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Understanding Vegas Odds: A Guide to Las Vegas Betting Lines

Publish Date: 16/05/2024
Fact checked by: Drew the DFS Guy

Think of Las Vegas odds as being like any kind of betting odds: they’re the bottom line of what the bookmaker is willing to offer you. Forget the glitz, glamor, and marketing – this is the stuff that really counts.

But don’t worry, all of this – both conceptually and practically – is easier than it’s often made to look. There’s nothing complicated about how to read Vegas odds, and there’s plenty of terrific betting sites providing excellent Las Vegas betting lines. You simply need to follow some key concepts to ensure you’re getting the best of the best while gambling online.

A general explanation of odds

Before we get into what Las Vegas odds mean in betting, it’s important that you comprehend the core concept of odds themselves.

On a practical level, odds are the numbers and symbols next to a betting market, you may click on them to add a market to your betting slip. What they represent is twofold.

For starters, there’s an implied probability which represents how likely a bookmaker thinks that event is.

So, for instance,

  • +300 has an implied probability of 25%.

This is something people often ignore, whether you’re talking Vegas betting lines or any other kind. But it’s strategically important because what you want to look for in the best betting odds are whether you think the bookmaker has got it wrong and has underestimated the likelihood of a market for the best chance at successful returns.

Speaking of which, returns are exactly what odds show you. They represent how much a bookmaker is willing to offer you in relation to your stake.

For instance, a successful dollar bet on a +300 odds market would net you $3.

The meaning of Vegas odds specifically

When a bookmaker tells you they have Vegas odds, essentially what they’re trying to advertise is that they have the most accurate and  up to date odds possible.

The name suggests that they’re odds created by Las Vegas bookmakers. How true this is doesn’t really matter. The digital online betting world makes physical geographics less relevant than it was during 1930’s Nevada, for instance.

Rather, it’s better to think of Las Vegas betting odds as the lines set by the most influential bookmakers in the United States – which are used as a key reference point by all other sportsbooks.

So, in practical terms, what does Las Vegas odds mean in betting? It means that the bookmaker you’re looking at is, at the very least, utilizing the most recent and competitive betting lines as their basis for setting odds.

Of course, the way in which Las Vegas odds can be used does depend on the sportsbook. They could be better or worse than the key benchmarks set, especially if promotions are involved.

It’s probably best to consider them as like an odds seal of quality (the legitimacy of this, of course, still depends on the quality and trustworthiness of the bookmaker themselves). It shows that they’re stepping up to the top betting industry standards for odds in the US.

How Vegas odds shares information

If a list of betting odds looks like it’s from an unknown language, the good news is that all that’s portrayed is very simple in concept and easy to understand.

There are essentially five key parts to even the most comprehensive Vegas lines, meaning that in moments, you’ll know how to read Vegas odds in detail.

To help clarify my points, I’m going to be using a match between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks as an example

  • 545 PHI 76ers +6.0 O 208.5 + 195
  • 546 NY Knicks - 6.0 U 208.5 - 240

Money lines

When people talk about Las Vegas odds, this is generally what they mean. These are American odds. You can see them represented above by plus and minus signs. Like all odds, this tells you how much you receive and indicates an implied probability.

Plus American odds are perhaps the easiest to understand because it tells you how much you would get if you bet $100. So, if you bet $100 on the Philadelphia 76ers, you’d get $195 in return.

Minus money lines show you how much you would need to bet in order to win $100. In this case, it’s $240. As this would suggest, the minus actually represents the favorite, while the plus sign indicates an underdog.

Rotation number

The number at the beginning of Vegas betting lines (545 and 546 in this case) is simply the unique number assigned to that betting line to avoid confusion over which market you’re looking at.

Many bookmakers don’t include this information but if you see a number at the start of all this info, that’s all this means.

Teams/Participants

This tells you who you’re betting on, whether that’s a team or an individual athlete. In this case, it would be the NY Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.

