How Do Betting Odds Work? | Betting Odds Explained

Last updated & tested: 2019-08-11

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How do betting odds work? You’ll need to know the answer to this if you plan on making any decent profits from your sports bets. If you’re a brand new punter, then understanding how odds work or the theory behind betting odds is a fundamental part of your wagering success. It will help you bet smarter, win more, and of course boost your overall profits. We’ll give you a brief overview of the three main odds systems, let you know which one of these systems is the best option for you, and then we will provide you with a selection of some of the most important terms you’ll need to understand.

The whole concept of betting odds relates to the probability of something occurring in a sporting event. Simply put, odds determine how much money you will make in relation to the amount of money you wager.

    • Most online bookmakers will use at least one of three odds systems. These systems are help you figure out your bets and budget calculations.
    • Odds are simply the likelihood that a certain occurrence will happen within a sporting event, and it is the basis of every type of bet you’ll find.
    • The odds system will determine how much money you’ll be able to make; as we explain each odds system we’ll give you a practical example to show how you calculate and what it means for your bottom line.
    • Evens, ante-post and starting price are some of the sophisticated bookie terms you’ll see thrown around. We’ll help you master the essentials.

Types of Odds You May Find: Betting odds explained

There are three primary odds systems that you’ll be able to choose from at most bookies’ sites: fractional, decimal, and American odds. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Fractional odds: Fractional odds are the most popular odds format on display at most British bookmaker sites. The way fractional odds work is that they’ll indicate how much profit you’ll get back from a one-unit stake. How does this work? Let’s say that your betting stake is £10. If you place a wager at 3/1 odds, this simply means that a punter will get paid out three times the original betting stake. So that would mean that the punter who placed a £10 bet would make receive £30 back. Just remember that this includes the original £10 stake, as well as the £20 in betting profits.
  • Decimal odds: Decimal odds are by far the most popular odds system out there in the online betting world. Nearly all of the major online bookmakers, regardless of the region, will make decimal odds available to you. Decimal odds explicitly tell you how much money you’ll get from your stake. So if you were wagering £10 on odds of 4.00, it would mean that you’d get £40 in return which includes your original £10 stake and £30 in profits.
  • American odds: Also known as moneyline odds, this odds system displays odds that are accompanied by either a plus or negative sign. These indicate how much you would need to wager in order to win $100. For example, if you saw odds that displayed +125, it means that you would need to put down a betting stake of $100 in order to win back $125. But if you wagered on odds of -150, then you’d need to bet $150 to make a $100 profit.

Fractional vs. Decimal: Which is better?

Many people would suggest that the most user-friendly odds system is the decimal system as it makes the calculations easier. Since it’s the most common odds format available it means that you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a bookie with decimal odds. Despite this, many sports betting fans favour fractional odds, and moneyline odds are an indispensable part of the US betting scene. Thankfully most decent bookmakers allow you to switch odds formats relatively quickly and there are also many odds conversion charts available online. Some bookmakers even have betting calculators that can help make the job even easier.

Key terms for understanding betting odds

There are some terms that you’ll often see the small print in many of the welcome offers and promotions at sports betting sites. It’s important to read these terms and conditions to make sure that you don’t invalidate a bonus by wagering on the wrong kinds of odds. Many of these terms are common in horse racing and football betting markets, and here’s quick look at some of the more frequently seen betting terms:

  • Evens: This means that a punter will be able to win the same amount that they had staked on a particular bet. In fractional odds, evens are represented by 1/1 and in decimal odds they’re 2.0.
  • Ante-post: This term is common in the horse racing world, and it refers to bets made at least one day ahead of the sporting event.
  • In-play betting: Also known as live betting, this refers to any bet that is made after the sporting event has started. So for a football live bet, you could bet on anything from the first goalscorer to the final score after the match has kicked off.
  • Starting price: This refers to the final odds of a runner at the moment that a horse race begins.
  • Total Goals Under/Over: This allows you to bet on whether a team scores more or less goals than a number quoted by the bookmaker.
  • Half Time/Full Time: These bets allow you to wager on the scores at half-time and at the end of the match. You have nine possible combinations for this kind of bet.
  • Handicap Betting: This kind of bet puts one team or player at a point disadvantage and it’s useful option if you want to bet on a clear favourite. For example if you wanted to bet on Manchester City to beat Sheffield United, a handicap bet would put City at a goal disadvantage. Manchester City would have to score more goals to win, but you would stand to make more in the way of profits with this kind of bet.
  • First Goal Scorer: You can also place bets on who will score the first goal in a match. Some bookies will then double and treble these bets if the player scores more goals.

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Conclusion

In this article, we’ve attempted to answer the question "How do betting odds work?".  But to fully appreciate how betting odds work, all you need to know is that odds tell you how much you’ll win with a particular bet. If you need betting odds explained to you in further detail, we would encourage you to read other related OpenOdds articles.

There are three common odds formats, and whilst most UK bookmakers feature the fractional odds system, the majority of bookmakers worldwide use the decimal system. If you need help in understanding the way that different bookies display their odds, then don’t forget that there are many odds conversion tables to help you out. From here, it’s just a matter of making sure that you are familiar with the main betting terms, and then you’ll find it simple to make the most of what the sports betting world has to offer.

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