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Soccer Betting Odds Explained – Understanding Meanings, Tips & Strategies for Odds in Betting (2020)

Betting odds represent both the probability of an outcome occurring, as well as the potential return you could receive on a winning wager. They are an indication of how likely the bookmaker thinks your prediction is. They can be presented in three different ways, including decimal, fractional and American odds.

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Betting odds make the gambling world go around and mean everything in the world of sports betting, signifying both the probability of the prediction occurring according to a bookmaker and the amount of return you would receive for a successful bet. We’ll mainly be looking at decimal odds here, as they are most common and popular, but we’ll also include some information about the fractional and American odds to ensure you’re not left out of the loop.

For an example, in a game between Manchester City and Aston Villa, the latter team has odds of winning of 31.00, 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 that 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 know to find the best odds possible and bet smarter.

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.

 

How To Read Betting Odds

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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 decimal, fractional and American.

As the name does suggest, American odds are largely dominant in the U.S. market. However, in the Nigerian market, decimal odds are far more common. So, we’ll start there, but we’ll also look at the other examples too so you can get a complete understanding of how to read betting odds. From there, you can turn yourself into a betting odds calculator.

Decimal odds also rose alongside the internet, although they have been around for long before that. Their popularity is partially because they are so easy 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.

Using Manchester City vs Aston Villa as an example, Manchester City had odds of 1.06 and Aston Villa has odds of 26.00. The much larger number indicates that Aston Villa are clearly the underdogs. In real terms, this means that if you bet 4,800 on Manchester City to win, you would win 398, while if you bet 4,800 on Aston Villa to win, you would win 120,000.

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 selections, which appear the other way round. These selections are generally presented when the team you are betting on are strong favourites. Fractional odds are traditional in the UK and are generally what you will still see to this day in high street betting shops in that country and also on horse racing events. The translated odds from our previous example would put Manchester City at 1/12 odds, and Aston Villa at 25/1.

odds conveter

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: -120

Aston Villa: +250

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 N1,000. So, you would have to bet N120 to win N100. For the underdogs, this number indicates how much you would win if you bet N100. In this case, it would be N250. Of course, if all this seems complicated, well, you can always find help from converter tools like oddsconverter.co.uk or just use our odds converter on the top of this page. 

However, you probably won’t need to worry about American odds. The reason decimal odds are so popular is that they are so easy to work out and understand, and pretty much every Nigerian betting site uses them or has them as an option. It’s good to know how to convert all the different types of odds, but if you were only to understand the decimal option, you would still know more than enough to work out which bets are worthwhile.

This is made especially easy with the use of our custom-built odds conversion tool to find out your odds percentage, and therefore overall quality, in a moment and without any hassle. Simply input your odds below and we’ll do the rest. Actually, if you’re curious about how these odds convert into one another, you can also check that out too. In other words, odds, no matter what form they come in, shouldn’t be a source of mystery anymore. So, find out what they mean to pave the way to smarter betting.

 

How these Numbers Relate to Probability

When we convert odds into percentages, that percentage is a reflection of probability. Just as odds in general are not merely a way of reflecting your return: they also reflect how likely, in numbers, the bookmaker thinks that event is to take place, not accounting for the overround.

In other words, if you convert your odds to 25%, that means that the bookmaker thinks the chances of this happening are about 1 in 4. Remember these numbers aren’t abstract, they are a prediction of probability, and the key to smart betting is figuring out when you think the bookmaker is off the mark.

 

How Do Bookies Set Odds in Football?

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.

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But how do they come up with these odds? Well, 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 have a big impact on a game and therefore the outcome of events. As a result, this will affect odds.

Another thing that could affect odds is if there are games between the time of the odds being initially set and the event itself. Say, for instance, Liverpool has a game with Manchester United in two weeks, 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's a possible negative indicator for their performance in their match against Manchester United.

One extreme example of odds changing before the event would be Leicester’s odds of winning the Premier League. When dealing with something like a league winner bet, the odds are constantly shifting with the momentum of the tournament. In this instance, a huge upset like Leicester's victory means a massive disparity from the very long odds they received at the start of the tournament, to shorter and shorter odds as their fortunes brightened.

For less dramatic examples, more general factors include the history of the two teams that are facing each other, recent form, injury news, environmental factors and more.

Other factors though are less likely to be found in the back 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. It’s important to note that a disparity between boomakers' odds may just mean a disparity of opinion or a reaction to the market, rather than of quality. To work out the quality of a bookmakers odds, you will need to look at something known as the over-round, or the boomakers' margin.

 

Calculating the Bookmaker’s Margin

The total odds of all possible events should logically come out at 100%, because that means that it is certain, and if all possibilities are accounted for, then one of them must be correct, hence, 100%. However, when you calculate the outcome of say, a football game, and add up the converted odds percentages of either side winning or a draw – so all possible outcomes – it will come to over 100%.

This is the over-round, the bookmaker’s margin, or the bookmakers’ edge. It is essentially what gives them an advantage over the punter, and is how they consistently make money and stay in business. However, it should be as close to 100% as possible, and generally speaking, anything under 110% is considered decent.

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%, a 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. Using this calculation, you could consider the odds here to be very reasonable.

 

Odds Changes In Live Betting

Odds Changes In Live Betting

Of course, it is not just the run up to the event where the odds can change, as the odds naturally shift during live betting as well. To put it simply, the thing which changes the odds during live betting are the events of the match itself. If, for example, the favourites in a football game go 2-0 down, the odds behind them to win will be much longer than they were before the game started.

