How To Read Betting Odds
Last updated & tested: 2019-08-06
For the betting novice, listening to or reading seasoned bettors discussing an upcoming event can be confusing and even outright intimidating. Listening to people talking about complicated strategies when you don’t even know how to read betting odds can make the whole thing rather off-putting and difficult to follow.
In truth, betting really isn’t that complicated; like anything else, there is a learning curve but once you get started it’s far from as intimidating as you might assume.
The Principles Behind Betting Odds
- The traditional way of calculating betting odds is known as “Fractional” betting, and those are the kind of odds that are listed as “3/1” or “5/2” on betting slips. Although many online bookmakers will list odds in the more modern “Decimal” style, it’s worth learning how to read betting odds in whatever form they may appear.
- Trying to get fractional odds explained using plain English can be tricky. They’re completely simple once you understand the principle, but communicating that principle in a few words isn’t something that most people can do.
- However, let’s take the most straightforward odds of all in a fractional sense. 1/1 – more commonly referred to as “even money” or just “evens” – means that a bet of (for example) £1 will return winnings of £1 if the bet wins.
- Now, let’s say that the odds are 2/1. What this means is that the amount you bet will be doubled if the bet wins. If you placed a bet of 1 at those odds, and the bet wins, you would receive £2 (plus your stake) back. If you bet £50, you’ll win £100.
- They’re called fractional odds because they are expressed as a fraction. 1/4 is a quarter, so if you bet £1 at 1/4 odds, a win will give you winnings of 25p – or half of a pound.
- Unlike most fractions you’ll remember from school, most odds will have a “numerator” (the number before the “/”) higher than the “denominator” (the number after it).
- One exception to this is in handicap markets, where you back a team to beat (or not to beat) a point spread. In this, the underdog is given a hypothetical “start” of a certain number of points, and will then be given odds of 5/6 to win, while the favourites will be given the same odds to “beat the spread”.
Decimal Odds: Simpler, But Less Traditional
When you know how betting odds are calculated, it is easier to see at a glance how much value a bet is giving you, and compare them between bookmakers. If you’re not used to fractional odds, then decimal odds can seem simpler; mostly because they are simpler.
The first thing to note about decimal odds is that they are expressed as a number. The shortest decimal odds possible are 1.01, but you’ll almost never see that unless a result is a foregone conclusion. More usually, you’ll see something like 1.67, or 3.00.
These odds are simple to understand. If you place a bet of £1 at odds of, say, 3.50, you will win £3.50. If you place £2 at the same odds, you’ll win £7.
One difference you need to be aware of between fractional odds and decimal is that the “winnings” on a decimal bet always include the stake of your bet, which is returned if you win and forfeited if you lose. This is why you’ll never see odds below “1.01” – if you win, you’re never going to have money taken off you. So fractional odds of 2/1 do not correspond to decimal odds of 2.00; they actually correspond to odds of 3.00.
Another Advantage of Decimal Odds…
Even those who aren’t frequent bettors may well have heard of “matched betting”. This is a more complicated process than we have space to deal with in-depth here. However, suffice it to say that learning how to do matched betting will let you use the free bets given to you as incentives by bookmakers to their best effect. Employ them to place another bet which “covers” the initial bet you make and ensure that you will always make a profit.
If you remember those school maths lessons in which you learned to multiply and divide fractions, you’ll remember it felt needlessly complicated and you’ve probably forgotten how to do it by now. Working with whole numbers – which we can mostly all still do – makes learning how to do matched betting a great deal easier. Considering how lucrative matched betting can be, this is no small thing.
Why You Should Know How Both Decimal And Fractional Betting Odds Work
The language of betting is bewildering to the uninitiated, not least because decimal odds are hard to express in spoken words. So if you are listening to a betting expert talking about the odds for an upcoming golf tournament, it’s worth knowing what they mean by the following:
“Rickie Fowler is a big favourite for this event, his odds before the first tee have come in to 5/1.”
The expert will almost never say that Fowler’s odds are “6.00”; so even if you place your bet with a bookmaker offering digital odds, it helps to know both types of odds before you begin. You can bet more or less successfully while only knowing one kind, but think of betting as being like a large gathering where some people speak French and others speak English – you’ll witness both being used, and it helps a lot if you can speak both. Here’s a handy reminder of how betting odds are calculated.
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How Betting Odds Are Calculated: Dealing With Odds Like “5/2” or “11/4”
Fractional betting odds occasionally throw up numbers that are confusing for the novice – it’s easy to calculate the winnings on odds of 10/1 or any time the denominator is “1”. This is one of the advantages of decimal odds. It’s easy to see at a glance how much you’ll win with £10 on odds of 3.50. When those odds are 5/2, it’s not as straightforward for everyone.
To put it simply, just as the odds of 10/1 mean that you’ll win ten pounds back for every pound you bet – so you’ll win £100 if you bet £10 – when the odds are 5/2 you’ll win five pounds back for every two you bet, making winnings of £25. The best way to work out how these odds look for you is to actually “solve” the sum in the fraction;
- Divide five by two – the answer is 2.5.
- Multiply your stake by that answer.
- Alternatively, you could divide your stake by the denominator.
- So if you’re betting £50, the number you should get is 25.
- Multiply that by the numerator to get your potential winnings; in this case, £125.
The Things To Remember When Figuring Out Betting Odds
If you’re betting online, then a lot of the work is going to be done for you when figuring out how much you stand to win. Once you’ve picked your bet and entered your stake online, the bookmaker will calculate your possible winnings before the bet is actually placed. This will take a lot of the headache out of learning how to read betting odds, especially for a newbie.
The reason it is important to be able to do these sums yourself is that it’s a way of finding out the best value available from the range of bookmakers without having to go through the effort of nearly placing bets with all of them. This can be particularly useful if you see odds in a bookie’s window. Do they offer value? You can figure it out yourself if you know how betting odds are calculated, so be sure to use a betting odds calculator for a helping hand.
- If it helps, think of the numerator as what you could get, and the denominator what you have to risk.
- To put it another way, the higher the number before the “/”, and the lower the number after it, the better value you’re getting.
- So if one bookmaker is offering 7/2 on an outcome, another is offering 5/2 on the same outcome, and another offering 7/4, the first one is giving the best value.
- If you get stuck, there are fractional-to-decimal sports betting odds calculators available online.
- Most importantly, when you’re betting for real, all of this becomes a lot easier to understand. Learn by doing, place small bets to begin with until everything seems more straightforward to you.
So Which Is Better – Fractional Or Decimal Odds?
Try not to think of fractional or decimal odds being worse or better. A command of both will be to your advantage when navigating the world of betting both on- and off-line. The better you understand how to read betting odds in general, the quicker you will be able to calculate whether a bet you are planning is offering the value it really ought to.
Learning how to read odds is really a matter of simple maths. As long as you know how to use a calculator, you’ll always have all that you need to bet in an informed way. Even if there are plenty of guides on how to do matched betting, for example, knowing how those guides reach their conclusion means understanding how different types of betting odds are read. Simply put, it just makes sense to learn early on and accumulate knowledge with each bet.