What Does Vig Mean in Betting?

When someone refers to “vig” in betting, what image springs to mind? Is it a gambler, a gangster, or a sports enthusiast?

The word ‘vig’ has become so interwoven in the language of betting that it’s now difficult to define, especially since it can mean different things to different people. Broadly speaking, vig refers to a betting counterparty’s share of the wagers placed alongside an initial bet. So in other words, the vig in a typical American football wager is the opposite of the vig in a European roulette bet. The following definitions should help make things a bit clearer. 

The Share Of The Wagers

Vig, as defined above, is a percentage share of the wagers placed alongside an initial bet. For instance, if you put up $100 on a football game and the team you’re backing wins by a score of 17-14, your vig will be $17. In other words, the total amount of money you placed on that game – $100 – times the percentage of the winnings that remain after the counterparty’s share – $17 – has been taken out. So if you back the Red Hats, you might expect to get $85 back (100 x 85 = $17 x 2 = $34). Similarly, if you bet on a dog race and the favorite wins by a nose, your vig will be $2. (If you’re unfamiliar, a nose is a wagering term that refers to the amount of money you wager on each race – so, in effect, a $2 nose is equivalent to a $2 vig in most cases.)

Rough Vs. Even Money Betting

Another important distinction to make regarding vigs is between even money and rough bets. Even money is what you get when you place a wager on an even (50/50) chance of winning. So in the example above, you would be betting odds of 1-2 on a Red Hat to win (50 cents x 2 = $1) because you assume the team will win approximately half the time. In other words, you’re getting $1 back on every $2 you stake – or $100 back on every $200 you stake, which is a positive return on investment (assuming you win). Now if you had placed a roulette bet on the same amount (another way of saying even money), you would have gotten $2 back on every $2 you staked (50 cents x 2 = $1) because you assumed the house edge would have eaten into any edge you may have had.

Initial Bet Vs. Summing Up The Vigs

Another way of looking at it is in terms of the initial bet vs. the summation of the vigs. The initial bet is simply the amount you’re wagering on the game – e.g., $100 on the above example. The summation of the vigs, as mentioned above, is simply the total amount of money you’ve placed on all your wagers (so, in the example, $100 + $17 + $34 = $101). It’s also important to note that the above examples only cover the spread and payout for a single wager – in the case of a multiple bet, your payout would be the total amount you’ve won (or lost) on all your wagers, divided by the total amount you’ve wagered (multiplied by two because there were two ways to win, in this case). So, in the example above, you would have ($100/$200) x 2 = $101 – not $100 – as your payout. (This is why many people prefer to use the word ‘sum’ rather than ‘wager’ when referring to the total amount of money wagered on a single wager. In the case of a multiple bet, your ‘wager’ would be the total amount of money you’ve placed on all your bets rather than the amount you’ve staked on the individual games.)

Depends On How The Person Who You’re Betting Against Feels About Vig

The important thing to keep in mind regarding vigs is that they vary from person to person – and, in some instances, from game to game. For example, in the case of a professional gambler who operates on the juice – i.e., pays his players – vigs are typically higher in the case of a high-stakes game because, in theory, he should be able to make more money than he spends as long as he’s getting his money’s worth out of his players. In other words, the expected value of his wagers should be positive, which is why most gamblers will push the envelope on vigs when betting high-stakes games. However, this is generally not the case when playing with house money or when playing online – in these cases, vigs tend to be lower because the house edges eat into any edge hemay have over the long term. This being said, it pays to be mindful of the person you’re betting against and to figure out what they want to get out of the wager – as much as you’d like to believe that their desire is simply to beat you, you might be surprised at what they want out of this particular wager!

Hopefully, these definitions will help you better understand the concept of vigs and how they work in practice. As a betting person who has dealt with vigs on a regular basis, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject! Do you think the definitions above match up with what you know about vigs? Do you have any other suggestions for how to think about this term? Leave me a comment below, or tweet me at @AndrewMCleckner, and let’s get this conversation started!