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"The Vig"

by Len Toth


Vigorish is 4.54 percent. Wow, I can hear readers exclaiming, what news! What revelation next, the sky is blue, the sun will rise in the east Tuesday morning!


Okay, sarcasm aside, three sincere individuals have emailed me in the past ten days, asking that exact question. "What is the vigorish on an 11-10 bet?"


Apparently some "experts" have been promulgating different numbers for the vig. Mathematicians may enjoy arguing figures and formulas, but the vig is a given, just like pi.


Vigorish is defined as the difference between what a wager should pay at true odds and what it does pay at posted odds. This applies to all gambling, not just sports betting, but craps and roulette and any new game of chance invented in the next millennium.


If a wager is a 50-50 proposition, like heads or tails on a coin toss, or the Lakers or Pacers at 7.5 in a basketball game, a player should receive even money on any selection. Bet $100, win $100; bet $347.64, win 347.64, bet $11, win $11. Double your money back on every correct choice.


But a sportsbook only pays $10 for each $11 invested, so a winner collects $21 instead of $22. The difference is the vigorish, 1/22 or .0454545 or 4.54 percent.


If I tell you that two equals six and that three equals four, how much is two plus three? The answer remains five, because no matter what somebody tells you, two is still two and three is still three and when they are added five is the total.


The logic holds in the vigorish question. The vig remains 4.54 percent, regardless of any "expert" opinion. Revolutions and revelations are rare in gambling, and none are forthcoming in this area.


The vig naturally changes with the posted odds. A house offering 108-100 or 105-100 is cutting a break on the juice, a store at 6-5 is charging considerably more (8.33 percent.)


Someone could open a sportsbook, and promote "No Vig Football," like some casinos offer "Crapless Craps." Bet $100, Win $100. Of course, he would probably charge a small service fee for this remarkable feature. Say 10 percent of your wager, not a bad deal to avoid all that nasty vigorish.


As a special promotion, he might sometimes waive the fee for losing bets, or perhaps for winning bets. If he waived it for losing bets, wagering would actually be a more expensive proposition than it is today. If he waived it for winning bets, a "Ten Percent Bonus" for successful players, we would be in the exact situation we enjoy today. The sportsbook would be working on a 4.54 percentage, and the handicapper would be playing against 4.54 percent.


A rose is a rose is a rose, and of course we know how it would smell even if someone called it something else. The vig at 11-10 is 4.54545454......on into infinity, and will not change no matter who says what.


Anyone who tries to promote a different number is either ignorant (he just does not know,) incompetent (he cannot compute it accurately) or worse (he has some ulterior motive to deceive.) Be aware of such characters. Ignorance, incompetence and fraud are not welcome among serious bettors. (Except when ignorance or incompetence may occasionally result in off lines.)


Serious bettors are always aware of the vig; like poker players, some know the exact odds, while others are more intuitive. They know that receiving 5-1 on a three team parley is not good, even if they don't know the vig is an exorbitant 25 percent.


By the way, a three team parlay paying 7-1 is just about the best bet you will ever find, because it offers true odds with absolutely no vigorish.

Depending on the sportsbook stipulations, you could bet any game at even money.


A two team parlay paying 13-5 is no bargain, either, because the vig is a hefty 10 percent. Most bettors avoid such plays not because it is twice as difficult to pick two winners, but because it costs twice as much when they do.


The vigorish may be an unhappy fact of life, but remember that the game would not be played without it. Brokers need their commissions, and deserve them for taking action on any side. But there is no logic in giving them any more than their due.

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