The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Betting Odds

These days, it seems like everyone is placing bets on their favorite sporting matches. But this is actually a new phenomenon. Online betting was only legalized in 2018.

And this only applies to a handful of states in the country. Most people still can’t place bets on their favorite teams.

If you live in a state where it’s legal, though, you should give it a try for yourself. It’s a fun way to make sports even more engaging since you have some skin in the game.

Understanding betting odds is the key to actually placing winning bets. But betting odds can be displayed in different formats, and they can confuse a lot of novice bettors.

Want to increase your chances of placing a winning bet? Keep reading our sports betting guide below to become an expert today. 

Different Sports Betting Opportunities

Most new sports bettors think that there is just one way to place a bet; put money on the team you think will win the match.

And that’s the most popular way to bet. You bet on who you think will win the match based on various factors.

But that’s far from the only way of placing a bet in 2022. You can also bet on which team will score first.

You can place a bet on specific players, too. If you’re watching Liverpool, you might bet that Salah scores the first goal.

You can even bet on the entire season all at once. You can bet which team will win the league or which player will have the most goals by the end of the season.

There are fancy names for all these types of betting. For the standard bets (betting on which team will win), you are making a money-line bet.

Point spread bets are when you bet on the margin of a team’s victory. So you might bet that a football team wins by more than 7.5 points. 

Over/under bets are also popular. You can bet the total points scored in a game will either be over or under a specific number. In football, you might bet that the total points scored by both teams will be under 45, for example.

While there are many different ways you can place a bet, they all have one thing in common; betting odds. 

What are betting odds? They are numerical formulas or sequences that display which result is more likely, and which result is less likely. 

Understanding Betting Odds

There are three main formats for betting odds; American odds, decimal odds, and fractional odds. While most often you’ll deal with American odds, it’s helpful to understand the other formats, particularly if you watch horse racing or European soccer.

American Odds

Watch any American-based sport, such as the NFL, NBA, or MLB, and you’ll encounter American odds. In a fictional match-up featuring the Steelers vs the Giants, the odds might look like this;

  • Steelers -145
  • Giants + 125

These numbers tell you which team is expected to win the match and how much you stand to make on your bet depending on the outcome of the game.

But what does it mean exactly? First off, the negative number means that team is favored to win the match. Bookies have determined, through many different factors, that that particular team is statistically likely to win.

The team with the positive number is the underdog. They’re expected to lose. This is the most important thing to remember if you want a baseline betting education.

But the numbers can provide a ton of insight as well. So how do you read them?

Regarding the favored team, the number is the amount of money you need to bet if you want to win $100. So in our example, if you bet $145 on the Steelers, and they end up winning, you’ll bring home $100 in winnings, along with your original wager of $145, for a total of $245. 

The underdog is a little bit different. The number tells you how much money you stand to win if you wager $100. So if you bet $100 on the Giants, and they manage to win, you’ll bring home $125, plus your original wager of $100, for a total of $225. 

Tips for Betting With American Odds

It’s tempting for beginners to always bet on the favored team since there’s a better chance of receiving a payout. But the payout is always lower when betting on the favored team.

You have to wager a lot of money for the chance of winning a little bit. So if that team loses, you’ll lose more.

On the other hand, betting on the underdog can be very enticing. Sometimes the payout is very high on a small bet. Of course, the higher the payout, the more that team is expected to lose. That’s why the payout is so high.

But if that team manages to win, you’ll receive a handsome reward on a smaller wager.

You shouldn’t place a wager based purely on betting odds. Experience bettors take time to research ahead of a match, to try and skew the odds in their favor.

By understanding the current state of particular teams, which team is playing at home versus away, which team is struggling with injuries, and so forth, you can get a better picture of what is likely to happen in a match-up. 

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are used most widely in the UK, as well as with horse or dog racing. If you watch the Premier League, you’ll likely see decimal odds.

They’ll look like this;

  • Chelsea 1/4
  • Newcastle 5/2

With fractional odds, the second number tells you how much you need to wager. The first number is the amount you stand to win in relation to your wager.

So in this example, betting $4 on Chelsea would yield $1 in winnings. If you bet $2 on Newcastle, you can win $5.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that Chelsea is the favored team. You need to bet a higher amount of money to receive a smaller amount.

We can also see that Newcastle is expected to lose. Placing a smaller wager will result in a much higher payout if they manage to win.

So when it comes to fractional odds, the team with the lower number in front is favored to win.

Sometimes odds are very close, meaning you’re in for quite the competition as they’re isn’t a clear-cut favorite. 

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are common across the rest of Europe. When watching soccer in other European leagues, like the Bundesliga in Germany or Serie A in Italy, or when watching European competitions like the Champions League or the Euros, you might see these odds. 

They are very simple to interpret. They look like this;

  • Germany 1.50
  • Spain 2.05

The number is the amount of money you’ll win in relation to your wager. Just multiply that number times the amount of money you are betting.

So if you bet $1 on Germany, and they win, you’ll win $1.50. If you bet $100 on Germany and they win, you’ll win $150.

The same with the underdog (which is shown by the larger number). If you bet $100 on Spain, and they win, you’ll win $205. 

You might see these odds applied to American sports on occasion. Because they are very similar to understanding and reading, many people prefer to use them over other types of odds. 

Get Started With Sports Betting

Ready to start placing wagers on your favorite sports? Want to feel each goal or touchdown as it happens?

Then you can start placing bets today. First, you just need to know if it’s legal in your state. Sports betting is legal in much of the US, and numerous states are working to legalize it currently.

Some are lagging behind, and some will likely never legalize it (we’re looking at you, Utah).

Some states you would expect to legalize sports betting, like Texas, are in the middle of a fierce battle. To see if Texans will ever get their betting opportunities, check out this guide;

If your state has yet to legalize sports betting, you have three options:

  1. Visit a state where betting is legal
  2. Use an online, offshore sports betting site
  3. Watching sports the boring way

The best option would be to take a trip to a state where it’s legal. You can take a classic trip to Las Vegas or New Jersey. But other states that make for nice vacations are New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, or a number of other states.

You are allowed to bet legally in these states so long as you are within state boundaries when you do so.

Keep in mind that every state handles sports betting differently. In some states, you can only bet in person at regulated facilities like a casino. In many other states, you can use an app or web platform to bet from your home. 

Bet Smart, Bet to Win

Understanding betting odds is the first thing you need to do before you pull out your wallet. In fact, you could practice your betting on live matches before ever putting money down to see if you really understand how the process works.

When you do bet, make sure to only wager money you can afford to lose.

Looking for more tips like this? Visit our blog now to keep reading. 


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