Online sportsbooks don’t usually mind too much who wins or loses a particular event. That's because they know that they themselves will make money over the long term. They can be sure of that because they are careful to offer slightly lower odds about outcomes than are warranted by probability. This enables them to keep a percentage of betting income for themselves. And that percentage is referred to as the ‘hold’. Our sports betting Hold Calculator is designed to help you see exactly how much the sportsbook is looking to hold in any given market.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what the hold is and why it’s important. We’ll also tell you how to calculate the hold in two different ways. The first is by using our sports betting Hold Calculator, and the second is by performing the calculation for yourself. Having both options to choose from enables you to get the hold information you need whenever you need it.
The ‘hold’ is the percentage of money that a sportsbook builds into each and every sports betting market. If the bookie can retain a small percentage of all money taken in bets, it will make good profits over the long term. This doesn’t mean that a sportsbook will always make money on every event, of course. But over the course of time, the sportsbook will should pay out less in winnings than it takes in bets.
Consider a betting market for a tennis match. There are just two players who are evenly matched. That means each player has a 1 in 2 or 50% chance of winning. In that case, the true odds for each player would be +100, 1/1 or 2.0. Depending on whether you prefer American, fractional or decimal odds.
Unfortunately, if a sportsbook were to actually offer those ‘true’ odds, and bettors staked an equal amount of money on both sides, the money paid out to winners would be equal to the money retained from losing bets. The sportsbook itself would have no profit from the event at all. And, therefore, nothing to help it cover its overheads. In short, if a sportsbook offered true odds in all events, it would never make a profit. It would eventually go out of business.
The hold (also known as the overround, vigorish, vig and juice) is essential for the sports betting industry to continue operating. If sportsbooks didn’t make money, they would cease to operate. And if sportsbooks ceased operating, bettors wouldn’t have anywhere to place their bets. We can therefore see that the hold is actually as good for bettors as it is for the sportsbooks themselves.
Of course, the importance of the hold for the continuation of the sports betting industry doesn’t mean bettors shouldn’t shop around. Bank charges are also important for the banks to make a profit, but some bank charges are fairer than others. Just as it makes sense to look at bank charges to make sure that you aren’t getting ripped off, so bettors should look at the hold in betting markets to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible. And that’s where our sports betting Hold Calculator comes in handy.
We have designed our sports betting Hold Calculator to be as simple to use as possible. That’s because you will want to be able to calculate hold quickly and easily, even in the hustle and bustle of a busy betting day. The result is that we have created a calculator which requires just two pieces of information and one or two clicks of your mouse button. Here’s our step-by-step guide to using it…
While most bettors will be working with American odds, it is also possible that you will want to calculate odds with fractional or decimal odds. You can of course use our Betting Odds Converter to quickly convert odds from one format to another, but we’ve arranged things so that you don’t have to. With the sports betting Hold Calculator, you can simply select the format of the odds you want to use for the calculation and any conversions will be taken care of automatically.
The next step is to enter the sportsbook odds for the outcomes in the event. For example, if a sportsbook is offering odds of -110 for Player A and odds of -110 for Player B in a tennis match, you would enter -110 for each outcome.
Having previously selected the odds format that you want to use, be sure to enter the odds properly:
When the sports betting Hold Calculator has been provided with the format used and the odds of the outcomes in that format, it will produce a result. The result will be expressed as a percentage, such as 4.55%, 6.48%, and so on.
It is a good idea to make a note of the result on paper, especially if you want to calculate the hold for several betting markets at the same time. This will make it easy for you to refer back to previous calculations without having to perform them again. Noting the results down will also make it easy for you to compare the hold figures from several different sportsbooks, as we will discuss later.
Our sports betting Hold Calculator is free and easy to use, but you might want to calculate the hold for yourself at some point. Or maybe you’d simply like to have a greater understanding of what the Hold Calculator is doing on your behalf. Whatever the case, the procedure for calculating the hold is described below:
First, you need to convert the available odds into the probabilities that they imply. For American odds, there are two ways of doing this - one for positive odds and one for negative.
When you have positive odds, take 100 and divide it by the odds plus 100. Then multiply by 100 to get a percentage figure.
For example, if the odds are +300, your calculation would be:
100 / (300+100) = 0.25
0.25 x 100 = 25.00%
When you have negative odds, take the odds number (ignoring the minus sign) and divide it by the same number plus 100. Then multiply by 100 to get a percentage figure.
For example, if the odds are -400, your calculation would be:
400 / (400 + 100) = 0.80
0.80 x 100 = 80.00%
When you have converted the odds to probabilities, add the probabilities together. If the book perfectly reflects the true odds of the outcomes concerned, the total will be 100%. In reality, this rarely happens, and the total of the probabilities will exceed 100%. That being the case, you need to subtract 100 from the result to isolate the percentage hold figure that the sportsbook has built into the market.
For example, if we add the 25% and 80% figures we calculated in the previous step, we would get a total of 105%. We would then deduct 100%. That leaves us with 5%, which is the hold figure.
Because we know that the odds being offered by the sportsbook are skewed, it is useful to know how to remove the hold and see what the bookie really thinks. To do this, take each probability figure in turn and divide it by the total book value, as explained in the previous section. Then multiply by 100 to give a percentage.
For example, you will recall that our probability values were 25% and 80%. You will also remember that the total book value was 105%. Our first calculation would therefore be:
25 / 105 = 0.2381
0.2381 x 100 = 23.81%
Our second calculation would be:
80 / 105 = 0.7619
0.7619 x 100 = 76.19%
We can therefore see that the bookmaker gives the first outcome a 23.81% chase of happening, and the second outcome a 76.19% chance of happening.
Now that you know how to use our sports betting Hold Calculator, as well as how to calculate hold for yourself, we can discuss how you might want to use this information to assist you as a bettor. There are a couple of ways in which the hold figure can help you to make more sensible betting decisions, so let’s take a look at each of the main ones in turn.
If you live in a state which allows you to bet with more than one online sportsbook, the chances are high that they will each offer slightly different odds. You can use the sports betting Hold Calculator to determine the hold at each sportsbook and then see which one is fairest, having the smallest hold. Of course, you might still want to bet with a different bookmaker in order to secure larger odds, depending on the outcome you want to bet on, but at least you’ll know the score.
When you perform the calculation to remove the hold from the market, you’ll see the genuine percentage chance of an outcome taking place, at least based on the bookmaker’s opinion. Armed with that information, you can shop around with other sportsbooks and look for odds that more closely match that chance. You might even find odds that exceed the percentage chance, especially if you want to bet on the underdog and the favorite is most of the attention from other bettors.
There is no single sportsbook that consistently builds the lowest hold into its markets. Of course, some may be better than others in particular sports, so we would advise you to monitor the hold in the markets you bet in and see if one particular sportsbook is more attractive to you than others.
A low hold figure only means that the market is offering fairer odds than one with a higher figure. Your chances of success are still dependent on making a correct prediction about the event. For example, your odds of predicting a coin toss are still 50% even if the hold is 0%.
While it is technically possible to find a market with a negative hold, it is extremely rare. Of course, if you stumble across such a market, it is well worth taking full advantage of!
The hold is what gives the sportsbook its profit. It is therefore necessary for sportsbooks to stay in business.
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