Juice or vigorish (‘vig’) is the commission that a sportsbook takes for accepting a wager. While a healthy intake of juice maintains profitability for the book it can also restrict the ability of bettors to make money in the long term. Understanding how vig works is important when choosing the best sportsbook for a particular wager.
If you’ve ever visited a casino you’ll probably have come across the term ‘house edge’. That’s kind of like the juice at a sportsbook though it is slightly different. Sportsbooks make their money in one of two ways - by taking losing bets and by receiving commission (juice/vig) on wagers.
While the house edge on a roulette wheel is based on there never being a 50/50 chance of hitting red or black (because of the green ‘0’ and ‘00’ spaces), the opposite is true on a sports bet.
Any sports wager either wins, loses or pushes. If it pushes, you simply get your cash back but if you stake $10 on a bet at odds of -110 and it wins, the bookmaker will pay out $9.10 in profit and keep 90 cents. With the exception of some occasional special promos, bets at all of the sportsbooks available in New York will include juice. This makes sure that whether your wager hits or not, the sportsbook still makes some money. Juice is never listed separately by the book, instead, it’s built into the odds offered.
Taking a real-life example, the Buffalo Bills and LA Rams play each other when the NFL preseason gets underway. Both teams are listed at -110 on the moneyline on a pick ‘em bet with no favorite. Whichever side you take, you need to wager $110 to make a $100 profit. If you go $110 on the Bills and a buddy opts for $110 on the Rams, when one team wins the book will have collected $220 and paid out $210. The $10 difference is the juice.
On the other hand, the book has set the line at 26.5 points on its totals market for the Bills with odds of -115 on the final score either being above or below that figure. The juice on either side of this bet means you’d have to wager $115 to win $100.
Meanwhile, on the same fixture weekend, the NY Jets are priced at +110 to beat the Philadelphia Eagles who are offered at -130 on the moneyline. Stripping the bets back to their most basic, if you bet $100 on the Jets you’d win $110 in profit while an Eagles fan would earn $76.92.
In the real world, the probability of every outcome totalled together comes to 100% but that’s not how odds on sportsbooks work. A pure even money bet on something like a coin flip will have a probability of 50% on either side. Implied probability in sports betting converts odds into a percentage while also taking into account the house edge or the juice.
To get the implied probability, follow these steps for odds with a minus sign in front but remove the ‘-’:
Negative Odds / (Negative Odds + 100) * 100
For anything with a plus sign, use this to get the implied probability:
100 / (Positive Odds + 100) * 100
So in our Jets vs Eagles example above, the implied probability for the Jets is:
(100/(110 + 100) X 100) = 47.6%
The calculation on the Eagles would be:
(130/(130 + 100) X 100) = 56.5%
As the juice influences odds, you need to remove it to get a clearer picture of a market’s value. The odds on a sports event aren’t solely linked to the likelihood of an outcome occurring. There’s also a profitability element baked in - i.e. the vig.
Taking the juice off gives us the true probability and that’s a good strategy for understanding the oddsmakers' expectations of what will happen in a game or competition.
Following these steps will present you with a ‘clean line’ - that is odds without the vig included:
Calculate the implied probability of each outcome and the total.
Divide each outcome’s implied probability by the sum of the implied probabilities.
We’ve already worked out the implied probabilities for the Jets (47.6%) versus the Eagles (56.5%) with a total of 104.1%. So following the steps above the true probability calculation looks like this:
47.6 / 104.1 = 45.7%
56.5 / 104.1 = 54.3%
As you can see, the true probability events total 100% when summed together. There isn’t a huge difference here compared with the implied probability because the juice on our odds of +110 and -130 is relatively low. However, we can tell that the sportsbook thinks this game will be a close affair which we can use to inform our betting picks.
Once you’ve placed a few sports bets, you’ll become familiar with what the juice looks like on different odds offered. It’s also easy to calculate what the vig is with a simple formula that first works out the implied probability of an outcome:
Adding the two implied probabilities together gives us a figure above 100%, in the Jets-Eagles game, it’s 104.1%. That means that the juice on betting both sides works out at 4.1%.
The juice is added to all bet types including spreads, totals and moneylines, but rarely equally and the juice is regularly adjusted. The goal of any sportsbook is to set a line that brings in even action on both sides. If an oddsmaker considers that too much money is being wagered on one team compared with the other, it will raise the vig and so the fee being paid by bettors on one side while simultaneously lowering it on the other. It does this to encourage more bets on the less popular option.
The juice not only varies by sportsbook but also by bet type. You’ll almost always find that the vig is lower on spreads and over/under wagers than it is for parlays and futures. For moneylines, the juice can be all over the place depending on how big the favorite and the underdog is. Put simply, the higher the juice then the higher the house advantage. It also means you’re less likely to make money in the longer term if you favor high vig betting types. Let’s take a look at what this means for the most popular wagering categories.
The odds on Moneyline bets and the juice incorporated into them can vary enormously based on the perceived quality of two competitors in an event. For games that appear as if they’ll feature a pair of evenly matched teams, you might see odds that are very close in number such as -105 and -115. For contests with a big favorite and a clear underdog the odds offered can be at completely different ends of the spectrum. Seriously fancied sides could be priced at -250 or -400 alongside a big dog at huge odds such as +500.
When the two teams are close in price with low odds, line shopping to compare what’s being offered at different books becomes important. Say you like a game with the two teams rated at odds of -125 and +105, you might find another sportsbook has the game priced at -110 and +125. Picking the favorite on the first set of odds would return a profit of $80, against $90.91 at the second book. For just a little browsing your potential payout has increased nicely.
