Sports Betting Vig Explained – What is the Vig in Betting?

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The vig describes the house edge that an online sportsbook takes on its betting lines. It is an important concept for sports bettors to understand, as it has a major impact on your chances of earning a long-term profit.

This guide will explain what vig means and how to calculate it when browsing the betting lines at an online sportsbook. We will discuss the standard vig charged by most betting sites, and highlight opportunities to pay a lower rate of vig on certain games. Continue reading to learn more about vig betting.

What is the Vig?

Vig is short for vigorish. It is more commonly known as juice. All online sportsbooks build vigorish into their betting lines, as it allows them to pay their overheads and generate a profit. The concept of vigorish is similar to the house edge built into a casino game, such as roulette, blackjack or a video slot.

This image shows the sports betting odds available on an NFL football game at BetOnline, our favorite offshore US sportsbook:

Betting at BetOnline.

As you can see, it is offering -110 on the Commanders +5.5 and -110 on the Eagles -5.5. That means:

  • A $110 bet would be required to generate a $100 profit on the Bulls covering the spread.
  • A $110 bet would be also required to net a $100 profit on the Heat covering the spread.

If an online sportsbook did not charge any vigorish, it would offer odds of +100 on either team to cover the spread. That would allow you to double your money if you placed a winning bet. However, the sportsbook would then struggle to earn a margin and stay afloat.

As such, most sportsbooks require you to lay down $110 to win $100. That extra $10 you pay is the sports betting vig. It means that if you only win half of your bets, you will end up with an overall net loss, so you need to make astute betting picks in order to generate a long-term profit.

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What is the Standard Vig?

Most online sportsbooks will offer odds of -110 on either side of point spread bets or total (over/under). That is now widely regarded as the standard juice charged by the sports betting industry.

It amounts to a house edge of 4.77%. When betting at standard juice lines, you need to win 53% of the time in order to generate a profit. Professional bettors typically manage to win 55% of the time, which allows them to earn a living from sports wagering.

You will see variations of standard vig lines, such as:

  • -110 / -110
  • -112 / -108
  • -115 / -105

In each case, the vig remains at around 4.7% to 4.8%, so it is still a standard juice line. If a sportsbook offers -111 on either side of a bet, or -112 on one side and -109 on the other, it is charging more than the industry standard vig, and you may find better value elsewhere.

Reduced Juice Lines

Some sportsbooks offer reduced juice lines, also known as reduced vig lines. It means they take a smaller house edge than most rivals, so reduced juice lines are very attractive.

This is an example of a reduced vig line:

  • Miami Heat -5.5 vs. Chicago Bulls (-105)
  • Chicago Bulls +5.5 vs. Miami Heat (-105)

It means you only need to risk $105 to generate a $100 profit on either team. That brings the house edge down to just 2.46%. If you regularly bet sides and totals at -105, you only need to win 51.5% of your wagers to secure a long-term profit.

These are all examples of reduced juice betting lines:

  • -109 / -109
  • -110 / -108
  • -115 / -102
  • -107 / -103

In each case, the house edge is lower than the standard 4.7% to 4.8%, meaning you do not need to risk as much of your own money.

How is Vig Calculated?

To calculate the vigorish, you need to work out the implied probability of each side of the bet winning. You then add both implied probabilities together and subtract 100 to work out the vig.

When the odds begin with a minus, you can use this formula to work out the implied probability:

  • Odds/(Odds + 100) x 100 = implied probability

If they start with a plus, you would use this formula:

  • 100/(Odds + 100) / 100 = implied probability

Odds of -110 equate to an implied probability of around 52.4%, based on that formula. If a sportsbook offers -110 on both sides of a bet, you would be left with: 52.4 + 52.4 – 100 = 4.8. That tells you the vig is 4.8%, or 4.77% to be more precise.

However, you do not need to work it out manually. Simply use a free vig sports betting calculator online, and it will quickly tell you the margin a sportsbook is taking. Just enter the odds on either side of the bet, and it will present you with the house edge. The lower the house edge, the better.

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Vig Charged on Bet Types

Many bettors carefully scrutinize the vigorish charged on sides and totals, but it is an important consideration on all bet types available. These are some of the key wagering options and the vig charged on them:

Point Spread / Total

Spread market

The vig on spread bets and totals bets is typically 4.77%. You will invariably find odds of -110 on either side of a bet, or some similar variation. If a sportsbook is charging more than that standard vig, it is advisable to look elsewhere. Some sportsbooks will occasionally charge a lower house edge, and those lines are very appealing.

Alternate Lines

DraftKings Alternate Lines

Alternate lines deviate from the standard point spread or total points line. You can either opt for an easier line in exchange for a smaller potential profit, or you might go for a harder line in exchange for a larger potential payout.

