The vig, short for vigorish, is the amount of money taken out of the pools at the track before the winners are paid. For instance, if the bettors wager a total of $10,000 to win in a race, there is a total of $10,000 in the win pool. However, when the race is over and the winners are paid, $10,000 isn't the amount that gets distributed amongst the winners. It is far less because the track has to take out a certain amount that is determined by the state. That's the vig.
Part of the money that is taken out is paid to the state and the rest is the track's share. So let's say that the vig is 18% and there is $10,000 in the pool. After the race you would expect $8,200 to be distributed among the winners, right? Sorry, it's not that easy. You see, there is also breakage. What get's broken and how come you have to pay for it? Why doesn't the clumsy oaf who dropped it or sat on it and broke it pay for it?
No, no, breakage doesn't mean something actually got broke, it means that race tracks pay out in nickels and dimes, not pennies, so they get to round a bet down to the nearest nickel or dime. For instance, if a bet would normally pay $6.55, the race track gets to keep the nickel and you get $6.50. Talk about being nickel and dimed!
That breakage may not seem like much, but if you bet $100 and would receive $4.05 for every two dollars bet, but instead receive $4.00, you've just donated $2.50 to the track so their tellers don't have to deal with handling pennies. That's another 2.5% out of your winnings, too. That $2.50 can really add up after a while, especially if you are trying to make a living by betting on the horse races.
As if overcoming the vig isn't bad enough, there are other expenses involved in horse racing wagering. On the last day of January I decided to go the horse races. I wasn't interested in the races at Santa Anita, so I decided to play the simulcasts from Golden Gate Fields. I figured I'd go to Hollywood Park since they didn't have live racing there and it figured to be much less crowded.
However, what I didn't take into account was the fact that it was dollar day at Santa Anita so I could have gotten in for $1. When I got to Hollywood, they charged me $7 just for the privilege of going in and watching and wagering on simulcast races. Seven bucks right off the top before I even made a bet or bought a hot dog.
It is at times like these that I ask myself why I don't just go gamble in a casino where I can park and enter for free and also get a free meal after I've gambled for a few hours. $7 to bet on simulcast races? Then they have the nerve to complain because attendance at the races is declining. Gee I can't figure out why, can you? The last time I went to Santa Anita, I had to pay to park, pay to get in, pay for a racing form. By the time I was done I had invested a small fortune and hadn't even made a bet.
With all the ways there are to gamble or be entertained now, you would think the tracks would get a clue and start to help us horse players out. As money gets tighter, and it is, the tracks are really going to have to start being creative. Horse players can sit in their own homes now and play the races over the internet. While some of those services do charge you to deposit money, another sore subject with me, at least you are at home and not paying to get into a race track that isn't even offering live racing.
Well enough of the ranting and raving, I think you get the idea and I hope the race tracks do, too. I'd hate to see racing fade any more than it already has but if it does, it will be because management dove it into the ground. They have a thrilling, live drama, that people can bet on and take part in as gamblers. It is a great product but they can ruin it if they don't start trying to offer more to the players.
Back to the vig. My expenses for the day were the gas I put in my car to get to the track, the $7 I paid for the privilege of entering the track, the past performances I bought so I could handicap the races, the food I bought while I was at the track. By the time I was done, my expenses were $20. Add that to the breakage and vig and you can see that I would have to make some very good bets that paid well in order to make a profit that made a day of handicapping and travel worthwhile.
That is what you are up against if you are trying to make a profit from betting on horse races, so here is some advice. Cut your costs as much as you possibly can. Get the deals online for past performances. Place your wagers through whatever venue is legally available to you and watch all those incidental expenses that eat away your profit.
It is possible to make money from betting on horse races, but there will always be people who are trying to take as much of it away from you as they possibly can and the first ones standing in that line are the tracks themselves.
Enjoy your days at the races.