Sports Betting 101: The house takes vig, vigorish or juice on every bet

March 23, 2020 12:10 AM

Over the past three days, we've discussed the three most popular ways to bet on a game: The spread, the moneyline and the total. In today's edition of VSiN Betting 101, it's time to discuss the final basic tenet of sports betting that all bettors must know. Consider it the elephant in the room.

I’m talking about the juice.

Oddsmakers place an additional price or tax on every bet, which is popularly referred to as the juice. It is also called the vig, which is short for vigorish, derived from a Russian word that refers to “winnings.” The juice is a commission that you must pay the sportsbooks for them to accept your bet. Consider it like a second moneyline that you must pay to the house.

Juice is added to all bet types, including spreads, moneylines and totals. It will appear as a three-digit number to the right of the spread or total, usually in parentheses. The juice won’t appear in parentheses next to a moneyline price because it’s already factored into the line.

Standard juice is considered to be -110. This is known as 10-cent juice. This means that for every dollar you wager on a spread, moneyline or over/under bet you have to pay a fee of 10 additional cents to the sportsbook.

The juice is almost always a negative number that bettors have to pay, but on rare occasions the juice might be a small plus money number, which means bettors could win a few additional cents if their bet wins.

For example, let’s say Alabama and Auburn are facing off in college football. The oddsmakers open Alabama as a 7-point favorite. The will appear as Alabama -7 (-110) and Auburn + 7 (-110). The -110 number in parentheses is the juice that both sides must pay. This means if you wanted to bet on either team you would need to risk $110 to win $100. If you lose your bet, you lose the $110 that you risked. If you win your bet, you win $100 and get the $110 you risked back.

Juice doesn't stay static. Sportsbooks are constantly adjusting the juice based on the action that they are taking in, either raising or dropping the juice depending on which side is taking in more money. 

In the previous example, if the house is taking in heavy betting on Alabama -7, the first thing they would do is raise the juice on Alabama from -110 to -115 or -120. In essence, the sportsbooks are forcing you to pay a more expensive price in order to back the popular side. On the flip side, anytime the juice moves toward one team, it simultaneously moves away from the opponent. At the same time, Alabama -7 goes from -110 to -115 to -120, you would see Auburn + 7 move from -110 to -105 to -100. Because Auburn is getting so little action, Auburn bettors are afforded a smaller tax, or no tax at all, because they are backing the unpopular side.

Once juice gets raised to a certain point, typically -120 or -125, the next move is for the oddsmakers to adjust the entire spread toward the popular side. So if bettors continue to hammer Alabama -7 even with the expensive juice, known as heavy juice, the line would then be adjusted up from -7 to -7.5. Now that the line has been raised, the juice on the -7.5 returns to the standard -110. By moving the line up to Alabama -7.5, the sportsbooks are doing two things. First, they are compensating for their lopsided action on Alabama by making them a bigger favorite. Secondly, they are handing out a better number to Auburn backers in an attempt to entice betting on the underdog. The goal is to move the line so that more Auburn money comes in, thereby limiting their risk and liability on Alabama.

The juice isn't just an additional price you have to pay. It also provides insight into which direction the line is likely to move to next. By following, studying and analyzing juice movement, bettors can anticipate where the number will move. This is crucial because it can help bettors to decide when to bet a game. Should they bet a line now because it's about to move and get worse? Or wait because the line will get better?

For example, if you liked Alabama at -7 when the line opened and you start to see the juice creep up from -110 to -120, you would likely want to jump on the Crimson Tide quickly before you lose a half point and the line moves to -7.5. If you bet Alabama early at -7 and they win by exactly 7, you push your bet. However, if you were late to the party and bet Alabama -7.5 after they moved, and Alabama ends up winning by 7, you lose your bet.

On the flip side, if you liked Auburn from the start and started to see the juice move heavily toward Alabama, also known as Alabama getting "juiced up," you would want to wait it out. By reading the juice movement and waiting,  you could then get an extra half point once it moves from Auburn + 7 to + 7.5. Now if Alabama wins by 7 points, you win your Auburn + 7.5 bet. If you failed to wait and bet Auburn + 7 too early, you would push instead of win.

The same can be said for reading juice movement with totals. Let's say the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Milwaukee Bucks and the total is set at 218.5. You like the under and you start to see the under get juiced up from -110 to -120. You would want to bet in immediately before it falls to 218. Now if the game lands on 218, you win your under 218.5 bet. But if you waited too long and now the total is 218 or ever 217.5, you either push or lose your bet.

