Sports Betting Margins Explained

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2022-10-19

Online sports betting sites are in the business of offering betting lines. On the other hand, sports bettors wager on these lines with the hope of winning on a given profitable sport. Of course, no bookie offers their services freely – they have to make profits just like any other business. The only way a sportsbook can make money is by creating margins. Yet, surprisingly, many bettors remain unaware of what margins entail.

Sports Betting Margins Explained

Anyone betting on sports must understand the fundamentals of margins to increase their chances of winning. This article discusses betting margins and their significance to punters wagering in sporting events.

What Are Sports Betting Margins?

It is common to find most online sports betting sites claiming to offer the best odds. But unfortunately, not all these claims are valid. So, how can a punter tell which bookmaker is telling the truth? Simple. By understanding how margins work.

What is a margin? A margin is a difference in the value of odds offered by a bookie and the actual probability of a given outcome. In truth, there should always be a difference between these two values, which is often viewed as a 'fee' to place any given bet. Moreover, margins give bookies an edge over the player irrespective of the outcome.

When a bookie is pricing a market, they will carefully set odds in a way that is attractive to both sides of the market. Achieving this balance makes players wager on either outcome, thus helping the betting site balance liability.

However, margins do not, in any way, guarantee a sportsbook that they will make a profit. There are instances when a bookie can lose if they find themselves on the wrong side of an unbalanced line.

Why Should Bettors Understand Margins?

Sports betting margins are usually set at about 5% in most cases. But this seemingly small percentage ensures that a bookie remains in business. On the other hand, when playing at online sports betting sites with higher margins means they pay more when they lose and earn less when winning.

For instance, two sportsbooks with margins of 4% and 4.4% might seem to have an almost similar margin. But even the slightest difference should be considered significant, given the thin line between winning and losing in sports. 

The difference between profiting and losing is usually about 52%, and the average bookie charges 5%. This means that only punters who win 52% of even bets can pay the bookie their cut. While a win rate of 52% might not seem hard, it is a feat that continues to puzzle millions of bettors who insist that they can even better that.

It is worth noting that bookmakers offering low margins do not necessarily have to give the highest odds.

Calculating Betting Margins

Simply looking for small margins seldom helps. Sports bettors should be in a position to calculate margins. Calculating margins on any bet is usually not as simple as ABC for most bettors. It takes more than just looking for sports betting tips.

Unlike the popular noting that people bet on their favorite teams or sports, but wager against the bookie and odds. So how does one calculate margins? Simple:

  • For a 2-way event: Margin = (1 / decimal odds for Option A) + (1 / decimal odds for Option B) - 1
  • Application: When calculating the margins of an Over/Under 2.5 goals bet in soccer, the odds on Over 2.5 goals are 1.66 while those for Under 2.5 goals are 2.02. Our calculations will look the following way:
  • (1 / 1.66) + (1 / 2.02) – 1 = 0.0974

Expressing the answer as a percentage: 0.0974 x 100% = 9.74%

This bet has a margin of 9.74, which is certainly not so good for any bettor.

Finding the Best Margins

It is in a player's best interests to find a bookie with a reputation for providing low margins. A simple online search can suffice, but some players prefer using margin calculators or bookie ranking websites. Due diligence is significant when scouring the internet for the best margins, considering that even the most reputable websites do not consistently offer low margins in every market. But they are known for having lower margins than other competing websites.

It is unwise to gamble anywhere than with a bookmaker with low margins. After all, lower margins are critical in improving a player's prospects in the long haul.

Final Thoughts

Margins are a 'necessary evil' in the betting industry. Without margins, the sportsbook will be unable to offer its services. However, this does not mean that bettors have to settle for any margin. Players should always be keen to locate bets with the lowest margins when placing wagers along with other sports betting tips.

Besides low margins, punters should also pay attention to other offerings that make online sports betting worthwhile. Such include the variety of betting markets, availability of generous bonuses, banking options, and the quality of customer service. A sportsbook that ticks all the right boxes and still offers low margins is considered 'ideal' as far as placing wagers online goes.

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