Sports Betting Odds 101
Before you start checking out Las Vegas sports odds or betting on sports on the web, the most important thing to know is how odds work and how to read sports lines.
If you can't understand odds, or don't know how to convert between different types of odds, it's highly unlikely that you’ll ever have any sports betting success because you'll constantly be asking questions like "wait, what does 3 to 1 odds mean again?" Luckily, as you’ll see below, getting to grips with odds isn’t all that difficult.
Using an online sportsbook means that you can bet on sporting events taking place anywhere in the world, which is fantastic, but a big disadvantage is that odds on some sites may be presented in a format that you are not familiar with. But, no matter what type of odds are shown, they all indicate the same thing: a bet's chance of winning.
You can use our betting odds calculator to see how the different types of odds represent this chance, but many seasoned gamblers end up being able to convert between various types of odds in their head!
There are three different ways in which sports betting odds can be displayed:
Spend a little time reading and you’ll see that each of the examples above actually translate to the same chance of winning (33.33%) and will yield $2 of profit for every $1 wagered successfully.
Understanding American Odds
As the name suggests, American Odds are mostly popular with sportsbooks here in the United States. American sports betting odds work differently for favorites and underdogs, and are sometimes known as Moneyline Odds.
American odds for betting on a favorite work by showing how much money you would have to risk in order to win $100. Let’s illustrate that concept with some football odds…
- The Miami Dolphins are -110 to win Sunday’s game
- Placing a successful $110 bet on them yields $100 winnings
- You also get you original $110 bet back
- Total payout = $210
Things are a little different when betting on an underdog, in that the positive number shows how much you can win if you risk $100. You may notice that this is similar to 'odds-on' bets in UK markets.
- The Buffalo Bills have odds of +240 this Sunday
- Placing a successful $100 bet will yield $240 winnings
- You also get your $100 bet back
- Total payout = $340
If you see the letters PK alongside the odds offered on a game, it means that there is no favorite and you should "pick" the winner of the game without the need to worry about any point spread.
Redskins +260 Underdog
Chiefs -320 favorite
Buccaneers +195 Underdog
Patriots -250 favorite
Twins +220 Underdog
Yankees -260 favorite
Rockies +160 Underdog
Diamonbacks -180 favorite
United +825 Underdog
United -350 favorite
Whitecaps +825 Underdog
Red Bull -125 favorite
Understanding Fractional Odds
Fractional Odds are popular in the United Kingdom but are also often used in horse racing. Fractional odds can also be referred to as British Odds, UK Odds, or Traditional Odds, and quote the net total that will be paid out to the bettor – should they win – relative to their stake.
- Bournemouth takes on Manchester United in the EPL
- Bournemouth’s odds are 5/1, so a stake is x5 if you back Bournemouth
- A £20 bet yields winnings of £100 (20 x 5 = 100)
- You also get your £20 bet back
- Total payout = £120
On the other hand, a gambler backing Manchester United, which has odds of 1/5, will see a payout of just £1 for every £5 bet. That means a total payout of £6 for someone betting £5.
Understanding Decimal Odds
Decimal Odds are most popular in Europe, Australia and Canada, and many think that they’re the easiest format to understand. Almost all online sportsbooks will offer the option of displaying their odds in the decimal format, which is sometimes known as European Odds in the UK.
With decimal odds, the figure quoted is the exact amount that will be paid out if the bet is a winner. Decimal odds are essentially equivalent to the decimal value of the fractional odds, plus one.
- You bet on an Aussie Rules team with decimal odds of 2.00
- A successful bet of $100 on the team results in a win of $100
- Total payout = $200 (2.00 x your original bet of $100)
Armed with the above knowledge, you should now have a pretty good idea of how to read sports lines. However, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere, sportsbook odds can appear in any of the above formats so it’s helpful to be able to be able to compare and convert between them.
It’s not uncommon for the same odds to appear over and over again in relation to different games or events. That makes sense when you think about it, since the disparity between the skill levels of teams/competitors can only be so large before a contest becomes totally unfair.
Most internet sportsbooks in 2018 will let you change between Fractional, American OR Decimal odds on their markets, but we’ve provided this easy chart to convert between some of the most common decimal and fractional odds you’ll see when betting on sports online. Think of it as a quick reference guide to sports betting for dummies!
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see odds different to those listed above. Still, this chart should give you a quick and easy leg up wherever you’re placing your bets.
Unfortunately, it’s a little trickier to convert between Moneyline/American odds and decimal or fractional odds because of their ability to take the form of both positive and negative numbers. You can see below how to do this manually:
American -> Decimal
Positive American Odds: Decimal Odds = (American Odds/100) + 1
Negative American Odds: Decimal Odds = (100/American Odds) + 1
American -> Fractional
Positive American Odds: American Odds/100
Negative American Odds: 100/American Odds
Vegas Betting Odds
"All roads lead to Rome" is an old expression used to describe when many different situations all have the same result. If you’re talking about football odds or online sportsbook odds, it’s fair to paraphrase that expression as follows: “All roads lead from Las Vegas.” Sports odds, whether you’re reading them in your local bricks and mortar venue or on the web, are inevitably influenced by what the bookies are saying in Sin City.
It isn’t just that folks there have more experience setting gambling odds, although that is a part of it. The fact that most bookies use Las Vegas betting odds as a benchmark means that there’s less variation between gambling venues across the world. Offering odds that are much better for players than Vegas odds (and those listed elsewhere) will certainly attract more gamblers, but it can be absolutely disastrous for gambling venues if things go wrong, i.e. there’s a big upset.
