What It (Really) Takes to Win at Sports Betting in the Long Run


To break even as a sports bettor, you need to win 52.48% of the time. Professional sports bettors win their bets 53%+ of the time to make a profit. And even the best only win 55% of the time.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Even if you can come up with a simple winning system that you can use repeatedly, you must also be able to get enough action from the sportsbooks to make a decent return on your investment. Vegas sportsbooks limit most bettors to wagers of $10,000 or $20,000 per game. Online sportsbooks have even lower maximum bets–$1000 or $2000 per game is common, although some properties have limits of $5000 or even $40,000.

I’ll go into more detail about the implications behind these numbers where appropriate in the individual strategies below.

But for now, know this—you can win money betting on sports in the long run.

Here’s what it takes:

1- Stop Paying Vig

If you’re a complete novice, you might not be familiar with what the “vig” is. It’s an abbreviation for “vigorish,” and it’s the main reason bookmakers are profitable. Another expression used to describe this concept is “juice.”

Here’s a quick definition of these terms:

The difference between the amount you’re wagering and the amount you stand to win is the vig.

For ExampleWith a lot of bookmakers, you’re required to wager $110 to win $100. The extra $10 is the vig.

Here’s what that does to your results:

Most bookmakers set the point spread at a point where you have a 50% chance of winning a bet. If you win $100 half (50%) of the time, but the book wins $110 half (50%) of the time, who makes money in the long run?

Let’s say you bet $1,000 each on 10 games a week. This means you’re wagering $11,000 on those games. (The extra $1,000 is the vig.) You win half of them and lose half of them.

  • Your gross loss is 5 X $1,100, or $5,500. Your gross win is 5 X $1,000, or $5,000.
  • Your net loss is $500.

Let me back up and explain the point spread for a minute.

Only rarely can you place a bet on a football game that doesn’t account for who the favorite is. The point spread takes this into account. The favorite must win by at least a specified number of points to be considered the winner. The underdog can lose, but if the team loses by less than the expectation (the spread), you still win your bet.

Books do this to make a profit. If they didn’t account for which team was stronger, everyone would put their money on the stronger team. The book would lose money.

And they’re not in business to do that.

The point spread is indicated by a number next to the team’s name.

Here’s An ExampleThe Dallas Cowboys are playing the Washington Redskins. Dallas is favored to win by at least 3 points. The listing for that game would look like this:

Dallas Cowboys -3 Washington Redskins +3

To win a bet on the Dallas Cowboys, they’d have to win by at least 3 points. If they only won by 1 or 2 points, your bet would lose, and vice versa.

The bookmakers’ goal by including a point spread is to get 50% of their bets on each side of the game—that way they’re guaranteed a profit regardless of who wins.

Now let’s think about what you must do to show a profit:

I already explained that if you wagered $10,000 and won 50% of the time, you’d lose $500.

I also already explained that if you wagered $10,000 and won 52.38% of the time, you’d break even.

If you wagered $10,000 and won 53% of the time, you’d generate a small profit. You’d lose 47% of $11,000, or $5,170. You win 53% of $10,000, or $5,300. Your net profit on that action would be $130. (The return on investment with that win percentage is 1.2%.)

If you wagered $10,000 and won 55% of the time, you’d generate a larger—but still small—profit. You’d lose 45% of $11,000, or $4,950. You’d win 55% of $10,000, or $5,500. The net profit on that kind of winning percentage is $550, which is an ROI of 5%.

But what happens to your return on investment if you’re not paying any vig at all?

If you win 50% of the time, you break even. This is the default setting—you should win 50% of the time if the point spreads are accurate (which they usually are).

If you win 53% of the time, you’d see $5,300 in winnings and $4,700 in losses, for a net win of $600. Your return on investment is 6%.

If you win 55% of the time, you’d see $5,500 in winnings and $4,500 in losses, for a net win of $1,000. Now your return on investment is 10%.

These numbers might seem small, but keep in mind that these are short-term investment returns. Most investors would be thrilled to see a 10% ROI on their investment over a year’s time. If you can see a consistent ROI of 10% week over week, you can double your money every 7 or 8 weeks.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s the progression:

  • Week 1 – You bet $10,000, win a net of $1,000, so you have $11,000 to bet in week 2
  • Week 2 – You bet $11,000, win a net of $1,100, so you have $12,100 to bet in week 3
  • Week 3 – You bet $12,100, win a net of $1,210, so you have $13,310 to bet in week 4
  • Week 4 – You bet $13,310, win a net of $1,331, so you have $14,641 to bet in week 5
  • Week 5 – You bet $14,641, win a net of $1,463, so you have $16,105 to bet in week 6
  • Week 6 – You bet $16,105, win a net of $1,611, so you have $17,716 to bet in week 7
  • Week 7 – You bet $17,716, win a net of $1,772, so you have $19,488 to bet in week 8
  • Week 8 – You bet $19,488, win a net of $1,949, and you end up with $21,437. You’ve more than doubled your money at this point

Keep in mind that this represents the progression for someone who’s winning 55% of the time with no vig. If you’re paying a vig, your ROI is only 5%. This means it will take you over 14 weeks to double your money instead of 8.

That’s a big difference.

But you’re probably thinking, okay, smart-pants—but how do I stop paying vig?

Chances are you won’t be able to get away from the vig entirely, especially if you’re putting a lot of money into action each week.

To avoid paying vig, find other sports bettors who are willing to take your action with no vig. It’s that simple.

