Is There a House Edge on Sports Betting?

Sportsbook - Pie Chart - Payment Money

Sports betting is one of the few forms of gambling that can actually offer a long-term edge. If you become skilled enough and can consistently beat the bookies, you’ll win profits.

Of course, accomplishing this feat is no easy matter. Nevertheless, sports gambling does provide an opportunity to win profits under ideal circumstances.

That said, sports betting doesn’t technically have a house edge. However, you could say that it features a house advantage when looking deeper into the matter.

This post explains why sports gambling has something of a house edge. It also discusses tips for overcoming the bookies’ advantage.

Sports Gambling Isn’t Quite Like Casino Games

When you hear the term house edge, you might immediately think of casino games. All casino games favor the house to some degree.

American roulette, for example, features a 5.26% house advantage. You’ll lose $5.26 for every $100 wagered on average with this game.

Sports betting is and isn’t like casino games in this regard. It does favor the bookmaker in the end, but it doesn’t give sportsbooks a static advantage.

This bookies’ edge changes depending upon the bet type and the bettor’s skill. A bad sports gambler who’s wagering on parlays, for example, is at a tremendous disadvantage.

After all, sportsbooks take more juice (vig)—the amount taken from the losing side—out of parlays than any other bet type. The juice can be over 30% with some of these wagers.

Meanwhile, a highly-skilled bettor who’s wagering on point spreads and totals (both 10% juice on average) has a stronger chance to win. If their skill level is high enough, they may even hold the edge over bookies.

You Could Still Say that Sports Betting Has a House Edge

As covered so far, sports betting doesn’t have a traditional house advantage. Nevertheless, it does feature a house edge In some manner.

Here’s how to determine the sportsbooks’ advantage on point spreads and totals with 10% vig:

Miami Dolphins
+3.5 (-110)
Buffalo Bills
-3.5 (-110)
  • You bet $110 to win $100 on the Dolphins.
  • Another gambler bets $110 to win $100 on the Bills.
  • 110 + 110 = $220 in total wagers
  • You win the bet and $100; the other gambler receives $0 for losing.
  • The sportsbook keeps a $10 profit (from the losing side).
  • 10 / 220 = 0.045 (or 4.55%)

Going by this math, bookmakers have a 4.55% house edge (a.k.a. overround) on common totals and point spreads. This figure lies somewhere between what the average online slot (4% house edge) and American roulette (5.26%) features.

As alluded to before, the house advantage can change based on the type of bet. Parlays are at the high end of the spectrum—especially 4-team parlays and above.

Moneylines, point spreads, and totals are at the lower end of the spectrum. As for moneylines, their house edge varies based on the specific wager.

You can find moneyline calculators across the internet that allow you to quickly figure out the vig for each bet. Here’s an example on how this works:

  • The Cleveland Browns (+135) are playing at the Pittsburgh Steelers (-155).
  • You enter these odds into the calculator.
  • The calculator shows that the house edge/overround is 3.23%.

How Do You Overcome the Sportsbook’s House Advantage?

No matter if you’re making a moneyline or parlay wager, you’ll be at a disadvantage to the bookmaker. Unlike with casino games, though, you can drastically reduce this disadvantage through certain means.

By dedicating enough time and effort to the matter, you can even become a winning long-term bettor. The following tips will put you on the right path towards overcoming the overground.

Consider Arbitrage Betting

Arbitrage betting (a.k.a. “arbing”) involves looking for favorable price differences at various sportsbooks. The goal is to find a line difference that guarantees a profit.

Here’s an example:

  • You bet $100 on the Chicago Bulls at -135 at Sportsbook A.
  • You bet $65.70 on the Detroit Pistons at +165 at Sportsbook B.
  • Your total stake is $165.70.
  • You stand to win $174.10.
  • 174.1 – 165.7 = $8.40 profit

An arbitrage calculator helps you figure out the basics of this concept. Many arb calculators exist online.

However, you won’t be able to consistently find arb opportunities yourself. Sportsbooks change their odds too quickly for this method to be efficient. You’ll need a dedicated software program to consistently find potential arbs.

Aside from needing to use software, you also risk being banned for arbing. Betting sites employ algorithms to spots potential arbers.

Nevertheless, you might still consider arbitrage betting if you’re really serious about profits. You may just get away with arbing for a long time too.

Be Patient and Wait on the Right Bets

Mobile Betting FeatureSportsbooks offer countless wagers on a daily basis. This is especially true when including live betting in the mix.

However, you certainly don’t want to let this wealth of opportunities tempt you. Uninformed bets, especially in mass quantity, could cost you lots of money.

