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NCAA Football Betting Picks

How to Read Football Odds



The 2024/2025 NFL season is coming. That means you will need to understand the difference between different kinds of odds. Lucky for you, this guide will teach you all about how to read football odds and how to understand them.

Betting Odds Calculators

First of all, it is important to check your betting odds before placing your bets. So, even though you know how to calculate your odds, you may not want to rely solely on your own brain. This betting odds calculator can help you double-check the odds.

How to Read Football Odds for Games

Now, you may be interested in learning to read odds because you want to bet on a specific sport. Or, you may want to bet on a variety of sports. However, learning to understand the odds of a sport will prepare you to bet on other sports.

NFL Super Bowl Betting Odds Screenshot
Illustration – FanDuel Super Bowl Betting Odds Screenshot

So, if you learn to understand football betting odds, you should be prepared to read odds for basketball too. This is because odds are more about determining bets than they are specific to the sport. And, odds are trying to tell you the probability of a certain outcome.

Check out the Best Football Betting Apps in 2024 >>

Football Game Odds

Typically, when looking at football odds, the date and time of the game will be on the left. Then, directly to the right, you will see two numbers. These numbers will be next to the name of each competing team. Those numbers are called the rotation numbers. 

Rotation numbers tend to be the same from sportsbook to sportsbook. That way, it can reference the team and the game without having to directly refer to them. And, it allows for sportsbooks to list their football bets in the same order. 

Then, to the right of the team’s name is typically the different types of odds. Usually, the point spread will be listed first. After, you may see the moneyline. Finally, you will most likely see the over/under.

Keep in mind, the order the odds are listed may differ from sportsbook to sportsbook. It is important to look up what your sportsbook of choice has chosen to do with their sports listings. Then, you can make the most of your bets.

Football Odds Explained

Now, you may still be wondering, what exactly are betting odds? And, how do I use them to place my bets? Well, this betting odds guide will help you learn the exact definitions you need.

Betting odds are numeric representations of the likelihood of a certain outcome. Plus, they represent the return, or profit, that the bettor will receive with a winning bet. This outcome probability can also be called implied probability

Being able to understand the implied probability is very important when sports betting. It allows you to place your wagers only in situations where you have determined the likelihood of an outcome happening is greater than the determined implied probability. 

The Types of Football Odds Formats

So, now you might be even more confused. If you have looked at retail sportsbooks and online sportsbooks, you may have seen a whole slew of odds. And, not all of the odds may have looked the same.

That is because there are three basic forms of odds that are typically used. They are: 

  • Moneyline (American Odds) 
  • Fractional Odds
  • Decimal Odds

In order to fully understand how to read football odds, you will need to understand all three types of odds. You may not know the types of odds that will be chosen for different sports and different sports events. So, understanding the three main types is crucial.

Understanding Moneyline Odds

Moneyline Odds are also known as American Odds. American Odds/Moneyline Odds may be the most popular type of odds that you will see on sportsbooks. They are shown as either positive odds or negative odds. 

Moneyline Example

So, say the Dallas Cowboys are set to face the Kansas City Chiefs. And, say the Dallas Cowboys have a +120 odds and the Kansas City Chiefs have -130 odds. 

Positive odds show the potential profit if you were to wage $100. So, if you bet $100 on the Dallas Cowboys to win, the profit you will win if they do is $120. 

Negative odds show the amount of money one would have to wager in order to win a profit of $100. So, using this example, you would need to bet $130 on the game and the Chiefs would have to win for you to gain a profit of $100.

Understanding American Odds/Moneyline Odds is as simple as that. Plus, most sportsbooks will have American Odds listed. But, you will want to understand the other odds that you may find on sportsbooks both retail and online.

Calculating Implied Probability

So, now that you understand the different types of odds, you will need to learn more before placing your bets. Understanding how to calculate implied probability is especially important. This way, you will know the likelihood of certain outcomes in sports betting.

When you want to calculate the implied probability using positive American Odds, it should be pretty easy. So, with the odds from the American Odds example above, here is an illustration of how that would work.

