Sports Betting Odds Explained

How Betting Odds Work

If you don’t understand how to read odds, you’ll struggle trying to place bets on sports. Because a few different ways of expressing odds exist, it’s important for novice sports bettors to have some understanding of how betting odds work, what they mean, and how they are used when placing wagers on sporting events.

Once you’ve selected an online sportsbook to do your sports gambling, you’ll want to make sure that you can read their odds; the big-name books will offer odds in multiple versions, but you shouldn’t count on that. Instead, learn the three most common forms of sports betting odds, and you’ll be able to place a smart bet no matter what format a game’s odds are represented by. Because sports bettors often wager on sports around the world, it makes sense to understand the various ways books represent odds – betting odds on American football games will probably look very different from UK odds on soccer matches. To avoid placing an incorrect bet or running into a set of odds that you can’t read, learn the most common representations of wagering odds and make sure you know what they mean.

What Are Sports Bettting Odds?

Odds on a sports betting site are nothing more than a way for a sportsbook to represent the chance of winning a sports bettor has when placing a certain wager. The three most common sports betting odds are as follows:

American Odds (represented by a plus/minus symbol and a number, such as +110)

Fractional Odds (most common in the UK, represented by a fraction such as 12/5)

Decimal Odds (most commonly found in Europe outside of the UK, represented by a number with a few decimal places, such as 3.40)

Each of these sports betting odds formats give a different interpretation of the likelihood of a wager’s success. It’s important to understand all three of the above odds formats, even though most of the world’s bigger online books have calculators and other features that help you convert any sports betting odds, whether it’s American, Fractional, or Decimal, to a format that you’re more familiar with. You never know when you may not have a conversion tool handy, and an educated sports bettor is usually a more successful one.

American Odds

Judging by the name alone, it’s easy to guess that American Odds are most popular with sportsbooks whose client base is made up mostly of Americans. This type of sports betting odds can be a bit confusing to novice bettors, since the numbers work differently for the favorite and the underdog. American Odds are sometimes called the money line or money line odds.

If you want to wager on a favorite, American odds tell you exactly how much cash you have to wager in order to win $100. These $100 units make it easy to scale your wagers up or down, whether you want to lay down $10 or $10,000. Let’s say an American Odds site lists the favorite at “-110,” that means in order to win $100 a sports bettor has to wager $110. Let’s say you’re gambling on the NFL and you want to wager on the favorite. If the book lists them at -110 to win, you’d have to lay down $110 in order to win an extra $100. If the team wins, you get your original $110 wager back, meaning your total take is $210.
If you’re planning to bet on an underdog, American odds tell you how much you will win if you wager $100. Let’s say the underdog in the same NFL game mentioned above is listed as +240, wagering $100 on that ‘dog will earn you an extra $240. Should the underdog pull off the upset, you’d get your $100 wager back plus an additional $240, for a total of $340.

Fractional Odds

Most popular in the UK, Fractional Odds are also common in horse racing around the world. Other names for Fractional Odds include British Odds, UK Odds, and Traditional Odds.
A set of Fractional Odds tells the gambler the net total they will earn, relative to their stake. For example, Fractional Odds of 5/1 tell you that you can earn $100 on a bet of $20 – multiply your stake of $20 by the 5 in the top portion of the fraction and you get the $100 payout. If you’re betting on a heavy favorite, the odds may be upside-down, such as 1/5. In that case, a gambler who places a $20 bet would earn just $4, or 1/5th of their original wager. Gamblers that play by Fractional Odds also earn back their original stakes, so that a winning wager of $20 at 5/1 will actually earn the gambler $120, or $100 for the win plus the return of their original $20 wager.

Decimal Odds

The most difficult odds to read for gamblers used to American or Fractional Odds are Decimal Odds, mostly common in parts of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and Asia. But if bettors would spend just a little time with this type of odds, they’d find them among the easiest to read in the world of sports gambling. In fact, Decimal Odds are so simple to understand that the majority of the world’s big-name sportsbooks offer gamblers the option of reading any sporting event’s odds in decimal format.

Decimal Odds are different from fractional ones in one important way – bettors read decimal odds to work out how much they’ll win if their bet comes through. Decimal Odds are really just the decimal value of a bet’s fractional odds plus one. Still confused?

The reason Decimal Odds are popular the world over is that they don’t require the bettor to calculate their return or worry about wagering in multiples of $100. To work out your win based on Decimal Odds, just multiply how much you wager by the Decimal Odds given by the book and you know how much money you stand to earn if your bet pays off.

Here’s an example: if the decimal odds at your sportsbook for a given sporting event are 2.00, it’s simple to work out how much you’ll win. Just multiply your bet by 2.0 and you know how much you stand to win. If a gambler lays down $100 on this bet, they stand to earn $200 if they back the right horse, team, or athlete.

The good news for online sports bettors is that most of the world’s popular online sportsbooks allow punters to view odds in any format they want. Still, learning the basics of America, Fractional, and Decimal Odds will prepare you to wager on any sort of contest, no matter where it takes place or how your sportsbook chooses to represent it.