Sports Betting Odds Explained

How do Sports Betting Odds Work? 

Put simply, betting odds state the return you will get for a wager on a specific result or event. The longer the odds, the more you win. 

Odds can be displayed in several ways, but the most common are fractional odds, American betting odds – or moneylines, and decimal odds. It’s important to know which style of odds is most popular where you are, but it helps to have an understanding of all three. 

Negative / Positive Odds

Negative and positive odds seem complex at first, but the explanation is pretty simple. If you’re betting on negative odds, the wager is on an outcome that is seen as likely, while positive odds suggests you’re betting on an outsider. 

In the case of moneyline, negative odds display the amount you’d have to bet in order to win $100, while positive odds show how much you would win if you made a $100 wager. If you’re using Fractional odds, then negative odds are anything under evens, e.g. 1/2, while positive odds are odds above even, 2/1 for example. Decimal odds show 2 or over for positive, and a decimal under 2 for negative. 

How to Read Betting Odds

Implied Probability

Implied probability is a percentage taken from the set odds of a particular outcome. If we use American moneyline odds as an example, then the lowest positive odds, 100, denote a 50% chance of the outcome coming in. The lowest negative odds, -200, show as 66.7%. Some people find it easier to understand a percentage than betting odds. 

Total payouts

The total payout from a bet is not only the amount that you win, but also includes your initial bet amount. For example, if you’ve made a $100 bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to win at odds of 100, you’d win $100. But, including your initial $100 wager, your total payout would be $200.

Total stake

The total stake is the full amount you want to bet on a specific wager. This could be on one singular event, or on multiple outcomes as part of a parlay (or accumulator) bet. 

How to Understand American Betting Odds

American betting odds, also known as moneyline odds, are the most popular way for odds to be displayed at US betting sites. 

The odds for expected results – or favorites – will be displayed with a minus symbol before them, such as -200. The odds for an underdog – or outsider – will be displayed without a negative symbol, such as 300, or with a plus symbol, e.g. +300, indicating that these are positive odds. 

Negative American Odds

Negative American odds show how much you would have to bet on a particular result to earn $100 in profit. For example, if you’re betting on a surefire favorite. Let’s say you fancy the Golden State Warriors to win a first-round, seven-game playoff series against the Sacramento Kings. Odds on this happening may be -300, which would mean you’d have to bet $300 to earn a profit of $100 on top of your initial wager. 

Positive American Odds

Positive American odds denote how much you would win if you were to wager $100. Let’s continue the above example, and say that the Kings have high odds of 5,000 to sweep the series in four games. This would mean a $100 wager would win you a clean $5,000 on top of your bet. 

American Fractional

Fractional odds are more often used at UK sites, but you may occasionally find them at US sites. 

If we stick with our fictional GSW and Sacramento series (sorry Kings fans!) then the -300 odds would be shown as 1/3, while the steep +5,000 Kings odds would be shown as 50/1. The latter can be said as ‘50 to 1’, meaning you’d earn $50 for every $1 you’d earn. The 1/3 odds, stated as ‘3 to 1 on’ show that you have to bet $3 to earn $1.

How to Understand UK Betting Odds

UK betting odds are usually shown using fractions. Fractional odds are the odds that have a forward slash between two numbers, like 1/4, or 15/1. Using those two odds as an example, 1/4 means that for every £4 you wager, you’d win £1 back, so these are negative odds. 15/1 is an example of positive fractional odds, as you’d win £15 for every £1 you bet. Obviously, the positive odds outcome is less likely than one with negative odds. 

Sports betting is the act of betting on any sport. There are many sports bet you can make, from betting on the result of a game or match, to in-play prop bets such as which player will be next to score. There are also accumulator (acca) bets, known in the US as parlays. With this bet type, you wager on multiple different results or events, with a huge payout if all come in. However, you’ll win nothing if even one wager isn’t right. 

Total Payouts

Fractional odds don’t state the total amount you’ll win from a bet, they only show you the profit. For example, if you make a bet of £10 at a UK sportsbook with odds of 2/1, your profit will be £20. However, the total payout will be £30, as it includes your initial £10 stake, 

How to Understand European Betting Odds

Decimal odds are most common at European sports betting sites. These odds look complex, but, in reality, are probably the easiest to understand. All you need to do is multiply your stake by the stated decimal to work out how much you’d win. 

Let’s say Sporting Lisbon are playing in the Champions League, and the odds on the team to win its next match are 1.33. If you are betting £100, multiply that by 1.33 and you get £133, which is the total payout if you bet on this result.

European odds, or decimal odds, are not only popular for their simplicity, but also because this is the only odds type that tells you the total payout you will receive. American and fractional odds both show your profit, which you then have to add to your initial stake for your total payout. It’s only a little difference, but it helps! 

Comparing Odds

Not all sportsbooks are created equal. There can be a hefty difference between the odds for the same event at different sports betting sites. 

Let’s say you want to bet on an MLB game, you’ve got the Redsox to beat the Mets in their next matchup. All sportsbooks are giving you short odds, but you find one that is offering odds of -225 – or 4/9 and 1.44 in fractional and decimal, and another that’s advertising odds of -200 – or 1/2 and 1.5. It’s not a big raise in odds, sure, but if you’re betting $100 on the result, then you’ll still make an additional $6 in profit from the second option. 

Many sports betting sites will offer odds boosts bonuses on certain games or events, which can see you offered much longer odds than any other sportsbook is giving. Be sure to look out for these promos, because if they align with a bet you’re planning on making, they could significantly increase potential profits. 

Odds tracker

An odds tracker will compare the current odds on a specific bet from a multitude of different online sportsbooks. Not only that, but a tracker will also keep you updated on any changes in odds. If a key player is injured in the run-up to a big game, for example, it may change the odds considerably. 

Odds will also change if there is a flurry of activity from bettors. If lots of people suddenly bet on one outcome, then odds will get shorter. Conversely, the odds of a certain outcome will get longer if a sudden influx of wagers goes on the opposing outcome. 

Calculating Odds Payments

The stake is your original bet, which will be returned on top of any profit if you win your bet. Remember that this initial stake is not included in either moneyline or fractional odds, so you’ll have to add it yourself. Decimal odds give you the total payout, both profit and stake. 

Calculating odds payments

Calculating the payouts from certain odds depends on the type of odds you’re working with. For moneyline bets you need to read the numbers, if it’s -200, you need to wager $200 to make $100 profit, if it’s +200, then a $100 wager will win you $200. 

For fractional odds, a 5/1 flutter will earn you $5 for every $1 you wager, while 1/6 odds will earn you $1 for every $6 bet. 

If you’re using decimal odds, multiply your stake by the decimal, i.e. 100 x 1.29, to get your total payout, $129 in this example.

While the maths is pretty simple, you can save time by using an online odds calculator, which will give you the moneyline, decimal, and fractional odds as well as the implied probability and potential payout.