These odds make the gambling world go around and mean everything in the world of sports betting signifying both what the probability of the prediction occurring according to a bookmaker and the amount of return you would receive for a successful bet.
For instance, in a game between Manchester City and Aston Villa, the latter team has odds of winning with 30.32/1, which works out to a little over 3%. This tells us two things. The first is that the bookmaker does not rate Aston Villa’s chances of winning and a successful prediction on that event would reap a pretty generous return. Bigger potential returns mark the quality of a bookmakers’ odds and should be considered seriously when choosing a bookmaker.
However, for many, odds appear confusing and intimidating, meaning that some people end up going for a worse deal on their odds. Most importantly of all, they end up losing money because of it. Well, this is something that we simply couldn’t stand for. So, we’ll be going through everything you need to now to find the best odds possible and bet smarter.
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How do Betting Odds Work?
When you are considering what odds are right for you, there are three key factors to consider. One is what level of risk you would prefer. In other words, would you like a higher chance of getting a return for a smaller amount, or a lower chance of getting a return but for a higher amount.
The next thing – and this is where much of the analysis of betting markets comes from, and what often separates a well-considered bet from a reckless one – is judging the quality of the odds-on offer. In other words, a good bet is one where you believe the odds to be underestimating the probability of the event.
This ties into our final consideration here, which is how the odds stack up against other bookmakers. When we judge the quality of odds more generally, we are looking at whether they are good value in terms of how they stack up against our assessment of the probability of prediction coming true. Here we are comparing them against their own competition to get as high a return as possible.
You can do this by directly comparing the odds and seeing, mathematically, which offers you the highest return. This is actually pretty straightforward once you know how to work out betting odds. We’ll cover that in the following section. However, something that is also important to know is why they can be different.
Why betting odds differ by bookmaker
The simplest way to understand the latter point is that different bookmakers clearly judge the likelihood of an event to be different to each other. Therefore, they come up with different odds based on those conclusions. With that said, they are of course competitive, meaning that the differences between odds – at least between good bookmakers – shouldn’t be worlds apart.
On top of that, odds can also change as we move closer to the event. The reasons for these changes are multi-faceted. The easiest to understand are practical things which would change the likelihood of an outcome. For instance, team news regarding things like injuries and line-ups will, of course, have a big impact on a game and therefore the outcome of events. This will, therefore, affect odds.
Another thing that could affect odds is if there are games between the time of the odds and the event itself. Say, for instance, Liverpool has a game with Manchester United in a fortnight, but they also have a game with Everton in a couple of days. If they play particularly badly against Everton, that would likely lengthen their odds compared to before that performance. That’s because it is a possible negative indicator for their performance in their match against Manchester United.
Other factors though are less likely to be found in the back end of a newspaper and they include market movement. This is largely in the Asian and Betfair Exchange because, as we said, the competitive side of this means odds changes have a sense of momentum that is felt throughout the market.
On top of that, odds can also be swayed by the amount of money bookmakers see on one side of a wager. This is all down to the fact that bookmakers are vying for your business but are also trying, just like you, to weigh up a variety of factors to ensure that they don’t lose too much money if their predictions are incorrect.
Aside from these odds changes, one of the key ways in which this is accomplished is through what is known as the over-round. This is the percentage above 100% the total odds come to. So, let’s say you have a football game. For good measure, we will use that Manchester City vs Aston Villa example from before. There are three possible results to this game: a win by City, a win by Villa, or a draw.
Each possibility has its odds which can be converted into a percentage. A City win has an implied probability of 92.3%, an Aston Villa win has an implied probability of 3.8% and a draw has an implied probability of 9.1%. Adding these together gives you an overall percentage of 105.2%. The 5.2% above 100% is the bookmaker’s edge over the person making the bet. This is essentially what keeps bookmakers in the business.
How to Read Betting Odds
If you want to work out how betting odds work, the first thing to know is that odds are generally presented in three different ways. These are fractional, decimal and American. As the name does suggest, American odds are largely dominant in the U.S. market. From there, you can turn yourself into a betting odds calculator.
The easiest way to understand how to read fractional odds is that the first half represents how much you will win, while the second half represents how much you stake. However, there are also odds-on selection, which appears the other way round. These selections are generally presented when the team you are betting on are strong favourites. Fractional odds were traditional in the UK and are generally what you will still see to this day in high street betting shops and also on horse racing events.
