How to Read Odds

If you love to bet on sports, you probably know that odds play a vital role. It is crucial to learn how to read odds in betting and learn about their different types. If you’re a beginner, you’re at the right spot. We’ll show you how to read sports odds with ease and tell you more about probability and its role in sports betting.


What Is Probability?

While probability may sound like sci-fi mumbo jumbo to some, it’s a pretty straightforward concept. It measures the likelihood of something happening in a sports match. It’s an integral part of sports betting and can be expressed as a number between 0 and 100. The former indicates impossibility, while the latter indicates certainty.

In most cases, it can be easy to calculate. However, when it comes to sports betting, things are much more complicated. A sports match depends on various factors, so calculating the probability of something to happen with accuracy is hard. Bookmakers calculate the chances of a possible outcome with relative likelihood represented by the betting odds. They are not always accurate representations of all the probabilities involved – that’s why favorites don’t win all the time.

The good news is that you don’t need a full overview of probability to understand betting odds. Since bookies express it to the odds, you only need to place your bet. There’s no need to calculate the probability yourself.

Using Betting Odds to Calculate Probability

To see which outcome of a sports match is likely to happen, you can use the odds. It will require you to convert the odds to probability expressed in percentage. For example, odds of 5 to 1 can be converted with the following formula: 1/(1+5)=1/5 or 20%. It means that the likelihood of that particular event is 20% or rather low.

If both teams or participants have equal chances, the odds would be 50:50 or 1 to 1 (evens odds). Of course, that’s still a subjective estimate. The true odds of a team or a player’s chance are different. You have to consider that bookies are out there to make money, so they always display the payout odds, not the correct odds.

Luckily, with our guide, you will learn how to read betting odds with ease to understand better who you need to bet on.

Using Betting Odds to Calculate Winnings

Whether it’s boxing, football, or the NFL, you can easily calculate your winnings using the odds displayed. If you’re wondering how to do betting odds work, you’ll need to learn more about the different types of odds.

While they are not hard to understand, new bettors may be confused by all the different odds and how they work. In simple terms, they are all the same but meant for other markets. In the end, each odds represent the likelihood of a particular outcome in a sports match.

The Kinds of Odds

There are 3 different types of odds every bettor should know – fractional, decimal, and American. As we already said, they are all the same but used in various sports and regions.

If you want to learn how to read odds in betting, you must understand what the 3 different odds represent.

Fractional Odds Explained

Most often used at UK bookies and for sports such as horse racing, fractional odds indicate the profit ratio won to the stake. To make things easy for you, let’s say you and your friend are betting on something. You’re giving your friend 5 to 1 chance on his choice – this would be displayed as 5/1 in fractional odds.

You don’t need to be an expert on how to read odds ratios to understand how these odds work. While the fractions might look complicated initially, they’re quite easy to use once you get the hang of them.

Decimal Odds Explained

Decimal odds are by far the most popular and easiest type of odds to understand. They’re commonly used in Europe – even some UK bookies are switching to them. Instead of fractions or positive and negative signs in front of the odds, these are displayed in a simple decimal format. For example, odds of 2,0 are even odds that will double your stake.

To calculate winnings with decimal odds, multiply the number with your stake.

American Odds Explained

American odds are only used in the USA and rarely anywhere else. These are the so-called betting lines with a + or – sign in front of them. You will find these odds at American bookies, most commonly on sports such as baseball and hockey.

The negative sign indicates the favorite, showing what you need to bet to win $100 in return. On the other hand, the positive sign indicates the underdog, showing you what you’ll win for a $100 bet.

To put things into perspective, a $100 bet on a favorite with odds of -200 will give you a $50 profit for a total payout of $150. If you place a $100 bet on a +200 underdog, the profit will be double ($200) for a total payout of $300.

Types of Bets

Online sportsbooks these days offer dozens of different bet types. Match winners and outrights are still popular, but emerging new types of bets are pretty fun to place.

Of course, if you want to make the most of moneyline or point spreads, you need to learn how to read them properly.

Reading Moneyline Odds

Moneyline odds are American odds. They are displayed with a minus sign for a favorite and a plus sign for the underdog. A $150 bet on a -150 favorite will bring you in $100 in profit.

If you place a $100 bet on a +150 underdog, you’ll get $150 in profit.

Reading a Point Spread Odds

Point spread betting is prevalent in high-scoring sports such as basketball. The NBA is a primer candidate for point spreads. This bet represents the margin of victory in a match.

Let’s have point spread betting odds explained with an example:

  • Lakers –6.5
  • Bucks +6.5

In this case, the Lakers are favorites to win by 7 points or more. The Bucks will bring you money if they lose by 1-6 points or win the game. A team must cover the spread for you to win your bet slip.

Reading Total (Over/Under) Odds

This type of wager predicts a number for certain stats in a match. It usually indicates the combined score of both teams that can go over or under a set line.

For example, an NFL game with an O/U of 46 allows you to bet if the total score of the teams will be lower or higher than that number. If it finishes under, all bettors that wagered under will win.

Reading Plus Minus Odds

Plus and minus odds indicate the favorite and underdog in a match. We already explained them above – these are most commonly used in moneyline or American odds.

Reading Live Odds

For the most part, live odds are the same as pre-match odds. However, they change much faster depending on what happens in the match. Due to that, you should react quickly if you don’t want to lose value.

Betting against the Odds

Betting against the odds means that a price is larger than even money. A player who bets against the odds will receive more money in return for their bets than the amount staked.


We hope that our guide has helped you learn how to read sports odds. While it may all look complicated in the beginning, don’t worry – reading odds is not that hard and gets easier over time. Let this article serve as a guide, and you’ll have no trouble reading bookies’ odds the next time you’re betting.

Pick a bookmaker from our list of recommendations, and you’ll make sure to get the best value in return for your money.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do plus and minus odds work?

    Plus and minus odds indicate the favorite and underdog. Minus is for favorites, while the plus indicates the underdog.

  • How can I calculate my potential winnings?

    Calculating your potential winnings depends on the odds format. The good news is that most online bookmakers nowadays will calculate returns instantly as soon as you click on a bet.

  • Why would you bet on negative odds?

    Betting on negative odds means wagering on the favorite to win. It’s the easier pick in a match, but favorites don’t always win.

  • What is a push?

    A push is a betting term that indicates a tie.

  • How to read the odds ratio?

    Reading fractional odds is more comfortable than most bettors think. The first number represents the profit won to the stake (the second number).

  • Are the odds different depending on the sport?

    While sportsbooks will display different odds on a sport, the odds given to favorites and underdogs are the same for all formats.

  • What does it mean 10 to 1 odds?

    Betting on odds of 10 to 1 means that you’ll get $20 for a bet of $2. 10 indicates the units you’ll get in return for a single one.

  • What do odds of +200 mean?

    A line with +200 odds means that the team or player is an underdog in the match. A $100 bet on +200 odds will return a profit of $200 and a total payout of $300 ($100 stake + $200 profit).

  • What are 7 to 2 odds?

    7/2 odds are converted to 4.5 in decimal odds. A bet of $1 on 7/2 will return a $3.5 profit and a payout of $4.5.


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