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What Is the Vig in Sports Betting?

When it comes to sports betting, half of the challenge is figuring out what all the terms mean. From spreads to favorites, sports betting has a fair amount of jargon that any serious punter needs to become familiar with.

One of the weirdest terms in sports betting is “vig” – what is it and what does it do?

What It Is

“Vig” might be a strange term, but its meaning is actually very straightforward. “Vig” or “vigorish” or “juice” refers to the house edge in sports betting – which is to say, if you were to have a 50/ 50 bet, the actual percentage would be anywhere from 49% to 47% on each side with the remaining percent or three pushing the odds just far enough off center for the pundit to win just a bit less than half the time, giving the house the advantage. 

House advantages occur in any and all forms of gambling and certain casino games have especially high house advantages, but the house advantage in sports betting is on the smaller side. Think of it as a small charge that bookies charge to make use of their services.

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An Example

The vig does vary a fair amount between different kinds of bets and for the likes of moneyline bets, there are specific formulas to work out how much the vig is as a percentage known as implied probability.

The easiest way to illustrate a vig, then, is through spread bets – bets that are made where the bookkeeper nullifies the differences between the favorite (most likely to win) and underdog (least likely to win), so the odds are much closer to 50/ 50. Here is an example:

  • Let’s say the bet is on an NBA game between the Bulls and the Lakers
  • Both sides are given -110 odds, as is usual for spread bets.
  • One bettor bets $110 on the Bulls, another $110 on the Lakers.
  • That’s a total of $220.
  • Let’s say the Bulls win, by the required amount. The winning bettor then receives $210, which is the original wager of $100 + an extra $100 in profit.
  • That remaining $10 is the cut that goes to the bookie. 
  • To work out the vig in this case, you take the bookie’s cut and divide it by how much was paid out to the winner. So, 10/ 210 = 0.0476 or 4.76%.

All sports book’s make use of a vig because all bookies need to make a profit to stay in business. This will always put the bettor at a slight advantage, as the above example shows, but it’s the only way the whole system works.

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