6 Ways Las Vegas Sportsbooks Make Money Off Mistakes

By in Sports & Betting on
7 Minute Read

Sports betting has always been a booming business in the Silver State, and even as legalization sweeps the nation, nothing has changed in Nevada. According to the state’s Gaming Control Board (NGCB), a total handle of $641 million in March of 2021 was the third-highest ever recorded. Of that nine-figure sum, local sportsbooks managed to squeeze out a win of $39.3 million, good for a hold rate of 6.14%.

Interestingly enough, despite the average sports bettor getting smarter and savvier over the last few years, Las Vegas bet shops consistently win at the same clip. Dating back to June of 2018, the state’s average monthly hold rate has hovered at a nearly identical 6.27%. To explain why that is, check out the list below to learn about the various ways Sin City sportsbooks count on bettors to beat themselves.

1 – Opting for Risky Parlays Instead of Safer Bets

If you follow any of the major bookmakers — William Hill, Westgate SuperBook, or Circa Sports for example — you’ll quickly notice one consistent theme: parlay praise.

The sportsbooks love to toot the proverbial horn whenever a bettor beats massive odds against to cash a big parlay bet. For folks who aren’t aware, a parlay wager is simply any bet that connects several outcomes together on the same ticket. You can only win when all* of the “legs” of your parlay wind up winners. But when they do, you’ll earn a hefty premium on your money thanks to increased payout odds.

*If any legs end up in a tie, the “push” simply removes them from the ticket, so players can still win if all settled results are winners.

In the most basic example, consider two games which both offer (-110) moneyline odds on the favorite. You could back both favorites for $50 each, and if both wind up as winners, you’d receive $45.45 apiece back in profit for a total haul of $90.90.

On the other hand, by linking the two favorites together in a two-leg parlay for that same $100 in total action, your potential profits increase significantly. In this case, a two-team parlay for $100 with both teams priced at (-110) would be good for $264.46 in profit.

In fact, you could cut your total outlay in half to just $50, and this two-teamer would still be good for $132.22 in profit, or $41.32 more than you stood to win with a pair of separate single-game tickets.

Suffice it to say, parlays provide a lot more bang for the bettor’s buck, provided none of your chosen teams or sides mess things up.

And as for those big money parlays that sportsbooks love to advertise, just picture something like a seven-teamer (-110 for each leg) paying back an astounding $9,142.

For this reason, many risk-tolerant sports bettors love to splash around on parlays that almost serve as lottery tickets of sort. Sure, the odds might not be in the player’s favor, but when the sports stars align just right, a few bucks can blossom into a major bankroll.

Here’s the rub though… for each additional leg added to a parlay ticket, a bettor’s odds of cashing in shoot up exponentially. Check out the table below to see what I mean:

# of Legs Vegas Payout Odds
2 2.6 to 1
3 6 to 1
4 11 to 1
5 22 to 1
6 45 to 1
7 90 to 1
8 180 to 1
9 360 to 1
10 720 to 1

Of course, you do get to decide which legs are added to a parlay, so the most informed and strategically sound bettors will enjoy slightly better overall odds of success. But unless you are confident that your win probability on each individual leg stands at 55 percent or higher, placing a parlay bet is always a losing prospect from a mathematical perspective.

Simply put, dabbling in parlays can be a fun way to dust off a few bucks and have a fun sweat. But when they become a bettor’s bread and butter, the sportsbooks have you right where they want you.

2 – Betting With Your Heart Over Your Head

Undoubtedly, that third-highest handle monthly handle figure cited in the introduction stemmed from a single phenomenon known as “March Madness.”

With the NCAA College Basketball National Championship tournaments finally back after 2020’s cancellation, the Men’s and Women’s brackets produced 130 games in a matter of weeks. And if you happened to be walking through a packed Vegas sportsbook this March, you probably saw your fair share of bettors decked out in their alma mater’s jersey, colors, and other gear.


