Sportsbooks in the United States often use the term “Vegas Odds” to collectively refer to their betting odds and lines.
Vegas odds (sometimes also known as ‘American odds’) are named after the US gambling capital and are trusted by oddsmakers around the world to determine sports betting markets. All bets use Vegas odds, although the moneyline, point spread, and Totals (over/under) are the most popular markets.
What does Moneyline, Point Spread & Over/ Under mean?
- The Moneyline is a term that indicates who will win the game (including overtime)
- The point spread is a term that indicates how many points a team is favored by in a game
- Totals is an over/under type market that allows betting on the total combined points in a game (you can also bet on an individual team total). In UFC, Totals refers to total number of rounds, while in MLB totals refer to the combined number of runs scored in a game by both teams.
How Vegas Odds Work in Sports Betting
Vegas odds are always shown as a positive or a negative number.
In 2-way moneyline betting scenario such as an NFL or a hockey game the underdog is shown with a positive number and the favorite with a negative number.
Here’s an example of the Vegas odds offered by BetUS for the opening game of the 2021 NFL season:
When the moneyline odds is a positive number, the odds shown represent the amount you would win if you bet $100 and were successful.
For example, betting odds of +200 means that if you bet $100 and were correct, you would profit by $200 (receiving a $300 payout – your $100 stake in addition to your $200 profit on the wager). +200 odds is equal to in 2/1 fractional odds and 3.00 in decimal odds representation.
A negative number indicates that the bookie believes the result is more likely. The amount shown indicates how much you would have to wager to win $100.
So for example, odds of -200 means you would have to bet $200 to win $100 profit. This is equal to 1/2 in fractional odds and 1.50 in decimal odds.
Point spreads are most usually associated with high-scoring sports such as basketball and NFL football, but they can be applied to any sport. In games where there is a strong favorite the point spread can help even things up and make it a more 50/50 betting market. The favorite is given a theoretical points handicap which they must also overcome for the bet to win.
For example, in the NFL game above the Buccaneers are -6.5 on the Point Spread which means they would have to win by 7 points or more for the bet to win. Alternatively you could bet on the Cowboys with a +6.5 points advantage meaning if they win or lose by 6 points or more then the bet will be successful. Both options are priced up with the same odds of -110 meaning a $110 bet would win $100.
How do land based Las Vegas Sportsbooks Calculate Odds
Brick and mortar Vegas sportsbooks use their own unique formulas and algorithms taking into account past performances, historic stats and other data to come up with their opening odds and betting lines.
These odds and lines can quickly change though depending on the weight of the bettors money so it often pays to place your bets early before any perceived value disappears.
History of Vegas Odds and Legal Sports-betting in the US
Vegas odds have always been discussed in sports betting circles even before gambling first became officially legal in Las Vegas in 1931 but since the removal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018 the sports media seem to be discussing the latest Vegas odds for upcoming events on a daily basis.
Historically, Nevada was the only state where legalized gambling was allowed so it was the local Las Vegas sportsbooks who set the early betting odds for all the sports games taking place around the country and beyond.
Other betting companies and sportsbooks used the sports odds coming from Las Vegas as the benchmark for setting their own betting lines and so the term Vegas odds became the standard bearer for sports betting.
As of October 2023, there are 30+ states in which betting on sports (either online or in-person) is legal in the US with more expected to follow in 2024.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Moneyline odds?
Moneyline odds offer the easiest form of betting as it simply involved picking the winner of the specific event. There is usually no draw option with moneyline betting and any overtime is included.
What does Point Spread mean?
A point spread bet is a wager on a game's winning margin. The point spread is the ultimate equaliser, ensuring that each team has an equal chance of winning a wager for you.
Depending on the estimated ability differential between the two teams, the stronger team or player will be favoured by a given number of points.
For example, in the Patriots vs Browns game the point spread on the Patriots may be -7.5 which means for your bet to be successful the Patriots need to be winning the game by 8 points or more.
Alternatively, rather than betting the favorite to overcome the handicap, you can choose to bet on the underdog with a head start. So the opposite bet would be the Browns +7.5 which means if the Browns win or at least don't lose by 8 points or more then your bet on Browns +7.5 will be successful.
What is Totals betting (Over/Under)?
Totals betting involves predicting the total points in a given game and if will be over or under a number set by the sportsbook. They often use half points so it eliminates the possibility of a push.
For example, the line on the Patriots v Browns game may be set at 47.5 giving you a 2-way betting market on whether the total points will be Over or Under this amount.