The good news for us is that, while Vegas odds are built to generate a profit for "the house", they’re also created in such a way that means it is possible for gamblers to win big. It has to be this way, of course, since otherwise every sports betting for dummies guide would simply say that it’s a waste of money to bet on sports online.
Calculating Your Payout
An odds converter or odds calculator is essential if you are betting on more than one sport at once and, as we already know, almost all internet sportsbooks in 2018 let you do just that.
Perms, parlays, or accumulators allow sports gamblers to mix and match several games and results onto one betting slip. But before you place the bet, using an odds payout calculator is essential to make sure you get the right price.
With so much difference between the odds-on markets at different gambling sites, using a sports betting calculator is even more important.
It’s Sunday and you want to want to make a perm bet on the results of five matches:
|Matchup||League/ Sports||Odds Provided||Converted Odds|
|Wimbledon||Murray To Win: 4.00||3/1|
|Copa America||Brazil to win: 8/15|
- First things first, we need to get all of the odds into the same format. Only once our odds are in the same format can we use an accumulator calculator. As you’ll see above, Miami’s odds of victory convert to 3/2 in fractional format, and underdog Andy Murray’s odds stand at 3/1. Once we know this, we have fractional odds for all our events.
- An odds calculator lets you input odds on all five outcomes or look at the odds and payouts of individual results. In the above example, the odds of an accumulator victory translate to 132.25/1 in the fractional format. This figure should match up with what the sportsbook you’re considering is offering you.
- If you think you can do better than that, check out the events you want to bet on using an odds comparison site. That way you’ll find a sportsbook online that offers the best all-round odds; a site may offer great odds for four of the five events you want to bet on, but lousy odds for the fifth. Using calculators will help you determine whether or not you should try a different site or simply ditch the fifth event from your accumulator.
- After using a converter and odds calculator, you are ready to make your bet. Pick the best sportsbook you can find, open an account, and place your bet!
Test Your Sports Betting Odds Knowledge
How Well Do You Know Your Odds?
Answer the questions and discover how well you know your odds.
We all know that online gambling is a great way to make a little (or maybe a lot!) of extra cash in your spare time, with some lucky folks even able to turn it into a full-time career. Before you get to that, though, you’ll need to know all the ins and outs of how American odds work.
That’s why we put together this fun little quiz to test your skills. Think you’re an odds-on favorite to get full marks? Or are the odds stacked against you…? Give it a try!
We've put together this fun little quiz to test your American odds skills. Think you’re an odds-on favorite to get full marks? Or are the odds stacked against you…? Give it a try!
Question 1 of 8
What is it?
Question 2 of 8
Question 3 of 8
Question 4 of 8
Question 5 of 8
Question 6 of 8
Question 7 of 8
Question 8 of 8
ResultsHow did you do?
Eek! We’d recommend that you take another look at our guide on how different types of odds work. You don’t want to end up losing money just because you didn’t take enough time to get familiar with the basics.
Picking Your Odds
It’s extremely important that you understand the odds you’re looking at when you place a bet, or have at least run it through a converter to see it in a format you’re used to. Betting on odds that you don’t understand can lead to serious losses due to making a simple mistake.
For example, for someone who doesn’t understand American odds, a large bet placed on an event with odds of -200 might look like a poor choice because of the negative sign. This actually translates to 1.50 in decimal and ½ in fractional, which gives the player a solid 66.66% chance of winning.
In reality, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get all the way through the stages of placing a bet without a sports betting site showing you how much you stand to win if you’re successful, but it’s always worth sanity checking your numbers before you commit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do sports betting odds work?
The answer to the question “what do odds mean?” is simple: sports betting odds are created by bookmakers to show what the outcome of a game or event is likely to be. They also dictate how much profit a player can make when betting on an event at that particular sportsbook. They're often heavily influenced by Vegas odds, football in particular.
How do I read sports betting odds?
Odds are, excuse the pun, you’ll find one of the three different ways of listing odds explained above easier to understand than the others. Those raised around fractional odds, for example, can easily see that the numerator represents how much profit they stand to make based on a bet of the denominator’s value. E.g. A bet of $3 of 5/3 odds will yield $5 profit, thus a total payout of $8.
Are the odds different depending on the sport?
In theory, odds can be shown in any format no matter what the game. In practice, however, the location of the target audience will have some impact on this. For example, NFL odds will virtually always be shown (initially, at least) in the American format because the viewing audience is predominantly based in the USA.
How do I calculate my potential winnings?
You may not actually need to do this, since most sports betting sites have functions to calculate your potential winnings in real time. If not, there are calculations and conversions (see above) that you can use to work out your potential profits if you don’t feel comfortable doing so in your head.
Why do I need to understand sports betting odds?
It’s important to have an understanding of different types of odds because it means that you can choose from sites all over the world, some of which may display their odds in just one format. Plus, it will help you to avoid making silly mistakes like placing big bets on events that actually have bad odds.
Who determines sports betting odds?
As we’ve covered above, Las Vegas betting odds have a huge impact on sportsbook odds offered by bookmakers both online and off. However, most will also have their own teams that calculate odds based on all sorts of criteria, including everything from the location of the match and weather to player absences or injury risks. Odds can change very quickly, sometimes even updating while events are in-play.
What's the difference between American, fractional, and decimal odds?
Although they sometimes look very different, there’s no real difference between the purposes of these different types of odds – they all exist to show you your estimated chances of winning, a figure that will remain constant no matter which odds are used.