How “Vegas Odds” Work In Sportsbetting

Features / April 22, 2021

How “Vegas Odds” Work in Sports Betting- A Primer

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 “money-line” 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: For example, the upcoming fight between Masvidal and Usman at UFC 261 (24th April, 2021) looks like this:

Jorge Masvidal (+300) vs 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 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.

Consider the following NFL spread:
Seattle Seahawks (-10) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (8)

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 spreadk – by either winning the game outright or losing by nine points or less.

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 stake refunded.

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’.

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

Thomas Nielsen
Tom loves NBA. NFL and Hockey. When he is not analyzing sports data, he is watching it, or writing about it!

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