What Are Las Vegas Odds?

In short, Vegas odds is an all-encompassing term used to describe the Vegas betting lines system used in US sportsbooks today. This unique system enables gamblers to quickly read all the stats needed to make a bet on the moneyline, point spread, or other wagers in a match. While Vegas odds are common in modern sportsbooks, the origins of Vegas odds go much deeper.

Vegas odds originated in 1930s Nevada, when the state agreed to legalise gambling. Oddsmakers flocked to Las Vegas to establish their bases and take advantage of the new sports betting opportunities in the state.

These oddsmakers were known for creating their own unique 'power ratings' across different sports. Secrecy surrounds what criteria went into these early ratings, but some of the same statistics bookmakers use today – wins/losses, player injuries, and previous performances – were undoubtedly included.

What are Vegas Lines?

Vegas lines is just another term for Vegas betting lines. Tasked with generating odds for hundreds of sports games in the US and worldwide, Las Vegas oddsmakers use this specific system to keep all their various stats organised.

This system is now used by bookmakers throughout the USA to streamline the betting process. With each sports game, there are many betting options to choose: which team will win or lose, how many points will be scored, etc. An oddsmaker needs to deliver all this information in a succinct format − a Vegas betting line does just that.

Many newcomers to sports betting wonder how Vegas odds work. Once you know what each section represents however, making a bet on a Vegas betting line is simple.

How to Read Las Vegas Odds?

It is essential to know how to read Vegas odds in order to make a bet at sportsbooks in the US. Let's look at an example of a typical Vegas betting line:

Example Vegas Odds board

In order to know how to read Vegas betting lines, it is best to divide a line into individual sections:

  • Rotation Number
    Vegas oddsmakers will assign a unique number to each betting line on their boards. With dozens of sports and hundreds of teams appearing on one board, rotation numbers help the bettor and the sportsbook avoid confusion over which team you wish to place a bet. For instance, California has 19 major professional sports teams, and nine of those are based in Los Angeles.
  • Teams
    This denotes which team you wish to bet on. A Vegas betting board usually states at the top which sports league the odds are for, so make sure you look at this first to avoid confusion later.
  • Point Spread

    Basically, point spread is the number of points a sportsbook predicts a team will win or lose by. The team favorited to win will have a minus sign next to their point spread, and the team labelled as the underdogs will have a plus sign.

    Seattle Seahawks logo
    Jacksonville Jaguars logo

    The example states the point spread is 10 points. The Seattle Seahawks are favorited by 10 points against the underdogs, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    To win a point spread wager on the favorite, the Seattle Seahawks must win the game outright by more than 10 points. If you bet on the underdogs, the Jacksonville Jaguars must win the game outright or lose by 9 points or less.

    If either team wins/lose by the exact amount the bookmaker predicted, the wager is considered a 'push' and is "cancelled".

  • Over/Under, or Total
    These terms refer to the total number of points a bookmaker thinks the two teams or players will score combined in a specific match. If you think the two teams will score more than the sum the bookmaker predicts, you choose the 'over' bet. If you think the two teams will score less than the total the bookmaker expects, you choose the 'under' bet. This section of the Vegas line frequently employs the .5 system to stop ties between the gambler and oddsmaker from occurring. Matches frequently equal the over/under odds sportsbooks provide, so oddsmakers add a half-point to these odds to counteract this. If an oddsmaker and gambler tie and no .5 has been added to the odds, then this is called a 'push' and the sportsbook will refund the gambler their money.
  • Moneyline

    This refers to American or moneyline odds, which factor in the favorites to win and the underdogs of the game.
    Learn more about moneyline odds in our betting odds guide.

  • Straight
    A bettor will make a 'straight' or 'straight up' bet if he/she wants to place an individual bet.
  • Vigorish/Vig/Juice
    In essence, this is the amount you pay the bookmaker for the opportunity of making a bet. Sportsbooks usually add the juice directly into the odds and is defined in either monetary or percentage form. The juice is a dynamic statistic as bookmakers change it depending on the odds given.
  • Overround

    While the overround and vig are closely related, they perform two separate functions. The vig is the amount a bookmaker charges a bettor to make a wager; the overround appears when the sum of two implied probabilities in a match exceed 100%.

    For instance, if Team A has a 60% chance of winning, and Team B has a 44% chance, when combined that is 104%. So, the overround is 4%. If the bookmaker changes the odds, this will affect the overround, and have a knock-on effect on the vig, too.

