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Learning How to Read Vegas Odds Like a Pro 1

A couple of days ago, Las Vegas sports books announced the playoff odds for the next seasons National Football League (NFL). This report is an analysis of how each team fared in the Vegas odds of one particular sports book.

Not just punters but many other people connected with sports eagerly await the publishing of these odds. Sports writers, journalists, fans and even team officials are keen to see these odds. Why? Because these odds tell them two things:

  1. The initial odds tell you how betting houses perceive the chances of each of the teams in the fray.
  2. These odds keep changing based on the bets that come in. The changing trends would indicate how the bettors are thinking about the chances of each of the teams.

Given the importance, betting houses employ substantial resources and time to arrive at these odds. They simply cannot afford to go wrong. When they do, bettors can lose out on millions.

However, most of the times they are right – not just about the results, but about many other things. That’s why, as the saying goes, the house always wins.

Here’s how you can win as a bettor, if not always, but most of the times.


Understanding Vegas Odds

Vegas odds is also known as American odds. Some other kind of betting convention is used in Europe, as well as across Asia. Vegas odds is the short form for “Las Vegas odds”.

Vegas Odds originally appeared on the big billboards in the sports book casinos in Las Vegas. You can now find them on newspapers, websites and mobile apps.

It comes in several formats, for example:

101 Golden State Warriors -110

102 Houston Rockets +140

Or it can be as following:

105 Toronto Raptors +9 -115

108 Philadelphia 76ers -9 -115

There will be something like this as well:

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat 201 -115

If you are a seasoned punter, these cryptic words and numbers must have informed many things by now. If you are fresh to this field, well, continue with your research. You can learn how to read Vegas odds in more detail over at


Types of Vegas Odds

Broadly speaking, there are three types:

  1. The Moneyline
  2. The Point Spread
  3. Totals

The Moneyline

It is the most common of odds – so common that if you do not specify the type of odds, they will by default assume that you are implying the moneyline.

How does it work?

It deals with winning and losing directly. In each game, there will be a favorite and an underdog. The odds are given like this:

101 Golden State Warriors -110

102 Houston Rockets  +140

So, what do these numbers mean?

The initial 101 and 102 are reference numbers. In other words, these are serial numbers for each bet. Just quote these numbers and place the bet. There’s no need to quote the team or any other thing. The reference number at the beginning takes care of that.

What are those -110 and +140? Minus 110 (or -110) indicates that you need to bet $110 to win $100. It does not have to be exact $110. You can bet $11 to win $10. Or you can punt $1100 to win $1000. For instance, suppose you bet $550 on the reference number 101. If Golden State Warriors win, as they usually do, you will end up with proceeds of $1050 (that is, $550+$500).

Plus 140 (or +140) indicates that you will win $140 if you place $100 and the result goes right. As in the earlier case, it does not have to be exact $100. You can bet $10 to win $14. Or you can punt 1000$ to win $1400. For example, imagine you are betting $500 on the reference number 102. If Houston Rockets win, you will end up with proceeds of $1200 (that is, $500+$700).

Lower odds with negative sign means the house overwhelmingly thinks that that particular team is the favorite. It also means that a large number of punters too are favoring that team to win. The betting houses ideally want to have an equal number of people betting for both the favorite and the underdog. That will ensure that there is no chance of them making a loss. They tweak the odds accordingly to even out the bets.

The Point Spread

It adds a new element to the moneyline – that of the winning margin. The odds look like the following:

105 Toronto Raptors -9 -115

108 Philadelphia 76ers +9 -115

The initial reference number is the same as in the moneyline. The final -115 is also the same. That is, you place $115 to win $100 (or any proportionate amount of the punt). What do those +9 and -9 signify?

It is the points difference that the bettors have to weigh in. Minus 9 (-9) means, in order for the bettor to win, Raptors need to beat 76ers by a margin of 9 points or more. The bettor will lose the bet if Raptors win by 8 points or less or if Raptors lose altogether.

Plus 9 (+9) means, for the punter to succeed in the bet, 76ers either need to win or need to lose by 8 points or less.

In both the bets, the winner will get a payout of $225 ($115+$100).


This does not involve any winning and losing. You bet on the total points scored. The Vegas odds will look like this:

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat 201 -115

The punter will win this if the total point (that is the combined points scored by both the teams in that game) goes above 201. As in the earlier cases, -115 mean that you win $100 if you place $115. The total eligible payout, if you win, will be $215 ($115+$100).


The Need to Analyze Vegas Odds

It is a bit like swimming. There’s only so much you can learn by simply theorizing. However, you will learn both a lot more and quicker when you actually do it. That’s why a seasoned golf writer decided to seek the help of a betting house veteran to predict the winners.

No bettor can expect to win always. The important thing is to bet smartly. The sports book’s initial odds gives you an idea about the favorites and underdogs. Most of the times, it is quite obvious. Occasionally, some sports books spring a surprise as well.

What is important is to watch out for the changes in the odds. It indicates, first, the new developments with regards to the team, for example, injuries or other influential news. Second, it suggests the way most of the other bettors are placing the bets.



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