The extra half point may not seem like a lot, but trust me. It can be absolutely crucial in the end. You would be surprised how many games end up right on or close to the total the oddsmakers set. The ultimate goal is to read the market, anticipate line movement and get the best number possible so you can put yourself in the best position possible and increase your chances of winning. 

It's also important to note that not every sportsbook is offering the same exact juice. For example, three separate books might all be posting the Cavs-Bucks total at 218.5. However, one book is listing the under juice at -110 while the other two are listing -112 and -115. You would want to shop for the best line and place the under 218.5 bet at the book offering the lowest juice, in this case the book posting -110. Once again, it may not seem like a big deal, but if you extrapolate this over the course of an entire season betting on games it can have a huge impact on increasing your payouts and limiting your losses. Remember, always have multiple outs and get the best number.

One of the main reasons that the house always wins is because of the juice. If sportsbooks set a line correctly and entice even 50/50 betting on both sides, they can ensure that they turn a profit no matter who wins based on the juice both sides must pay.

Many new bettors assume that to turn a profit betting on sports you only have to win 50.1% of your bets. On the surface, that sounds correct. Just win slightly more games than you lose and you'll make money. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Why? Because of the juice.

If you assume standard -110 juice for spreads and over/unders, this means bettors actually have to win 52.38% of their bets in order to break even. This is considered the magic number in betting. To turn a profit, you would need to win 52.39% of your plays or more.

However, if a bettor is paying -115 juice on all of their plays instead of -110 juice, they would need to win 53.48% of their plays to break even.

On the flip side, if a bettor is paying -105 juice on all of his plays, he would only need to win 51.2% of their bets to break even. 

In other words, the higher juice you pay, the more you often you need to win to overcome the juice and break even. On the flip side, the lower the juice you pay, the less often you need to win to break even.

When discussing break-even points based on paying the juice, it's also important to have realistic overall expectations in terms of what makes a successful sports bettor. 

Many rookie bettors enter sports betting with unrealistic expectations. They assume that betting is easy and they will win 90% or 80% or 70% of their bets. However, this is unrealistic. Think of it this way: If you get a 53 on a math test that is considered a terrible, failing grade. You would receive an F from your teacher. However, if you win 53% of your bets as a sports bettor, assuming standard -110 juice, that means you are not only receiving a passing grade but you are turning a slight profit. 

In order to be considered a sharp sports bettor you need to win roughly 55% of your bets or more. The best sports bettors in the world are about 60%. These are the true professionals. Less than 5% of bettors are considered professionals. A pro bettor isn't just someone who wins at a high rate. They also have no other job. Betting is their only job and sole source of income. 

It's also important to remember that any bettor can get hot and win 10 bets in a row, or go 9-1 or 8-2, which translates to a 100%, 90% or 80% win rate. However, this is just short term. There are ups and downs when betting on sports. There are hold and cold spells. The true mark of a winning bettor is over the long term. Winning at 80% or more is not sustainable long term, which would be a full season or full calendar year. 

For these reasons, all bettors should strive to win 53% or more of their plays, knowing that the juice will increase or decrease that number based on how much you have to pay.

But how do you know which sportsbooks offer the best and cheapest juice? In the old days, you would have to physically travel to each sportsbook and check out the prices they were offering. Not anymore. The rise of the internet in the 1990s changed everything for sports bettors. With it came a revolutionary invention called a Live Odds Page. 

The Live Odds Page compiles all lines and juice prices from dozens of different sportsbooks together in one easy to view place. Consider it like an E-Trade platform, but instead of showing the prices of all stocks, it displays sports betting lines and odds. The Live Odds page also updates in real time as sportsbooks change lines and adjust the juice. It is considered a bible and a must-have for sports bettors. It allows bettors to read and anticipate line movement and shop for the best odds and juice prices. 

Be sure to visit the free VSIN Live odds page to view all lines and odds across the market. Just go to www.vsin.com/odds.

In conclusion, new bettors might overlook or disregard the juice. This is a mistake. Always read and study juice movement so you can anticipate and predict the next move. And always shop around and look for the books offering the lowest juice possible. It will make a huge difference and help you become a more successful bettors by maximizing your profits and limiting your losses. 

Never forget these five critical words: Always get the best number.

 

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