How Betting Odds Work

Understanding betting odds requires knowledge of not just one type of odds format, but all three of the common formats, as many sites will offer them in their own format – leaving you wondering how much you actually stand to win on a wager. Odds comparison is simple once you understand decimal, fractional and money lines.

Understanding the Underdog and the Favorite

When comparing odds at betting sites, you will be faced by two different situations, for the most part. You will either be in a situation where the money you could potentially win exceeds the amount of your wager. You might also see odds where you must wager more units than you would win.

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Consider the following example:

San Francisco is playing Chicago. Chicago is likely to win the event so they are referred to as the “favorite.” San Francisco will probably lose the event so they are referred to as the “underdog.” In most cases, you will need to wager more units to win a single unit if wagering on Chicago. Along the same lines, you will wager a single unit to win multiple units if betting on San Francisco.

Remembering the difference between the underdog and favorite when placing a wager on a competition. Sometimes, betting on the favorite is not the best choice if you must bet too many units to win a single unit.

Understanding Decimal, Fractional and Money Line Odds

Fractional Betting Odds: Fractional odds are certainly not the most common types at sportsbooks. However, for the beginning bettor, fractional odds are very simple to grasp. Most of the time, you will find them listed with racebooks (horse and dog racing, for example).

Due to their simplicity, on the other hand, many bookmakers are beginning to recognize the value of listing odds as a fraction. In simple terms, a fractional odd implies the amount of money that you will win by making a wager of the second number in the fraction. For example, you might see them listed as 5/1. This means that you will win $5.00 for every $1.00 that you wager – very good odds.

On the other hand, if you see a fractional odd listed as 1/5, for example, this would imply that you must wager $5.00 to win $1.00 – very poor odds. For the most part, you will see good odds on the underdog, or the competitor likely to lose the event and poor odds on the competitor likely to win the event, or the favorite.

Decimal Betting Odds: Decimal odds are not very frequently used within the United States. However, if you use a betting site that caters primarily to Canadian, Australian and European players, you will likely see these in use. Unfortunately, they can be quite confusing to the beginning bettor as they correspond to fractional odds using a bit of math. One of the easiest ways to calculate decimal odds is by starting with the equivalent fractional odd. Pretend as if the fractional odd is a division problem and perform the calculation.

For example, you might be given odds of 5/1. This would equal 5.00 after the calculation. However, the last step in the conversion is to add 1.00 to the result for the actual odds – 6.00. Thus, for 5/1 fractional odds and 6.00 decimal odds, you will win $5.00 for every $1.00 that you wager.

Where decimal odds get a bit trickier is when understanding odds given by sportsbooks that are on the favorite. These odds will always appear under the odd 2.00 (even money). For example, you might receive decimal odds of 1.25. They key portion of this decimal to recognize here is the 0.25. As you can see, the 0.25 goes into the number 1.00 four times.

This would produce fractional odds of 1/4. With this conversion, you now know that you will need to wager four units to win each single unit – $4.00 to win $1.00, for example. You will often see decimal odds used for parlay bets.

Money Line Betting Odds: Also referred to as American Odds, Money Line odds are often used to cater primarily to players from America. You will see either a negative or positive number when viewing the comparison which makes it very simple to understand. A positive number is the amount that you will win by wagering 100. For example, you might see money line odds of +300.

This means that your wager of 100 will result winnings of 300 if your pick is successful. Relate this to money for an easier to understand example. Using the same odds, assume that you are wagering $1.00 on a competitor. If they win, you will receive $3.00.

Converting this result back into a decimal odd is also very simple for positive money lines. This same money line odd, +300, can be converted to a decimal odd by adding 100 and placing a decimal point in front of the first number – for a resulting odd of 4.00. To convert to fractional odds from money line odds, simply consider the odd as a fraction. You know that you will win a unit of 3 by wagering a unit of 1. Therefore, a fractional odds expression of the money line odd +300 is 3/1.

Negative money line odds are given on the competitor likely to be successful at an event. A simple way to understand these odds is that the number corresponds to the amount that you would need to wager to win +100. For example, you are given -125 odds. Think of this as $1.25. If you would like to win $1.00, you will need to wager $1.25. Because American or money line odds are simple to understand on the negative side, there is normally no need to express them as a decimal.

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