Are Point Spreads and Moneylines Reflective of Real Odds?

How Handicappers Make Their Cash by Altering Odds

Let’s state upfront that in sports betting the one entity that must make money is the sports book. They have to do so by altering the payouts so that they don’t really reflect the odds. By the way, there is nothing illegal or wrong about this. It’s merely part of the cost of doing business when you’re involved in sports betting. All casino table games, poker tables and slot machines do the same thing.

Where’s the Commission?

Every sports bet carries a commission, which is also called the juice, vigorish or vig, and that commission goes to the bookmaker. It is simply how they make some cash on each bet and it is about 10% of the wager. Sometimes you can actually see it, as in when you play the spread, and other times, as it is with the moneyline, it’s not as easy to discern.

With the point spread, the commission is charged upfront. For you to win $1.00 on a spread wager, you have to bet $1.10. The ten-percent is clearly reflected in your bet. Although these bets are said to be even odds wagers, they actually offer a little less than even odds.

You can also see this with the moneyline. But it is not as clear. Here’s a possible moneyline listing.

Detroit            Lions               +230

Chicago Bears                        -180

What the bookmakers have done is they have held back on the payout for the Lions and made you wager more than you should on the favorite Bears. Below is an example of the moneyline minus the commission; this reflects the true odds. (The actual moneyline is still listed first.)

Listed Line         Line Minus Commission

Detroit            Lions               +230                           +255

Chicago Bears                        -180                           – 160

Without the commission, you would wager $100 to win $255 on the Lions instead of just $230. The Bears without the commission would cost only $160 rather than the $180.

Tracking the Vig

In NFL sports betting it’s simply important to understand this concept because it does alter payouts. You don’t need to track it with the moneyline because it is already withheld from you. But you should track it with the spread because it does affect your bottom line.

Winning and Losing with the Spread

As an example, if you make 10 spread bets at $11.00 each, you will have spent $110 on your wagers. If you won 70% of your bets, you might claim to have made a profit of $40. Here are the actual figures.

You wagered $110 and won $70. That means that you are $40 up, right? No, that’s not true. You wagered $77 on winners and took back an additional $70 for a total of $147. But you lost $33 in bets. To see how this works, you simply subtract your original stake of $110 from your present bank, $147, and you get your actual profit, which is $37 and not $40.

Tracking Your Wins and Loses

It’s important for you to track all of your wins and loses very carefully. Sports betting is a business and should be treated as such. Over the course of time, the vig can add up; it’s important to know how much you are really making.