Point Spread

This tells you how much a sportsbook thinks a team will win or lose by. As you can see above, in this case, they think that the PHI 76rs will win by six points and the NY Knicks will lose by 6 points.

As far as practical uses, here it would mean that to win the points spread, Philadelphia 76ers would need to win by more than 6 points, while New York Knicks would merely have to not lose by more than six points for your wager to be a winner.

If either teams win or lose by the exact amount, then the wager is canceled.

This is a fantastic way of making lopsided contests interesting for the better using Vegas lines.

Over/Under amount

The final part refers to the over/under amount – this time, it’s set at over 208.5 for Philadelphia 76ers and under that amount for New York Knicks.

This tells you exactly what it sounds like, which is how many points the bookmaker thinks will be scored. You can bet on the amount set if your prediction goes over or under that amount.

Alternatives to Las Vegas odds

As this page is about Las Vegas betting odds, the most relevant type of odds are American. Those are the ones with the plus and minus signs at the start, as seen above.

But there are also alternatives – chief among them decimal and fractional. They’re also easy to understand and can use the same Las Vegas betting lines. They’re simply alternative ways of expressing the same thing.

For instance, here’s how some American odds would look if you looked at their alternative equivalents:

American odds Decimal odds Fractional odds Returns on a dollar bet
+200 3.00 2/1 $3.00
+500 6.00 5/1 $6.00
-100 2.00 1/1 $2.00
- 500 1.2.00 0.2/1 $1.20

Step by step: Ensuring you’re getting the best Las Vegas odds possible

Not only are Las Vegas odds easy to understand, but it’s also simple to find top Las Vegas betting lines and make the most of them.

Follow these five simple steps and you’ll have graduated from understanding what Las Vegas odds mean in betting to actually utilizing them.

Look for a bookmaker with Vegas odds and a quality reputation for odds competitiveness.

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Lots of great bookies prominently advertise that they use Vegas lines.

Find a market you’re interested in.

If you don’t understand how to read Vegas odds at a glance, that’s not a problem. Many will also let you toggle between odds types.

Place an example amount in the bet slip.

The bet slip will then tell you how much you’ll get as a return. You can then decide if that amount sounds fair to you.

Alternatively, you can use an online calculator for the implied probability.

This will tell you what the bookie thinks of the likelihood of that prediction and can really help you analyze the value of a bet.

Compare it to top competitors.

Las Vegas odds are only so good because they’re competitive. So, you can compare them against the returns offered by alternatives to check that is indeed the case. 

Conclusion: Las Vegas betting odds provide a benchmark of quality

All that matters from a practical perspective is that Vegas betting lines provide the industry with strong standards of competitiveness. It means your individual bookie needs to meet certain standards in order to stand toe-to-toe with the finest betting sites out there.

In other words, Vegas odds mean that if you choose a betting site with a reputation for high quality betting lines, then you can be pretty confident that you’re getting a strong deal in line with the best for that event.

FAQs

✅ Is it common for bookmakers to offer Vegas odds?

Yes. Las Vegas betting odds are essentially the standard for quality bookmakers in the US, meaning that their influence is felt pretty much everywhere if you’re utilizing reputable options.

In fact, you don’t really have to worry about finding ‘Vegas odds’ in particular, as even if they’re not explicitly advertised as such, they’ll very likely be meeting those standards assuming the odds are competitive. 

👍 Do Las Vegas odds mean I’m getting the best odds possible?

No bookmaker can guarantee they always provide the best odds available no matter the basis of their odds. However, Vegas betting lines and odds do mean they’re based on the top bookmakers in the US, all of which are extremely competitive.

So, if it’s legitimate, it should mean you’re getting very good odds and there’s often a very small margin between the absolute best amongst the top options. 

❓How are Vegas odds generally represented?

As the name suggests, Las Vegas odds are generally represented by American odds. These can easily be identified by the plus or minus symbol next to a number. This represents the money lines with the minus being the favorite and the plus option being the outsider.

Essentially, the minus amount shows how much you would need to spend to win $100, while the plus symbol tells you how much you would win if you bet $100.

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