How Does a Bookmaker Make Money?


The basic mechanics of booking a sports bet involves money being wagered on one outcome or the other when it comes to a particular matchup or event. There can only be one of three possible outcomes; the person making the bet wins their wager, loses their wager or the matchup/event ends as a tie which is known as a PUSH in the betting industry.

The bookmaker is the person taking the bet, which is also known as ‘action’ and they face the same three possible outcomes. They either have to pay the bettor the amount wagered, keep the money bet or call it a wash if there is a tie. The trick to making money as a bookmaker lies in the commission they charge to take that bet.

When it comes to betting on sports the commission that is charged to a book a bet is called vigorish or vig for short. Sometimes this is also referred to as the ‘juice’ a bettor has to pay to place a bet. The standard vig on a sports bet is 10 percent. This means that a $100 bet will actually cost a bettor $110 if they lose. If they win, they will collect the $100 owed.

Even the top professional handicappers in the world sometimes struggle to make the correct pick in 60 percent of the selections they make. This already gives the bookmaker a built-in edge given the fact that the betting public in general are wrong far more times than they are right when it comes to the bets they make.

The real trick to making money as a bookmaker is to take action that results in an even amount being bet on either side of a game. This way they can sit back and collect the 10 percent on the losing side. Unfortunately, this can be hard to do given the betting public’s infatuation with wagering on favorites. The point spread in sports such as football and basketball is designed to be the great equalizer, but the majority of the money that is bet on the games still tends to gravitate towards whichever side is favored. The plus side to this scenario is that many times the favorites fail to cover that point spread which in turn can result in a huge windfall of profit for the bookmaker.

The key to maximizing your profit potential as a bookmaker is to actively monitor the betting action coming in on any particular game and then reacting accordingly by moving the betting line in whichever direction is needed to try and balance out the total money bet. This is also true for any bets on the total line as far as the UNDER and the OVER on the final score.

For example, if the Dallas Cowboys open as seven-point favorites against the Washington Redskins and the betting public jumps all over Dallas, the bookmaker will widen that spread in an effort to bring in some action on the Redskins. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. This is why it is extremely important that a bookmaker tries to strike a balance with all the action coming in. They might get clobbered on the Cowboys’ game if Dallas wins by more than the spread, but if the overall action they booked on all of that day’s games is balanced on both sides, they will still make the money on the 10 percent vig.

Given the nature of sports betting, there are going to be good days and bad days for bookmakers, but there is a reason why there are so many sportsbook outlets in the industry today. Over the long haul, that 10 percent is still collected on all losing bets and fortunately for bookmakers there are plenty of losing bets to go around.