How To Read Odds

Understanding how to read betting odds is key to successful betting. If you do not understand betting odds and the probabilities that they imply, you will struggle to succeed in betting on sports long term.

You don’t need to be a math genius to succeed in betting on sports, but if you do not understand what betting odds reflect, you are setting yourself up for failure. Harsh, but true. So allow us to provide that bridge to a better understanding of how to read betting odds.

Jump to

How To Read Odds: Moneyline (American odds)

There are three popular odds formats:

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

For the purposes of this article, we will focus first on reading moneyline odds. Know your potential profits when you make a wager with this betting odds calculator.

The moneyline is presented as either positive or negative odds. The following is an example of moneyline odds for an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.

Los Angeles Lakers Chicago Bulls
LA Lakers Jersey
+130
Chicago Bulls Jersey
-140
Positive American odds reflect your profit should you bet $100 and are displayed as:Negative American odds reflect the amount of money you would have to bet in order to win $100 and are displayed as:
Los Angeles Lakers: +130
– in this instance, if you bet $100 on Los Angeles to win the game and if they win, you will receive a profit of $130.
Chicago Bulls: -140
– in this instance, if you bet $140 on Chicago to win the game and if they win, you will receive a profit of $100.

How To Read Odds: Fractional

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.

How To Read Odds: Decimal

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.

Put Your Odds Knowledge to the Test

Now that you know how to read odds, check out some of the upcoming sporting events like NCAA March Madness and NBA basketball.

Detroit Pistons
Dallas Mavericks
Odds are subject to change. Last updated December 1, 2022 3:30 pm.

Please be advised that betting on sports is not available in all US states.

How to calculate implied probability

As previously stated, understanding and calculating the implied probability in betting odds is key to long-term betting success at, for instance, Pointsbet Sportsbook.

So how do we calculate the implied probability in American odds?

Calculating the implied probability in positive American odds is quite simple:

Implied probability = 100 divided by (positive odds + 100)

So in our example, the Lakers are at odds of +130 to win the game. What is the implied probability of these odds?

Implied probability = 100 divided by (130 + 100)
Chevron icon
Implied probability = 100 divided by 230
Chevron icon
Implied probability = 0.4348

So the implied probability of the Lakers winning the game is 0.4348 (or 43.48%). In this instance, the bookmakers believe the Lakers are a 43.48% chance of winning the game.

Calculating the implied probability in negative American odds is fairly straightforward:

Implied probability = negative odds divided by (negative odds – 100)

So in our example, the Bulls are at odds of -140 to win the game. What is the implied probability of these odds?

Implied probability = -140 divided by (-140 – 100)
Chevron icon
Implied probability = -140 divided by -240
Chevron icon
Implied probability = 0.5833

So the implied probability of the Bulls winning the game is 0.5833, or 58.33%. In this case, the bookmakers see the Bulls as a 58.33% chance of winning the game.

How To Read Value Bets

As stated earlier, the key to successful betting is to bet only when there is value. In our example, we should only bet on either the Bulls or the Lakers if we determine that they are a better chance to win the game than what the odds represent.

If we believe the Lakers are a better chance to win than 43.48%, we should bet on them. If we believe the Bulls are a better chance to win than 58.33%, then likewise, we should bet on them.

Understanding betting odds is crucial to long-term betting success. Possessing an intimate grasp of betting odds and their implied probabilities is fundamental to profitable betting.

how to read odds

See real odds at online sportsbooks

At many sportsbooks, you’re free to see the odds no matter what state you happen to be in. However, you can only place real money bets at online sportsbooks odds if you’re located in states that have legal sports betting.

However, if you want to bet on horses, you’re more in luck there! Many states allow for online horse racing betting and you can see odds at most of the big horse racing tracks around the world.

Betting Against The Odds

When you bet for the underdog, it is called betting “against the odds.” For example, if odds are +300 for the Bears this Sunday, then it is three times more likely that they will lose than win. Odds of +300 indicate that if you bet $100, you will win $400, the original amount of your bet plus the profit.

In Summary: Betting Odds Explained

Betting odds represent the probability of an outcome occurring and the return (profit) you will receive if your bet is a winner. It could be the likelihood of all of your final four betting picks being correct.

The probability represented by betting odds is often referred to as the ‘implied probability’. Understanding the implied probability is crucial. Why? Because you should only bet when you believe the probability of an outcome occurring is higher than the implied probability. But if you would like to learn more about betting odds and alternative odds formats, try this odds converter.

Let’s consider an example. Let’s say the New York Giants are facing the Washington Redskins in a regular season NFL game. The Giants are at odds of -110 to cover the betting line of -3.5 points. The probability implied in the odds -110 is 52.4%. You’ve done your research and have determined the Giants are a 60% chance to cover the -3.5 betting line. As 60% is greater than 52.4%, you have found what is commonly referred to as a ‘value bet’.

However, if following your research you determined that the Giants are only a 45% chance to cover the -3.5 points betting line, the implied probability of the odds is greater than your determined probability. You have not found a value bet and should not place a bet on the Giants.

Betting odds represent the probability of an event to happen and therefore enable you to work out how much money you will win if your bet wins. As an example, with odds of +400, for every $1 you bet, you will win $4. There is a 20% chance of this happening.

Betting Odds FAQs

How do you read betting odds?

First it depends on the type of odds. The most popular odds in the US are moneyline odds. This is when one team is favored to win and therefore given -200 odds vs the underdog team who is less likely to win and given +350 odds. You’ll make a larger profit if you bet on the underdog, however you are more likely to lose that way since they are the underdog for a reason.

What does +/- mean in betting odds?

The + is assigned to the underdog and indicates a larger payout if the bet is won. So +350, means if you bet $100, the total payout will be $450 for a profit of $350. On the opposite side, if the odds are -200, you bet $100 and win, your total payout would be $150, for a profit of $50.

This site contains commercial content. Read more.