How To Read Betting Odds

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Betting School: How To Read Betting Odds

As part of our betting school series, we’re going to spend a little time explaining how to read betting odds. After all, this is a central part of the sports betting experience. You need to know whether the bookie is offering you good odds, or whether you should try somewhere else.

While anybody with a moderate phobia of mathematics might be put off by the use of fractions and decimals, it’s only by getting a good understanding of odds that you’re going to be able to make some decent sports betting winnings.

The basics of betting odds

  • Odds are usually devised by bookmakers
  • Odds express how likely it is that a particular event will happen
  • Traditionally, bookmakers present odds in a fractional format
  • Decimal odds are becoming increasingly commonplace
  • Odds can vary between bookies on the same event

Odds are a numerical term that expresses how likely it is that a particular event will happen. This can refer to absolutely anything that you can think of. We usually think of odds as they relate to sports, but you can find odds on things like the name of the next royal baby, award ceremonies and elections. The key thing to remember about odds is that they are purely hypothetical scenarios that offer a payout based on the likelihood of something happening.

How to read betting odds as fractions and decimals

Regardless of which sports betting website you go to, you will find that all bookmakers use a similar system to let you know what odds they are offering on particular sporting events. After all, if each bookie used a different system, it would be impossible to know which bookmaker was offering us the best odds. But before we go into the ways that bookies display their odds, we need to quickly understand what odds actually are.

What are odds, anyway?

Fractional odds

Traditionally, sports bookmakers have presented odds to the punter in a fractional format. While fractions from 20/1 to 9/4 might scare off some betting newcomers, they can actually be fairly simple if you break them down into their individual parts.

The first number reflects the amount of money that you would win, while the second number after the line refers to the amount of money that you have staked. So, if you see odds of 20/1, it would mean that if your wager of £1 on this was successful, then you would win £20 (plus your stake back) in return. Whereas if you placed £4 on a 9/4 bet, you would win £9 and get your initial £4 amount back too.

However, there are also odds-on options to consider. You will commonly see these when there is a favourite to win a sporting event. This is why bookies will offer odds of 1/6 for Manchester City to win the Premier League, as it means that you would have to stake £6 just to win £1 back (plus your stake, of course).

Decimal odds

As fractional odds can be a little off-putting to look at, it’s good to find that decimal odds are becoming increasingly commonplace. With decimal odds, you don’t have to carry out any difficult mathematical calculations, as they automatically factor in your initial bet. This means you can quickly compare different odds from different bookmakers.

So, 20/1 odds would now be represented as 21.0, and 9/4 odds would be represented as 3.25. This is because a winning £10 bet on 20/1 or 21.0 odds would give you £210, including your initial stake, while a successful £10 wager on 9/4 or 3.25 odds would give you £32.50.

As a result, the higher the decimal odds rise, the less likely it is that the betting outcome will actually happen. So, you’ll never see betting odds that are less than 1.00, and if you see odds of 1.01, it means that this is a result that is almost certain to happen and therefore not worth betting on!

Choose the right format for you

Don’t forget that there is no difference in value between fractional and decimal odds. Most bookmaker websites will allow you to toggle between fractional and decimal odds, so that you can use the format that works best for your sports betting.

Also, whether you’re keeping it old-school with fractional odds, or embracing the future with decimal odds, it’s all about predicting the outcome of the sporting event in a way that maximises your stake in conjunction with the odds which are on offer from the bookmaker.

Key things to consider when examining bookmakers’ odds

Now that we’ve cleared up the differences between the way bookies’ odds are presented, you’re going to need to know how to read them so that you can make some money.

The first thing to remember is that because odds are (usually) devised by bookmakers, they are not necessarily fixed and can change as time goes on. This is why you will see the odds getting longer for football teams like Arsenal as their Premier League hopes fade away (and likelihood of success are reduced).

Because of this, there is plenty of skill in knowing when to time your bet. This is especially true with the advent of in-play betting that allows you to seize some especially lucrative odds late on in a sporting event.

For example, a football team that is playing at home with ten minutes left with a three-goal advantage against their opponents should give you odds of something like 1.01 for them to win. But you should also know that a closer match can provide better odds late in the game.

This is because the last 10 minutes of any match are prone to some goal-scoring as players get tired and become careless. So, if it’s a goalless draw with 10 minutes to play, then look for the most competitive odds that the bookies are offering to give yourself the potential to get some handy winnings.

Favourite or outsider?

Many sports betting newcomers also have problems trying to understand why people don’t always bet on the favourites. This is because if you’re betting £100 on a racehorse whose exceptional form has meant that it has odds of 1/10 or 1.1, it means that you’re only going to be getting £10 in return, which is not a great way to maximise your betting.

Other punters wonder why we don’t sometimes try and back the outsiders with the longest odds. While Leicester City managed to win the Premier League with odds of 5000/1, or 5001, it’s clear that such lucrative results aren’t going to come around too often.

This is why it’s always a good idea to try and take advantage of the middle ground when a promising outsider is showing early signs of causing an upset. For example, football tournaments, like the FA Cup, are great for betting on, as lower league sides frequently get long odds that can produce a shocking result when they achieve the unthinkable and put a major club out of the competition.

This is where doing a little bit of research ahead of a sporting event can really pay off, as you’ll be working out how likely each scenario is to happen, and you can calculate this against the odds on offer.

Compare the bookies for the best deal

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Regardless of which betting tips or strategies you use, be sure to check out OpenOdds. We take the work out of comparing all the different bookies and odds, so that you can be confident you’re getting the best deal and will enjoy maximum returns if you pull off a win.

Final thoughts on betting odds

So hopefully we’ve clarified what betting odds are all about, and shown that there’s no real difference between using fractional and decimal odds systems.

While fractional odds have been with us for a long time, it’s evident that decimal odds might be gaining the upper hand as they factor in your stake, are quicker to understand, and are also well-suited to digital technologies.

The majority of bookmakers allow you to use both systems according to your own individual preference by toggling between the options. It’s therefore relatively easy to check the odds from different bookmakers to see which bookie is offering you the best deal – just don’t
forget to use a decent odds comparison site so that you get the very latest odds.

We’ve shown why betting on the favourite doesn’t necessarily lead to the biggest winnings, and revealed that backing an extreme outsider is a fairly quick way to lose your stake.

So, it’s merely a case of seeing which odds the bookmaker provides that can give you the biggest potential profit from the smallest possible stake. After all, you are trying to outsmart the bookie by wagering on scenarios that they don’t think will be likely to happen.

And if you can use your researching skills and gut instincts to prove the bookies wrong, then you could be well on your way to making some well-earned winnings.

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