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Playing the Numbers Game: Sports Betting Odds Explained 

Playing the Numbers Game: Sports Betting Odds Explained

Half of the American states have already legalized sports being. And already, 45 million Americans are betting on the NFL. That number doesn’t even include the millions who also bet on the NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, and countless other sports, both in the US and abroad.

Sports betting has become a phenomenon, especially since it’s so easy with various online platforms. Anyone (in a state where it’s legal) can download an app on their phone and start betting on games from their couch.

But most new players don’t actually know how sports betting works. Need ports betting odds explained to you?

We’ve put together a handy guide down below that explains sports betting odds in more detail. The last thing you want to do is start wagering money without even knowing the odds and what your payout will be.

Keep reading to have sports betting odds explained. 

How Sports Betting Works

To bet on a sporting event, you need to place a wager with a bookie. Bookies can be individual people, but you’re more likely to use a larger platform to place bets.

This platform, or company, is the bookie. You can visit to learn about some of the best betting platforms available in your state. 

A bookie’s job is to create the odds and balance the books. Let’s look at an example.

If the Tigers are playing against the Cubs, a bookie will tell you who the favorite to win the match is. If the Cubs are clearly poised to win the game, most people are going to want to bet on the Cubs, for an easy payout.

But in order for people to get paid if and when the Cubs win, there need to be other players betting on the Tigers. If no one bets on the Tigers, there’s no money to win.

So a bookie balances their books by increasing the payout for the Tigers. The Tigers might have slim chances of winning, but if they do, you’ll earn a lot of money, since most people are wagering against the Tigers.

So there always needs to be an equal amount of money on either side of a bet to ensure winners are paid out. To do this, bookies utilize betting odds. 

Sports Betting Odds Explained

If you watch professional sports on TV or read about an upcoming game online, you’re likely going to see a bunch of numbers next to team names. This usually corresponds to betting odds.

But how do sports betting odds work? It depends on what type of game you’re watching, and how the odds are displayed.

American odds are the most common in the US. But fractional odds are common in the UK, so you’ll see these when watching the Premier League. And European, or decimal, odds are seen throughout the rest of Europe, so you’ll usually see these when reading about the Champions League or Bundesliga. 

Here’s how to read each type of sports odds.

American Odds

American odds are often called Moneyline odds. They work differently depending on if you’re talking about the favorites or the underdogs.

When betting on the favorites to win a match, the odds show you how much money you need to bet on that team in order to win $100. The favorite has their odds preceded by a minus sign (-). 

But when betting on the underdogs, the team everyone expects to lose, the odds show you how much money you can win if you risk $100. The underdogs’ odds are preceded by a positive sign (+). 

Let’s go back to the Tigers and Cubs example.

If the Cubs are the favorite, their odds might be listed as -300. That means that you need to wager $300 in order to win $100. Your payout is less than what you bet because the chances of that team winning are high. Low risk, low reward.

The Tigers might have odds of +400. That means that if you bet $100, you would win $400 if that team wins. The high payout means the team is unlikely to win. High risk, high reward. 

Fractional (UK) Odds

Fractional, British, or UK odds work a bit differently. And they’re the most commonly used around the world, especially in soccer and horse racing. But they are the most confusing to new gamblers. 

You’ll see them written with either a slash (4/1) or a hyphen (4-1). To pronounce these odds, you would say “four to one.” 

4/1 odds would mean that for every $4 you bet, you would earn $1. A larger number in front would mean that team is the favorite to win. 

If the odds were 1/4, you would win $4 for every $1 you bet.

You can see an example with Chelsea playing against Norwich. Chelsea might have odds of 10/1 while Norwich might have odds of 1/12.

The European Champions (Chelsea) are clearly the favorites to win, as can be seen by the low payout. For every $10 wagered, you would earn $1. Low risk, low reward.

But for Norwich, if you bet $1, and they happened to win, you would earn an additional $12. Such big winnings mean that the bookies are very confident that Norwich will lose. But who knows, the beautiful game is full of surprises. 

Decimal (European) Odds

Around the rest of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, you’ll see decimal odds. Most people agree that these are the easiest to understand. 

The number that you see is the exact amount of money you stand to win, relative to your stake. Odds of 2.0 mean that if you bet $1, you receive $2 (2.0*1) back.

If you bet $100, you would earn $200 back (2.0*100). 

Say a Champions League match between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan was taking place. Bayern might have odds of 1.2 while Milan has odds of 3.0.

The lower number means Bayern are the favorites. For every $1 wagered, you would receive $1.20 back if they win. 

But for every $1 wagered on Milan, the underdogs in this match, you would receive a total of $3 back if they managed to win.

Making Intelligent Bets 

Now that you’ve had sports betting odds explained to you, you can probably make intelligent bets on any sporting event across the globe. Of course, many websites will list odds in multiple formats, so that if you have a preferred format, you can see that.

Looking for more insight like this? Head over to our blog now to keep reading. 

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