Understanding "Vig" in Sports Betting

Sports Betting vig

We’ve talked about the importance of getting the best odds possible and how crucial that is to becoming a profitable sports bettor. It’s not always as easy as it sounds. Trying to calculate the true odds of an outcome is where the skill of sports betting comes into play. How do you really know you are getting the right price on your bet?

It’s difficult when the sports betting companies are playing the exact same game. They are trying to attract your business with good odds and promotions, while at the same time setting markets that ensure they have books that are profitable.

One of the ways that sports betting companies do this is through what’s known as “vig”. It stands for “vigorish” and it’s also the rake, cut, juice, take or commission. Bookmakers will look to take money on all sides of an outcome, knowing that the prices that they offer will guarantee them a profit, regardless of a result.

It applies to all sporting contests, but the simplest example is one that’s a genuine 50/50 chance – the toss of a coin.

The true odds of both heads and tails should be 2.00 as it’s an even money chance. But sports betting companies framing this market will usually offer odds of around 1.91 each side. Some companies are as low as 1.88. Let’s look at the math behind it from the bookmaker’s side.

Joe bets $100 on heads at 1.91.
Fred bets $100 on tails at 1.91.

If heads wins, Joe wins $91, Fred loses $100. Net result of +$9 profit for the bookie.
If tails wins, Fred wins $91, Joe loses $100. Net result of +$9 profit for the bookie.

So as you can see, that “vig” allows a bookmaker to frame a market that produces a profitable result regardless of the outcome.

Line betting is the most obvious example of the effects of vig. The points line will be set in a sporting match, and it doesn’t matter if its basketball, AFL, rugby or NFL, they will all be set with odds of around 1.91 each side of the line.

Vig is also in effect in horse racing, or other events with more than two outcomes, however it’s a little less obvious to detect. We’ll talk about horse racing markets in more detail in later articles.

So how can you overcome vig?

It’s difficult to overcome entirely, but you can certainly do your best to reduce it. Look for sports betting sites that are offering specials such as $2 lines. Our friends at Palmerbet are offering even money lines on the AFL and NRL this season from 4pm – 7pm every Friday up to a maximum bet of $200. This is essentially a fair, vig-free bet which is a great offer.  TopSport.com.au are another offering even money lines on the AFL this season.

The other thing to do is take advantage of the promotions that the sports betting sites offer. They always have weekly specials going that we will often write about in our articles here on Before You Bet. These specials will either offer you value that will more than overcome the vig on that market.


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