify the amount you want to wager. These days, it’s much easier to place your bet online. Most sports bettors today use their smartphone to take care of all of their betting business.

In our example with Arizona and Philadelphia, you go to the NFL section of your online sportsbook and find the Cardinals-Eagles game. Determine the size of your bet and then wager on Philadelphia. At -110 odds, you’ll win $1 for every $1.10 that you bet.

Analyzing Chalk Lines and Odds

The world of sports betting is ruled by chalk. That is, of course, the team that’s favored to win. Too much reliance on favorites can lead to costly mistakes. That’s where analyzing betting lines and odds comes in. 

It’s crucial to understand what goes into creating these lines and determining the odds. It also pays to look beyond the favorite. By delving deeper into the statistics and trends behind each matchup, bettors can make more informed decisions and increase their chances of success. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
On any bet, it’s important to analyze the odds

Never follow the favorite blindly. Take the time to analyze it and find the best opportunities for betting success. In our Arizona-Philadlephia example, it pays to know that Arizona has given up 21 or more points in four of its last five games. The Cardinals have also been outscored by double-digit margins in three of their last four games.

Increasing Your Chance of Winning with Chalk Betting

If you are losing too often, it may be time to consider a new betting strategy. Since the betting public tends to go with favorites more often than not, bettors like to jump on the other side and back the underdog. The problem with that strategy is that underdogs are underdogs for a reason. They lose more often than they win.

There is no guarantee in sports betting, but by analyzing the odds and considering the past performance of a team or significant players, you can make a good decision on a betting favorite. Just ask our Sports Hub experts. You can search our picks database to see how often certain handicappers bet on chalk and how often they win.

In the NFL, moneyline favorites have won 66.5 percent of the time since 1985. That means the chalk wins about two of every three bets. Again, you have to do your homework and understand how betting odds work. Repeatedly betting on heavy favorites can get you into trouble.

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Moneyline NFL favorites are winning 68.4 percent of the time in the 2023 season

Keep in mind, earlier this season, Arizona, which is just 3-12 in 2023, beat the Dallas Cowboys as +470 moneyline underdogs. The Cardinals were a 23-point underdog on the spread. Betting on the favorite in the case – the Cowboys – would have required a $610 bet just to win $100. That’s not very smart. That’s why bettors need a solid chalk betting strategy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Placing a Chalk Bet

Placing a bet on the chalk, or betting favorite, may seem like a no-brainer. However, it’s important to avoid certain mistakes to maximize your chances of winning. First and foremost, don’t rely solely on the odds or public opinion. 

In the Dallas example above, the Cowboys were -610 favorites on the moneyline. That indicated that the Cowboys implied probability of winning was 85.9 percent. That sounds like a solid bet, but it simply costs too much. You have to bet $6.10 just to win $1. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Don’t make the same betting mistakes

On the flip side, the Cardinals chances of winning are implied to be around 14 percent. If you bet a $1 on Arizona, you’d win $6.10, but the likelihood of victory is small. Now, you can’t simply rely on those odds to determine whether or not to place your bet on the favorite (or the underdog).

Do your own research and analysis to make informed bets. You want to avoid placing high-value bets on multiple favorites. Those bets are simply too costly and often don’t provide enough value to the bettor. If you just remain aware of these simple mistakes, you can improve your sports betting strategy and increase your chances of winning more bets.

Disadvantages of Chalk Betting

Chalk betting is a popular method used to gamble on sports, but with it comes both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of betting on favorites is the high probability of winning. Favorites are expected to win and do so at a higher rate than underdogs.

The disadvantage there is that the potential payout is lower. Favorites in the four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) are almost always given minus-money odds on both the moneyline and point spread bets. Your payout on a bet on the team more likely to win will almost always be less than your wager amount. For example, when you bet on the Eagles -8.5 at -110 odds in our example from above, you will win $9.09 on a $10 wager.

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Payouts are lower on favorites

Additionally, chalk betting can be considered less exciting than betting on an underdog. There is less uncertainty and risk involved. That, of course, reduces the payout. Ultimately, when deciding whether or not to engage in chalk betting, it is important to consider both the potential advantages and disadvantages and make an informed decision based on individual preferences and goals.

Examples of When to Bet on Chalk

So, when is the best time to bet on chalk? There are a number of times when betting on the favorite makes sense. Let’s say you have a team that is on a streak. But, let’s say that the team is on a huge losing streak. Take the 2023 Detroit Pistons as an example. The Pistons set an NBA record by losing 28 games in a row.

Bettors could simply “fade the Pistons,” or bet on the team playing against Detroit. When the Pistons play an NBA team with one of the best records in the league, they simply bet on that team. The Pistons’ opponent will be the favorite, but remember bettors will have to look at the moneyline odds to see if the bet makes sense. Taking a team like the Bucks or Celtics at -400 isn’t always a great bet.

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting
Sometimes, betting against the public is the smart move

Another time to bet on chalk is when an underdog has a number of key players out of its lineup. In an NFL game, a road underdog is going to play without its starting quarterback, its best wide receiver, and three starters on defense. Again, depending upon the odds on either the moneyline or point spread (or both), a bettor could make a determination as to whether or not it makes sense to bet on the favorite.

Risk vs. Reward

If you’re the type of person who enjoys high-risk, high-reward outcomes, you may be looking for alternatives to chalk betting. While chalk bets can be a safe option, they often come with lower payouts and don’t offer the same adrenaline rush as riskier bets. 

Instead, consider exploring prop bets, parlays, or other exotic wagers that offer more lucrative returns. These types of bets often require a deeper understanding of the sport or event you’re betting on, but the payoff can be well worth the effort. 

Chalk betting is an attractive option for newer sports bettors who are looking for lower-risk opportunities to put their knowledge and skills to use. There are several advantages to chalk betting, with safe bets being one of the first. 

Betting on favorites is easy to understand for newer bettors. They must have some knowledge of lines and odds and how they work before placing bets. It helps to understand all bets, including riskier bets like parlays where betting on chalk could lead to higher payouts.

Bettors should work to avoid common mistakes when betting on chalk. Develop your own betting strategy that you are comfortable with and stick to it. Continually revise that strategy over time and watch the wins pile up. 

What Does Chalk Mean in Sports Betting FAQs

Does chalk always refer to a huge favorite?

Not necessarily. Most handicappers and bettors will refer to most any favorite as chalk, regardless of the odds.

What does laying the chalk mean?

Laying the chalk has a few meanings. It refers to a bettor wagering on a favorite, but can also mean buying points to take a shorter odds bet or simply just making the popular bet.

Why are favorites called chalk?

This goes back to the old days at horse tracks when there were no tickers or computers showing all the odds on horses. Odds would be continually updated on a chalkboard. Horses getting all the action – favorites – would be covered in chalk dust.

What are chalk eaters?

Chalk eater is a derogatory term in the sports betting world. It refers to a bettor who likes to bet on big favorites. Go back and read the section on disadvantages of chalk betting. You’ll see that you lose big when you lose on big favorites.

When do you bet on chalk?

Betting on chalk isn’t a matter of when. You bet on chalk when your research has pointed you to make a decision to wager on the favorite. Any betting decision requires some work. At the very least, consult with the experts at Sports Hub and see if they are betting on chalk.