How do betting odds work? Our super-simple guide…

How Do Betting Odds Work

How do betting odds work? The first question you need to answer if you are gonna bet on sports. This is 101, people.

Lucky for you, we’re here to give you a simple explanation on the numbers. So you know exactly what you’re getting into every time you put your dollars down.

There are a few different types of odds, and we’ll tell you about all of them. But our main focus here are American odds. That’s what really matters, and what you’ll come up against every day on your betting journey.

How do sports betting odds work?

Our main focus here is sports, so we’ll use sports examples to tell you how the odds work.

We’ll start with American, which are used by all U.S. sportsbooks. We will also let you know what the deal is with decimal and fractional odds. You might see them some places, but they’re less important for you.

American odds: How they work

If you’re betting on sports in the U.S. – highly likely your sportsbook of choice will give you American odds.

With American odds (also known as moneyline odds), every option has a plus or a minus number against it. And it’s all about either how you much to bet to win $100, or how much you’ll win if you bet $100.

If your wager has a minus number (-) against it, your profit if it wins will be less than the dollars you put down. You’ll still come out in front because your stake is returned if you win.

Example: Dallas is playing Washington in the NFL and you bet Dallas straight up at -120

  • If your bet wins, your profit will be $100 for every $120 you wager
  • So if you bet $120, you’ll get $100 profit plus your $100 stake back
  • Your total return would be $200
  • This same equation works for all minus odds

Note: If you’re betting in a matchup of two teams and your pick has a minus number, it’s likely the favorite.

If your wager has a plus number (+) against it in, your profit if it wins will be more than the dollars you put down. So less likely to win, but bigger upside if it does.

Example: Miami is playing the Lakers in the NBA and you bet the Heat at +220

  • If your bet wins, your profit will be £220 for every £100 you put down.
  • So if you bet $100, you’ll get back $220 profit plus the $100 you staked.
  • Your total return will be $320.
  • This same math works for all plus odds.

Note: If you’re betting in a matchup of two teams and your pick has a plus number, it’s likely the underdog.

One final thing, the odds work in the same way for all sports. So whether you are betting on football, baseball, soccer, UFC, whatever…the numbers are no different.

Decimal odds

Decimal odds (sometimes know as European odds because that’s where they are most used) are pretty straightforward to work with.

The odds you are offered tell you exactly what you get back for every dollar you put down. It’s important to note that your stake is already included in the odds, so calculating your payout is super-easy.

Some examples:

  1. You bet Kansas City to win the Super Bowl at odds of 4.00

  • You get back $4 for every $1 you put down
  • So if you bet $50, you will get back $200 if the Chiefs win

2. You bet Dustin Poirier to beat Conor McGregor in UFC at odds of 1.60

  • You get back $1.60 for every $1 you put down
  • So if you bet $100, your payout will be $160 if Poirier wins

It’s useful for you to know about decimal odds because they’re widely used in U.S. horse racing. If you head for the track or want to bet on the Kentucky Derby, you’ll be in better shape if you understand them.

Fractional odds

Fractional odds are also sometimes known as UK odds – that’s where they are most widely used. Unlikely you’ll come across them very much in the U.S.

If you want a really simple way to look at fractional odds, the first number is how much you can win if you put down the second number as stake. Some examples:

1 You bet Boston to win the MLB World Series and it is a 4/1 shot

  • You would win $4 for every $1 you put down
  • So if the Sox win and you bet $100, your profit is $400
  • You also get your $100 stake back if your bet wins
  • So your total return would be $500

2 You bet Roger Federer to beat Rafa Nadal at odds of 1/2 in the U.S. Open final

  • You would win $1 for every $2 you put down
  • So if you bet $100 and Federer wins, your profit would be $50
  • You also get your $100 stake back if your bet wins
  • So your total return would be $150

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