Understanding Sports Betting Odds

If you’re new to sports betting, the complicated odds and lines can seem intimidating. After all, when you make bets with friends, it’s simple; you both put up the same amount of money, and the winner collects from the loser. What’s with the strange numbers all over your online sportsbook? Even worse, there are several different systems for presenting sports betting odds, which only helps to make things more confusing.

Luckily, things are a lot simpler than they first appear. While all three major sports betting odds systems are simple to understand, you’ll only have to learn one to get started, since most sites will let you display your odds however you like. It’s still best to learn them all, however, so that you can understand what someone is talking about when they present odds in a format different from the one you prefer.

Money Line Odds

In the United States (or on sites that are marketed to gamblers from America), sports betting odds are usually represented by money lines. For instance, betting on the point spread of an NFL game might come with money line odds of -110 on either side. What does this mean?

When looking at money line odds, the first thing to see is whether the number has a – (minus) or + (plus) next to it. If there is a minus, this tells you how much money you would have to bet in order to win $100 on this bet. For instance, in the -110 example from above, you would have to make a $110 bet to stand to win $100 (in addition to keeping your $110). If there is a + next to the number, that tells you how much you stand to win on a $100 bet. For instance, a money line of +300 means you would be paid $300 in winnings for every $100 you bet.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are popular in Europe. Using decimal odds is simple; the odds tell you how much you can expect to end up with – including your original bet – if you should win. For instance, if the decimal odds say 2.00, that means that on a $100 bet, you would win $100 from the casino – for a total of $200, or 2.00 times your bet.

As an example, let’s see how that +300 money line bet looks under this system. In decimal odds, that same wager would be listed at 4.00, since you would end up with $400 – $300 in winnings, plus your original $100.

Fractional Odds

In the United Kingdom, the most popular sports betting odds in use are fractional odds. Fractional odds display the ratio between the amount you stand to win and the amount you bet as a fraction. In fractional odds, an even money bet is displayed at 1/1; this means that the sportsbook will put up $1 for every $1 you wager.

Remember that bet that was +300 under money line odds, and 4.00 in fractional odds? That same bet would be listed at 3/1 in fractional odds, since the bookmaker is going to pay you $3 for every $1 you wagered if you win the bet.

While some places may use odds other than the three types listed above, the vast majority will offer odds in at least one of these formats.

One last concept necessary to understanding sports betting odds is that of the point spread. On most team sports, you’ll have the point spread bet as an alternative to simply picking who you think will win the game. The team designated as the favorite will “give” points to the underdog as a handicap. For instance, in an NFL game, a favorite might be listed with a point spread of -6.5. This means that, if you bet on the favorite, they must win by more than 6.5 points in order for you to win your bet. If you bet on the underdog, your team can either win or lose by less than 6.5 in order to make you a winner. These point spreads allow “fair” betting on games in which teams are not evenly matched, and are the most popular bets in sports such as football and basketball.

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