What Is the Price Sportsbooks Charge on a Bet, and Why Should You Care?

Price Tag With a Dollar Sign and a Sports Background

With sports betting sweeping the nation thanks to statewide legalization and advertising blitzes, millions of Americans have made the leap to become beginner sports bettors. For the vast majority of these folks, firing off a few wagers on their favorite teams is a fun hobby that merges two interests – watching sports and making money.

Of course, it’s the sportsbooks who make the real money, what with so many new bettors who haven’t learned how to “shop around” for the best price. If you’re new to sports betting, read on to learn about paying the right price like a seasoned pro.

How to Interpret the Price You’re Paying to Place a Bet

When you pull up any online sportsbook menu, or look up at the big board in a brick and mortar bet shop, you’ll see one number more than any other: (-110).

For the people running a sportsbook, this (-110) number – commonly referred to within the industry as the “vig” or the “juice” – is essentially the price bettors pay to book action on a bet. The number refers to exactly how much money must be wagered to earn a $100 profit when your side wins.

In other words, with (-110) odds on a bet, you’d need to put up $110 to collect $210 – good for a $100 profit – on an eventual winner. Of course, you don’t have to bet $110 exactly, as the math can be broken down and assessed to any bet size.

Here’s a simple chart to show you have typical betting “units” are paid out at (-110).

Common Bet Sizes and Profit Margins at (-110) Odds:

Bet Payout Profit
$20.00 $38.18 $18.18
$25.00 $47.73 $22.73
$50.00 $95.45 $45.45
$100.00 $190.90 $90.90
$110.00 $210.00 $100.00

As you can see, the (-110) price effectively equates to giving up 10 cents on every dollar of potential profit you would have earned on a straight even money wager. That money is sent straight into the sportsbook’s coffers, providing them with the sustained profit margin every business needs to survive and thrive.

Sportsbook operators rely two factors to pad their own bottom lines – that (-110) price and relatively equal action on both sides of a bet. When bettors are lining up to back either side equally, and everyone is paying 10 cents in juice on their own action, the sportsbook is guaranteed to profit no matter which team wins.

Here’s how that process works from the sportsbook’s perspective…

Let’s say the Miami Dolphins are (+6) point spread underdogs visiting the Buffalo Bills. Your favorite online sportsbook has both teams listed at (-110) odds, and you like the ‘Phins chances of squeezing out a cover against the spread (ATS).

You go ahead and place a $110 wager to win $100, while nine other Miami backers do the same. A group of 10 bettors who like the Bills have already made identical wagers, so the sportsbook now has equal action at both sides.

NFL Dolphins Player Catching a Pass

Miami winds up winning the game outright in a big upset, so you collect that $100 profit at (-110) odds. Your nine compatriots also cash in winners for $100 apiece, generating a $1,000 total loss for the bookmaker at this moment.

But wait, what about those 10 bettors who tore their tickets up after the Bills lost? Well, when you tally up their individual losses of $110 each, the sportsbook brings back $1,100 after putting this game to bet.

By simply charging a price of 10 cents on the dollar at (-110) odds, the sportsbook ensured itself a profit of $100 ($1,100 in – $1,000 out = $100 profit) on the 20 total bets it took on Miami (+6) @ Buffalo.

This example has obviously been simplified for the sake of clarity, but you get the drift by now. Every business that manages to stay afloat has to charge a small premium for its trouble, and in the sports betting biz, that premium is the (-110) price attached to either side of a wager.

What Does It Mean When a Sportsbook Offers (-105), (-115), or Another Alternate Price?

Now that we’ve covered the baseline price of (-110) odds, it’s time to explore the murky world of alternate vigs used by sportsbooks.

Remember that earlier example involving the Dolphins and Bills? Well, imagine a scenario where the same 10 bettors took the Bills, but Dolphins backers remained hesitant to part ways with a piece of their sports betting bankroll. With a healthy number of Buffalo (-6 / -110) tickets already written, and the game’s start time fast approaching, the bookmakers need to do something that might generate additional interest in Miami.

Thus, they simply adjust their odds on the underdog to something like (-105), (EVEN), or even (+110). By doing so, the books are hoping to entice a few more bettors to take the Dolphins by offering them a discount of sorts on the juice. If you didn’t feel comfortable at the original (-110) price point, seeing a flipped (+110) – which means your $100 bet will bring back $110 in profit on a winner – is usually enough to twist your arm.

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You’ll almost always see a balanced set of odds attached to both sides of a given contest. When the betting public is overwhelmingly supporting one side like the Dallas Cowboys, the juice on “America’s Team” might be increased to (-120). At the same time, Dallas’ opponent in the New York Giants aren’t exactly ginning up much interest, so the books post a (+115) number to bring bettors aboard.

This process of balancing the ledger is always ongoing for the sportsbooks, starting when they post opening odds and ending just before game time. The bookmakers use carefully calculated algorithms, augmented by good old-fashioned experience and intuition, to set odds that will attract relatively equal action on both sides.

