Sports Betting Odds: An Expert Guide

Do you want to get into sports betting, but don't know where to start? You have come to the right place as we show you the different types of odds you will come across, along with examples. We also show you how to find the best sports betting odds, and answers to frequently asked questions.


If you’re looking to dive into the world of sports betting, you’ll need to first understand the odds. In this guide, we’ll cover what sports betting odds are, different types of odds and how to understand them, tips for placing your bets and more.

What are Sports Odds?

Betting odds are an indication of how likely a given outcome is. In a sporting context, this could mean how likely a team is to win the match, how likely a player is to score or how likely it is that a certain number of points are earned through the game. They are also associated with the payouts, which are calculated using two factors: the stake you wager and the odds of the outcome.

The more likely the outcome, the lower the odds will be. The reverse is also true – if there is only a tiny chance that the outcome will come to fruition, the odds will be high and the potential payout much bigger.

Sports Betting Odds Types

Understanding Moneyline/American Odds

Moneyline, or American Odds, are most commonly used in the USA and Canada. The odds are presented in a positive or negative whole number, and indicate how much the bet is worth based on a $100 stake. This doesn’t mean you have to bet with $100, but that’s the chosen sum which is used for simplicity.

A negative number indicates the more likely outcome. The number shown is the value you’d need to wager in order to receive a $100 payout.

A positive number indicates the underdog – the outcome which is more unlikely to happen. Here, the number shown is the figure that you would receive back if you placed a $100 wager.

American Odds Sports Betting Example

Let’s say you are betting on who will win an NFL game in which the Atlanta Falcons are playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The odds are presented like this:

  • Atlanta Falcons +225
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -275 

These odds give the Falcons just a 30% chance of winning.

In this example, the Atlanta Falcons are the underdogs. Because they are unlikely to win, the payout if they did is much higher. If you bet $100 on it, you’d receive $325 back – your initial stake, plus $225 profit.

Tampa Bay are strongly favored to win. You’d need to bet $275 in order to receive $375 back – a $100 profit. For the sake of comparing apples to apples, if you bet $100 on this outcome, you’d win just $36 in profit.

If you prefer to work in decimal or fractional betting odds, there are many free-to-use tools online which will calculate these based on American odds for you.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are a more traditional way of presenting probability, usually used in the UK. The odds are presented by two figures, with a slash in between. For example, 4/1. It’s very easy to work out much you’d win – if you bet the second number ($1), you will win back the first ($4).

Similarly, it’s also easy to work out the probability of the outcome using fractional odds. If the first number is A, and the second B, the formula looks like this:

Probability (%) = B / (A+B) 

Using this formula, we can learn that the probability of the 4/1 outcome is 20%.

Fractional Odds Sports Betting Example

In this example, let’s say you are looking to place a bet on a UFC event where Conor McGregor is fighting Dustin Poirier. You have followed UFC for some time, and think McGregor will win in the first round of the match. The odds are as follows:

  • Conor McGregor, Round Betting, Rnd 1, 9/4

So, for every $4 you bet, you’ll receive $9 in winnings if the wager comes through. Using the probability formula, the sportsbook believes the chances of McGregor winning in the first round are around 30%. You decide to bet $40.

McGregor gets the knockout in the first round, and you are paid $130. That’s the $40 you initially wagered, then another $90 – $9 for every $4 that you bet.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are widely used across Europe and Australia. They are presented exactly as they sound – as a decimal number, for example 2.3. This format is easy to understand, because the decimal provided, when multiplied by your wager, is the total amount you would be paid back if you won, including your initial bet. For example if you staked $100 on a 1.8 wager, your winning payout would be $180 ($100 x 1.8 = $180). It’s worth pointing out that the $180 is made up of the initial $100 that you won, and $80 profit. Many younger players enjoy this system for its simplicity.

Decimal Odds Sports Betting Example

Let’s say you wanted to place an overs bet on points scored in an NBA match, the Boston Celtics vs the Toronto Raptors. The odds are as follows:

  • Celtics vs. Raptors, OVER 107, 2.2

With odds of 2.2, the sportsbook believes that there is around a 45% chance of the points totaling more than 107. You decide to bet $60. When you win, you receive $132 back. This consists of your original $60, plus $72 in profit.

Sports Betting Odds Tips

  1. Research your Wager

You might already have an inclination of which sport and event you’re going to bet on. You’ll then need to research what’s going on with the team, player or match more widely. Stay up to date on recent injuries, whether the game is home or away and how tired the player(s) are expected to be. If you need a little help, check out our picks.

  1. Shop Around

The odds reflect the likelihood of a given outcome, but the future is unpredictable and bookmakers can hold differing views on the probability of an event. For this reason, sportsbooks often offer different odds. Once you have researched and decided on your bet, check out the odds at various bookmakers and choose the most favorable.

  1. Gamble Responsibly

Wager only what you can afford to lose, and manage your bankroll accordingly. It can be tempting to wager large amounts on unlikely outcomes because of the huge potential payout – especially if it’s a team that you support – but the chances are, you’ll lose the money. We recommend finding a solid bankroll management strategy, such as never betting more than 5% on one bet.

How to Find the Best Sports Betting Odds

Each sportsbook has a slightly different formula to calculate the odds, and therefore there are usually minor discrepancies between them. It’s quite rare to find a sizeable difference in the odds, especially for major sporting events like the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup. Still, you want to play at the sportsbook with the top odds for your event. You can check the odds at any of the sportsbooks featured on this site without registering or making a deposit. We also keep up-to-date comparison tables of the odds for NHL, NBA and NFL markets over on their respective pages.

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