Juice on futures bets is normally higher than it is for standard wagers on a game. Futures bets, such as who will win the PGA Championship in golf or the eventual winner of the Eastern Conference in soccer, will often have a higher implied probability than other bet types. This can total 110% or even be at 120% or 140%.
If you were to wager on who would win the PGA before tee off, the field would contain 156 players. A sportsbook will usually spread out its liability to realize a profit on the totality of wagers placed. It protects the bookmaker somewhat but also offers bettors the chance of a healthy payout on high odds. It is always worth calculating the juice on future bets and comparing a few different books. It’s not even unusual for a sportsbook to misprice odds when the number of competitors is big or the event still has a long way to run.
Much like futures, the vig on parlay bets will almost always be higher than straight bets on one team or player. That’s because the sportsbook won’t be offering true odds on a parlay. If it did then a six-team combination would be set at +700 but it’s more likely to stand at +600. The more selections you add to a parlay, the higher the juice but of course, the odds also rise sharply.
That said, bookmakers love parlays as they are one of the riskiest wagers there is. If one leg loses, the whole bet fails. For that reason, you’ll often find parlay promos at all the biggest NY sportsbooks with reduced juice particularly during the NFL season when fans go combo bet crazy on the biggest game days.
At most sportsbooks, point spread markets open at a standard odds listing of -110 for both the underdog and the favorite. Remembering that bookmakers like to keep either side of the market balanced in terms of the action on them, once money starts coming in, it’s not unusual to see movements on point spreads. The odds might then shift to -115 on one side and -105 on the other. The book does this to compensate for one-sided betting by adjusting the vig. On point spreads, the oddsmakers can also change the line, so what started at +/- 4.5 might shift to 3.5 or 2.5.
The juice on point spread bets is normally lower than for parlays and it pays to monitor betting lines frequently for favorable movements. A sportsbook will usually change the vig before it takes another look at where it’s set the points spread. So, if you notice an alteration to juice and therefore the odds, you might reasonably expect that the line will move in due course. That might mean jumping in early if you think the spread could alter to reduce the chances of one team or waiting if it might increase the prospects of a winning bet.
The outcome of any sporting event has an element of randomness built into it. That’s what makes sport so exciting after all. However, there’s no randomness in how sportsbooks set their odds. Sophisticated data analysis systems are used to pinpoint the very ‘best guess’ of the probability of something happening. We might think of the juice as the bookmaker's cushion or margin of error because it can never predict what will happen with total surety.
It’s a basic necessity that bettors appraise the odds offered on a potential wager. A point spread bet of 2.5 might be a great play at odds of -110 but not so much at -120. That’s because the payout at -110 would be $0.91 for every dollar wagered but just $0.83 at -120. At a glance, by reading the odds and considering the baked-in juice, we already have something of a betting strategy for whether a wager at two different odds is worth the risk.
Reducing the juice makes a big difference to bettor’s profitability. Reduced juice means you get better odds and therefore a higher payout in winning wagers. Browsing the sportsbooks to understand how they apply juice is advantageous.
For example, if you find a betting site that regularly offers points spreads at -105 on both sides then it has less vig than a market elsewhere at -110. The reduced juice on -105 means you only have to wager $1,050 to win $1,000 rather than $1,100 at -110. Just as an aside though, that difference in juice could result in less sharp lines. The -105 might be on a spread of +2.5 rather than +3.5 which could be harder to win.
Picking lower vig bets is also a good long-term strategy. Say you bet 50 NFL games against the spread in a season with a stake of $100 each time and your hit rate was 60%, at consistent odds of -105 you’d be up $2,857.14 compared with $2,608.70 at -115. For a modest reduction in the juice that makes a difference of just shy of $250 and in betting every dollar won is a result.
We already know that sportsbooks will reduce the juice on a market in a bid to attract more wagers to one side. This makes sense for the bookmaker as it reduces their potential liabilities and risk.
It’s also the case that some sportsbooks have made a business decision to have less vig in their bets than its competitors. Some books that have a reduced juice strategy will have higher wager limits than others as they seek to take in more cash to offset their lower commission cut. You’ll also find sportsbooks that run reduced vig promos specifically for certain games or have squeezed juice on certain days of the week to entice bettors to check them out.
Ultimately, the presence of juice can mean that you win more bets than you lose and still come out behind. That means to become a successful gambler in the long term you need to factor vig into your betting decisions. There’s a hard and fast rule in the world of sports betting that if you were making all of your wagers at the standard odds of -110 then you’d need to win 52.4% of your bets just to break even. Naturally, most of us don’t place all our bets at those odds but it’s a good figure to bear in mind for a baseline.
If a straight bet pushes, you’ll have your stake returned with no juice taken off. It is worth checking the small print at your chosen sportsbook for how they handle multi-line bets though. Some might class a tie as a loss rather than a push and conclude that a parlay including a pushed leg is a losing bet and then you’d pay the juice.
A no juice spread is one without any vig or bookmaker commission applied. They’ll usually be offered at odds of +100.
A no juice moneyline is a bet without the sportsbook taking a fee for handling it. A no juice moneyline indicates that the oddsmakers believe each side has a dead equal chance of winning, reflected in a price of +100 for both.
To remove juice from American odds, first convert them to implied probability (remove the ‘-’ sign if you have negative odds and add the two together. Whatever the resultant figure is above 100% is the juice. To get rid of the juice we then divide all implied probabilities by the overall percent.