As you can see in the image above, you will often need to pay more than the standard vig when you move the line. For example, the example above displays a house edge of 7.44% on the Atlanta Hawks +8 or the Boston Celtics -8, so it is often in your best interests to avoid betting on alternate lines.

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Moneylines

The vig charged on moneylines will often vary from one game to the next. In the image shown above, the bookmaker is taking 4.61% vig on the Toronto Maple Leafs-New York Rangers game, 4.44% on the Detroit Red Wings-Tampa Bay Lightning game and 4.67% on the New Jersey Devils-Washington Capitals game.

It is important to shop around for your odds and a good profit margin when betting moneylines, as they tend to differ significantly at rival online sportsbooks.

Three-Way Moneylines

BetRivers Soccer Moneyline

You will find a three-way moneyline on sporting events that could potentially end in a tie. Examples include soccer games, hockey games (excluding overtime) and boxing matches.

The process of calculating the vig is the same: work out the implied probability of each outcome, add them together and subtract 100. In the MLS moneyline example above, the vig is 4.3%.

Props

Prop markets for MLB.

Sportsbooks typically take a higher vig betting on props compared to spreads, totals and moneylines. In the example shown above, the sports betting vig is around 6.95% on these player props, so you would need to have a very impressive hit rate to generate a profit.

For that reason, it is advisable to use props sparingly. You should also work hard to find the best odds and lines on a prop, as they vary at different sportsbooks.

Parlays

One thing that typically comes with parlay bets is a large house edge. Each time you add a selection to the parlay, the overall house edge increases, as the vig compounds inside the bet.

For that reason, sportsbooks make a significantly higher margin on parlays than straight bets, so they should also be used sparingly.

Futures

Calculating the sports betting vig on a futures market with dozens of potential outcomes can be a painstaking process. It is easier to simply find the sportsbook offering the best odds on a team or player you like the look of. All futures bets are a long-term investment.

Reduced Vig Betting Sites

It is difficult to run a reduced vig sportsbook, as even the best gambling sites need to make some kind of margin. The sportsbook will often cut costs in other areas, such as bonuses, software and customer support, in order to provide reduced juice lines. For that reason, most legal online sportsbooks offer standard juice lines.

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Top Tips for Vigorish Betting

These are our top five tips and pieces of betting strategy to help you earn a long-term profit in light of vig betting margins:

1. Seek Reduced Juice Lines

Reduced juice lines will greatly enhance your chances of earning a long-term profit. As mentioned above, you need a 53% hit rate to generate a profit at standard juice -110 lines, compared to a 51.5% success rate at reduced vig -105 lines. It is rare to find -105 lines, but -109 or -108 lines are very appealing.

2. Look for Contrarian Lines

Some sportsbooks offer different odds on the same betting line. This is an example of the odds provided on the standard point spread on a recent NBA game:

Line BetOnline BetUS BetNow Bovada
Brooklyn Nets +8.5 -108 -110 -110 -115
Philadelphia 76ers -8.5 -112 -110 -110 -105

In this case, anyone interested in betting on the Brooklyn Nets to cover should have gone to BetOnline, while anyone that wanted to bet on the Philadelphia 76ers should have gone to Bovada. It is helpful to register with multiple online and offshore sportsbooks, compare their odds and seek contrarian lines, which offer a great deal of value.

3. Never Pay More than the Standard Juice

Remember that the standard juice is around 4.7% to 4.8% on sides and totals, so do not pay more than that. The juice can vary significantly on moneylines, sometimes going from 2% at one site to 7% at another site, so it is important to compare odds and find the best prices.

4. Stick to Low Vig Betting Options

Moneylines, totals and spreads (including run lines and puck lines) tend to carry a lower sports betting vig than other markets. That’s just the way it is.

If you regularly bet on props, parlays, alternate lines and same game parlays, your chances of earning a profit will be reduced. Try to stick to the main betting options, which come with the lowest house edge.

5. Claim Bonuses, Odds Boosts and Loyalty Rewards

There are lots of rival sportsbooks to choose from, so it is a competitive industry. The best sports betting sites and mobile apps offer bonuses, odds boosts and loyalty rewards to attract customers, and the bonus credits only come with a 1x rollover requirement.

It is helpful to claim as many bonuses and promos as possible, as they effectively cut down the sports betting vig at the sportsbook, improving your chances of profiting in the long term. Odds boosts can be great, but it is important to only use them on betting markets you find appealing, rather than being sucked in and betting on wild parlays that stand little chance of success.

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FAQs

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Sam Barnard
Editor-in-Chief - Gambling
Sam Barnard
Editor-in-Chief - Gambling

Sam is the Gambling Law Expert on Techopedia.com, and has been working in the sports and gambling industries for more than a decade across many North American and European sites such as Casino.org, SportBusiness.com and Coral bookmakers. An expert on US gambling regulations, Sam oversees content on the site.