:) "The Juice" is a nickname for our friend Orenthal James Simpson, deemed not guilty of double murder in the mid 90's, but now facing time for armed robbery of his own sports memorabilia... :)
Just Kidding folks - there's actually such thing as "Juice" or "Vigorish" (Old School Term) in Sports betting, and it's important that the recreational bettor know something about it.
Sportsbooks are a business, and businesses need to make money. The only way they can do that is by keeping player losses and edging the odds in their favor when creating lines for various sports contests. If, for example, the lines were always equivalent to 50/50, the book would always hand out 50% of a game's handle (or purse, the total amount of money wagered) to winning players, and keep the other 50% from losing players. Simple math shows that this business model doesn't work, because the book can't make money by paying out an amount equal to what it is taking in.
Enter the concept of Vigorish, Vig, or Juice. The "Juice" is the line the sportsbook creates for betting on the game favorite. Why on the favorite? This part mathematical common sense: If one team is favored to win, it follows that the book will be more likely to payout a higher number of winning bets for this particular matchup. As a result, the book's Juice is essentially a fee for placing a safe bet on the favorite. Conversely, if you bet on the underdog, you don't have to worry about the juice, since this contestant is not favored to win, and therefore is a riskier bet for you. Of course, you betting on the dog is also better for the house. As you can see, it's all about trade offs.
Here's a simple example, with the Dolphins playing the Giants. The Giants are favored to win, with American style odds 110/90, 110 for the Giants, and 90 for the Dolphins. What do these numbers mean? 110 means that for every $100 you bet on the Giants, you'll get $90 back. This is because they're the favorite and a safer bet. Also, the house can't pay 50/50 odds (which would be Giants/Dolphins 100/100) because they need to stay in business. Hence, they keep the $10 difference for themselves. On the other hand, if you bet the underdog, the Dolphins, you'll get $110 for every $100 you bet. This is because they are considered a riskier bet for the player, but safer for the house because lines indicate they are not likely to win.
What does all this mean in the big picture, once the game is over? Well, if you bet the Giants and they win, you and every other winner make $90 for a $100 bet. The house keeps $10 per $100 as a service fee of sorts. If you bet the Giants and they lose, you lose the bet. On the flip side, if you bet the Dolphins and they win, you and anyone else who placed this bet will get $110 for each $100 wagered. The house doesn't charge a fee, because you went with the riskier option. Likewise, if the Dolphins lose (since they were favored by the odds to lose) the house keeps your money.
Another way to think about it: If you play it safe you'll make less than even money, but if you play it risky you'll make more than even money given a successful wager.
The concept of Juice is probably one of the fundamental differences between casinos and sportsbooks, although casinos generally express the amount of money they keep per bet as "payout percentage". Because there are lines in sports betting, and because it's possible that the underdog can win, taking bets for sports contests isn't always a winning proposition. If you're a "wise guy" or keener than the sportsbook when it comes to setting up lines and spot a bad line, you can make a smart wager and pick up a few extra bucks for their mistake. Generally speaking however, you have to be very knowledgable about sports to outwit most sportsbooks, because intensive mathematical models and analysis go into creating lines for all sports matchups. Ever hear about a sportsbook "getting clobbered" because the "dog" came in? That means that the book actually lost money, because a higher number of bettors bet the underdog than favorite, and the underdog won. Mathmatically speaking, this means the sportsbook LOSES money on this contest.
So, the next time you're pondering a bet, pay close attention to lines and odds: they can mean the difference between making a little, or A LOT of money!
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