Using our Manchester City vs Aston Villa example, Manchester City had odds of 1/12 and Aston Villa has odds of 25/1. By the placement of the highest number, you can clearly tell who is the favourite. In real terms, this means that if you bet £10 on Manchester City to win, you would win 83 pence, while if you bet £10 on Aston Villa to win, you would win £250.
The rise of internet gaming did change things, however, and now decimal odds are becoming more and more popular. These are perhaps even easier to understand, as the higher the number, the higher your winnings will be. Your winnings are your stake multiplied by the decimal odds. 2.0 represents even money, which makes sense as your winnings would be double or x2, and anything less than that is an odds-on bet. For further clarification, those Manchester City vs Aston Villa odds would read 1.08 for a Manchester City win, and 26.00 for an Aston Villa win.
American odds are a touch more complicated to understand, but not too much. They are read differently for the favourites and the underdogs. So, using our Manchester City vs Aston Villa example, the odds for Outright Winner converted to American Odds come out as the following:
Manchester City: -1200
Aston Villa: +2500
The number after these symbols are an indicator of how likely the teams are predicted to win and lose. The higher the number after the minus, the more likely the team is perceived to be winners. Conversely, the higher the number after the plus, the more likely the team is perceived to lose the event.
For the favourites, this number indicates how much you would have to risk to win £100. So, you would have to bet £1200 to win £100. For the underdogs, this number indicates how much you would win if you bet £100. In this case, it would be £2500. Of course, if all this seems complicated, then help is at hand as there’s no shortage of converter tools such as oddsconverter.co.uk to help you on your way.
Calculating Probability with Betting Odds
Of course, all of these numbers all relate to probability. The equation to calculate probability with fractional odds is B/(A+B). For example, if the odds are 4/1, you would do: 1 / (4+1) = 0.20. You then convert this into a percentage, e.g. there is a 20% probability of this result.
With decimal odds, to work out the probability percentage, you simply divide the odds by one. For example, odds of 1/1.65 = 0.606. You then remove the decimal point to get a 60% probability.
Calculating probability for American odds initially seem a touch more complicated but can be easily broken up into two parts. First off, there are the minus moneylines, which as we’ve explained, represent the favourites to win the game. Converting the minus moneyline odds into its implied probability follows this formula: ( – ( ‘minus' moneyline odds ) ) / ( – ( ‘minus' moneyline odds ) ) + 100.
This can initially look intimidating, but the way it looks in practice is much more straightforward.
So, let’s take that -1200 number and put it into our formula.
(- (-1200) / ( (- (-1200) ) + 100)
Once again this sum might look complicated but turn that into a fraction and we have – 1200/1300.
That sum equals 0.92 or 92% implied probability.
The plus moneylines represent the underdogs. The formula for this is slightly different. Here, the formula is as follows:
Implied probability = 100/( ‘plus' moneyline odds + 100 ).
In this instance, the plus moneyline odds plus 100 would equal 2600.
The calculation is therefore 100/2800. This gives us a decimal of 0.03. Or, an implied probability of 3%.
Calculating Winnings from Betting Odds
This is largely covered by our How to Read Odds section but here is a brief overview for anyone who still wants more clarification.
Fractional odds follow this formula: how much you will win/how much you stake.
So, if your odds are 5/1, you would receive £5 for every £1 you bet. In order to work out winnings, multiply the second number by the first number. In the case of odds-on selection, do this sum the other way around. If you are staking a different amount than the fraction – for instance, if you were betting £3 – then you would simply change that number in your calculation. So, in this instance, it would be 3 x 5, meaning you would receive £15 if you won with a £3 stake.
For decimal odds, all you need to do is multiply your stake by the decimal odds. So, if your stake was £10 and you had 2.5 odds, your winnings would be £25.
American odds are split into two possibilities: minus and plus moneylines. The minus moneyline is how much you would have to bet to win £100. The plus moneyline is how much you would win if you bet £100. So, if you bet £100 on a +200 moneyline, you would win £200. If you had a -200 moneyline, you would need to bet £200 in order to receive £100.
Knowing Your Odds and Returns
It’s important to note that although fractional, decimal and American odds look rather different, they all essentially do the same jobs. They provide an implied probability and show you your potential returns. In fact, they can all be very easily converted into another.
You may find one type of odds easier to understand and be able to convert them quickly and easily could improve your understanding of the quality of your bet. With that in mind, here’s a quick table of examples to help you get to grip on your odds, no matter what form they take. If you are still confused, be sure to consult with a betting odds calculator to double-check your results.
|Fractional odds||Decimal odds||American odds|
How Can I Get the Best Odds?