The various odds are used by bookmakers to ensure a profit, that much we know by now. But how can bettors exploit the difference between a (-110) number and its (-105), (EVEN), or (+110) competitors?

Using Your Newfound Knowledge of Sports Betting Prices to Beat the Books at Their Own Game

At first glance, the difference between betting against (-110) odds and the alternatives might seem to minute to care much about.

After all, we’re talking about 10 cents on the dollar off of your potential profit, so what’s a nickel here or there matter?

Well, for professional sports bettors who consistently squeeze a profit from the books like blood from a stone, those pennies make all the difference.

Let’s use another series of example wagers to spell out exactly how meaningful seemingly slight adjustments in a wager’s price really are. In this case, imagine you’ve made 100 wagers for $100 each over the course of the NFL season, with all of them priced at (-110). Furthermore, following the 52.38 percent rule*, let’s say you were skilled and lucky enough to win 53 percent of those wagers for a 53/100 win rate.

*In sports betting, when facing a (-110) vig, bettors must attain a 52.38 percent rate simply to break exactly even

NFL Cowboys Scoring a Touchdown

Now then, with 53 winning tickets providing $100 in profit apiece, you’ve collected $5,300 on winners. But with those 47 losing tickets factored in, and each one costing you $110 thanks to the (-110) juice, you’ve lost $5,170 (47 x 110 = 5,170) along the way. All told, your total profit margin stands at $130 from betting on the NFL season.

We can now run through the same exercise using a (-105) price point to see how that deceptively small discount affects our bankroll’s bottom line.

Had you placed the same 100 wagers – this time for $105 to win $100 profit at (-105) odds – the 53 winners are still good for the same $5,300 uptick.

But when you account for 47 losing tickets at $105 each, your total losses now come to $4,935. Subtract the $4,935 in losses from your $5,300 in wins, and your profit margin now stands at $365 on the year.

Yep, simply by swapping out the standard (-110) vig for a slightly sweeter (-105), you just multiplied your profits by nearly triple.

To finish off this tutorial in how pricing directly impacts your long-term results, use the table below to compare outcomes using the same 100-bet example:

Betting Odds Amount Bet (To Win $100) Net on 53 Wins Net on 47 Losses Total Profit
(-130) $130.00 $5,300.00 (-$6,110.00) (-$810.00)
(-120) $120.00 $5,300.00 (-$5,640.00) (-$340.00)
(-110) $110.00 $5,300.00 (-$5,170.00) $130.00
(-105) $105.00 $5,300.00 (-$4,935.00) $365.00
(EVEN) $100.00 $5,300.00 (-$4,700.00) $600.00
(+105) $95.24 $5,300.00 (-$4,476.28) $823.72
(+110) $90.91 $5,300.00 (-$4,272.77) $1,027.33
(+120) $83.33 $5,300.00 (-$3,916.51) $1,383.49
(+130) $76.92 $5,300.00 (-$3,615.24) $1,684.76

As the data demonstrates quite clearly, finding even a slightly cheaper price as a bettor is by far the best way to beat the books over the long run. For this reason, pro handicappers and “wise guys” spend just as much time, if not more so, shopping around the various bookmakers to grab the best possible price as they do studying on-field metrics.

Think of these odds like you would price tags at your local grocery stores. If one store has a product priced at $5.99, but you can get the exact same product for $5.00 even just down the block, you’d be a fool to spend that extra buck for no good reason.

To wrap things up, I do realize that many bettors prefer to stick with the same “unit” size, rather than sizing bets up or down based on the vig. And as you can see, when you roll with $100 bets every time, regardless of the posted price, the data still shakes out along the same lines:

Betting Odds Amount Bet (To Win $100) Net on 53 Wins Net on 47 Losses Total Profit
(-130) $100.00 $4,075.70 (-$4,700.00) (-$624.30)
(-120) $100.00 $4,414.90 (-$4,700.00) (-$285.10)
(-110) $100.00 $4,817.70 (-$4,700.00) $117.70
(-105) $100.00 $5,045.60 (-$4,700.00) $345.60
(EVEN) $100.00 $5,300.00 (-$4,700.00) $600.00
(+105) $100.00 $5,565.00 (-$4,700.00) $865.00
(+110) $100.00 $5,830.00 (-$4,700.00) $1,180.00
(+120) $100.00 $6,360.00 (-$4,700.00) $1,660.00
(+130) $100.00 $6,890.00 (-$4,700.00) $2,190.00

The numbers don’t lie, especially at a sportsbook, so do your best to hunt down the most favorable prices and odds on your preferred side before ever firing the bet. By doing so, you can pad your profit margin when your winning, while mitigating losses during the downswings.

Conclusion

Sportsbook operators, and the oddsmakers they employ, have a century of collective experience as the only truly consistent winners in the industry. It doesn’t matter if public darlings have an undefeated day, so long as the juice has been calibrated perfectly to attract relatively equal action on both sides.

When it has, the bookmakers simply sit back and count their profits while bettors sweat their action on a big screen overhead. Understanding how bet prices really work is the first step towards betting like a savvy sharp, so use this knowledge to improve your process before your next betting adventure.