Sports Betting Odds Explained
Before you start betting on sports, the first thing you need to know is how the odds work.
The odds determine how much you’ll win on your bet, and it can be hugely different depending on who you’re betting on.
We’ll cover everything about how sports betting odds work:
- How to read sports betting odds (not to be confused with betting lines)
- Underdog odds
- Favorite odds
- How to calculate your winnings based on odds
- Different types of sports betting odds: American, fractional and decimal
- FAQ: underdogs, favorites, what odds you want, etc
- Where to go once you know the basics
Odds are the heart of a bet. You can’t really understand what you’re betting on if you don’t understand odds, so let’s dive in.
Sports Betting Odds vs Sports Betting Lines
It helps to get a little sports betting vocabulary out of the way. You might hear people talk about the “odds” of a game or the “line” of a game. These are two different things. So what’s the difference?
Sports betting odds tell you how much you’ll win on the bet you place, while the betting line usually refers to the point spread or how much your team is predicted to win or lose by.
This article will focus on how to read sports betting odds. If you want to know more about point spread, check out our article on the most common types of sports bets.
How to read sports betting odds
We’ve covered that odds tell you how much you’ll win on a bet. But they don’t directly say “bet $100 to win $96,” so how do you decipher the code?
It takes a little math, but it’s worth learning because it’s the heart of sports betting.
Side note: Most sports betting sites will calculate your winnings for you, so you won’t have to go through this math. It’s still could to have an idea of how they’re calculated so you understand what’s on the line.
Below I’m going to be talking about standard American odds. There are other ways odds can be listed and I’ll cover that at the bottom of the article:
Step 1: What does the + and – mean in the odds?
The first thing you’ll see in odds is they either have a plus or minus sign before the number.
A plus sign means you’ll be paid more than you bet. The reason you’re paid more is the the team with the plus odds is the underdog, or the bet is the bet that is less likely to win if you’re not betting on a team.
A minus bet means you’ll be paid less than you bet (of course, you get your money back + the winnings so you can’t lose money if you win the bet). The reason you’re paid less is the team with the minus odds is the favorite, or if you’re not betting on a team, the bet is less risky (the favorite bet).
Step 2: What does the number after the plus or minus sign mean?
The number is the heart of the bet. It gets a little confusing here because the number means something different depending if it’s a (+) bet or a (-) bet so let’s break down both:
For plus bets: The number next to the plus sign is how much you would profit if you made a $100 bet. The higher the number, the more you get paid if your bet hits. In example, a bet with +200 odds would pay you $200 profit if you make a $100 bet. This means you get $300 from the sportsbook after winning a $100 bet with these odds (your $100 back + $200 profit you won = $300)
For minus bets: The number next the minus sign is how much you need to bet profit $100. The higher the number, the less you get paid if your bet hits. In example, a bet with -200 odds you would need to bet $200 to win $100 profit. This means you would get $300 from the sportsbook after winning a $200 bet with these odds (your $200 back + $100 profit you won = $300)
You can see the big difference in these odds from the examples above. Let’s NC State and Duke are playing. NC State has +200 odds to win and Duke has -200 odds to win. Your goal is to make/profit $100. You would have to put a $200 bet on Duke to win to win this $100. For NC State, you could put a $50 bet (a $100 bet would have paid $200) to win the same amount.
This is how sportsbooks control the bets. They know Duke is the favorite, so you have to risk losing 4 times as much to win the bet.
How do sports books decide what odds to make?
Sports books decide the odds based on complex (and secret) analytics and algorithms that tell them the percent chance the bet has of winning. Then, they take these percent chances of winning and convert it to odds. Finally, they take juice (their profit) before coming up with the final odds.
That might be slightly confusing, but here’s the important takeaway:
Every bet has implied odds. This means you can take the odds and determine what it says about your bets chance of winning. For example, a +100 bet tells you a team has a 50% chance of winning. So if you believe the bet actually has a 60% chance of winning, you’d want to place the bet. Kind of confusing, but I have an article on how to calculate implied odds with a calculator.
How to calculate how much you’ll win based on betting odds
The betting odds are easy when you’re working in the $100 increments shown above. But how do you calculate how much you’ll win based on the odds with any bet?
You convert the bets to a fraction.
