What Does Action or No Action Mean in Sports Betting?

In sports betting vernacular, the term “action” can mean a few things.

  • If you have “action” on a game, you have a bet on that game.
  • Your “total action” is the total amount you have on the line in every game.
  • You get in on “the action” whenever you place a bet.

In contrast, the term “no action” means all bets are off. If a bet is “no actioned,” there are no winners or losers; the sportsbook will cancel the bet and return the wagers of those who bet.

As you might suspect, “action” and “no action” are two essential sports betting terms you’re likely to hear at sportsbooks all the time.

Having “action” on a sports bet

What does it mean to have “action” in sports betting? For example, if you place a $100 spread bet on the Texas Longhorns -13 (-110) vs. the UTSA Roadrunners at Caesars Sportsbook, and nothing else, you have $100 in action on the Longhorns game.

All of your total action adds up to that same $100, since you had no other bets. When Texas won 41-20, your action paid off, and Caesars Sportsbook paid you $190.91.

Had you also bet $100 each on the following, you’d have had $400 in college football betting action that weekend:

  • 1 Georgia -25.5 (-115) to beat South Carolina
  • 2 Alabama -49.5 (-110) to beat UL Monroe
  • 3 Ohio State -30.5 (-115) to beat Toledo

Lucky you, because despite the massive spreads, Texas and all the big favorites covered, and all your action paid off.

Why was my bet graded “no action?”

“No action” in sports betting is going to take place from time to time. One of the reasons for a sportsbook to grade bets as no action and return them is if a game doesn’t take place, whether that’s due to the weather or some other unforeseen circumstances. All bets are off, and all previously confirmed bets receive full refunds.

It depends on the type of bet, but certain bets are quite commonly no action when betting on MLB games. With baseball moneylines, you get the choice between a “listed pitchers” or “action” betting option. Betting the “listed pitchers” moneyline means that if either of the listed starters can’t go, all bets are not action.

Say the listed pitchers for a Houston AstrosTampa Bay Rays game were Cristian Javier and Shane McClanahan.

Caesars had the listed pitchers’ moneyline as Houston +118 and Tampa Bay -140. Let’s say you bet $100 on that Houston moneyline at +118 and Javier was a late scratch. The bet would be no action, and the sportsbook would return the $100 to you.

Of course, you could have chosen the “action” option, and the bet would stand no matter who started in place of Javier.

“No action” in other sports

As you might be able to tell from the example above, when bets involve specific players, they stand a greater chance of being no action. Game cancellations are rare, but individual players miss games for all sorts of reasons all the time.

That means player props in the NFL, college football/basketball, the NHL, the NBA, and MLB can all be no action bets when the player you’re betting on is a late scratch. However, should that player make even a token appearance, there’s very little chance most props will be no action.

Of course, games still end up not taking place sometimes. When Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8, 2022, the English Premier League announced the postponement of its games for Sept. 10-12.

With no date fixed to replay the games, all the bets on them became no action, even at sportsbooks on this side of the Atlantic. Had some of them been immediately rescheduled, some action may have stood. However, since it wasn’t clear when the rescheduled games would take place, and so much might happen between now and then, all bets were off.

Action/no action FAQ

How do you know if you have action on a bet?

Once you confirm your bet with a retail sportsbook, it will print you a ticket. Texas online sportsbooks will list your confirmed bets under the “open bets” tab or something similar. Find a bet there, and you have an action bet.

How do you receive notification that your bets are not action?

You might get an email from a sportsbook telling you a bet is no action. However, the best way to tell is to check your account balance to see if the book has returned the bet to you. Otherwise, look under your “open bets” tab, or under your “settled bets” tab if the game is finished, to see if it’s still there.

Can you contest a sportsbook if it rules a bet is no action?

In most cases, you’d have no reason to contest a bet being no action. Game cancellations are league decisions, and sportsbooks will rule bets on these games to be no action because there would be no way to settle the bets.

If a player prop is no action, it’s usually because that player didn’t play. If you bet on that player, contesting the no-action decision would be arguing against your own interests. Of course, if you bet against that player, you might feel entitled to a win, but the sportsbook will simply refer you to the terms and conditions of the bet, which will state that all bets are no action if the player is a scratch.

What does “grading” mean in sports betting?

Grading is really just another term for a sportsbook’s decision on how it is handling a bet. Sportsbooks grade bets, deciding if they have action or not.

Which other sports have bets that are susceptible to no action?

Outside of the sports above, a couple of others have bets that are susceptible to no action. These mostly include individual sports like tennis and golf, where you bet on individual participants. Withdrawals and cancellations are more common in these sports, meaning more bets have a chance to be no action.

Can futures bets be no action?

Futures generally involve season-long achievements for teams and individual players. As a result, not a lot of futures bets end up as no action. It would take a lot for a sportsbook to no action this type of bet, starting with a team canceling its season, folding or failing to finish its schedule. However, as we saw with what the global pandemic did to sports around the world, anything is possible. Even a futures bet can end up as no action.