For most of us, the journey towards becoming a sports bettor began with becoming a sports fan. We cheer for our hometown teams, beloved local players who made it to the pros, our own schools or the universities our children now attend. In any case, living and dying with your squad’s every move is all part of the fun of being a fan, but it has no place at the bet shop.

Sportsbook managers salivate over events like March Madness, the World Cup, and pro league playoffs for one simple reason: Fans can’t resist firing a few bucks on the team they love most. Obviously, we all can’t root for the Lakers and the Patriots of the world, which means the vast majority of these fandom-based bets are virtual locks to be losers.

This trap extends to the regular season too, as many fans line up nightly to dump money on a struggling baseball or basketball team that they just can’t seem to quit.

Learn to leave your fan allegiance at the door and stick to the script by making sensible decisions only.

3 – Failing to Shop Around Town for the Best Possible Line

Speaking of sensible decisions, one of the most effective ways sports bettors can improve their long-term results is by “shopping” for the best available odds.

In that two-team parlay example from earlier, you were wagering on a (-110) moneyline for both bets. But if those odds increased slightly to even money (-100), your $264.46 would be worth $300 even instead.

Sportsbooks count on customers being both impulsive and lazy, knowing most tourists and casual bettors won’t want to pore over a long list of competing lines. No, they’ll just look up at the nearest odds board and take whatever is up for grabs.

We have online sportsbooks and mobile sportsbooks in 2021, however, so there’s no excuse for failing to shop for the best price. By doing so, you’ll cut down on your expenditures and increase your profits over the long run of your betting lifetime.

4 – Chasing Bad Beats and Tough Losses With Desperate Bets

One of the worst feelings a sports bettor can experience is watching their side snatch defeat from the claws of victory.

Once you’ve placed a wager, you’re really helpless to influence the final outcome. You can yell, shout, bang the table, or curse the gambling gods, but the game will play out just the same either way. And when a seemingly smooth win somehow turns into a cruel bad beat, many players just can’t help themselves from trying to reverse their losses in a hurry.

Betting on any old game in hopes of getting even after a bad beat is a terrible idea. You haven’t put in any research or study, and you haven’t cooled off from the previous setback.

Emotionally charged bets made in desperation will occasionally hit, there’s no doubt about it. With that said, start tracking the action you put down immediately after a tough loss, and I’m willing to wager those tickets are a net loser overall.

5 – Taking One Too Many of Those “Free” Drink Tickets

This one’s so easy to avoid, and yet plenty of bettors simply can’t help themselves.

Vegas sportsbooks are notorious for plying customers with complimentary drink tickets. Of course, you did pay for the beverages, as the tickets are only dispensed when you bet above a certain dollar amount (1 ticket for each $50 or $100 wagered on average).

Las Vegas

Over the course of an evening, these tickets and their corresponding alcohol intake can quickly add up. Suddenly, a bettor who might avoid parlays like the plague while never backing his home team sober finds themselves slipping.

A tipsy player is prone to drop a few extra bucks on bad bets. For a drunk player though, they’re liable to go broke on tickets they don’t remember asking for.

6 – Making Mistakes That Leave You With the Wrong Wager

Remembering what you asked the ticket writer to record is a crucial, yet often overlooked, step of the process.

Many rookie bettors assume that Vegas sportsbooks get it right all the time, every time. And while the overwhelming bulk of ticket writers out there are well-trained professionals, mistakes can and will be made.

Always be sure to review your ticket carefully before leaving the counter. Check the dollar amount, the betting “code” used to identify your chosen side, and any point spreads or moneyline odds. If an error is found, don’t hesitate to ask for a corrected ticket (and be sure to tip despite the ticket writer’s blunder).


As a sports bettor, you have enough to worry about simply attempting to beat the bookmaker’s inherent edge. Thanks to the “vigorish” they charge on every wager, and mostly balanced action on both sides, sportsbooks can sit back and print money no matter what’s happening on the TV screens overhead.

So, knowing that the big bet shops in Las Vegas collect even more of your dough thanks to easily preventable user errors should be an eye-opening experience. They already have the inside track. There’s no need to help these guys at their own game.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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