Sports Betting Odds Explained

Understand the odds in sports betting with our guide

Sports Betting Odds Explained

Sports betting is one of the most popular areas of gambling, with many favorites such as NFL, horse racing and football attracting millions of bettors around the world.

In order to place successful bets, it is important to understand how the odds work for different markets. On this page we’ll help you get to grips with a few different formats for sports betting odds, so you can maximize your chances of coming away with a winning payout.

How Do Sports Betting Odds Work?

Sports betting odds are designed to, at a glance, give readers an idea of how likely it is that each team/competitor will win as well as how much money you could make with a successful bet on that outcome. In other words, you can use them to get a quick idea of the underdog and the favorite.

To decide what odds they offer, bookmakers look at a range of factors. This might include everything from what other sportsbooks are offering through to the results of previous matchups. They’ll adjust those odds in real time, based on factors like injuries and the weather, as well as the amount of money staked by bettors on each outcome.

Fractional Odds

The fractional odds are considered to be the most commonly used form of odds form of odds presentation by bookmakers in the UK market. They are also referred to as “British odds” or “traditional odds”. The presentation of these odds shows how much the bettor will win from their bet compared to the amount they bet.

As an example, as shown in the images below, you're placing a bet on the favorite for the horse race as shown in the images below. The favorite is Acolyte, at odds of 5/2. The fractional odds show that if you placed a bet of $20 then you would win a net profit of $50*. Your stake is returned to you on a winning bet, so the $50 is your actual profit on the bet.

The advantage of fractional odds is that it is flexible and shows that if you bet $40 then at odds of 5/2 you would win two and a half (5/2 = 2.5/1) times that amount so you would win $100. It allows you to work out your winnings based on your bet.

You bet $20 at odds of 5/2. $20/2 = $10 and $10x5 = $50 profit, if the bet is a winning one.

If you'd placed a bet of $20 at odds of 2/5 instead. $20/5 = $4 and $4x2 = $8 profit, if the bet is a winning one.

On any winning bet, your stake is also returned to you.

Example of fractional odds
Odds - fractional odds
Odds - fractional odds example

Those bettors that are unfamiliar with fractional odds might find it difficult working out their percentage chance of success. It is possible to estimate your probability of success based on the odds. However, it should be noted that odds can fluctuate in the run-up to, and even during, a sporting event so the odds only represent an estimate of the probability of success at that time. These odds, and the implied probability of success, can change before or after the bet has been placed.

Odds - fractional odds example 2
Odds - fractional probability

American Odds

The American odds are, unsurprisingly, most popular within the US market. These odds work very differently to fractional odds in the fact that they operate separately for favorites and underdogs. They are also referred to as “moneyline odds”.

Example of American odds
Odds - American odds
Odds - American example

The way that American odds work for betting on a favorite is that it shows how much money you would have to risk in order to win a certain amount. Imagine for example you were betting on the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie B soccer match between Boa Esporte Clube and Salgueiro AC, as shown in the images. You would need to bet $138 on a Boa Esporte Clube win at odds of -138 in order to win $100. This is due to Boa Esporte Clube being the firm favorites to win the game.

On the flip side, when it comes to the underdog, the odds are represented in a different manner. Instead, they show how much you would win if you bet the $100. So, using the same example in the images, if you decided to bet on Salgueiro AC in that match at odds of +118, then you would win $118 if you bet $100. This means a total return of $218 (with your original $100 included).

Decimal Odds

The use of decimal odds is something that has become more prevalent during recent years. They are most widely used in mainland Europe and Australia, but younger bettors are beginning to favor them more and more with the ever-growing popularity of sports betting online.

Example of decimal odds
Odds - Decimal odds
Odds - Decimal odds example

Decimal odds are presented to show the bettor how much they will win without stating what bet is required. In our image example above, the contenders for the Copa America football tournament can be seen listed. If you were to place a winning $100 bet on the favorites Argentina at the price of 2.38 then you can expect to win $238, inclusive of your original $100 stake. This is because $100 x 2.38 = $238. This equates to a net profit of $138 to a stake at risk of $100.

The presentation of these odds might appear to be daunting upon first glance but it’s soon clear to see that they offer an immediate insight into your potential winnings, inclusive of the stake. As a result, they are very popular with online sports betting sites and bettors alike. If you’re used to fractional odds but wish to give decimal odds a go, take a look at our conversion chart below. Note that the net winnings to a unit stake is one less than the decimal odds. For example, a $100 stake at decimal odds of 2.38 wins $238 inclusive of the $100 stake if the bet is successful. In other words, you're making a net profit of $138 for the $100 risked.

Decimal to fractional odds conversion chart
Odds - Decimal odds to fractions

Betting On Your Smartphone

Mobile sites or dedicated apps are by far the most efficient way to keep track of up-to-the-minute odds as the sporting action unfolds. You’ll be able to place your bets immediately before and, thanks to in-play betting, during an event no matter where you are, subject to the laws which apply to whatever jurisdiction you happen to be in when placing your bet.

