Understanding Vigorish in Sports Betting

If you win a bet at an online sportsbook, your return varies based on two things:

  • The amount that you bet
  • The odds at the time you bet.

But there’s another factor that can impact your bottom line, even if it’s not as readily apparent. For all of your bets, there’s a “vig” that the sportsbook charges. In short, it’s the sportsbook’s fee for facilitating the bet. Kind of like a commission.

This explanation of the vig in sports betting will take you through all the main points.

What is vigorish?

When you place a bet at a sportsbook, there needs to be something in it for the book regardless of whether your bet wins or loses. Vigorish is that something. Also known as the vig or juice, it’s part of the odds at the time of bet placement.

For a standard spread or totals wager at odds of -110 or 1.91, a winning $10 bet will return $9.09. So why didn’t you double your money, and what happened to the rest? In this case, the $0.91 difference goes to the house as vig.

Do all online sportsbooks use vig?

Yes, the vig is standard practice across the industry, as sportsbooks rely on it to make money. The exact amount will vary based on the odds or type of bet, but it’s there.

For a bettor, line shopping is a key step. This means checking the odds at several legal online betting sites to place your bet at the most favourable numbers for you.

At times, you may come across reduced or no juice promotions, and they are certainly worth paying attention to if they’re on something you want to bet on anyway. As we’ll cover in a bit, the vig in betting influences your bottom line.

Is the vig on sports bets always the same?  

No. However, for bets that tend to use the same starting point for odds upon the release, such as spreads and totals, it often will be. But even in those cases, movement on the odds board can lead to fluctuations in the vig.

As your experience level with sports betting grows, the vig becomes more readily apparent on those bets. But what about for other bets in which the sports odds and lines can be all over the place? Yep, the vig is there, too.

How much vig is charged on different sports bets?

Knowing about the vig in sports betting is only half the battle. You also should have an understanding of how it factors into different bets. This can help you spot deals as well as when to pass and keep shopping. Here’s a closer look at the vig for various sports bet types:

Vig on spreads and totals 

For spread and totals bets, the vast majority of legal online sportsbooks use odds of -110 or 1.91 as the starting point when lines are released to the betting public. As mentioned earlier, the vig is easy to spot in these instances.

  • A $100 winning bet at odds of -110/1.91 returns $90.90.
  • The sportsbook vig is $9.10 or 9.1%.

When betting on totals, you’ll find a similar odds range across all sports. It’s a different story for variations of the spread, such as the puck line in the NHL or run line in MLB. While NFL, CFL, NBA, and college football and basketball spreads can vary from as little as a half-point all the way into the high double digits, NHL and MLB lines tend to be the same.

  • Standard puck line: 1.5 goals
  • Standard run line: 1.5 runs

As such, there’s more variance in the odds. For the lower-scoring sports, a margin of two is significant. The vig for those bets will be more like what you find on the moneyline, which we’ll cover shortly. For now, let’s stick with the standard baseline odds for spreads and totals. While they may come out at -110 or 1.91, betting action can lead to some shifts. Here is what variations from the standard number can mean for your potential winnings:

OddsProfit on $100 WinnerAmount of VigVig %
+100 or 2.00$100.00$0.000.0%
-102 or 1.98$98.00$2.002.0%
-105 or 1.95$95.20$4.804.8%
-107 or 1.93$93.50$6.506.5%
-110 or 1.91$90.90$9.109.1%
-112 or 1.89$89.30$10.7010.7%
-115 or 1.87$87.00$13.0013.0%
-118 or 1.85$84.70$15.3015.3%
-120 or 1.83$83.30$16.7016.7%

For individual bets, a small shift down to -107/1.93 or up to -112/1.89 may not seem like it makes much of a difference. Over the long term, however, such small differences can loom large.

To further demonstrate, let’s say that you bet on 100 NFL point spreads over the course of a season at $100 for each wager. When all is said and done, you’ve had yourself a year by going 60-40. Now let’s say that the odds were the same for each wager that you placed. Here are your winnings at three separate odds numbers:

  • -107: $5,610
  • -110: $5,454
  • -112: $5,358

You’ve lost 40 of your bets, so that’s $4,000 in bankroll gone. Even while factoring that into the equation, you’re still profitable in all three scenarios. However, you’re showing the most profit at -107.