You should be patient and wait for the right prices. If you’re interested in wagering on a particular side yet don’t see the right odds, then you should wait. Assuming this opportunity never comes along, you should simply move on and wait for another chance.

Avoid Sucker Bets

As covered previously, parlays are among the worst wagers in sports betting. They only get worse when you add more teams to the mix.

Of course, parlays are the only wagers that you need to watch out for. Many proposition bets also feature unfavorable prices.

You should always consider the juice on each type of wager. Higher juice means that you’ll be facing a higher house advantage. Furthermore, you’re less likely to win money from these bets over time.

Take Advantage of Bonuses

Many online sportsbooks offer welcome bonuses. For example, a betting site might offer a risk-free bet worth up to $250.

In this case, your first wager comes with insurance. If you lose this initial wager, you’ll receive matching bet credits.

Many sportsbooks offer additional promotions beyond the welcome deal. They may feature more risk-free bets, deposit bonuses, and loyalty rewards. All of these deals can boost your bankroll and give you a better shot at winning profits.

Exercise Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is important no matter if you’re a recreational or serious gambler. It helps you manage betting funds in a controlled manner.

If you have any hope of becoming a long-time winner, you’ll need to be disciplined with your bankroll. This way, you never put too much of your funds at risk at one time.

A good method involves never wagering more than 1% to 3% of your bankroll at once. You can bet the latter range when you’re more confident in a particular match.

Follow the Sharp Money

Sharps are highly skilled bettors that convince bookmakers to move lines with their action. If you can follow the sharp money, then you have a stronger chance of winning.

Steam moves provide an indication on what the sharps are wagering on. A steam move refers to when multiple bookmakers rapidly move the same line.

It indicates that multiple sharps have bet on one side of a line. These sportsbooks, meanwhile, want to ensure that other sharps don’t take advantage of the same odds. By spotting steam moves, you too can wager on the same side before some betting sites change their odds.

However, you also need to look out for reverse steam moves. Sometimes, one or more sharps will wager on a certain side. Once a steam move happens, they bet even more on the other side.

They do this to get the perfect price on a certain side. That said, you at least want to be mindful that the reverse steam moves can happen.

Try Becoming a Sharp Yourself

Ultimately, you’ll develop the skills and knowledge to become a sharp yourself. This way, you will spot opportunities yourself and not have to rely on steam moves and arbitrage betting.

Of course, becoming a market mover is no easy task. Sharps know the ins and outs of leagues along with the intricacies of sports gambling.

With luck, you’ll meet a sharp that you can shadow someday. Otherwise, you will need to spend a tremendous amount of time developing your betting skills.

Master the Smaller Markets

Oddsmakers are best at crafting tight lines for the biggest games and leagues. They don’t offer much, if any, edge on the Super Bowl or high-profile March Madness games.

Of course, you can always try to beat these games anyways. You’ll have a much tougher time doing so, though, then if you just focus on smaller markets.

Throwing Darts

Badminton, darts, greyhound racing, and volleyball are examples of less-glamorous sports. While they draw enough action to be represented at sportsbooks, they still don’t get enough attention from oddsmakers.

You stand an easier chance of gaining an advantage by focusing on smaller markets. You won’t be able to bet as much on these sports, but you’ll at least have a stronger opportunity to win.

Keep Track of Your Results

Records indicate how well you’re doing against the bookmakers. That said, you’ll definitely want to record your betting results.

Some of the information that you can track includes:

  • The stake
  • Date
  • Bet type
  • Odds
  • Result
  • The sportsbook
  • Your thoughts going into the wager

You can either write this information down in a notebook or record it on your computer or smartphone. Either way, recordkeeping is a good practice to get into as a bettor.

How Do You Find the Lowest Sports Betting House Edges?

Some sportsbooks are known for offering lower juice than others. Therefore, you’ll face a lower house edge/juice when wagering with these bookmakers.

The catch, though, is that these sportsbooks don’t offer bonuses and promotions very often. They already feel that they’re providing quality deals with the low vig.

If you’re into betting for the long haul, though, you should still consider these sportsbooks. The low juice gives you a great chance to win money.

Top Sportsbooks

Conclusion

Sports betting doesn’t feature a house edge in the traditional sense. However, you might still consider that betting carries a house advantage when accounting for the vig.

Sportsbooks’ average overround is 4.55% on typical point spreads and totals. They hold between a 4% and 5% advantage on many moneylines.

These house edges are why the vast majority of sports bettors lose in the long run. Luckily, you can reduce the overrounds you’re facing and even win profits under ideal circumstances.

You will need to put lots of work into becoming a winning better. The good news, though, is that it’s still possible to become a successful sports gambler.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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