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What is Vigorish?

What is Vigorish? How Vig in Sports Betting Works

By Loot, Football Handicapper,

“Vigorish,” also know simply as “vig” or the “juice,” is basically the price you have to pay to bet football at a sportsbook. It’s how a book makes its money, knowing that regardless of who wins the game, they will get what amounts to a tax on all wagers. The vigorish is expressed in the fact that straight football bets usually take place on a money line of -110, which means you must bet $110 for every $100 you hope to win.

In any form of gambling, there is a price you pay for the privilege. In straight wagers in football, it’s spelled out clearly--minus 110. You can see it. You can feel it. If you want to win $20, you must bet $22. If you want to win $50, you need to wager $55, and so on. But at least the “vig” is spelled out.

In other forms of gambling, there is also a “vig” of sorts. In poker, the house takes a “rake,” a pre-determined amount of money from each and every pot. In roulette, you receive 35-1 if the ball lands on your number, but there are 38 different slots on the wheel. Therefore, you are are paying a vigorish, by accepting lower odds than what the probabilities suggest on the bets you win.

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In football betting, the point-spread makes it a heads-or-tails wager, an either-or bet you have a 50% chance of winning. But you don’t double your money when you win. If you bet $110, you only get $100 if you win. That is the “vig” and it’s what guarantees that sportsbooks will turn a profit at the end of the day.

Look at it this way--there are very few football bettors who actually succeed. The sharpies that set the point-spreads in football are the best at what they do. Over the long haul, the lines will be so tough that you are doing really well if you are winning 50% of your bets. The vigorish, however, makes it so 50% isn’t good enough. That is why so few succeed at this. In order to come out ahead, you have to actually be better than the guys who are supposedly the best and not many can even come close to that. And even if they do, there are a thousand other pitfalls they must still avoid to establish themselves as a winner.

The vigorish is a way for the book to minimize its risk by making you pay when you win. If you were making a $50 bet with your friend, both of you would be betting $50 against each other to win $50. But the sportsbook is not your friend, obviously. If you and your friend took that action to a bookie, both of you would need to bet $55 to win that same $50. The winner of the bet would receive their $55 back, in addition to $50 in winnings for a total of $105. The book, having twice received $55 in bets, has a total of $110 for a profit of $5. Add that up over thousands of bets and that’s why the books are in business, while most bettors get smashed.

In a sense, everyone bets with vigorish. But when you are putting up $110 to win $100, you are betting with a vig, more than technically paying a vig. If you lose the bet, it really becomes a moot point. It doesn’t matter how much you stood to win in relation to how much you wagered because you lost. It could have been anything. But when you win, you are now feeling the sting of the vig. Because the vig comes out of you. At the same time, a losing bettor who is trying to win $100 per game is losing an extra $10 he wouldn’t have otherwise lost if not for the vig. There’s a few different way of looking at it.

But the winner is the one who gets taxed and therefore, is effectively paying the vig. The bookie goes into his winnings to extract the vig. So if you bet $110 and you win, you get $100 back, which amounts to about a 9% tax. Both sides of the bet wagered with a vig in this situation. But it came out of the winner’s money. The vig was taken out of his winnings. It’s another reason why it’s so hard to win at this because the more you win, the more vig you pay.

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