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Understanding Betting Odds Formatting and How It Is Used

Let's take a look at how the odds work.

A key skill for betting is understanding how to read betting odds. After all, you need to know how much you will win if a bet comes through for you. Thankfully, it is a skill that shouldn’t be too hard to pick up.

However, What baffles most people is that odds can be displayed in multiple ways. One of three different ways. Thankfully, most online sportsbooks will let you switch between the methods used with no more than a couple of clicks.

We will run you through each of the methods. This way, no matter what the online sportsbook throws at you, reading the betting odds should be a breeze.

Fractional Odds

This system is often called the ‘British’ system because it is rarely used outside the UK and Ireland. As you can probably guess from the name, these odds are written as a fraction, e.g., 10/1 or 7/2.

Many people find these odds to be the easiest to read. Let’s break the number down a bit. Let’s assume the odds are listed as ‘10/1’

–          The 10 is the amount that you could potentially win if…

–          You staked the second number.

So, with odds of 10/1, for every $1 you stake, the potential winnings would be $10. So, if you staked $10, your winnings would be $100. You’d also get your stake back, ending up with $110.

With odds of 7/2, for every $1 staked, you’d get $3.50 back (plus your stake). If you wanted that full 7, you’d need to stake $2.

Most of the time, you should be able to see which bet is the favorite at a glance. For example, odds of 3/1 would be a favorite compared to 5/1. Things get a bit trickier if that second number is something other than a 1 (which will be pretty common), but just divide the first number by the second, and you should be able to quickly compare against other odds. Let’s say you have the following odds:

–          5/1

–          5/2

The 5/2 would be a favorite compared to 5/1 since the returns would be much smaller.

Decimal Odds

This is known as the ‘European’ system. There are no prizes for guessing which countries use the decimal odds system most often. They are also used in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The decimal odds system is probably the easiest to understand if you’re trying to compare two betting odds. This is because the decimal odds would tell you exactly how much you’d win if you staked $1. So, 4.00 decimal odds would show that you win $4.00 per $1.00 gambled. Odds of 1.20 would show you get $1.20 per $1.

Now, the key difference between decimal odds and fractional odds is the fact that the decimal odds displayed include your stake. So, 4.00 decimal odds (stake $1, get $4 back) is functionally the same as 3/1 (stake $1, get $3+$1 initial stake). Although, we suppose it makes it a little bit easier for some people like this since you don’t have to remember the ‘extra’ you get back.

If you can, always try to opt for decimal odds. It is so much easier.

American Odds

In true American style, American gambling companies have developed their method for displaying odds, and this system (as near as we can tell) is not used anywhere else in the world. For outsiders, it is tricky to read and makes betting on things like mock NFL drafts harder to follow. Some parts of American odds also go entirely against logic (you’ll see what we mean when we discuss the +/- symbol). Still, it is the most popular system in the US, and Americans tend to only discuss it in American odds, so it is worth understanding.

Now, there are two parts to the way American odds are displayed:

–          You have a symbol, which is a +/- at the start. This is an incredibly important symbol. If you misread that, the odds are misread too.

–          Then you have a number. What this number means will be determined by the preceding symbol.

If the first sign is a -, this is how much you would need to stake if you would want to win $100.

If the first sign is a +, this is how much you would win if you staked $100. As we said, that first number is important.

So, let’s say the number is -200. If you staked $200 and the bet came through, you’d win $100 (plus your initial stake of $200). This gives you $300 total.

If the number is +200, and you stake $100, you’d win $200, plus your initial stake of $100—so, $300 total.

When comparing odds, you must look at the symbol at the start (the – indicates the favorite, the + the underdog), plus the following number to determine which bet to place. The American odds system takes a lot more mental effort than other systems, particularly decimal odds. But, if you become familiar with it, it should be fine.

As we said, all betting odds formatting systems will give you the same odds, but they will be displayed in slightly different ways. So, don’t fear using the system you feel most comfortable with. We do.

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