Vig (which is short for the Yiddish term “vigorish”) is what a bookmaker charges a sports bettor for placing his/her wager. It is also called the “juice,” “cut,” or “take.” With vig, a sportsbook or bookie is assured of making money on a bet. Some bettors mistakenly believe that they only pay vig on winning bets, while others think that bookies only make money on losing wagers. Neither of these is true.
Vig and the Spread
Vig can easily be seen in point spreads. Sometimes you’ll read or hear someone say that spread bets offer even odds. No spread, and, in fact, no bet, offers even odds. If a bet did, then sportsbooks, which are in business to make cash, would lose money. They would lose a lot of money.
Next time you check out a spread bet take a look at how it’s set up. A typical spread for the NFL would look something like this:
New England -3.5 -110
Denver +3.5 -110
The -110 indicates that bettors have to wager $1.10 for every $1.00 they want to win. If you bet $110 and you make the right pick, then you’ll receive a profit of $100. If the money line wager were an even odds bet, you would make a profit of $110 on a $110 wager. The $10.00 that is withheld from the bettor represents the bookmaker’s cut.
Money Line and Vigorish
Contrary to what some people believe, you cannot get around paying the juice by betting the money line. It’s just harder to recognize the vig in the money line. Bookmakers take their cut from the money line by charging a little more for bets on the favorite and paying less than they should on bets placed on the underdog.
A money line on the spread bet noted above might look like this:
New England -135
In the above scenario, you’d have to wager $135 to win $100, as New England is the favorite. The bookmaker should really charge $120 for the bet, but they overprice your investment, and thus undercut your profit by $15.00. Likewise, if Denver is your pick and they win, you’ll get back $115 on your $100 bet. In this case, the bookie pays less than they should by about $10.00.
Is It Fair?
Many people wonder if it is appropriate for bookies to overprice bets and underprice payouts. However, considering that they provide a service that involves various expenses related to setting odds, handling your wager, and processing payouts, it’s hard to argue against bookmakers taking their cut of the action. The question is: How much should they take?
The good news is that today with online sportsbooks, bettors can easily shop around for the spread or money line that has the smallest amount of vig. Look for the book that offers the best payout for the least amount risked or the highest payout on a $100 wager. It is true that you are still paying the juice, but if you’re paying less for the same return you’ll get at another sports book ,or if you’re getting more for the same size bet, then you contribute less to the bookmaker’s take.
Here to Stay
Vig is not going anywhere. You’ll find some sportsbooks may offer reduced vig, but they will not eliminate it. It is not only their fee for doing business, but it also assures them that they will make some cash on all bets. Think about it: If they didn’t, then eventually bookies would be out of business. So shop around, find the best vig, and work to get the best return on your wager.