How To Read Odds Like The Pro’s: Introduction to Odds

When you know how to read odds, you’re able to place better bets. Therefore, your chances of winning and making a profit increase.

We all want to win our bets for one reason: To make money (and not lose our stake!).

But – why on earth am I teaching you how to read them? 

Simple: I hate bookmakers, and I want us ALL to win. By the end of this article, you will know exactly what’s needed to read odds, and you will stop placing losing bets. 

What Are Odds? Odds Explained:

Odds represent the probability that something might or might not happen. They also tell you how much you’ll win if your bet is successful. 

For any sporting event, there are a specific number of possible outcomes. Let’s say the Bulls are playing the Lakers. The end result could either be a Bulls win, a Lakers win, or a tie. If the Bulls and the Lakers are evenly matched, there would be a 33.5% chance of either team winning.

However, in all sporting events there are favorites and underdogs. As such, the odds are altered to reflect this. 

How would they look?

Well, let’s say the Lakers are the clear favorites. Let’s say, then, that the bookies peg their odds at 1/4. This means there is an 80% chance of them winning. It also means that if you stake $100, your returns will be $25 plus your stake.

On the other hand, the Bulls are the underdogs, and their odds are 4/1. This means the bookmaker thinks there is a 20% chance of them winning. It also means that if you stake $100, your returns will be $400 plus your stake. 

How to Read Odds in Sports Betting

To read odds, open a betting site and pick a sporting event. Then, find the numbers that are split by a decimal point or a fraction. Odds of 3/1 indicate that you will win $3 for every $1 wagered. 

That being said, let’s dig a little deeper…

Different Types of Odds

How Do Positive odds and Negative Odds Work?

Because odds are expressed in terms of cash, minus odds (-) means you need to stake at least that amount of money in order to win X amount (usually $100 is used as the standard). 

When you see positive odds (+), the bookmaker is showing you the amount of $$$ that will be won if you successfully bet $100. 

For example, if you see -110, it means a $10 bet will net you a cool $100. Remember, $100 is typically used as the standard at all sports betting sites. 

American Odds

American odds for football and all other sports use the plus and minus system. When a team or player is classed as the favorite, you will see a minus (-) sign. When the team or player is deemed to be the underdog, you will see the plus (+) sign next to their selection. 

Here’s an example of what American money line (outright winner) odds might look like for an NBA game: 

  • Bucks: -760
  • Pelicans: +585

These odds indicate to you, the bettor, that the bookmaker reckons the Pelicans have a lower chance of winning than the Bucks. 

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are otherwise known as British odds because British bookmakers always provide fractions by default. Fractional odds look like this: 

  • 6/1

In our above example, if you bet on the team or player at odds of 6/1 and you staked $1, you will win $6 plus your stake if the bet is successful.  These are really high odds, by the way, which means there’s a lower chance of winning.

Fractional odds become more challenging to read when they’re much lower. Here’s an example of a low odd: 

  • 4/11

With these odds, the outcome is deemed very likely by the bookmaker. As such, if you placed a $5 stake on a bet with these odds, you would only win $1.81 (plus your stake). 

However, you don’t have to spend time working out how much you will win manually because all online bookmakers automatically calculate your odds and winnings for you. 

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are more popular in Australia, Zealand, and the rest of Europe outside Britain. Many see them as being easier to understand than fractional odds. 

For these types of odds, the total return and not the profit is represented by the number. This is different from fractional odds, which only represent your profit. 

For example, let’s say you’re betting on the Lakers to win tonight, and the odds look like this: 

  • LA Lakers: 3.00

What does that tell us? 

It tells us that if you were to stake $300 on the Lakers, you would win $300. This includes your profit and your wager. 

If, on the other hand, we converted these decimal odds into fractional ones (which don’t include the wager), they would look like this: 

  • 2/1

Decimal odds are calculated like this: 

Stake x decimal odd number 

Why Do Odds Matter In Sports Betting? 

Odds matter for two simple reasons:

  • Odds show you who’s the favorite and underdog in a particular bet, thus helping you make a more informed decision 
  • They help you work out how much you’ll win

Note that while odds show you who’s the favorite and who’s the underdog, you should also use past stats to help you decide what bet to place. Odds alone shouldn’t be the only thing you use. 

How To Use Odds To Calculate Implied Probability? 

Implied probability is the probability behind the odds that something will happen. To get these odds, bookmakers review stats and form. If the Bears are playing the Patriots this weekend, bookmakers review the stats and form of each team to determine their odds. 

The good news is that you can use odds to calculate implied probability, too. For instance, if a bet has odds of 3/1, the implied probability is 25%. What does this mean? It means that the bookmaker expects the bet to be successful one out of four times. 

Here’s the formula that you can use on any odds to calculate implied probability. For this example, we’re using odds of 3/1:

  • 1 ÷ (1+3) * 100 = 25%

Let’s See What You’ve Learned: Step-by-Step Guide To Putting Things Into Action 

Great – you can now read a variety of odds. You also understand how to use odds to calculate implied probability, and you know how to use odds to figure out who’s the favorite and who’s the underdog.

In this final section of this article, I’m going to go over how to understand moneyline odds to help you place more successful bets. 

  • Understand what moneyline bets mean

Moneyline bets are arguably the most popular type of sports bet (which is why we’re using them as our example). It concerns only the team who will win the sporting event outright, and the odds are always presented as either a plus or a negative. 

As we said earlier, the plus represents the favorite, while the negative represents the underdog. 

  • Understand what your profit will be

The next step is to pick a sporting event and take a look at the positive and negative odds offered to each team/individual. The plus ones tell you how much you will win per $100 spent. For instance, if the Bucks are pegged at +135 by the bookmaker, you will stand to win $235 off a $100 bet if you back them. 

If, however, you’re planning to stake anything other than $100, you can easily calculate your profit by dividing your stake by 100. Got your answer? Now, multiply it by the moneyline. This is your profit if your bet is successful.

If, on the other hand, you’re swayed by the underdog, you’ll need to look at their negative odds and work out how much you stand to gain. Betting on the underdog is always riskier, but you will win more money if the bet is successful. 

To work out your profit on negative odds, divide the standard 100 by the moneyline. This will give you the profit per dollar. For example, if the Brooklyn Nets have moneyline odds of -150 and you back the, you’ll make $.66 for each dollar you bet. That’s pretty good.

  • Use The Odds To Determine The Implied Probability

I’m not going to go over this again, as you can just re-read what I wrote up there. But the point is that each time you place a bet, you should always read the odds and then use them to determine the implied probability. This will help you understand whether a bet has value and is worth you risking your cash on it or not. 

If it’s not worth the risk, you move onto the next bet. If there’s value, you should consider going ahead with the bet.

  • Decide Your Stake and Place The Bet

Lastly, once you’ve worked out the profits and value, it’s time to decide your stake and place the bet. 

In Summary: Betting Odds Explained 

I hope you enjoyed my article? 

Sports betting is a lot more fun when we understand what the odds represent, and therefore how to use them to our advantage. Use the tips in this article to get started, decide which type of odds you want to use, and make sure to always work out the implied probability before you place your bet.

Don’t forget to leave a comment letting me know what you think or if you have any questions.

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