How Does Betting Odds Work? | Betting Odds Explained

Last updated & tested: 2019-05-17

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How does betting odds work? At the heart of any punter’s strategy are the odds at which one is going to make a wager. If you’re a brand-new punter, then understanding the answer to the question of what do betting odds mean is a fundamental part of your learning curve. It will help you bet smarter, win more, and of course increase your happiness with betting. We’ll give you a brief overview of the three main odds systems, which of these systems is the best one for you and then a selection of some of the most important terms you’ll need to become an expert punter in no time.

The whole concept of betting, and odds in itself, is all about the probability of something occurring. 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 vital when figuring out your bets and budget calculations.
    • Odds are simply the likelihood that a certain event will occur and 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 across most bookies: fractional, decimal, and American odds. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Fractional odds: Fractional odds are the most popular odds format on display on British bookmaking 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 a unit stake is £10. If you place a wager at 3/1 odds, this simply means that a punter will get paid out 3 times the unit stake. So that would mean that the punter who placed this wager would make £30.
  • Decimal odds: Decimal odds are by far the most popular odds system out there in the online betting world because nearly all of the online bookmakers, regardless of the region, make decimal odds available to you. Decimal odds explicitly tell you how much money you’ll get from a 1-unit stake. Bookmakers will state the bookmaker unit of preference because it could 1 be one, or maybe it’s 10 or 100. If we take decimal odds of 4.00 that will mean your profit will be £40 divided between the £30 profit and the £10 return stake.
  • American odds: The basis of the American odds system is 100, and positive and negative outcomes. If you’re not familiar with the term American odds, you may have seen them before referred to as money lines. What do the positive and negative signs mean? When the bet is negative, it will show how much you need to get to the coveted 100 for a bet, and when it’s positive, it shows you how much profit you’ll be able to make from a typical bet.

Fractional vs. Decimal: Which is better?

While the most user-friendly system is surely the decimal system because it makes the calculations easier. Since it’s the most common system available it will ensure for a safer strategy towards a win. However, it is useful to look at the odds side-by-side for all of the systems. Many websites have conversion charts available and most of our articles will show the odds in both decimal and fractional odds systems.

An easy example is that evens odds are represented as 2.0 in decimal odds and are 1/1 in fractional odds. Many bookmakers also have betting calculators that can help make the job even easier.

A few more key terms for betting odds

There are some terms that you’ll see a lot in the fine print in many of the welcome offers and markets out there. Many of these terms are common in horse racing and football betting markets, so they’ll really help you make more informed decisions. Here’s a quick breakdown of the best of them:

  • Evens: A stake of evens basically means that a punter will be able to win the same amount that he or she staked on a particular bet. In fractional odds, evens are represented by 1/1 and in decimal odds they’re 2.0.
  • Ante-post: As the Latin root implies, ante-post is often used when relating to betting markets for events that are going to happen in the future. They’ll most likely refer to events happening the day after the bet becomes available for wagering.
  • In-play betting: This type of betting refers to the wagers that you’ll place on events from the time they have started until they have finished. Football and horse racing have many opportunities to stake on in-play betting and lots of profit to be found.
  • Starting price: For horse betters, the starting price is a critical term you need to keep in mind; this is the price that you’ll see for a particular race as it’s about to start reflecting the odds for the particular horse and jockey at this point.
  • Total Goals Under/Over: This type of bet will relate to the number of goals scored will be greater or lesser than the number of goals a punter has quoted.
  • Half Time/Full Time: These bets allow you to wager on the scores at the half-time and end-of-match points of football matches. The number of possible combinations you have for this bet is 9.
  • Handicap Betting: This type of betting is common when the match up is seen to be one-sided, or rather, with one side being much more heavily favoured than another. An example of this would be Manchester City and Hull. This would mean that Hull could get ahead by at least one goal.
  • First Goal Scorer: You can also place bets on which player from a certain side 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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In this article, we’ve attempted to answer the question "How does betting odds work?" However, we’ve only really touched the surface. What you really need to know is that odds help you figure out how much you’ll win from making a certain bet. If you need betting odds explained to you in further detail, we encourage you to read other related OpenOdds articles.

There are three primary systems that can be used, and while most UK bookmakers rely on the fractional odds system, the majority of bookmakers worldwide use the decimal system. No matter how you calculate the system, there are numerous tables out there that help you get the odds equivalents. And then, of course, you’ve got some of the most important odds terms that you need to be able to bet on football and horse racing which we have covered.


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