California Odds vs. Vegas Odds – What’s the Difference?

The cachet of Vegas odds goes back to all of the years when Las Vegas was pretty much the only place to go in the United States to bet on sports.

Now, though, as more and more states legalize sports betting, how do the odds in those states stack up against Vegas odds? This could give us an idea of what to expect from California odds, because while sports betting is not legal in the state at the moment, that could change in the future.

What are California odds?

At the moment, there are no legal sports betting odds in California, as sportsbooks are not legal in the state. So while online sportsbooks such as DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, and Caesars are available in a growing number of states, at the moment, none of them have odds for betting in California.

However, if that changes, then the odds at legal sportsbooks in California would look much the same as odds at legal sportsbooks elsewhere. Online sportsbooks use oddsmakers and algorithms to set all of the lines you see when making your bets.

While these online sportsbooks aren’t based in Vegas, their odds are just as competitive. Why? Because online sportsbooks in other states use the same data, the same stats, the same trends and more to develop their sports betting lines. Many of the oddsmakers who work outside of Vegas are as experienced as any who are based in Sin City.

Are Vegas odds still a thing?

The lines available at Las Vegas sportsbooks are indeed still noteworthy around the world as some of the top betting lines available today. The history of Vegas being the central spot in the United States for sports betting over the course of decades means that many bettors and non-bettors alike consider the lines that come from there to be the gold standard.

While the growth of sports betting across the United States has created a wealth of new places to get odds and shop for lines, it hasn’t completely kept Vegas out of the game. The oddsmakers there are still some of the best in the world, and the odds they set still garner respect.

How do sportsbooks set odds?

Sportsbooks have to sort through massive amounts of data and news, statistics and trends and historical information, and even weather predictions to get the information they need to set lines for upcoming games.

However, it’s difficult to determine exactly how sportsbooks set odds if only for the fact that they employ their own oddsmakers who, in turn, use their own data sources, algorithms, and formulas to generate their lines.

Sometimes, such as in the case of futures like picking the next Super Bowl winner or who will be the NBA MVP, lines come out early and depend on very little information. That’s why you see such shifts in those odds as the year progresses and the event on which you are betting draws closer. More data becomes available, and more statistical and trending details emerge that allow oddsmakers to narrow down their lines and become more precise in their calculations and predictions.

In some cases, such as within states that have legalized online sports betting and have a large number of competing sportsbooks, the lines can be influenced to create more competitive numbers that are more attractive to bettors. That typically isn’t the case in Vegas, though public sports betting and new information will always play a factor in line shifts.

How to read odds

Both Vegas sportsbooks and online sportsbooks elsewhere in the US will default to the American odds format when listing their numbers. They work in a way that shows us the favorite and the underdog in a matchup by identifying them with negative and positive numbers, respectively.

Here is an example odds listing for an NFL game, similar to something you might find at a California sportsbook if the state eventually legalizes online sports betting:

Los Angeles Chargers-7.5 (-110)-160Over 45.5 (-110)
Las Vegas Raiders+7.5 (-110)+145Under 45.5 (-110)

To the right of each team, we see two numbers. The first is the point spread and the second, in parentheses, is the odds for the point spread. With point spread bets, the favorite (in this case the Los Angeles Chargers) must win by more than the spread number for bets on that side to win. If the Chargers win by that much or more, then bets on them will pay out based on the -110 odds. Those odds are the same for the Las Vegas Raiders, which need to either lose by seven points or fewer or win the game by any score for bets on them to pay out.

The next numbers we see to the right of the point spread are the moneyline odds. The negative number for the Chargers, -160, shows us they are the favorite to win the game. The Raiders moneyline odds of +145 indicates they are the underdogs. Your goal is to pick which team will win, and if you are right, then your payout will depend on your wager amount and the odds that were in place at the time you finalized your bet.

The final set of numbers shows us the totals bet, also commonly known as an over/under. This sets a line for the total combined score of the game. In this case, you just need to determine if the two teams playing will combine to score over or under that line of 45.5 points.

How to calculate payouts based on odds

In our above example, we have the Chargers at -160 on the moneyline and the Raiders at +145. Both calculate in a slightly different way from the other.

Looking at the negative odds, we can begin to calculate a payout if you bet on the Chargers at -160 and win. Negative numbers show the amount of a wager that would stand to win $100 back. So, in this case, a winning bet of $160 would pay out $260, which is the original bet plus the $100 in profit.

Positive odds, on the other hand, show how much we could potentially win if we choose the Raiders and they win the game. A bet of $100 on a Raiders win that comes to fruition would pay out $245, which is your original stake returned to you plus the $145 in winnings.

To be clear, though, you don’t need to wager that exact amount. You can choose how much you want to bet, and your potential payout will shift accordingly. For example, if you bet $75 on the Chargers, your potential payout would be $121.88, which is the $75 stake returned to you plus $46.88 in profit.

A bet of $425, on the other hand, would pay out $690.63, which includes winnings of $265.63.

Vegas odds vs. California odds: Which are better?

That’s likely always going to be a matter of preference. Some bettors may swear by Las Vegas odds, but odds at legal online sportsbooks in other states have proven to be competitive. If California legalizes online sports betting, the same will almost certainly be true there.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter which odds are “better” because you should always be shopping for the lines that are best for your own online betting strategy. By using multiple sportsbooks at the same time, you’ll be able to hunt through the lines for each of the betting options that interest you. By doing this, you can maximize your potential profit.

As for Vegas odds as a standard, you can always refer to them when you are doing your research. You could find some major value at an online sportsbook or CA sports betting app, when they’re legal of course, by identifying which Vegas odds are significantly different from those you have access to.

By using Vegas lines as a part of your handicapping and research process, you could potentially find bets that will give you better payouts simply by comparing lines and taking advantage of the values you do come across.

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