It all depends on the market. Say you are betting on the number of corners and you are very close to exceeding the threshold of one market at half time. The odds behind that market will therefore get a lot longer because the chances of not exceeding that amount have dropped significantly since the start of the game. Conversely, the team winning 2-0 would have far shorter odds to win than when the game began.

What makes all of this extra interesting is the use of the Cash Out feature. This transforms a static bet into something far more fluid meaning you need to continually assess the game as it goes on and decide whether the time is right to take the money at the current given odds. Live betting is, in many ways, a bigger challenge than pre-match betting, because the pace is so fast and there is so much to take into account. Nonetheless, if you can master it, there’s an absolute wealth of opportunities to enjoy.

Check our extensive guide to Live Betting here. 

 

Calculating Winnings with 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.

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. It really is that simple.

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.

American odds are split into two possibilities: minus and plus moneylines. The minus moneyline is how much you would have to bet to win N100. The plus moneyline is how much you would win if you bet N100. So, if you bet N100 on a +200 moneyline, you would win 200. If you had a -200 moneyline, you would need to bet 200 in order to receive N100.

American odds unsurprisingly popular when betting on American Sports such as MLB or NBA.

Check our guide to MLB Betting here.

Read more about NBA betting here. 

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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
1/2 1.5 -200
3/4 1.75 -133
6/10 1.6 -167
10/25 1.4 -250
2/1 3 +200
4/3 2.33 +133
10/6 2.67 +167
25/10 3.5 +250

 

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.

 

Odds in Promotions

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.

Speaking of odds, best odds guaranteed is a great promotion which means you will receive the best quality odds regardless of when you place your bet. In other words, if the starting odds sees the odds improved from when you placed your bet, you will receive the higher amount.

You can also get added percentages onto bets. Often, this is found as part of an accumulator promotion, or by utilising a free bet.

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.

 

Odds in Accumulators

Betway Accumulator Blog

What makes accumulators great is that they slowly build momentum, a small bet becomes several small bets, and together can produce some truly enormous returns. It’s also one of the biggest benefactors of better odds. Even a slight improvement in odds from one bookmaker to another adds up, meaning that the difference in returns at the end of an accumulators can be very substantial indeed.

 

Odds on Betting Exchanges

Betfair odds

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 check out our in-depth article on exchange betting including examples, explanations, betting terms and the best betting exchanges.

 

Odds on Asian Markets

Asian handicap betting

Asian Handicap betting is 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. It is 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.

To learn more about Asian Handicap betting click here.

FAQS

What are the main types of odds?

There are three main types of odds used in sports betting today. These include decimal odds, fractional odds and American odds.

What do they look like?

What do they look like?” box_content='An example of decimal odds is 1/2. The same amount as fractional odds would be 1/2, while the same amount as American odds would be -200.

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 N200 by 1.5, which would give us a total of N300. This means you would win N100.

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.

How do American odds work?

America odds, with regards to minus odds, represent how much you would need to bet in order to win N100. In this case, the number is -200, meaning you would need to bet N200 in order to win N100. This is a percentage of 50%.

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.

We would say that for most of our readers this will be decimal odds, because they are both the most common and, in our opinion, the easiest to understand.

How do bookmakers calculate odds?

There are many different factors which go into an odds calculation. Much of the stuff they are looking at will be the same as you, including the form of each team, any injuries, the history between the sides and so on. But they’ll also be keeping an eye on the market, in other words the other bookmakers’ odds, and that will be a determining factor. Finally, a lot of money being put on one side can also have an impact. Ultimately though, what should matter to you is not how the bookmaker has come to that conclusion, but whether you agree with it.

Why do odds differ by bookmaker?

Well, part of why bookmakers’ odds differ is really simple and that is that they disagree about the probability of the outcomes. The other thing to take into account is that some bookmakers simply have higher quality odds than others, you can find out if this is the case by working out the overround, and explanation in detail of how to do exactly that can be found under “Calculating the bookmakers margin”.

How do odds change during live betting?

When you are betting live, the odds should update automatically and often at great speed. That is because the dynamics of the game are consistently shifting, and the odds move to reflect that. A simple example is if a team conceded a goal, the odds of them winning go down.

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.

SoccerBetting365 Final Say

I think that quite often, people imagine betting to be a great deal more complicated than it is. For all the work that goes into producing odds, at the end of the day, it remains one opinion against another. No bookmaker has a crystal ball, meaning that they can make mistakes, and if you can recognise when that is, then you can get great odds. Put simply, it’s your prediction against someone else’s. This idea that bookmakers are complicated is often compounded by odds, which can to newcomers look off-putting and complicated.

However, that really isn’t the case. Remember, the bookmaker is trying to make this all as easy for you as possible because they have an awful lot of competition out there and anything less than a great service will send people elsewhere. It isn’t meant to be complicated and I hope that I have been able to show you here that it isn’t once you get your head around a couple of basic concepts. And, if you are still struggling, there are tools that do it for you.

Odds represent a probability and your potential returns, and there are simple ways of converting and understanding them. By doing so, you can work out whether you think that bet is good value based on your prediction of likelihood compared to that offered by the bookmakers. Understanding those two things is the key to smart betting.

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 great 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.

Ben Gibson

Hello there! I'm Ben, Yorkshire based copywriter with eight years professional experience. Passionate about sports, cooking, writing and collecting vinyl. Work is brought to you by the power of countless cups of tea.

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