Apps can be particularly useful for this, as most will update their odds automatically (and in real time). Many also send you notifications of the latest updates, so you can choose the perfect time to strike.

Which Odds To Choose?

Odds - Which One To Choose?

Choosing which format of odds to display when sports betting is mostly down to a matter of personal preference. This will usually, but not always, be the type of odds most associated with where you live.

We should point out that the majority of sports betting sites offer the option to choose which type of odds you want to view when you’re looking at placing a wager. There are also odds calculators out there that can help you convert between different types of odds.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter which type of odds you opt to use: you won’t win or lose more cash by choosing a certain way of viewing odds. It therefore makes the most sense to choose the one you’re most at ease with and use that whenever possible.

Quick Tips For Placing Your Bet

Now that you know more about calculating odds, and the different ways they might be displayed, you can use that information to your advantage when placing your next bet. Below, you’ll find a few of our top tips for applying your newfound knowledge to the next bet you place!

Don’t be afraid to shop around

Some sportsbooks will update their odds based on circumstantial changes more quickly than others. Armed with the knowledge of how to calculate potential winnings, you can see what represents the most profitable bet for you, should you end up winning.

Assess the risk

Use what you know about odds to figure out what you view as an acceptable level of risk when betting on an underdog. $1 wagered on 20/1 odds, for example, relatively low risk bet in terms of maximum downside. Most bettors would, however, feel uncomfortable betting $100 on 100/1 odds (despite the huge potential profit) because the odds are stacked so heavily against you.

Check back regularly

It’s important to keep an eye on the odds, ideally using a smartphone or tablet if you’re on the move. If you see odds shifting quickly in one direction then it’s very likely something has changed (e.g. weather, location or a key injury). That may influence who you back in the contest, or at least how much you wager.

Stay in the know

Make sure to take advantage of insider knowledge. British bookies, for example, may just possibly not be up to speed with what’s going on in upcoming NFL fixtures compared to a superfan who follows breaking news accounts on Twitter will. This is why it can be helpful to wager on a sport you’re a genuine fan of, or at least do your research before placing your bet.

Sports Betting FAQ

What are sports betting odds?

Sports betting odds are a way for customers to predict the result of a sporting event and wager an amount of money on that outcome. The bookmakers provide the odds for customers and are betting against you by accepting all bets placed.

How are the odds determined and calculated?

The aim of bookmakers is to provide odds for every side of a bet, as long as there is profit in it. Customers will have the opportunity to bet on anything, but ultimately the bookmaker is going to have an edge.

Bookmakers determine odds in a number of different ways. Whether it's traders, odds compilers or risk analysts, the odds are always created in a way that in some way reflects the actual chance of each result occurring.

Can the odds change?

Absolutely, sports betting odds are constantly changing before the sport event takes place, and in many cases during the event. A number of things can influence changes in the odds, such as the amount of money in the market, the overall betting patterns of the public, events leading up to the game and the odds different bookmakers are offering.

Are they different sport to sport?

The more popular the sport is, the more movement in the betting market there may be. For example, football is a very popular sport and huge sums of money change hands. With the amount of money in the market, betting odds fluctuate depending on where the money is being placed. Less popular sports may potentially have less favorable odds AND less money in the market.

How can I master odds?

There are a number of ways to make the most out of betting odds and give you an improved chance of winning, such as:

  • Sports betting research can go a long way when you're deciding on what bets to place. Whether it's statistical data or following tips, you'll have a good chance of winning more bets than you lose.
  • Finding good value bets is key, especially in competitive markets. Converting odds into probability will give you an idea of how much value there is in certain odds. For example: 3/1 odds can be converted into 1/4 (take the bottom number over the sum of both numbers) to get the implied probability, which would be 25%. Also, taking in other factors such as the form of a team, can make a bet seem much more valuable than it may look.
  • Keep placing bets. The more bets you place, the more familiar you will be with the odds being offered and what that means for your potential returns.

Is there such a thing as good odds?

There is certainly such a thing as better value and worse value, and this is related to the odds on offer. Better odds can sometimes be hard to distinguish from worse odds for beginners, in all areas of gambling. Though once you have a brief understanding of odds in certain sporting events, you'll be able to take advantage of any value on offer.
Additionally, you will able to realize where good odds are being offered by comparing the odds of a certain match over a number of different bookmakers, in order to get the most value for your money.

How can I calculate the potential win?

As soon as you've placed your bet, calculating your winnings is a good way of helping you understand odds. The following example will help you understand basic odds and how you can calculate potential winnings.

If you place $10 on 3/1 odds and your team won, your winnings would be as follows.

  • 3/1 = 3. Therefore, placing $10 as the 1 would represent $30 as the 3.
  • Also, your stake is returned to you if your bet wins. Therefore, 3/1 would mean $10 returns $30 + the stake you placed = $40.
  • Another example, $10 on 7/1 odds would return $80 ($70 initially + your $10 stake).