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How To Read Betting Odds

Learn how to read betting odds (How to read betting odds)

How To Read Betting Odds
One of the first things that any punter should master is how to read betting odds. Odds are not presented in a uniform matter across all settings. Different bookmakers use different odds, and the American sports of course have their own way of writing things as well. The three main odds types in use are decimal odds, fractional odds and American odds which will all be covered briefly below.

Let's begin with the most common version of odds currently in use. Decimal odds, also known as European odds, express the amount of money which will be returned to the punter on a 1 unit stake. 1 unit can refer to 1 pound, 10 pounds or 100 pounds, so be sure you know which your bookmaker is using before you place your bets. For an example of how to read betting odds with a decimal odds system, if Manchester United is favoured to win at 1.60, then a £100 bet will give you back £160 in total.


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Decimal odds are probably the easiest to use of the three systems. However, UK bookmakers also like to express odds using fractional odds. While decimal odds tell the punter how much total will be returned on a 1 unit stake bet, fractional odds tell the punter how much profit will be returned on a 1 unit stake bet. Using the same example as above for how to read betting odds in the fractional system, the £100 on Manchester United would be written as 3/5 for Manchester United, as from your £100 you would receive £60 back in profit from the bet.

Finally, a punter who is playing both sides of the pond will need to understand American odds. American odds are also called money lines. Money lines can be written as positive or negative, as in +300 or - 250. When a money line is written with a positive indicator, it tells you how much would be won on a 100 stake. Our Manchester United example would therefore be written as +60. Negative money lines show how much you would need as a stake to win 100, so our Manchester United example would be approximately - 167.

Knowing how to read betting odds in the different formats will help you become a more sophisticated sports investor and prevent errors caused by ignorance. Learning to switch between the different formats will also ensure that you are able to make the best bets in any environment. Additionally, you will be one up on the average punter who may not have any idea how to operate out of his own narrow world.


Odds comparison table between decimal odds, fractional odds and american odds (moneylines).

Decimal odds Fractional odds American odds
1.01 1/100 -10000
1.10 1/10 -1000
1.40 2/5 -250
1.50 1/2 -200
2.00 1/1 ("evens") (-)100
3.00 2/1 200
5.00 4/1 400
10.00 9/1 900
101.00 100/1 10000


In order to place your bets so that you have maximum chance of winning, you need to understand the odds. You have to be proficient at reading the odds so that you can estimate your chances without making any errors in judgment. Speed in assessing the odds is also important so that you are able to place your wagers before the dynamic odds change. One of the reasons that betting odds follow primarily a numerical representation is that the bookmakers have to present a lot of information in a limited amount of space and they expect the bettors to understand the manner in which the odds are represented.

Odds are represented according to the different types, the broad classification; however, is fractional/ decimal/ moneyline. The odds vary with the type of sport and as you learn about the probabilities of an event occurring in a game and study historical success rates, you will be able to make better use of the information displayed on the betting boards. With time, you should be able to place bets after reading the odds and assessing not only the chances of your win but also the kind of edge the house holds on a bet of that kind.

The following examples will help you understand better the manner in which betting odds are read.

Bet Number Team Point Line Total Money Line
101 ABC +200
102 DEF -5 10 -150


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The Betting Board above gives the odds for the different types of wagers that you can lay for the given team ABC.

Point Line refers to the Point Spread bets. In the above example, DEF is favored to win over ABC by 5 points. The usual way of representing is to mention the point line next to the favorite team with the points preceded by a (-) sign. So, in this case there are two bets that can be placed. DEF wins by 6 or more points or ABC win/lose by 4 or less points.

Total bets are wagers against the total number of points scored in a game. The bettor can bet over or under the total number of points set by the bookmaker.

Money Line bets involve selecting a winner. In the above example, a $100 wager on ABC will give you $200. If you wish to earn $100 on team DEF, you need to wager $150. This is because team DEF has been marked favorite by the odd setters and since the odds are low on this team, the bookmakers will try and make the bettors pay more for a given bet. With money line betting you can develop your own ideas over time whether it is better to place a wager on the underdog or bet on the topdog.





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