College Football Betting: Juice

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

What is juice? Some call it “vig”–short for vigorish. Sounds like underworld talk. People hear bookies talking about “juice” or “vig” and you might be filled with a combination of curiosity and trepidation. Don’t be alarmed. They’re just cute terms for what is essentially a “house edge,” which exists in all forms of gambling.

On the roulette table, you can bet on which third the ball will land on. If you take the “first-twelve” spots and win, you get 2-1 back on your money. That would be equitable if there were only 36 slots on the wheel, but there is not–there usually 38 slots on a roulette wheel. Did you think casinos are amusement parks for adults? They set it up to make money at this.

No bookie is in this for your betting pleasure. You have to in essence pay for the privilege to bet on college football. That doesn’t mean you pay an upfront fee. But rather, you pay over the course of making your bets, which all have a built-in house advantage. What takes place is basically that your return will never match or surpass the actual odds of winning the bet. No matter how handsome the potential payout might appear, it always falls short of the true probability of actually winning the bet.

When betting sides or totals, the general money line is -110. A college football bet against the spread is theoretically a 50-50 proposition. The point-spread over-under is designed to even things out so that you pick a side or total. It’s an either-or equation. But the payouts do not reflect this 50-50 dynamic, do they?

If you were to make ten college football bets at $110 a pop, you have to do better than 50% to break even. If you bet $110 on ten games and won five of them, your return would be $1050 on your winnings. But you didn’t bet $1050–you bet $1100. And that is basically how the house earns money on straight college football wagers. You lose by picking 50% of your wagers correct when the odds of hitting the bet are in fact 50%.

And the juice on straight bets and totals are generous when compared to all other college football bets. When you start getting into prop bets, parlays, teasers and the like–you won’t usually even know what the true odds are. At least on straight bets, it’s spelled out for you to see–it’s -110. In the other bets where it takes Einstein to compute the probabilities, it’s hard to figure out where you stand. But be sure of one thing: the house has the edge. And the more exotic your bet, the likelihood of their edge increasing is quite great.


It’s one of the reasons experienced college football bettors steer relatively clear of exotic wagers like parlays. To play those types of bets is tantamount to basically signing up for the house to take a bigger edge and for you to pay more juice. Why willingly relinquish percentage points on wagers when the cards are already stacked against you?

It can be difficult to compute the odds on parlays and especially teasers. Some parlays, like the three-teamer, exist where a case can be made that there is less juice than a straight bet. A lot of times, one just assumes that the juice is reasonable. But when you get 600-1 for a ten-team parlay when the actual odds of winning that bet are over 1000-1, it’s clear to see that the wilder the bet–the bigger the juice.