What is a Vigorish or Sportsbook Juice?
The "Vigorish" or "Juice" is the commission the sportsbook charges for betting on the favorite. A "Dime Line" is a 10% commission.
Sportsbooks need to make money. They must minimize their exposure to risk. Charging a commission for betting the favored team helps the sportsbook be profitable. If the lines were always 50/50, the book would hand out 50% of a game's handle (the total amount of money wagered) to winning players, and keep the other 50% from losing players. Simple math shows this business model doesn't work. Paying out half the handle and keeping the rest would be a wash. $0 would be made per matchup.
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Enter the concept of Vigorish, Vig, or Juice. The "Juice" is the commission the sportsbook charges for betting on the favorite.
Why on the favorite? This is part mathematical common sense. The book will be likely to payout a higher number of winning bets to customers who choose the favorite. As a result, the book's Juice is essentially a fee for placing a safer bet. Conversely, if you bet on the underdog, you don't have to worry about the juice. This contestant is not favored to win, and therefore is a riskier bet for you. You choosing the underdog could be more profitable for the house. 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 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. They're the favorite and a safer bet. Hence, they keep the $10 difference for themselves.
If you bet the Dolphins, you'll get $110 for every $100 you bet. The Dolphins are a riskier bet for the player, but safer for the house because they aren't supposed to win.
What does all this mean in the big picture, once the game is over? If you bet the Giants and they win, you make $90 for a $100 bet. The house keeps $10 per $100 as a commission. 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 will get $110 for each $100 wagered. The house doesn't charge a fee, because you went with the riskier option.
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.
The concept of Juice is 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" and spot a bad line, you can make a smart wager and pick up a few extra bucks for the sportsbook's mistake. You have to be very knowledgable about sports to outwit most sportsbooks, because intensive mathematical models and analysis go into creating lines for matchups.
Ever hear about a sportsbook "getting clobbered" because the "dog" came in? That means they 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.
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!