Betting Odds for Beginners

Odds are a numbers game and they’re important to understand because they’re everywhere in the casino and sportsbook. Without a basic knowledge of them, you won’t know what you’re getting yourself into. However, if you have a sharp understanding of them, then you’ll start to be able to learn how the games work and how to become a winning gambler.

If you haven’t really spent much time learning how the betting odds work or how to read them, our handy guide below will get you started.

How Do Betting Odds Work?

One of the first steps of getting into sports or casino betting is to get an understanding of how do odds work. After all, sports betting and everything in the casino has to do with odds. If you don’t know how the betting odds work, you basically don’t have a keen understanding of the basic rules of the game.

In general, what the odds tell you are your chances of winning the game. Of course, most people just look at the odds and use that as a gauge as to what the payout will be. That’s one way of looking at it. But, what the odds really tell you is what the oddsmakers believe your chances of winning are.

People playing poker

In something like sports betting, it’s merely an estimate since the oddsmakers can only do their best. There is no telling what’s to happen when the two teams or players match up, but at the same time, they factor in a whole host of different things like momentum, injuries, weather, historical stats and come up with a number as to what they think is reasonable.

In terms of casino games, though, the odds are simply based on math. You play or spin or get dealt in, and your odds of winning are your odds of winning: they don’t change. That’s why it’s important to know the odds. They will tell you what your chances are and then you’ll also get a better idea as to how each move you make impacts your chances of winning or losing.

How To Read Betting Odds

There are typically three types of odds that you’re going to come across in a casino or a sports book. They might look different but at the end of the day, they all tell you the same story: what you’ll win based on your bet. Let’s take a look at the three types of odds:

Fractional Odds Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are quite common in a casino as you’ll see numbers like 10/1, 50/1 or 5/2. These all tell you the payout for the game you’re playing if you win. To figure out what it means, we have to go back to our elementary math days and work with fractions.

When the denominator – the number on the bottom – is 1, then the math is quite simple. For each $1 you bet, you’d win what the numerator – the number on the top of the fraction – shows. If it’s 10/1, you’d win $10 for every $1 you bet. If it’s 50/1, you’d win $250 on a $5 bet.

If the denominator isn’t 1, then you simply take that amount and divide it by the above amount to get the multiple. In other words, 5 divided by 2 gives you 2.5, so if you bet $1, you’d win $2.50. Another way to look at it is for every $2 you bet; you’d win $5. Barring some rare circumstance, you’re only going to see 1 or 2 as the denominator, so it’s easy to figure out.

American Odds American Odds

American odds might look a bit trickier to start, but they’re actually quite simple to figure out. When you’re looking at these types of odds, you’re going to see numbers like +150, +275, -1500 and -110. The first thing you’ll want to notice is whether the sign in front of the number is a plus sign or a minus sign.

When it’s a plus sign, that tells you the amount of money you’d win if you bet $100. For example, odds of +150 tell you that a $100 bet would pay $150. In that case, you’re taking home $250 if you win your bet: your $100 stake and $150 in profit.

On the other hand, if you see a minus sign, that indicates the amount of money you’d have to bet to win $100. In other words, -150 means that a $150 bet would pay $100. If the odds said -200, that means that you’d bet $200 to win $100.

Of course, you aren’t tied to betting these exact amounts at any point but this gives you an indication as to what your payout will be.

Keep in mind that the smaller the numbers go into negatives, the bigger the favorite that team or side is. In other words, a team that’s -1000 is a heavy favorite whereas -150 is a small favorite. Going the other way, the bigger the number goes into positives, the bigger the underdog. In other words, a team that’s +5000 is a huge underdog while a team that’s +110 is just a small underdog.

Decimal Odds Decimal Odds

A lot of European casinos and sports books stick to decimal odds as they’re pretty straight forward. When you see the number on the board, that’s the amount you’d win if you bet $1. If a team is a $1.30, that means you’ll get $1.30 back on a $1 back. If it’s $4, then you’d get $4 on your $1 bet. Pretty simple, right?

Where things get tricky with decimal odds is that the payout includes both your stake and your profit. Going back to the example above, a $1 bet at $1.30 would pay $1.30 in total, but that includes your $1 bet and your 30 cents of profit.

This is different than the first two examples as American odds and Fractional odds only focus on your profit. If the odds say 10/1, that means you’d win 10 times your money, so a $1 bet would pay $11 in total (your $1 stake and $10 in profit). The American equivalent is +1000 and the same is the case: your payout is your profit (not the stake AND profit). With decimal odds, it’s both, so just keep that in mind.

Converting American to Decimal to Fractional Odds

If you’re new to odds, this part gets tricky. In general, if we were your third-grade math teacher, we’d tell you to learn how to properly convert them and give you a test to make sure you understand. However, we’re not and we’re experts in this realm, so we’ll tell you that you’ll eventually get the hang of it and you’ll rarely need to learn how to convert the odds. In the case that you have to, there are simple online tools that will do the math for you.

Two red dice

The reality is that once you get a grasp on American, Fractional and Decimal odds, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what they all convert to in your head. You can tell that +500 equals 5/1 and $6.00. When it comes to things like -175, that’s where the math starts to get a little tricky. In general, there are tons of online tools and if you’re playing at an online casino or sports book, they do the math for you. Simply enter the amount you want to bet and it will show your payout, so that saves you all of the headache. Don’t spend too much time racking your brain on how to convert these odds into each other as it’s rarely relevant.

Dave Golokhov

Dave Golokhov

Dave has a long history in the media. His career began at The Score Television Network. He’s since been a radio host on Sirius Satellite Radio, made numerous television appearances as a panelist, and has written for publications like FOX Sports, and The Baltimore Sun. He’s interviewed hundreds of celebrities in both sports and entertainment, ranging from Shaquille O’Neal, to Floyd Mayweather, to The Mannings.

As a travel/adventure writer, Dave has written a number of destination stories covering some of the most unique destinations, such as Bilbao (Spain), Tel Aviv (Israel) to Iceland. He’s also (been lucky to) had the opportunity to review the experience of eating at some of the world’s best restaurants, including Noma (Copenhagen), Amber (Hong Kong) and Eleven Madison Park (New York). All of those stories can be read on, The Daily Beast and The Globe & Mail.


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