Vegas Odds vs. Online Odds: How Do They Differ?
Mainstream media, hardcore handicappers, and casual sports bettors often look to the sportsbooks in Las Vegas as the gold standard for setting odds. That’s started to change, though.
Since the end of PASPA in 2018, legal sports betting has expanded around the country with both retail and online sportsbooks now open (or soon to open) in over a dozen states. That includes Virginia.
How do the odds you see at Virginia online sportsbooks differ from the Vegas odds? Are these “new” odds better or worse than the Vegas odds?
On this page we’ll answer your basic Vegas odds questions, compare Las Vegas odds to online odds in various sports and dig into how the two influence each other.
What are Vegas odds?
Vegas odds are the betting lines generated by sportsbooks and oddsmakers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For decades, the state of Nevada and its largest city, Las Vegas, were the hub of sports betting in the country. At various points, Nevada was the only place you could make a legal sports bet, and Las Vegas was the unchallenged mecca of sports betting in the US.
As a result, all of the best and brightest minds in more than 50 years of sports betting made their homes in Vegas. The lines on each game that these folks produced were both gospel and the only game in town, so if you wanted to know what you could bet on a game, you had to look at the Vegas odds.
Now that legal sports betting is spreading across the country, the influence of Vegas as the sole arbiter of sports betting odds has diminished. However, many top oddsmakers still call Las Vegas home, and the lines that they produce are still often the benchmark for bookmakers and sports bettors across the country.
Online odds vs. Vegas odds explained
So, you may be wondering about the source of the odds you see on Virginia’s online sportsbooks. You might think that the bookmakers here have just copied and pasted their lines from reports from Nevada.
Honestly, you may be right — especially for companies that have large Nevada operations. For a company like Caesars, it’s probably much easier to keep odds the same across the board.
However, sportsbook operators that are more independent – such as DraftKings Virginia or FanDuel – may generate their own lines in coordination with companies they partner with for oddsmaking. As is the case with all oddsmakers, the exact algorithm and formula that these bookies use in Virginia is both proprietary and hard to know.
As far as which odds are “better,” the Vegas odds or the ones created closer to home, the short answer is that “it depends.”
On the one hand, the experience that Vegas bookmakers can bring to bear in their lines is considerable, and you won’t find the major books in Vegas venturing far afield of one another.
Additionally, there may not be much difference for local sportsbooks. It’s not a requirement that a sportsbook generate its own odds in order to accept bets. Therefore, the more perfunctory members of the market might just pick one of the big players in the desert and go as the Nevadans do.
On the other hand, Virginia sportsbooks are much more susceptible to competitive pressure, since the competition is just a button press away at all times. So, depending on the sportsbook, the game and the situation, you might find some great online deals lurking on a Virginia sportsbook.
How to read Vegas odds
Trying to read a Vegas odds board can be quite overwhelming. Between the wall of listings, scads of numbers and color coding, you might not even be able to tell what you’re seeing.
However, it’s much easier to negotiate if you break down the different parts of each listing. If you know what you’re seeing, you can glean a ton of information from the board. Here are the different parts of a Vegas odds listing:
The very first thing that you’ll see are two consecutive numbers to the left of the teams’ names. These are called rotation numbers, and they merely serve to make it easier for both you and the cashier to identify the game you’re betting. Each rotation number or pair of numbers corresponds with a specific bet on the board for that day. In Vegas, rotation numbers tend to be the same in every sportsbook so that it’s easier to keep everything straight.
The teams or players competing against each other are the first part of any listing. After all, it’s no good to try to bet if you don’t even know who is playing. Sportsbooks may use abbreviations in these listings, so don’t hesitate to ask a book employee for clarification if you can’t figure out what a group of letters means.
The point spread will be denoted by a negative number next to one of the teams or players listed. The negative number indicates that competitor is the favorite in the match. The number’s value itself reveals the expected margin of victory that the favorite must exceed in order to pay out bets. The team without a negative number is the underdog and must lose by fewer points than the spread amount in order to constitute a winning bet. An underdog that wins the game outright is an automatic winner, too.
In the same column with the spread, you’ll see a listing for the totals bet. This type of bet is also called an over/under. The number listed is the sportsbook’s estimate for the combined number of points that the two teams (or players) will score in the game. A totals bet is whether the actual total will be over or under the estimate, hence the bet’s nickname.
The last column will be the two listings for the moneyline bets. The negative three-digit number denotes the favorite and will be on the same row as the negative point spread. The other number will usually be positive and denote the underdog.
