Explaining the Vig and your Money.

“Vig” is a fun word that a lot of people like to use to sound cool but don’t know what it really means. It’s short for “vigorish,” which is the interest you pay a bookie, sportsbook, or offshore book to bet on sports. In most cases, the vig is 10 percent and represents the amount the sportsbook charges in interest to place a wager. If you want to win $100 on a team and the vig is 10 percent, you will have to wager $110 as the house keeps 10 percent of the potential winnings.

What that ‘-110’ Means

That 10 percent represents the ideal profit margin for a sportsbook taking action on games. If there are an equal number of bets placed on a game, the book knows it will profit 10 percent on the wagering, unless the game ends in a tie. The vig usually is shown as a “-110” or “-10” next to the line and the total in a game, and it can change in an instant, especially the closer to game time it gets. When the vig is 10 percent, that is the same for all wagers on the line, regardless which team you chose. Another number will be listed for the total, but it also starts off with both being 10 percent, whether betting the over or under.

Why the Vig Changes

If a team is favored by 2.5 points and most bettors are waging on that team to cover, often times, a sportsbook or offshore book will adjust the vig to discourage wagers on the favored team and encourage wagers on the underdog. In such a case, the book might post a -125 or even a -135 on the favored team and make the underdog plus-money, such as +115 or +125. When the vig is plus money, you win more than you wager. So, a +125 would require you to bet $100 to win $125. Often times, the vig won’t go much past a -135 before the line changes, but, sometimes, the sportsbook does not want to change the number and only will adjust the vig.

Why Take the Money Line

The money line is a vig-oriented line that starts at even money and turns into plus money for the underdog and minus money for the favored team. If there is no clear favorite and the money line vig is even, that would be represented by “100,” which simply means you bet $100 to win $100. If one team becomes a slight 1- or 2-point favorite, the money line likely would adjust to a -110 or -115 for the favored team and make the underdog plus money, in which you could win more than you wager. Money line bets strictly apply to whoever wins regardless of the score, which can simplify your betting, and they are great values when a significant underdog wins and you wagered the money line on that outcome.

Run Line and Puck Line

The run line and puck line are ways to increase your earning potential by adjusting the margin of victory to cover a money line bet in baseball or hockey. Instead of winning or losing by a goal to determine the wager, and run line and puck line requires winning by two scores and not one. If you bet on the underdog, you could lose by a run and still will. But, your vig will be adjusted accordingly. The vig will be more favorable and possibly plus money if you take the run line or puck line on the favored team, but it will cost you if you are betting on the underdog and take the extra point.

How to Beat the Vig

Okay, now that you know what the vig means when you lay a bet, you also need to know how to beat the vig. Because of that 10 percent edge in favor of the house, you have to win more bets than you place just to break even. If every wager you laid had a -110 vig, then you would have to get 52.34 percent of your wagers correct to break even, and that isn’t necessarily easy to do. Professional sports bettors aim for 55 percent and hope for 60 percent or better over the long run when they wager on sports. If you can get 55 percent of your picks right, then you are profiting a consistent 2.66 percent, which adds up fast if you bet large sums, as the professional bettors do. That’s why professional bettors also mostly lay straight bets and avoid parlays, unless they have strong information favoring two or more outcomes.