A 60% win rate is a tough ask for an entire season. We’re only using it as an illustration here, but the same will hold true if you win 58%, 56% or 54% of your bets. Just to cover the vig and break even at odds of -110/1.91, a bettor needs to win 52.38% of the time.

When you think of your returns on a long-term basis as opposed to what you stand to gain on a single wager, the impact of the vig in gambling becomes more apparent. Even for those who only bet occasionally, you should always have your sights set on the best possible return.

Moneyline vig

For the moneyline, there’s typically a clear favourite and underdog. The former will have negative odds in American format and the lower of the two decimal values. If the underdog wins, bettors can more than double their money. That being the case, there’s no vig on these bets, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Even when it’s not immediately recognizable, the vig is there.

When looking at moneyline odds, taking the numbers and translating them into the implied probability — as in how likely either outcome is based on the odds — helps to spot the vig.

While there are plenty of online handicapping calculators that can do this for you, it’s still helpful to know how to figure it out yourself:

  • Negative American odds (make the number positive in the calculation): odds / (odds +100) * 100
  • Positive American odds: 100 / (odds +100) * 100
  • Decimal odds: (1/odds) * 100

Now let’s see it in action for a CFL game line between the favoured Toronto Argonauts (-140/1.71) and the underdog Ottawa Redblacks (+120/2.20).

  • Implied probability of an Argonauts win:
    • American: 140/(140+100) * 100 = 58.3%
    • Decimal: (1/1.71) * 100 = 58.3%
  • Implied probability of a Redblacks win:
    • American: 100/(120 + 100) * 100 = 45.5%
    • Decimal: (1/2.20) * 100 = 45.5%

If we add the implied probabilities on both sides together — 58.3% + 45.5% — we come up with 103.8%. The amount that’s over 100 — in this case, 3.8% — is the percentage of vig on this particular bet.

Is there vig on other bets?

The betting menu at online sportsbooks is much larger than just the above bets. Props, parlays, futures bets and live sports betting are all at your fingertips. Yes, there’s vig in all of those bets, as well.

For a wager that has two choices, it’s the same concepts that we’ve already outlined. When you get into the realm of multi-choice wagers, such as betting on a player to score the first TD in an NFL game or which CFL team will win the next Grey Cup, the vig isn’t as obvious.

However, if you took the time to add up the implied probabilities for all of the listed options, you would see that it’s part of the equation. To save yourself the head pain of doing so, just remember the following.

  • Online sportsbooks build the vig into all bets.
  • You should take the time to find the best odds for any bet you want to place.

Naturally, that’s not so easy when you’re talking about fast-moving live betting markets. In that case, you simply have to learn to wager with discipline and pass if nothing jumps out at you.

For all of the other bets, you should always factor the vig into your thinking. While there’s nothing wrong with having a favourite sportsbook or two, expanding your horizon with other books will give you more options for finding the best odds.

How to calculate vig on sports bets

Sportsbooks don’t list the vig for each bet, so it’s on you to figure it out. Depending on the bet, you can find the implied probability either on your own or using an online handicapping calculator. Here’s the formula we went over above for a standard two-outcome bet using American odds. Note that when plugging the odds into the formula, you want to turn the favourite odds from negative to positive:

  • (Favourite odds/(favourite odds + 100) x 100) + (100/(underdog odds + 100) x 100) – 100 = vig

Exactly how you get to the answer isn’t important, but understanding that the vig is there and how much it impacts your profitability is. As you continue to gain experience, you won’t need to rush to a calculator for each set of odds as you’ll begin to get a feel for things.

What paying vig means for your bottom line

If you plan to place bets at an online sportsbook, then you have to know going in that the vig will be there. There’s no way to avoid it, but having an understanding of how it works and how much the sportsbook is charging is key. Shopping around for odds is important, as they won’t be the same everywhere. Learning to look for the best possible return whenever you put your money at risk is key if you’re planning to bet on sports.

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