Of course, understanding odds is so vital because it allows you to assess the quality of what is being offered by the bookmaker. There’s certainly enough of them out there for the market to be considered extremely competitive. That means that as long as you shop around, you can get top quality odds each and every time.
The reason bonuses exist is to give you a reason to pick one bookmaker over everything else that is out there. And bookmakers know that one of the best ways to do this is through improving the amount of potential returns to the player. One example of this is odds boosts, which do exactly what their name would suggest. They provide better odds than usual for selected events.
You can also get added percentages onto bets. Often, this is found as part of an accumulator promotion, or by utilising a free bet. While this won’t increase your odds, it does decrease your relative risk.
Other ways a bookmaker can sweeten the deal is through prize draws, where certain bets will make you eligible for prizes. You can also have more versatile odds on many sites, thanks to cash-out features. These are just some examples as really the only limit with promotions is the bookmaker’s imagination. However, they are worth taking into consideration when deciding which bookmaker is right for you and your selection.
We said that odds don’t stay the same even as the event moves closer and that’s just one part of it. The best bookmakers offer live odds which update as events unfold in real-time. A direct comparison of these ever-evolving odds is, therefore, trickier, so it’s worth checking out which sites have good reputations for live betting if this is how you want to get involved.
As opposed to traditional bookmakers, betting exchanges are a peer-to-peer platform where you can back or lay on an outcome, with the bookmaker’s role being to facilitate and take a small commission. Despite this commission, betting exchanges often offer better value because their odds are not subject to the overround. A betting exchange may seem daunting to users at first but can offer a whole new odds market, and one with plenty of value.
For more information on exchange betting, check out our in-depth article on this very subject including examples, explanations, betting terms and the best betting exchanges.
Asian Handicap betting a form of football betting in which teams are handicapped according to their form by a set amount of goals. This means the stronger side must score by more goals than the handicap in order to win.
They are a form of spread betting, meaning the success is based on the accuracy of the wager rather than a win-lose outcome. Handicaps range from one-quarter goals to several and eliminate the possibility of a draw outcome. This means that while this form of betting does create more options, it actually simplifies the outcome to two rather than three possibilities. This is one of the reasons that Asian handicaps have a particularly low margin.
Asian handicap betting also allows players to manipulate their bet in order to get the exact bet they want with more versatile odds. Asian handicaps are also available on things like corners, cards and more. So, for instance, you could bet that team A will get 4 more corners than team B, or vice versa. This amount of choice is important for allowing you to customise your betting experience to exactly what you want. Remember, it’s not about getting the best odds, but also the best type of odds for you.
What are the main types of odds?
There are three main types of odds used in sports betting today. These include fractional odds, decimal odds and American odds.
What do they look like?
An example of fractional odds is 1/2. The same amount as decimal odds would be 1.5, while the same amount as American odds would be -200.
How do fractional odds work?
The first half of fractional odds represent how much you will win, while the second half represents how much you stake. So, using the above example, if you were to bet £2, you would win £1.
How do decimal odds work?
Decimal odds represent what you need to multiply your stake by to get how much you will receive in total including your stake. So, using the same example, we would multiply £2 by 1.5, which would give us a total of £3. This means you would win £1.
How do American odds work?
America odds, with regards to minus odds, represent how much you would need to bet in order to win £100. In this case, the number is -200, meaning you would need to bet £200 in order to win £100. This is a percentage of 50%. Using the same logic, 50% of £2 is £1, meaning our winning would come to £1. This is only an overview of how these odds work and you can find a more detailed explanation in the article above.
Does one type of odds hold an advantage over another?
As you can see, no matter what type of odds you choose, your winnings come out as the same. With that said, whatever one you understand the best and find easiest to calculate holds an advantage because you can more quickly and accurately get an idea of the probabilities and winnings offered to you.
I’m still not feeling confident in calculating my potential winnings, what can I do?
Luckily, there’s plenty of great bet calculator tools which do all the hard work for you, like this bet calculator here. This allows you to simply input your odds in any format, alongside your stake to find out how much you would see in a return.
Understanding odds can seem confusing initially, especially with the multiple ways in which bookmakers present them. However, they are much more straightforward than they first appear and offer greater insights into probability and potential winnings. By taking the time to wrap your head around them, you will be better equipped to place the right wagers for you.