What is the Vig in Sports Betting?

Vig, vigorish, juice, cut, take, margin, house edge. There are many names, but they all represent the same thing: an advantage that the sportsbook creates over bettors in an effort to ensure a profit.

The vig is as old as sports betting itself. Sportsbooks are running a business, and that business involves risk. So, to reduce the likelihood of significant losses, sportsbooks must create an edge by slightly tweaking the odds in their favor.

The vig can seem confusing. Both how it works and why it is important.

What does “vigorish” mean?

Vigorish in sports betting is a fee that the sportsbook takes for each bet. Every bet you make will have true odds and the odds that the sportsbook sets. The difference between the two is the vig. Let’s explain this clearer by using an example.

Say you have a 50/50 wager like which side will win the coin toss before a football game. Each side of this bet has equal chances of success, so it’s natural to assume that you’ll get even money if you make the right pick.

If you were to bet $100, you should be looking at a $100 profit if the sportsbooks offered true odds. But the sportsbook will usually provide odds of -110 for each side of this wager, meaning that a $100 bet will only bring you roughly $91 in profit, or a 91% return. The other 9% is what the sportsbook keeps for itself as the fee for taking the bet.

An ideal scenario for the sportsbook would be for most people to take the wrong bet, but that’s rarely the case. Instead, the sportsbook wants to see both sides generate roughly equal wagers. If bettors wagered $10,000 on one side and $10,000 on the other side, the sportsbook would have collected $20,000 from that bet but would only have to pay out $18,180, regardless of the outcome.

Why does the vig matter?

From the sportsbook’s perspective, the vig is simply a guarantee that it will end up with a profit. Still, the book needs to balance things out so both sides of a wager attract enough betting to make the vig viable.

On the other hand, bettors look at the vig as a way to calculate how much of a disadvantage a particular bet implies.

The vig will not be the same on every bet, and it can vary a lot depending on the sportsbook. While you’ll always be facing some kind of a vig regardless of where you play and what types of sports bets you’re placing, tracking the vig and noticing the slight differences between them can at least put you in a somewhat more advantageous spot.

Calculating the vig

The vig is set by a standardized formula that looks like this:

  • V = 100 * (1 – (p * q) / (p + q))

The p and q represent payouts for each of the two outcomes, but you must convert them into decimal odds for the formula to be correct.

Note that the vig only works if each side of the bet is taken in proportional amounts. That’s why sportsbooks tend to shift the odds before the game, making the side of the bet with less action more attractive. Only when all sides of the bet are taken in proportional amounts can the vig ensure a profit.

Sportsbooks also must be careful not to turn bettors away when setting the vig. If they go overboard and offer less favorable odds, bettors will simply ignore them and search for better odds with a lower vig on other betting sites.

For example, if both sides of the bet come with the odds of -120, the vig will be 8.33%. This presents a great profit potential for the sportsbook, but those odds do not seem very good and will attract little to no action. If the odds were -110 instead, the sportsbook is looking at a vig of just 4.55%, but the bettors are more likely to wager on those odds.

Is the vig the same across all bets?

The vig is not the same for all bets because the odds can vary immensely depending on the market and the difference in quality between the two sides involved in a given game.

For point spreads, over/under bets and 50/50 props (like the one in our example above), the vig is almost always similar, as these markets will usually come with roughly the same odds (-110 on each side, give or take).

The moneyline, on the other hand, can have the vig go all over the place and make it much harder to calculate. In scenarios where one side is a clear favorite, the odds would be set so that a bet on the moneyline favorite implies a smaller profit.

This may create a situation where two sides of the bet aren’t treated equally by the public. More bettors will take the favorite to win, and if that is the outcome, the sportsbook will have to pay more people with a smaller payout. If the underdog wins, the sportsbook has to pay a more considerable amount to a smaller number of winners, and the sheer amount of lost stakes on the favorite side will cover that.

Is the vig better or worse depending on the sportsbook?

The odds and the vig for the same bet can be different on different sportsbooks, which is why it’s important to compare your options before deciding where to place your wager.

The differences in gambling odds and the vig may not seem significant at first. For example, a 2% difference in profit can look too small to bother with, but it can create quite an advantage if you bet a higher amount or make a large volume of smaller bets over a more extended period.

This is why going odds shopping can pay off. It will take some time and patience for you to find the best possible odds with the lowest vig, but that’s what it takes to become a more successful bettor.

Which sportsbook has the lowest vig?

There’s not one single sportsbook that offers the lowest vig. You can run into a few Maryland sports betting sites that seem to have better odds than the rest, but that’s not going to be the case for every one of a sportsbook’s wagers.

Moreover, odds will change over time as sportsbooks try to reduce their exposure and balance out each side of the bet, which means that the vig can change with them.

You should also consider how sportsbook promotions affect the vig in betting. Sportsbooks with plenty of promotions that offer free bets and bonus cash tend to have less favorable odds and a higher vig. On the other hand, betting sites with a relatively low vig may not have a lot to offer in the promotions department.

In any case, if you want to find the lowest vig, you’re going to have to search for it with each new bet you’re planning to make. Ideally, you would find an online sportsbook where the vig is decent most of the time, but keep an eye on the odds posted by other betting sites.

Luckily, all legal online sportsbooks in Maryland seem to have an acceptable vig, so you can’t really go wrong regardless. These top sportsbooks in Maryland include such sites as DK Maryland, FD Maryland, Caesars Sportsbook MD, and PointsBet Sportsbook MD, amongst others.

Are there vig-free sportsbooks?

Sportsbooks are a business, and as such, they must find a way to guarantee themselves a profit. Without the vig, a sportsbook would just be at too much risk.

So, to answer the question,  no, there is no such a thing as a vig-free sportsbook. The best you can hope for is to find a vig of between 2% and 3%, but it will likely only be available for specific wagers. On some markets, the vig can go up to 20% or more.

On some rare occasions, you might find a completely negated vig, which can happen if that wager is part of a sportsbook odds boost promotion.

How do you beat the vig?

Sportsbooks are too smart to give you a window where you can exploit the odds, so beating the vig is pretty much impossible. The best you can do is make some calculations and remove the vig from the equation by looking at the actual probabilities of each side of the bet. This will then give you a chance to determine whether a given line has value.

First, you’ll have to calculate the implied probability for each team or player, which is equal to risk/return. Adding the two numbers together will give you the total implied probability. By dividing the implied probability for each side and the total implied probability, you’ll get the actual probability in percentages. To make sure you’ve done the calculations correctly, just add the two numbers together to see if the total actual probability reaches 100%.

This will give you a perspective on the actual probability of each outcome before accounting for the vig that the sportsbook has set. From there, you can deduce whether a given bet is worth taking.

Of course, many systems have appeared over the years, made by people who claim it is possible to beat the vig and always turn a profit. However, these systems tend to be rather complicated, and none of them are 100% fool-proof, so always take them with a grain of salt.

Is the vig higher or lower on futures bets?

The vig on futures is usually higher when compared to standard bets. The total implied probability on a moneyline bet typically ranges between 105% and 110%, while futures sports bets can have an over round that sometimes goes up to 140%.

The upside is that futures often come with high odds and offer a significant potential payout. This is not the market where you should be looking for value. Just accept that it’s a high-risk, high-reward wager.