For plus bets you use this equation (betting odds / 100) * (the amount you bet) = your profit (you’ll get the profit + the amount you bet back in your account). In other words, if a bet has +600 odds, and you want to bet $5, you can do the math like this:
- your fractional odds = (600 / 100) = 6
- 6 * $5 (the amount you bet) = $30 or how much you profit
- $30 (your winnings/profit) + $5 (your bet amount) = $35 or the amount the sportsbook will put in your account
For minus bets, you do the same as above except you flip the first part of the equation: (100 / betting odds) * (the amount you bet) = your profit. So if the team you want to win is a heavy favorite and has -600 odds, you can do the math like this:
your fractional odds = (100 / 600) = 0.167 (needed a calculator for this one)
0.167 * $5 (the amount you bet) = $0.84 or how much you profit
$0.84 (your winnings/profit) + $5 (your bet amount) = $5.84 or the amount the sportsbook will put in your account
Huge difference! But also +600 vs -600 odds means Vegas thinks the -600 is a very, very likely to win.
This calculation is a good transition to other types of betting odds.
Sports Bet Winnings Calculator
Here is a calculator that takes American odds (standard odds at USA sports books), and gives you how much you’ll profit. It’ll also tell you your total payout, or how much you’ll get back including the bet you gave the sportsbook.
For example, if you bet $10 and get a $2 profit/winnings, you’ll get a $12 payout.
American Odds vs Fractional Odds vs Decimal Odds
The odds we discussed above are called “American Odds.” These are most commonly used in the United States. In other countries and sometimes other types of gambling like horse racing, you might find fractional odds or decimals odds. I think fractional odds and decimal odds are easier to understand because they tell how much you win no matter the size of your bet (we calculated it above when determining payouts from American odds).
Fractional and decimal odds are the fraction or decimal you multiply your bet by to determine how much you profit.
Decimal odds: Decimal odds tell you how much to multiply your bet by to determine the total amount you’ll get paid back. Decimal odds are always over 1 because you’d never do a bet that gave you back less money than you bet if you win. Decimal odds of 2.0 mean you would get $20 back (10*2) on a $10 bet (your profit would be $10… your $20 you won minus $10 bet). This would be the same as +100 American odds
Fraction odds: Fractional odds tell you the fraction to multiply your bet by to determine the profit you’ll win. Since it tells you the profit, the fraction can be less than one. A fractional bet with 1/2 odds would mean you win/profit $5 on a $10 bet [$10 * (1/2) = $5]. You would also get your $10 bet back, so you’d receive $15 from the sportsbook.
The big difference between fractional odds and decimal odds is fractional odds tell you how much you’ll profit when you bet and decimal odds tell you the total amount you’ll receive (profit + the amount you bet).
FAQ on sports betting odds
Here are a few questions we commonly get on sports betting odds.
What is the money line bet?
The moneyline bet is a bet on who will win the game. Sometimes people use the moneyline similarly to the odds because the odds explain who is the favorite and by how much. An example: “What is the moneyline for the Packers Bears game?” “The packers are +150”
Does the underdog have positive (+) or negative (-) odds in the moneyline bet?
The underdog is the team with plus (+) odds because this means you profit more than you bet. An example is the underdog might have +250 odds, meaning you can bet $100 to win an extra $250.
Does the favorite have positive (+) or negative (-) odds in the moneyline bet?
The favorite is the team with minus (-) odds because this means you profit less than you paid to make the bet. An example is the favorite might have -300 odds, meaning you have to bet $300 to win $100.
Is it better to have plus (+) or minus (-) odds?
If you’re a fan, you want your team to have minus odds because that means they are the favorite to win the game. If you won a bet, you would rather have positive odds because it means you’ll get paid more money.
Spread bets aren’t considered an odds bet because… this gets a little confusing… but the spread is the “odds.” Since you’re betting on what the sports book has chosen each team to win by, you have a 50% chance of winning and 50% of losing. It’s a “fair” bet, so the sportsbook doesn’t need odds. You can learn more about spread and other types of bets if this is confusing.
Technically, there are odds, it’s just almost always the same at -110, so you’ll get just less than double your money back (the reason it’s a little less is how the sportsbook makes it’s profit…also called juice).
Where you should go next with your sports betting journey
Now that you know the basics of sports betting odds, there are a couple of articles I suggest you check out next.
Now that you know sports betting odds, you’ll also want to know the most common types of sports bets (this will cover moneyline bets, spread bets, and over/under bets).
Once you have the basic types of bets and odds down, you’ve graduated to learn betting strategy. We go over different ways to maximize your odds and even guarantee you’ll make money early on in your sports gambling adventure.