Occasionally, you’ll see two negative moneylines, in which case the number closer to zero denotes the underdog. These numbers are payout ratios. The negatives tell how much a bettor must lay in order to win $100, while the positives are how much a $100 bet stands to win.
How accurate are Vegas odds?
Setting odds is a matter of balance. On the one hand, Vegas oddsmakers have the experience, sophistication and time to predict the outcome of games and matches with uncanny accuracy.
However, laser-focused odds may not draw as much attention from sports bettors — especially if the bettors in question are experienced and sophisticated about sports betting themselves. Sports bettors thrive on inefficiencies in the odds, and oddsmakers know that they have to offer a bit of meat to book the action.
In short, Vegas odds are pretty accurate, but not always entirely on the nose. Before you place any sort of bet, whether in Vegas or in Virginia, you should shop the lines on the bet you want to make and look for deals.
NFL Vegas odds
The source for most NFL game odds nationwide remains the major sportsbooks in Vegas. Though other states (like Virginia) now generate their own odds, many insiders and outside observers will still use the Nevada odds because of tradition, habit and consistency.
Because the NFL is such a limited league in terms of its number of games, Las Vegas sportsbooks will generate odds for every single game in a given week. The NFL attracts more bets than any other sport or league in the US, so the bookies focus as much attention as they can on generating equitable and appealing NFL lines across the board.
Virginia sportsbooks will also have lines and odds on every single NFL game. The potential for profit is too great to allow a single game to go by without booking action.
As far as the quality of the odds you’ll find, it all depends. Some Virginia sportsbooks will march in lockstep with a Vegas sportsbook and will be more than happy to tell you the source of their information.
Others will generate their own odds. Some of these homegrown odds will be opportunities for sports bettors, but others will be stingier than the lines from a Vegas-based book.
The more shopping for lines that you can do, the better chance you have of finding a great line on an NFL game. Since you have some time each week before the games begin, there’s no reason not to do your homework.
Vegas Super Bowl odds
The most-bet-on sporting event in the US is undoubtedly the Super Bowl. One of the most recent Super Bowls reported nearly $270 million in legal wagers alone, and untold millions or billions more changed hands off the books.
Needless to say, there are opportunities to bet on the Super Bowl at every single sportsbook, whether you’re in Virginia or Las Vegas. It’s the sportsbook equivalent of Black Friday at retail stores and malls.
One thing to realize, however, is that the Vegas odds on the Super Bowl are far more influential than you might think. The increased betting volume means that there are more casual bettors taking an interest in the game, and many of them will reflexively look to the desert for guidance about how the game might go.
In addition, the droves of media coverage that the Super Bowl attracts will report odds as a way to inform their reporting. In a similar manner to casual bettors, reporters unaccustomed to looking for odds will grab the first listings they see from Vegas.
NBA Vegas odds
Sportsbooks across the country generate odds for NBA games, too. It’s rare that an NBA game would pass without sportsbooks taking action on it.
Now, in terms of how the NBA odds you find in Vegas compare to the odds in other parts of the country, the answer is much the same as above. It all depends on how sportsbooks go about generating their lines.
However, divergence in oddsmaking is growing smaller with each year. Readily available odds and lines online mean sportsbooks don’t always have to go to the trouble of creating their own lines for the games. In other words, many sportsbooks have decided that the money required to get a “perfect” line is not worth spending if a “good enough” line is available for nearly nothing.
If you want to find NBA bets that are wildly different, look for more exotic options that not every sportsbook will have. In those cases, the bookmakers have to go to the trouble of making the lines themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not all, but most. Even if a sportsbook in Virginia is determined to set its own odds, it is likely to use Vegas numbers as a comparison. For the most part, the Vegas odds are still the benchmark for the industry.
Yes. There are a couple of ways to do so. For one thing, you can simply look for a sportsbook that has operations in Vegas. The odds will likely be the same across the entire company.
You can also look for a Virginia sportsbook that copies its odds from a Vegas sportsbook. It might take a little bit of digging, but you can probably uncover this information if you sift through the fine details of the site.
Vegas odds are desirable if you’re not in a place where you can do your own research. The oddsmakers set the lines so they appeal to everyone who sets foot in the sportsbook lobby. You also might use Vegas odds if you want to get a general idea about the predictions for the game in question.
It depends on what you mean by “better.” Because futures markets are usually longer in duration than prop bets, the odds that you see are going to be more accurate, generally speaking. If you’re looking for value or inefficiencies in the market, however, props are going to be the better opportunity.
No. It is illegal to use a Vegas sportsbook while you are in Virginia. Even if you were simply to make a phone call, you would find yourself in violation of the Wire Act.