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Understanding Juice/Vig in Sports Betting

by December 27, 2018
Michael Thomas

Lately, “juice” has become a very endearing slang term. Eminem has a song saying “give me the juice,” Chance the Rapper and Meek Mill have songs with “juice” in the title, and there’s even a popular rapper named “Juice WRLD.” “Juice” has come to take on a meaning of influence and power. Heck, Le’Veon Bell (yes, the long lost star running back) even calls himself “juice.” So, give me the juice, right? Well, when it comes to sports betting, wrong.

Juice, or vig, in sports betting, is the cut or amount charged by a sportsbook or bookie for taking a bet from a gambler. Sportsbooks use juice to ensure they make money on a bet, regardless of the outcome. Really quickly here, it’s easy to see why bettors don’t want the juice! The higher the cut that the sportsbooks take, the more bettors have to wager to win profit. It’s as simple as that. In sports betting, the less juice, the better!

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Understanding Juice/Vig
Most sportsbooks that are well established do not want to have a vested interest in the outcome of a game. Rather than wanting to chance it for one side win, the sportsbook would rather keep it fairly even and profit regardless. Thus, the juice comes in. Take a line of -110 and -110, where two bettors wager $10 each on the opposite two sides. No matter what the outcomes of the bets are, the sportsbook still wins. Why? Because a $10 bet at -110 will only net the bettor a $9.10 profit while risking $10. Either way, the sportsbook wins $.90. Imagine this over the course of the year, with every bet that’s ever placed through the sportsbook, and the profits add up quickly!

Calculating Juice/Vig
First and foremost, juice can be easily observed by the naked eye after becoming aware of what it is. Experienced bettors know that an EVEN bet would be a bet with no juice. It’s a completely fair bet. The further the juice gets away from even, the higher the juice gets. 

For example, the sportsbook will automatically take a higher cut of a -110/-110 bet than the EVEN bet. The sportsbook has a chance to take home an even higher cut at -115/-110, and it could go on down the road like this forever.

Luckily, for inexperienced sports bettors who do not understand juice as much, it can be easily calculated. In fact, the juice percentage can be calculated without even knowing the outcome of the event or the money risked. Here’s how to calculate it.

Juice (Vig) = 100 x (1 – p x q / p + q)

In this equation, the p and q are the decimal payouts for each outcome (the x is a multiplication symbol). Plug the numbers in, and the juice can be easily found for a bet.

When do Sportsbooks Adjust Juice?
Sportsbooks do adjust juice. To people new to sports betting, this can be a confusing thing. Why do sportsbooks sometimes change it? Adjusting juice can be a precursor to changing the actual line of a game. If the money on a line is starting to get a little dicey for a sportsbook, changing the juice can be an easy way to ensure they will bring home more of a profit, without changing the entire line just yet. Many times, changing the juice is a signal that the line could soon change.

For new bettors, it can help to think of it in this way. If an absurd amount of money is bet on one side of a wager, the sportsbook will most likely adjust the line to entice more people to bet on the other side. Remember, established sportsbooks usually don’t want a dog in the fight. They receive enough money from the juice instead.

If a wager is large, but isn’t large enough to totally change the line, the sportsbook can simply adjust the juice. Increasing the juice on one side even just a few percentage points will do two things. 

First, it will entice people to bet a certain way, just like a line change. Next, an increase in juice will always net the sportsbook a higher profit. Again, even if it’s just a small amount, every dollar matters. Being aware of the juice under these scenarios can help new bettors save, or net, a few more bucks.

Juice will also change as the odds change for something to happen. Obviously, the chances of a baseball game going into extra innings if the score is 12-2 in the eighth inning are slim. So, the sportsbook’s juice on the bet will be very high for it to avoid extras and very low to go into extra innings. This is true all throughout any bets.

Why Does Juice Matter?
Understanding the basics of juice are essential to understanding how to be an effective bettor. In fact, everything written above is important to understand before even thinking about more complicated facets of betting. Juice affects how much money the bettor will receive in return from a wager. Juice can change what side a bettor wants to bet on. Juice can even be a signal for prospective bettors that an entire line shift is coming.

  1. It’s important for new bettors to understand that part of their wager is going to the sportsbook.

Consider it a fee for betting. No, betting isn’t free. Of course, sportsbooks win big off of stupid bettors. But juice is why they stay in business. Always have an understanding of why juice exists in a bet.

  1. If the juice is higher for a wager, it may be a sign to avoid that bet.

If the juice is crazy high, then the bettor might want to look elsewhere for a bet. As mentioned, if a sportsbook changes the juice, it could be a signal of a future line change. As a bettor, use that information to know, or at least guess, when the best time to place a bet is.

  1. Use juice to help know when the best time to place a bet is.

If a line change does seem imminent based off of the juice, either bet immediately to receive good odds, or wait if the odds will be improved! Juice is a key concept for people new to the sports betting world to understand. Get to know it, and use the knowledge accordingly!

Best of luck.

Alex Altmix is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive.