What Does Chalk Mean in Betting? – A Guide to Chalk Betting

Chalk betting means when a sports bettor places a bet on a strong favorite (team or player), which is often short odds and has been heavily wagered on.

If you are looking to learn about chalk betting in sports, then we’ll highlight some reliable betting tips and strategies to help get started, along with some pros and cons to look out for. Ultimately, you will learn enough to start chalk betting on the most popular sports like football, basketball, and baseball.

What is Chalk in Sports Betting?

So, what does chalk mean in sports betting, and how does it work?

Overall, the term “chalk” or “chalk pick” refers to the favorite. However, the chalk betting term doesn’t cover every favorite – only the strongest favorites with low odds and spread points.

Statistically, favorite teams or players in a game win more often than not, so wouldn’t it be obvious to bet on the most popular NFL picks and favorites, at least most of the time? Time for some logic.

The logic behind chalk sports betting is simple: bookmakers assign the lowest odds to the teams and players with the highest winning probabilities. However, this also causes one notable implication: the potential winnings are very small, considering the low odds. For example, betting $100 on a team favored with odds of -400 earns you only $25.

For example, consider a soccer match between Arsenal and Luton Town in soccer’s Premier League, with Arsenal playing at home. Arsenal are stronger than Luton Town and enjoy the advantage of playing at home. To this end, a bookmaker may assign Arsenal odds of -300, which are considerably low, fitting the description of a chalk pick. To this end, betting the chalk would involve wagering on Arsenal.

Why is it Called “Chalk?”

The chalk term dates back to the pre-computer betting era. Bookies today display their odds on a digital odds board or computer screen. However, before computers and the digital odds board, horse racing bookies would write their odds on chalkboards using chalk.

The odds assigned to the best-performing horses – such as the favorite – would change regularly, necessitating the bookies to rub off the old odds and write new ones again and again. Eventually, the horses and odds with the most action would be covered in more chalk than the rest of the chalkboard. Naturally, many players would bet on the ‘chalky’ horses and races, which they would refer to as a “chalk pick,” hence the term “betting the chalk.”

Examples of Chalk Betting

Exactly what is the chalk meaning in betting? Using illustrated examples from real-life games and bets can help simplify the chalk strategy.

Consider the following example of a bet based on a match between Arsenal and Fulham. Clearly, Arsenal is the strongest favorite with odds of -420 against Fulham’s +1000.

chalk betting example

However, the following example based on a game between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest is a bit different. The odds assigned to Manchester United are considerably low, but not as low as the two earlier examples. To this end, chalk bettors should exercise some caution.

chalk betting example

Overall with these examples, the following game between Sheffield United and Manchester City is the best example of betting the chalk. Manchester City have odds of -575, which is as good as a chalk pick can get.

chalk betting example

Besides the odds, other factors can also affect a chalk bet’s suitability. Most notably, teams with lower point spreads and considerably low odds are ideal chalk picks. Additionally, teams playing in their home grounds have an advantage over their opponents.

How to Spot the Favorite

With revenue in the online sports betting market projected to reach over $43bn in 2023, there are plenty of opportunities to spot a favorite and look for some chalk play. But, how do you spot the favorite in a potential chalk market? The easiest tactic involves reviewing the following factors:

  • Odds Sign – The favorite team has a minus (–) sign against their odds.
  • Moneyline – Moreover, the favorite team’s moneyline and odds are considerably lower than the underdog’s odds.
  • Point Spreads/Betting Lines – The favorite team has a lower point spread (sports betting lines) than the underdog. Matches without a clear favorite are known as PK betting.
  • Consensus Picks – Consensus picks are sentiments from sports betting experts predicting a team’s win. Most betting sites display consensus picks, but not all.
  • Public Betting Volumes – Unlike sharp bettors, most recreational sports bettors prefer betting on their favorite teams, so check the team with the highest betting volumes.

You should also consider researching the betting market to determine the strongest team to identify value. For example, you can review both teams’ head-to-head history and each team’s scoring and losing statistics.

Best Sports for Chalk Betting

Betting the chalk is versatile and flexible as it applies to virtually every sports category. Most importantly, it applies to various mainstream sports with thousands of games played all year round, including soccer, horse racing, and basketball, all of which you can bet on at the best offshore sportsbooks.

Betting on chalk remains constant for all sports categories, but there are some factors to consider in every sports event. Here is an overview of the top five best sports for some chalk play and unique factors to watch out for in each category:

  • American Football – Chalk bettors often refer to some games being “chalky” when referring to notable wins by the favorite teams.
  • Basketball – Matches played during March Madness can pit strong teams against weak ones.
  • Baseball – College baseball offers betting with matches between strong and weak teams.
  • Horse racing – Races with a potentially strong betting favorite in a weak field are ideal.
  • Soccer – Leagues such as the MLS, Premier League, and UEFA Champions League offer the best opportunities for chalk in betting as there are large betting volumes changing the odds.

What is a Chalk Bracket?

A chalk bracket is when chalk bettors pick all of the favorites in a tournament to reach the later stages of a tournament. An example of this would be March Madness, with a chalk bracket being placed on each of the favorites in each division to reach the Final Four. Although it might seem a safe bet, history shows that if you bet exclusively on the ‘chalk’ teams and don’t allow for any upsets or surprises within the bracket, you won’t win. It is considered quite lazy to bet only the chalk bracket, although you can still bet predominantly on the chalk and add in a few alternatives that you think have a chance.

march madness tournament scheme

Tips for Chalk Betting

Chalk in sports betting involves more than just identifying and wagering on the betting favorite. Sometimes betting underdogs can prove worthy, contrary to your expectations. To this end, you should be extra cautious when sports betting on the chalk and use a reliable strategy. Here are six tips:

  • Stick to players/teams with something to play for
  • Check the news for updates/injuries
  • Look for ‘one-sided’ chalk bets in the opening rounds of tournaments
  • Check stats & recent forms, such as NFL results
  • Watch the market for ‘heavy chalk’ and where the money is going
  • Record chalk bets – review your betting history & learn from it

How often do you use chalk in sports betting? Ideally, it should be a consistent betting strategy, such as a moneyline bet. You can always do better by identifying your common mistakes and avoiding them. For example, not researching your chalk sports betting markets is a common mistake. As such, review your betting records, discover your best bets, identify your mistakes, and learn from them, which is the trait of most professional gamblers. Also, remember to monitor your own betting and gamble responsibly.

Pros & Cons of Chalk Betting

Now you know about the chalk meaning in betting, and that it is fairly easy with a mostly reliable strategy offering convenient benefits. However, it is not perfect, meaning that it also has a few shortcomings. Here is an overview of the most notable pros and cons of betting the chalk.


  • Favorite teams and players have a better chance, reducing your risk of losing
  • Identifying the betting favorite in a sports market is easy
  • Chalk betting markets are widely available across virtually all sports categories
  • The general betting on chalk strategy is easy to learn and use


  • The payouts are relatively low considering the shorter odds
  • Favorite teams or players aren’t always guaranteed to win


Who or what is chalk in sports betting?

Is betting chalk a good sports betting strategy?

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