Implied Probability = 100/(Positive Odds + 100)

= 100/(120 +100)

= 100/220

= .454545

This means that the implied probability that the Dallas Cowboys will win the game is 0.454545 or 45.45%. Accordingly, bookmakers believe the Dallas Cowboys have a 45.45% chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, the steps are different to calculate the implied probability for negative American odds. But, they are still fairly simple. So, using the example from above, say the Kansas City Chiefs have -130 American odds to beat the Dallas Cowboys. 

That means that Implied Probability = Negative Odds/(Negative Odds – 100).

Implied Probability = -130/(-130 – 100)

= -130/-230

= .5652

So this means that the implied probability is 0.5652 or 56.52% in this case. This means that the Kansas City Chiefs have a 56.52% chance to win the game in this instance.

When to Bet Against the Odds

If you want, you can place your wager on the underdog, or the team most likely to lose. This is known as betting against the odds. So, if the Dallas Cowboys have +200 American Odds to win their next game, that means they are twice as likely to lose as they are to win. 

So, that means that if you bet $100 on the Cowboys to win, you will win $200. This is the original amount that you wagered, plus profit. And, it is quite a profit.

As you can see, betting against the odds can earn you quite a profit. However, the odds of this type of bet paying off are much lower than if you bet on the team favored to win. So, you should only bet against the odds when you are fairly certain you will win.

Understanding Fractional Odds

Fractional Odds tend to be found more often in Europe than in the United States. Typically, they are popularly used in United Kingdom horse race betting. Fractional odds show that you will receive your profits in proportion to your stake. 

Here, we will use the same sports game example from above to illustrate Fractional Odds. So, say the Dallas Cowboys are given Fractional Odds of 4/3. This means that for every three dollars you wager, you will get a profit of four dollars.

So that means if Profit = (Stake/Denominator) x Numerator, we will need to use an example for the stake. Now, if the stake is $100, that means that Profit = (100/3) x 4.

Profit = (33.333333) x 4

= $133.33

Fractional odds are not quite as straightforward as American/Moneyline Odds. So, it is lucky that they are not used as often as the other odds in the United States. However, it is still important to understand them.

Understanding Decimal Odds

Finally, we have reached our third type of odds that we will be exploring. Decimal Odds are a type of odds that are very popular. You can find Decimal Odds used in countries around the globe. Many sportsbooks that you will find online will use Decimal Odds.

Decimal Odds basically say that you will get the sum of the amount you would receive in return for a $1 bet. Now, this sounds more complicated than it actually is. So, we will use the same sporting event example from above to illustrate decimal odds.

So, say the Dallas Cowboys have 3.0 odds to be the winning team. What this means is that for every dollar you wager on them, you will receive $3 in return. So, you will receive back your stake of $1 and receive $2 in profit.

This means that in this case, Profit = (Stake x Odds) – Stake

So using this example with a stake of $100, Profit = (100 x 3) – 100

Profit = 300 – 100

= 200

So, as illustrated above, decimal odds are pretty easy to understand. And, they are easy to calculate. That makes decimal odds a pretty easy yet important odds type to understand. 

How to Understand Value Bets

In order to place bets that will be profitable, you should only put down your money when there is value. So, we can illustrate this using our example from above. That means we should only place a wager if we can tell a team has better odds to win than are shown by the odds.

So, if you think the Chiefs have a better chance to win than 56.52%, you should bet on the Chiefs. Or, if you think the Cowboys have a better chance to win than 45.45%, then you should bet on the Cowboys. 

How to Read Football Odds: Final Words

Now, you have learned about the three most popular types of odds. They are American/Moneyline Odds, Fractional Odds, and Decimal Odds. And, each type of odds has its own meaning.

Plus, you have learned how to use these types of odds to your benefit. And, you now know how to calculate implied probability. So, you can use these tools to place the best wagers available.

But, you should still make sure to do your research before placing your bets. You will want to know specifics about the teams and sporting events involved. That way, you can decide when to bet against the odds.

However, now that you have all this information, you are more prepared to jump into sports betting. Plus, you should be able to calculate the amount of profit you can earn with your bets. And, that will make you the best bettor that you can be.

NFL Off-Season Betting

Where will you turn when the NFL and NCAAF betting takes a hiatus? Formula 1? MLB? NHL? Wherever you head next, you will need to know how to read odds.

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