Recently updated on July 20th, 2020
So, people who are new to sports betting are often very confused by the concept of sports betting odds. They’ll visit online sportsbooks, see a bunch of numbers and be reminded of a high school math class and immediately be put off. Especially as there are three different formats odds could appear in: American (moneyline), fractional and decimal.
The thing is: it is actually really easy to read betting odds (so, supress those bad memories of quadratic equations and what not). Nowadays, most online gambling sites have built in sports calculators, so you don’t even really have to learn how to read odds (although we still recommend you do) to find out how much you could win on a bet.
Odds always work in the same way. When we say this, we mean that there is no difference in how NFL odds work versus horse racing odds, etc. Once you learn to read odds, you will be able to read betting lines in practically every sport.
If you are looking to understand sports betting odds and how they work, make sure to stick around. Below we explain how sports betting odds work and take an in-depth look at the different formats so that you easily find that best suits your needs. We also list the sports betting sites with the best odds so that you can start betting on your favorite events today!
Understanding Odds Links
- Best Sports Betting Websites
- What Are Sports Betting Odds?
- How Do Odds Work in Sports Betting?
- Online Sports Betting Odds Calculator
- Understanding Sports Betting Odds – FAQs
In simple terms, odds are numbers indicating the probability of an outcome. So, for example, a team with high odds of winning a game, will probably win. However, a team with low odds will probably not win the game.
In the sports betting world, odds serve two main functions:
- They indicate the possibility of an outcome. The bigger the odds, the bigger the potential payout. Inversely, if the odds are small, it means that you are more likely to win, but the payout will also be small.
- They provide you with the potential payout of a winning bet. Although odds shift as more information about an upcoming event becomes available, once you lock-in your bet, odds tell you how much you will win from the wager if it is successful.
Online sportsbook (such as Bovada and MyBookie) and Vegas odds are calculated through having a look at a variety of factors. These include team/player form, the weather, location of the game, past performances, player/team statistics, among a bunch of other factors.
You will never really know all the factors a sportsbook takes into account when setting odds. However, just know that they don’t set lines on hunches.
So, as mentioned above, there are three types of odds formats in popular use at sportsbooks around the world: American (moneyline), fractional and decimal. We explain how each of these work down below.
How do American Odds Work? (Moneyline)
As the name may already imply, this form of gambling odds is popular at sportsbooks in North America (mostly in the United States). It is also known as the Moneyline odds format.
In this format, wagering odds use a positive (+) or negative (-) sign in front of numbers to indicate the likelihood of a result. In general, the negative sign indicates a likely result and the positive an unlikely result. But there are situations in which both teams could have a positive or negative number (in such cases, you need to look at the number to see who is favored).
Here is an example of how an American odds line would appear at a sportsbook:
Los Angeles Clippers -125
Los Angeles Lakers +145
Working out your winning on potential lines can be done by using one of the below listed formulas:
- Positive – Odds x (Stake/100)
- Negative – (100/Odds) x Stake
On the above line, a $100 bet on the Lakers will earn you a profit of $145, whereas a $100 bet on the Clippers will earn you $80. We were able to work this out by using the two formulas above. You would need to bet more on the Clippers in order to win $100.
Depending on who you ask, either this is the best odds system or it is unnecessarily complicated. The one advantage of using it is that you calculate your potential profit outside of your stake. You learn the amount you could win without your bet amount attached.
So, for example, your total return from a bet on the Lakers would be $245 because you get your stake and the profit back.
Sports Betting Decimal Odds
The decimal odds format sees decimal numbers added to the end of lines. This format is mostly used by Australian and European odds makers. It is rather simple to calculate potential winnings using decimal odds.
Here is an example line:
New York Yankees 1.74
Washington Nationals 2.25
All you have to do to calculate your winnings is to multiply your stake by the decimal. So, a $100 on the Yankees would get you $174 and the same bet on the Nationals would get you $225.
It is important to note that the total differs from that given in American odds. Here you get the total payout (stake + profit) you would get if you win the wager. Some people don’t like the fact that you still kind of need to work out how profitable a bet could be.
However, a good rule of thumb is that any bet with odds of 2.0 offers you even money. Anything over 2.0 and you are more than doubling your money.
Fractional Odds Format
Fractional odds are represented by use of a fraction. This is the preferred format in the United Kingdom. Out of all the formats, most people would agree that fractional seems to appear to be the most complex. (After all, fractions have been scaring a lot of people since grade school.)
Here is an example of a fractional odds line:
Manchester United 1/4
West Ham United 10/1
Seems very scary, right? But, just like the others, there is a formula you can use to calculate how much you could win. This formula is:
- [Stake x (Numerator/Denominator)]
So, in the above line, a $100 bet on Manchester United would win you $25 whereas the same bet on West Ham would earn you $1000. This total is the profit and to work out your overall total you would need to add your stake.
Although this format is popular in the United Kingdom, it really isn’t that widely used by other countries. This is because some fractions can make working out your potential winnings longer than it really needs to be.
Whereas sports betting odds calculators were once widely used web applications, most online sportsbooks will tell you your potential winnings on your bet slip before you even confirm your wager. Most sites also offer an odds converter so that you can convert odds to a format you understand.
This makes placing good bets so much easier. It is always important to remember that bets aren’t worth it and knowing how much you can win off a bet helps you make this determination.
Sports odds tell you how much you could potentially win on a bet. Nobody would bet if they didn’t know how much they could potentially win beforehand. The sportsbook would also be able to make up odds if you win too much so that’s why they exist.
You can use the following formulas to help you read sports betting odds and understand how much you could win on a wager:
• Fractional – [Stake x (Numerator/Denominator)]
• Decimal – Odds x Stake
• American – look at the sign in front of the number and then use one of these:
o Positive – Odds x (Stake/100)
o Negative – (100/Odds) x Stake
In reference to American odds, positive odds are better as they mean that you are going to win more than even money on your stake. Negative odds mean that you are going to win less cash than your initial stake. This isn’t always bad but it isn’t always worth it.
Spread betting introduces a new variable to odds and that is the margin of victory. If you bet on a team favored to win, you bet on a team to beat the spread. If you bet on the underdog to lose less than by the predicted score or win the game, you have bet on the team to cover the spread.
Oddsmakers set the odds for sportsbooks. They do so by having a look at a range of different factors, such as team/player form, past results, lineups, weather, game location, etc.
Ten to one odds (or 10/1) means that for every dollar bet, you get 10. This is a great payout. But if a sportsbook has set such high odds on an outcome, it’s because they really don’t think it will happen. So, be wary
Check out our other sports bet guides: