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Sports Betting Juice and Vig: How Different Prices Impact Bettors
by George J Monroy - 12/10/2012

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picture of a calculator.

The vig or juice — whatever you want to call it — is a sports bettor’s worst enemy (other than losing wagers, of course). If you have ever placed a bet before, then you know exactly what the juice is. It’s the built in edge that sportsbooks use in order to gain a profit on taking bets.

Sportsbooks make their money in one of two ways: first, by being on the winning side of a wager, and, second, by breaking-even on the sports betting action and taking in the commission (juice/vig) on losing bets. Ideally, sportsbooks would love to take equal action on both sides of a sporting event and simply make their money risk-free on the juice.

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How the juice impacts bettors

If you have ever placed a bet, you will notice that it usually costs $110 to win $100 on a standard wager. So, if you were to place two bets and win one and lose one, instead of breaking even, like you might initial expect, you would instead be $10 in the negative—and where did those $10 go, you might ask? Well, they become the juice that the sportsbooks make on your bets.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what the juice actually is, let’s examine it for a second and see what effect it has on sports bettors. If you noticed in our example, winning 50 percent of your sports bets will not be enough to break even. In essence, the juice’s biggest effect on sports wagers is that it increases the break-even point, and makes it a bit more difficult to make money on bets.

If the juice didn’t exist, winning 50 percent of your bets would be the break-even point on your wagers, and a 50.1 winning percentage would actual brining in a profit. But, since the juice does exist, winning 50 percent of your wagers would be a losing situation. The question now becomes, what wining percentage does a bettor need to have in order to break even?

Break even win rates

In order to break even betting at a standard rate of -110, which is another way to say $110 to win $100, a bettor would need to win 52.38 percent of the time. I don’t want to go into the math and bore people, but there is a simple formula (price/(1+price)) to figuring it out. So, for wagers with standard juice, a 53 percent win rate will bring a profit.

The standard juice for a bet is usually around -110, but sportsbooks have gotten into the trend of changing the prices of their lines instead of actually moving the spread around. Many online sportsbooks also have begun to offer a reduced rate, like 5Dimes, which offers a -105 rate on many of their wagers. So, a bettor can likely see juice prices that range from -105 to -135 in certain cases. For the serious sports bettor, it becomes imperative to know the break-even points for every price that you will be wagering at, so you can gage whether or not you can afford the juice.

Here is a quick list of the different juice rates and their accompanying break even win rates.

-105: 51.21 percent
-108: 51.92
-110: 52.38
-115: 53.48
-120: 54.54
-125: 55.55
-135: 57.44

Shopping around for the best price

As you just noticed, there is over a six percent difference in break even points from the best juice to some of the worst juice that you can get with a wager. Many times the difference between a winning and losing sports bettor is a small percentage rate. One way to decide on which juice you can afford, is to keep track of your win rate and see where you stand. If you win 54 percent of your wagers, then it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet propositions that are -125 or higher.

In general, your best bet is to shop around and find the best price on your wager. Different sportsbooks have different prices.And while it might be annoying to shop around for the best price, taking the extra time to find the lowest possible vig will only add to your bankroll.

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