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Putting larger KBO vig in perspective

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

May 24, 2020 12:15 PM

Bettors wanting to have some fun with the Korea Baseball Organization were initially surprised to see 30-cent lines posted on sides or totals (if the favorite is -140, the dog is only + 110, for example). For Major League Baseball here in the U.S., bettors were used to seeing 20-cent lines (-140/+ 120), and even 10-cent lines at some bettor-friendly sports books (-140/+ 130). 

Should bettors just pass when they see that large a spread? Are they getting “ripped off?” It was already hard enough to clear a profit without that high a hurdle!

Sportsbook operators are understandably hesitant to take action in sports they don’t know much about. That’s particularly true when the customer base is expected to be sharp-heavy rather than flooded by recreational bettors. Who’s most likely to bet the KBO in Las Vegas, where many games start at 2:30 a.m. local time? Experienced baseball bettors who work around the clock to make a living, or casual fans wanting to sweat TV entertainment?

Bookmakers know it’s mostly them against the sharps. They’re going to charge a premium for action until much more popular U.S. betting sports return to action.

That doesn’t make it impossible for recreational bettors to win. They just need to focus harder on finding value. That means knowing what win percentage it takes to break even at any posted price. 

You’ve probably heard that the break-even at standard 11/10 vigorish is 52.4%. If your football picks only go 50/50, you’re going to juice out and lose some money. Too many bettors are less familiar with the break-even points for money line prices. Let’s remedy that right now. Remember that laying odds (taking money line favorites) means the break-even point goes higher, while taking odds (betting on underdogs to win outright) means the break-even point goes lower. 

Fav of -110 must win 52%, dog of + 110 must win 48%

Fav of -115 must win 53%, dog of + 115 must win 47%

Fav of -120 must win 55%, dog of + 120 must win 45%

Fav of -125 must win 56%, dog of + 125 must win 44%

Fav of -135 must win 57%, dog of + 135 must win 43%

Fav of -140 must win 58%, dog of + 140 must win 42%

Fav of -145 must win 59%, dog of + 145 must win 41%

Fav of -150 must win 60%, dog of + 150 must win 40%

Let’s stop there for a moment. Those of you who regularly bet baseball put in a lot of action at those prices. Using our -140/+ 110 example from earlier…a -140 moneyline favorite must win the game 58% of the time for you to break even. You should only lay that chalk if you’re confident your team will win that game 60% of the time or more. You can see on the chart that a + 110 underdog only has to win 48% of the time to break even. 

A quick aside for that -140/+ 110 example…the possibilities (58% and 48%) add up to 106%. That’s worse than you’re used to on team sides (-110 both ways is 52.4% + 52.4% for 104.8%). But it’s actually much better than you’ll see on many futures boards or in horse racing. Don’t be one of those guys that “refuses” to play “unfair” prices in the KBO but bets on a football futures board with options adding up to 140%...or scoots over to the racing book for a full day of ill-advised choices. 

Whether it’s point spreads, moneylines, futures, or horse racing odds…bet when you believe you have an edge on the posted price. 

Continuing with our chart. Those of you who love betting baseball favorites should familiarize yourself with percentages on the left…

Fav of -155 must win 61%, dog of + 155 must win 39%

Fav of -160 must win 62%, dog of + 160 must win 38%

Fav of -165 must win 62%, dog of + 165 must win 38%

Fav of -170 must win 63%, dog of + 170 must win 37%

Fav of -180 must win 64%, dog of + 180 must win 36%

Fav of -190 must win 66%, dog of + 190 must win 34%

Fav of -200 must win 67%, dog of + 200 must win 33%

Fav of -220 must win 69%, dog of + 220 must win 31%

Fav of -250 must win 71%, dog of + 250 must win 20%

Fav of -300 must win 75%, dog of + 300 must win 25%

Recreational bettors tend to overestimate how often pricey favorites win straight up. It’s easy to remember past blowouts while forgetting off days. If you’re going to lay odds of -150 or more, be sure you can make a statistical case that your team is going to win that game often enough to provide true value. And remember that sharps tend to focus on underdogs because market odds are “defending” against misguided public action. 


Lazy handicappers who decided to take a “shortcut” by betting on the defending KBO champion Doosan Bears out of the gate don’t have anything to show for it. And sharper eyes recognizing new greatness in the NC Dinos are now finding it prohibitive to invest. 

The league-leading Dinos just took two of three from the outmanned Hanwha Eagles, but only showed a light profit. NC (-175) lost the series opener 5-3, before rallying Saturday and Sunday to win at prices near 280. Currently sitting at 14-3, NC will now be prohibitive favorites whenever they play one of the league’s lesser lights. 

Doosan broke even with a 2-1 weekend at Samsung. The Bears beat the Lions Friday and Saturday, but lost as -200 favorites Sunday. Doosan is 10-7 for the season, which is more like 10-11 in betting terms because all the losses came laying odds (including at prices of -215, -200, -190, and -170). 

Also this past weekend, the LG Twins won two of three from the KT Wiz…the Lotte Giants won two of three from the Kiwoom Heros…and the Kia Tigers won two of three from the SK Wyverns. No sweeps!

NC will continue to be expensive as long as its pitching remains stellar. Baseball bettors know that starting pitching drives prices. The Dinos' team ERA is almost a run better than second-place! It’s also about 1.5 runs better than league average, and about three runs better than pitching-deprived Doosan. 

NC Dinos Starting Pitchers

Chang-mo Koo: 0.41 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 25/4 K-BB ratio

Drew Rucinski: 2.49 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 23/7 K-BB ratio

Mike Wright: 2.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 20/10 K-BB ratio

Young-gyu Kim: 3.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 12/1 K-BB ratio

Jae-hak Lee: 4.96 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 11/6 K-BB ratio

This in a league where the composite ERA is just under five, and the WHIP is 1.45! Essentially three aces, one more well above average, then an innings muncher. 


Bettors will be challenged by more one-sided matchups these next few days, as the four teams with losing records have all drawn winning opponents. Only Kiwoom (10-8) at NC (14-3) matches teams over .500. Elsewhere, it’s Kia (10-8) at KT (7-10), LG (11-6) at Hanwha (7-11), SK (3-14) at Doosan (10-7), and Samsung (6-12) at Lotte (9-8). 

The latter will be featured twice on ESPN2 (all times Eastern)…

Tuesday: Samsung at Lotte…5:30 a.m. live, 2 p.m. replay

Wednesday: SK at Doosan…5:30 a.m. live, 2 p.m. replay

Thursday: Samsung at Lotte…5:30 a.m. live, 2 p.m. replay

Best of luck putting the percentages in your favor. See you again Thursday for more KBO coverage from a betting perspective. 

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