vegas odds
vegas odds guide

You may have heard the term “Vegas Odds” in relation to betting on sports. Vegas odds is an all-encompassing term to describe the betting system used in U.S based sportsbooks, enabling gamblers to easily understand the key stats they need in order to make various bet types (e.g. a “moneyline” bet, betting the point-spread, or other wagers), and the returns they stand to make.

Originating in Nevada in the 1930’s when sportsbetting was legalized in the state, Vegas odds-makers created a system to represent betting returns and odds – what is now referred to as “U.S Odds format” (compared to European fractional or decimal representations of betting odds).


Vegas Odds – Moneyline Betting

Consider a UFC Fight where you want to bet on the winner. The odds you will look at in this case are “Vegas Moneylines”

  1. Each fighter will be allocated either a positive or negative odds number which indicates how much you can win on a bet on either fighter .
  2. The fighter with the positive number is deemed the bookmaker’s favorite, and the other contender (with a negative number) is the underdog.

If the number next to a fighter’s odds is negative (-) that number is how much you’d win on a $100 bet. If the number next to a fighter’s odds is positive (+), that number is how much you’d have to bet on the fighter in order to win $100.

Example: consider the closing lines for the UFC fight between Masvidal and Usman at UFC 261:

UFC Fight Odds Betting Example
Fighter Win Spread Total Rounds
Jorge Masvidal +300
Kamaru Usman -400
  • If you bet $100 on Usman (-400) and he wins, you win $400 (plus you get your $100 stake back).
  • If you bet on Masvidal, you would have to bet $300 in order to win $100.

Bear in mind that the UFC odds given aren’t necessarily representative of what sportsbooks think will happen. Their job is not to predict a winner – but rather to serve betting lines which “balance the book” evenly on both sides so that the casino/bookmaker doesn’t lose any money.


Vegas Odds – Betting the Spread

Spread betting was invented by Charles K. McNeil, a mathematics teacher from Connecticut who became a bookmaker in Chicago in the 1940s.

The “spread” in betting is a specific number of points a sportsbook predicts that a team will win or lose by.

The team which is expected to win will have a minus sign (-) beside their point spread, and the underdog will have a plus sign next to their spread.

NFL: Betting The Spread: Example

Americans love to bet on football, and in fact the Super Bowl takes the crown as the most wagered-upon sporting event in the United States.

Betting “the spread” is a popular betting sports-betting option – but how does it work?

Consider the following NFL betting spread:

NFL Spread Betting Example
Team Win Spread Total Date/Time
Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks -10 (-110)
Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars +10 (-110)
  • The point spread is 10 points (with the Seahawks favorited by +10 points over the underdogs, the Jacksonville Jaguars).
  • To win a spread bet on the favorites – they must win outright by more than ten points.
  • To win a point spread wager on the favorite, they must win the game outright by more than the spread (which in this case is 10 points).
  • To win a point spread bet on the underdogs they must “cover” the spread -either:
  • by winning the game outright
  • or losing by nine points or less.

*note for NHL Betting purposes, the spread is referred to as the Puck Line.

If either team should win or lose by the exact amount predicted by the bookmaker when the bet was made, the bet is considered a “push” and is cancelled, and initial betting stake refunded to the customer.


Vegas Odds – Over/Under, or Total

“Betting the over” or “Betting the Under” is a common practice with sports fans.

Bookmakers predict the combined points total for a specific match.

  • If you both teams will score more than the sum the bookmaker predicts, you will bet the ‘over’.
  • If you think the two teams will score less than the total the bookmaker expects, you will bet the ‘under’.

Vegas Odds – Parlay Betting Example

Parlay betting has become increasingly popular over the last few years as legal sportsbetting has exploded in the US.

A parlay bet is a type of sports wager where you combine multiple individual bets into a single bet.

To win a parlay bet, all of your chosen selections must be correct. If any of the selections in your parlay bet is incorrect, the entire bet is considered a loss.

The main advantage of a parlay bet is that it offers potentially higher payouts compared to individual bets since the odds for each selection are multiplied together.

Example:

Let’s say you’re an NBA basketball lover and you want to place a parlay bet on three NBA games which are happening on a given day.

The games you choose to include in your parlay bet are:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors: (You bet on the Lakers to win the game).
  2. Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics: (You bet on the Nets to win the game).
  3. Houston Rockets vs. Miami Heat: (You bet on the Heat to win the game).

For each individual bet, you would typically see odds associated with each team. Let’s say the odds for these games are:

  1. Lakers (-150) vs. Warriors (+120)
  2. Nets (-200) vs. Celtics (+170)
  3. Rockets (+220) vs. Heat (-280)

In this example, the negative number represents the favorite, and the positive number represents the underdog (refer to an odds calculator if you’re not sure to work out betting payouts or convert sports betting odds into implied probability %).

Now, let’s assume you place a $50 parlay bet on these three games. Since it’s a parlay bet, all three selections need to be correct for you to win the bet. If any of the selected teams fails to win, the entire bet is lost.

If all three teams win their respective games, you would receive a payout based on the combined odds of the three bets.

Keep in mind that the odds and payouts can vary depending on the sportsbook and the specific games you choose. It’s essential to understand the odds and potential risks before placing a parlay bet. Parlay bets can be challenging to win due to the need for all selections to be correct.


*Remember to bet responsibly, and only gamble what you can afford to lose.

Thomas Nielsen

A sports-journalist & Las Vegas native, Thomas lives for professional basketball, NFL, college football and Ice-Hockey. When he is not watching sports (or analyzing sports data), he can usually be found reading a book in a secluded corner. Tom is also a contributor at GamblingIndustryNews.com & Vegas-Odds.com.