What is Vig or Juice in Sports Betting?

Sports betting can be overwhelming for beginners. Just the lingo alone can cause a headache. Some of the more advanced concepts you can learn over time, but you should understand some ideas before ever placing a bet. Understanding “the vig” is one such necessity if you’re going to turn a profit when sports betting becomes legal in Texas.

In general, sportsbooks are incredibly profitable businesses. In turn, it’s extremely difficult for a sports bettor to make money consistently. Many new bettors believe sportsbooks make their money simply on losing bets from customers. On the contrary, sportsbooks make money on every placed bet. How?

In this guide, we will take you through the basics of how sportsbooks make their money and explain everything you need to know about the vig.

What is the vig?

The vig is short for “vigorish,” but you will almost always see it referred to as “the vig” or “juice.”

So how does the vig work? Let’s look at a standard NFL example to illustrate the concept. Here’s a hypothetical NFL point spread bet showing the Dallas Cowboys as 3.5-point favorites over the Green Bay Packers.

  • Green Bay Packers +3.5 (-110)
  • Dallas Cowboys -3.5 (-110)

As you understand the pluses and minuses of sports betting, you can tell the Cowboys spread of -3.5 means they are favored by that many points. But what about the second number in parentheses? In those odds, you can detect the vig: the cut the sportsbook takes on every bet. This is not always the case, but the -110 odds on each side of a point spread or total indicate a standard vig.

If sports betting was fair for all, the odds would be set at +100 on each side. In that case, whatever a sports bettor risks, that’s what they would get back in return with a winning bet. When making a $10 bet with your buddy, you both understand the winner will profit $10. That’s not so when you start dealing with sportsbooks.

Why does the vig matter?

In the biggest of pictures, the vig is just the cost of doing business with a sportsbook. Bettors accept it almost every time they place a wager. But you must understand that the vig is how sportsbooks make a huge chunk of their profits. The vig is also a key factor to many gamblers losing more money than they win over time.

If you do not have a full grasp of reading live sports betting odds yet, here is the easiest way to understand calculating the vig with the standard -110 odds. With -110 odds, you would need to risk $110 to see a $100 profit. That’s the vig at work. In a fair world, you would make a $110 profit when risking $110, but a percentage of your wager will go to the sportsbook even when you win. On these standard bets, you can see the sportsbook taking its $10 cut each time, almost like a fee for facilitating a bet.

If you decided to bet on the point spread or total with the standard -110 odds and risked the same amount on every wager, you would actually lose money by getting half of them correct. The break-even point for sports bettors is cashing bets at a 52.38% rate. That’s the number many betting experts put all their research into exceeding. But even reaching that percentage is far more difficult than many new bettors might think.

Now, consider the vig from the sportsbook’s perspective. When 50% of the money is coming in on one side, and 50% is coming in on the other, that operator will make money no matter the outcome. Every bettor’s vig adds up and creates a significant payday for the book. For this reason, oddsmakers may adjust the lines or the vig to entice bettors to wager a certain way. Sportsbooks generally do not want to be in a situation where a large percentage of bets are all on one side. That’s where they could be at risk for a significant loss.

How is the vig set?

Sportsbooks go by -110 odds as the standard vig. But there is room for movement when the oddsmakers deem it necessary. If there is a lot of money being poured in on one side of the wager, a sportsbook may adjust the vig slightly away from the standard -110 odds.

Let’s say the Houston Texans are 3-point favorites against the Indianapolis Colts. When 75% of the bets are coming in on the Texans, oddsmakers may adjust the vig to make the Colts more appealing. Here’s what that could look like:

  • Houston Texans -3 (-120)
  • Indianapolis Colts +3 (+100)

Immediately, the Texans bet becomes less attractive. Now, Houston bettors would need to risk $120 in order to return a $100 profit. On the other side, bettors would love to see the payout with the Colts and a +100 vig. In this scenario with +100 odds, any dollar amount you risk is the amount of money you would see in profit with a winning wager.

Is the vig the same across all sports and bet types?

While not the same across the board, the vig is assuredly built into every betting type. Popular sports, like football and basketball, will usually show somewhere around -110 odds with the vig on point spreads and totals. That’s because the oddsmakers do a good job of making it a 50/50 proposition. When it comes to betting the winner of a game, the vig gets muddled within the favorite/underdog lines.

Betting the moneyline means picking which team will win the game outright. You understand not every team is equal, and some are better than others. Because of that, you’ll make less of a return by betting favorites.

Let’s say the Dallas Cowboys are heavily favored to take down the New York Giants, and you are considering a moneyline bet.

  • Dallas Cowboys (-315)
  • New York Giants (+260)

The vig is stashed within the line for both sides, even though it’s not obvious. While it’s not clear whether or not it’s a -110 on both sides, we can ascertain that the sportsbook is surely getting its cut whether you’re betting on the favorite (bet $315 to win $100, $415 total back), or the underdog (bet $100 to win $260, $360 total back).

If you look at lines for baseball, point spread (run line) and totals deviate from the -110 you usually see. Totals are closer than run line, but both can fluctuate based on many factors, including the starting pitcher. Since run lines are almost always +/- 1.5 runs, heavy favorites or slight underdogs can change the odds to -150 or more, but the vig is still built in.

Which sportsbooks have the lowest vig?

There is such high competition for adding new sports bettors that you will not find a sportsbook that consistently has a significantly lower or higher vig than the rest. Sportsbooks have a sweet deal taking a certain percentage off each wager. There is no reason for them to back off that money-making strategy.

Sure, sportsbooks will monitor their competitors and react accordingly. If one book eases off its vig as some kind of promotion, another may imitate it. But that said, no book will have a constantly higher vig than the rest. Who would want to bet there? And a book with no vig risks losing a ton of money. In short, the vig is an industry standard. The only vig-free system would likely be betting on games in an unregulated market, like with your friends where the winner would get whatever dollar amount they put on the line. Sportsbooks are not that generous.

How do you beat the vig?

There is no true way to beat the vig on an individual sportsbook. But there are a few tips to limit the vig’s damage. For one, sportsbooks are constantly offering betting bonuses and promotions that change the payout you may receive. If the book decided to boost odds for an upcoming game, they could move that -110 to +120 to keep bettors satisfied with the occasional nice gesture. Make the most of such opportunities.

Then, there’s line shopping. Many of the sportsbooks that will be available to you, like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM in Texas, will have similar lines and odds. But they are not always exactly the same. By registering for an account with multiple sportsbooks, you can shop for the best returns on every bet. If DraftKings Texas sportsbook is offering a -110 vig and the FanDuel Texas app is at -105 on the same game, you should place that bet at FanDuel for a higher payout. Betting $100 on -110 gives you a potential profit of $90.91, while -105 could return $95.24.

To recap, here are the easiest ways to reduce the vig:

  • Use promos like odds boosts and profit bonuses
  • Shop lines across multiple sportsbooks
  • Look out for sportsbooks that reduce the vig for certain events (-105 or even)

Is the vig higher or lower on futures bets?

Futures bets more than likely have odds on the “plus” side (+100 or more), so it may seem like there’s no vig built into it. But the sportsbook always gets its cut, so be assured it’s built into the odds. However, sports betting sites don’t use this as an opportunity to cash in through the vig, mainly because futures bets carry high risks to begin with.

Season-long futures bets like betting on the Super Bowl winner are difficult to win consistently, but the odds on many futures bets are enticing enough without dropping odds to increase the vig. You could expect around the same tally as you would with most bets.