How to Place a Bet Using a Vegas Betting Line?

Placing a bet on a Vegas line is easy, once you know the lingo and steps. Use the instructions below to bet on Vegas odds straightaway.

  • First, decide whether you want to make a straight bet, a parlay/accumulator, or another bet type.
  • Find the sport, and then the match(es) you wish to bet on, using the Vegas betting line board.
  • Decide what criteria you want to bet on: the point spread, moneyline, or across multiple statistics.
  • Choose how much you wish to wager.
  • When it is your turn, approach the bookmaker and tell them: the rotation number, the type of bet, what criteria you wish to bet on, and the amount of the wager.

The key to placing a bet on a Vegas betting line is to be very clear about what criteria you wish to bet on. Vegas oddsmakers will assume you want to bet on the point spread, unless you state otherwise. Each betting line has multiple opportunities, so make it easy for the bookmaker and yourself.

Why Are Vegas Lines Important?

When sports betting flourished in Nevada and beyond towards the end of the 20th century, the reputation of the accuracy of Vegas oddsmakers grew. Other bookmakers took note, and for decades Vegas odds were the benchmark other bookmakers worldwide used to judge their own stats and adjust accordingly.

With the growth of online sportsbooks and sports betting software, the influence of Vegas odds has waned. However, the reputation of Vegas odds means many oddsmakers continue to use Sin City as their base. Check the gambling laws in your state to see if you can legally wager with Vegas odds at online sportsbooks.

How Accurate are Vegas Odds?

Vegas sportsbooks may not have any insider knowledge, but what they do have are statisticians and time. These math wizards work full-time analysing all aspects of a team or player's performance, history, and outside influencing factors to determine how it could possibly affect the outcome of a match.

On the flip side, Vegas bookmakers have a house edge. This fee ensures they can earn enough from wagers to continue operating, but also offer bets appealing enough to entice gamblers to make a stake with them.

Overall: A Vegas bookmaker will generally have accurate odds but can differ depending on what factors the statistician believes will have the greatest influence on the match. Check the odds and house edge at several sportsbooks before placing a bet to make sure you get the best deal for your wager.

Vegas Sports Bets

Our tips below offer best practices and strategies for the different types of sports betting line wagers you can make on Vegas odds:

  • Point Spread Betting
    Essentially, this bet forces gamblers to decide whether they think they can win money by guessing which team will exceed or underachieve their expected performance in a game. To keep bets evenly spread across the board and still make money, sportsbooks frequently shift the point spread by a half-point or one point to encourage action where needed. Track lines in the week leading up to the game and record any changes you see in the point spread. This will help highlight any trends or patterns behind the point spread movements, and help you make more educated wagers.
  • Moneyline Bets
    This win-or-lose wager is popular for new and casual gamblers due to its simplicity. However easy favorite bets do not pay out large sums, so an alternative strategy is essential for games where a clear winner is less apparent. Using implied probability, or the percentage of times a wager needs to win for you to break even, is a better statistic to use when judging moneyline bets. If you wish to learn more about implied probability, visit our Odds Guide and the implied probability table on our Odds Calculator.
  • Over/Under/Totals Bets
    New gamblers might find guessing the total number of points scored in a game as a simple bet to make. However the total score of over/under betting requires comprehensive sports knowledge for it to pay out. Sometimes there will be a correlation between a game's point spread and its total points. In NFL for instance, the favorite team's quarterback might be returning from an injury and play far more restrained than usual. As a result, you might think the underdog team will gain more of the point spread, which can affect your over/under odds.

Why do Vegas Odds Lines Change?

Sportsbooks want to make money. This requires them to maintain a fine balancing act of giving gamblers decent enough odds without serious risks, while also using the house edge to ensure they make enough money from winning bets. While sportsbooks have teams analyzing data full-time to determine the best betting odds, outside factors can force Vegas oddsmakers to change their betting lines.

Vegas oddsmakers have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion, and how it can influence betting decisions. Any news article, announcement or rumor released in the run-up to a match can affect gamblers' sports betting decisions. This swing in public opinion can potentially cost the betting sites a lot of money if they don't adapt their odds too.

In addition to this, sportsbooks prefer to maintain an equal balance on the amount of money bet between their favorite and underdog odds. This means that no matter who wins, the sportsbook will eventually win some money. If too much money is placed on one side, the sportsbook will shift the odds to encourage gamblers to bet more on the other team.

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