The more people you know who are willing to give you action, the more you’re able to increase your ROI every week.

Of course, I’m pre-supposing that you’re able to win more than 50% of the time.

I’ll have more to say about that later in this post.

Where do you find people who are willing to bet with you?

That’s the trick. I suggest asking people you work with. Ask the people you hang out with in your local bar, too. Anyone you socialize with on a regular basis is a good idea.

The effect on your ROI of betting with no vig is hard to overstate.

2- If You Can’t Pay No Vig, Find a Lower Vig

Realistically speaking, if you’re successful at sports betting, you’ll eventually run out of options for betting without a vig. You just won’t find enough buddies who are willing to put money on games with the kind of volume you’ll need.

Your next step is to start shopping around for “low vig” or “reduced juice” opportunities. These are sportsbooks who offer action where you risk $107 or $105 to win $100 instead of risking $110. You might even be able to find better deals than this, but $107 and $105 are relatively common.

Also, keep in mind that when dealing with online sportsbooks, it’s common to find companies which do the opposite. You can find bookmakers on the Internet who also make you risk $120 to win $100.

Not only do you want to avoid bookmakers who charge a higher vig, but you want to shop around for those that offer lower vig.

In fact, it’s easier to increase your ROI by paying less vig than by doing anything else. (Unless you’re a losing bettor, in which case you need to get good enough to start winning. More on that later in this post.)

But how do you get a lower vig?

Where can you find reduced juice?

The quickest and easiest way to find online bookmakers offering a lower vig is to Google the phrase “reduced juice sports bets.”

Here’s what you’ll find when you do that:

About half the pages in those results will be from guides to gambling or sports betting. When I searched for the phrase today, the top result was one of those. On that page, you’ll find 3 recommendations for books that offer reduced juice.

The rest of the pages on the list consist of informational pages on actual sportsbook sites. Some of these are richly detailed, like the page from Bovada.

As that page points out, you want to look out for bookmakers who reduce the juice while adjusting the line. In other words, it’s only a discount on the vig if you’re getting the same bet. If the book has a different point spread that makes it harder to win, you haven’t gained anything.

Having accounts at multiple online bookmakers is a good idea. Almost all of them run specials on regular schedules. Some of them even offer reduced vig during certain hours, like the overnight vig from 5Dimes.

Finding a reduced vig sports book in Vegas (or another gambling destination) is also possible. It takes some shopping around to find these opportunities, though. Of course, that discussion is at least 3 years old, so you can’t count on any of those offers to still be available. My suggestion is to call each of the books in the city and ask them about reduced juice and/or discounted vig specials. Many times, the discounted vig is only available on special days of the week or during specific hours.

I did the math for the difference between betting with the standard vig and without any vig at all in the last bullet point. Suffice it to say that betting with a reduced vig will provide an improvement in your long-term results, but not as big an improvement as betting with no vig at all.

3- Look for Any Edge You Can Find, No Matter How Small

When you’re looking at your results over the course of a season or over the course of a year, the smallest of edges add up dramatically.

Professional sports bettors look for any and every edge they can find, regardless of how small it might be. The cumulative effect of these small edges is reflected in their long-term ROI.

Professional sports bettors also never stop looking for an edge. They compare all their betting options to find the best ones each week.

Taking advantage of weak lines is just one way to get an edge. Most bookmakers are quick to correct a line that’s a little out of whack.

That’s one reason you need multiple ways to find an edge. You can’t count on being a better handicapper than the sportsbook’s handicapper for long.

Note:In fact, it’s safe to say that the Vegas oddsmakers will almost always be a step ahead of you.

Your options for getting those small edges are many. One is to study specific sports and trends in that sport. Track any and every statistic related to that sport that you can. Taking a class or two in statistics won’t hurt, either.

Another option is to find a tout service you have faith in. (A tout service is a company which sells picks for a fee.) Most tout services are worthless, but not all of them.

But even if you find a tout service that can help you win more often, you must account for the cost of that tout service when calculating your ROI.

You can usually buy picks for an entire season of a sport for a little less than $1,000. You’ll often find sites which also offer discounts if you buy multiple sports—you might be able to get picks for an entire season of NFL football and an entire season of NBA basketball for $1,500.

When calculating your ROI, that $1,000 or $1,500 is added to your losses side.

I recommend a healthy dose of skepticism when dealing with tout services, too. Some of the warning signs that a tout service is illegitimate include:

  • Lack of complete contact information on their website
  • Lack of participating in an independent monitoring program
  • High-pressure sales techniques
  • Bait and switch tactics of any kind

One tactic they don’t mention that I see commonly is unrealistic winning percentages. Any tout service that’s claiming a success rate of over 60% is using a tiny sample size or outright lying. A more realistic figure to look for is 54% or 55%.


This post offers 3 big suggestions for how you can win at sports betting in the long run. In case you didn’t notice, it had a lot to do with numbers. Understanding the math behind sports betting is a prerequisite to being a long-term winner.

You might think I spent too much time talking about vig. You might even be right.

But here’s the thing:

The vig is what’s standing in the way of a winning sports betting career for most people.

If you’re a recreational gambler, you might not need to worry about the vig at all. But if you want to be a sports bettor who wins consistently, you absolutely MUST take that into account.

After that, it’s all about finding an edge.

Jim Beviglia
Get in touch with Jim
About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at LegitGamblingSites.com since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.