How to Bet on Sports in Las Vegas – and Bring Vegas With You
These are boom times for the sports betting industry. Not only has online betting entered the mainstream, we’re seeing more and more action in Las Vegas, too. Business is so good, the Nevada Gaming Control Board gave the go-ahead this year on prop bets for the NFL Draft, and when that proved successful, they added the NBA Draft, too.
As business continues to pick up, your options for betting on sports in Las Vegas will more closely mirror those you’ll find online. Doing both is ideal; if you haven’t tried online yet, check out the betting industry’s best sportsbooks and see what you’ve been missing. And if you haven’t been to Vegas yet, here are a few tips to help you get started on your journey.
There was a time when you couldn’t bet on sports at the Las Vegas casinos. When Nevada legalized betting on horse racing and pro sports in 1949, the first sportsbooks that sprang up were called Turf Clubs, and they had a deal with the casinos to stay out of each other’s business. It wasn’t until 1975 that Frank Rosenthal and the Stardust Casino convinced lawmakers to change the system. That was the end of the Turf Clubs; now just about every casino in Vegas has a sportsbook.
Even if you love sports, stepping into one of these books can be intimidating at first – especially if you’re at the Westgate Superbook, which boasts the largest indoor video wall in the world. There are numbers flashing everywhere, for sports you may not have even heard about. Or you might find yourself at a smaller book where the odds are written by hand on a whiteboard, and they only have football, basketball and baseball. Either way, placing your bet is simple: Make a note of the Bet Number next to the team you want to put money on, then go up to the betting window and tell the clerk what bet you want to make. Easy-peasy.
It’s All About Balance
Okay, it’s a bit more complicated than that. If you’re not familiar with how the betting odds work, or even if you’re somewhat familiar, you should figure out what all those other numbers on the board mean. Start by putting yourself in the bookie’s shoes. You’re in the financial business, providing transactions to your customers who want to invest in certain teams or players. You set the prices, and you charge a transaction fee for your services.
In this case, the price being set is how much money your winning customers will receive on their bets. That’s were the odds come in. Let’s say there’s a big boxing match coming up between Mr. Sandman and Glass Joe. Mr. Sandman is a beast, and very likely to win this fight, while Glass Joe doesn’t have much of a chance. So you set the odds to make Mr. Sandman a heavy favorite, and Glass Joe a heavy underdog. If Mr. Sandman wins, any bets on him will deliver a small return on your customers’ investment, but if Glass Joe pulls off the upset, a winning wagerwill cash in big-time.
Here’s the part that most people don’t understand: As the bookie, you’re not making any predictions about who will win the fight. The odds you set are designed, for the most part, to strike a balance between how much money is being bet on either side. Then you can pay out the winning bets with the money wagered by the losing side, and keep the transaction fees (known as the juice, vigorish or vig) for yourself. If too much money is coming in on one side, you can change the odds and encourage more people to bet on the other side.
The Big Board
Now let’s switch roles again: You’re the customer walking into the sportsbook, and you want to bet on the big fight. Here’s what you might see on the board.
745 Sandman, M –800
746 Joe, G +500
The number on the left is the Bet Number, then you have the boxer’s name and his odds for the fight. Mr. Sandman is a –800 favorite, meaning you have to bet $800 to win $100, or $80 to win $10, or 8x to win x. Glass Joe is a +500 underdog, meaning you have to bet $100 to win $500, or x to win 5x. So let’s say you’ve done your homework and you think Mr. Sandman is vulnerable. You just walk up to the window and say “On Bet Number 746, I’ll put $100 on Glass Joe to win.” Then you hand over $100 and receive a betting ticket, which you hold onto and take back to the window to collect your winnings.
Other sports display their odds differently. The above example uses moneyline odds, but you might be more familiar with the point spread, which is commonly used in football and basketball. Here’s how that might look on the betting board:
837 Monstars –9 –110
838 Tune Squad +9 –110
In this case, the much larger Monstars have been made 9-point favorites against the spread, and the Tune Squad are corresponding 9-point underdogs. The “–110” on the right represents the vigorish; you’re betting $110 to win $100, no matter which side you pick. For a wager on the Monstars to cash in, they have to win the game by more than nine points, while the Tune Squad can lose the game by up to eight points and still pay out. If the Monstars win by exactly nine points, it’s called a push, and all bets are returned.
Again, these Las Vegas odds are very much like what you’ll find online, so if you need some practice, have a look at the top online sportsbooks and see how they present their odds. They’ll usually have extensive help guides, glossaries and FAQ lists to help you learn the ropes. You can also place bets that you still can’t make in Nevada, and of course, you can “take Vegas with you” wherever you go by using your mobile device. Many of the top professional handicappers do both, but even if your jurisdiction doesn’t allow online betting, these resources will help you figure out how to bet like a pro the next time you’re in Vegas.