How To Read Sports Betting Odds

How To Read Sports Betting Odds

Everything you need to know about How to read betting odds?

Understanding how to read betting odds is essential for anyone interested in taking up sports wagering. Experienced bettors can clearly evaluate odds to calculate the probability of winning their wagers, while bookmakers use the odds from their data providers to serve the needs of their players.

Reading sports betting odds may seem complicated for those new to the activity but aren’t too difficult to understand. 

Basic Knowledge of Sports Betting Odds

Basic knowledge of sports betting odds is something all handicappers need, along with knowing how to calculate their probability of winning every time they place a wager.

It wouldn’t be wise for anyone to begin sports betting without understanding the different types of odds and how to read the various formats.

Once players understand the basics of how betting odds work, they will have a lot more fun and make a more significant profit when placing wagers.

Why Are Betting Odds So Important?

Odds are what show bettors the implied probability of the wagers they make.

For example, when looking at the favorite and underdog for any event, the favorite has a higher probability of winning than the underdog.

Let’s Do Extra Math

Players can also calculate their percentage of winning the wager by doing a bit of extra math. 

Reading odds is also important because they show the payout for a winning bet and the potential value compared to other betting markets.

For example, players can compare moneyline odds between different sports books to receive the highest payout on their winning wagers.

Odds Formats

All sports bettors need to understand the different odds formats understand how to calculate the implied probability and the amount they can win from each wager.

There are three odds formats for sports that are typically used worldwide:

American Odds

American odds are based on the amount that can be wagered or won on a $100 bet, although it’s not required to bet that amount.

Teams’ Odds

The plus (+) before a team’s odds indicates that the team is the favorite, while a minus (-) before the odds means that team is the underdog. 

For example, if the New York Giants are favorites against the Dallas Cowboys with odds of -130, the bettor needs to wager $130 to win $100.

The payout on a winning bet on the Giants would be $177, or 77% of the amount staked. 

Placing a Wager

Placing a wager on the Cowboys, who are underdogs at +110, means the bettor will win $110 on every $100 wagered on them.

The payout would be on a winning bet would bet $210, which is 110% of the original stake. Payouts are always higher when betting on underdogs because they have a lower probability of winning.

Decimal Odds

Of all the different betting formats, learning how to calculate decimal odds is the simplest.

To figure out the potential payout using decimal odds, bettors only need to multiply the odds by the amount they’re wagering to see how much a winning bet will pay.  

Using the same teams as an example, instead of -130 with American odds, the Giants as favorites will show at 1.77 using decimal odds.

Multiplying the $100 wager amount by the odds means the potential payout for the bettor would be $177. The odds for the Cowboys would be 2.10, meaning the $100 wager would win them $210. 

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are most commonly used in horse racing and sports betting in the UK. The Giants would be shown in this example with odds of 77/100, meaning a winning wager pays back the original stake plus 77%, or $177.

Odds for the Cowboys would be shown as 11/10, meaning every $10 bet on the angels would pay back $11 on a winning bet or $210 on a $100 wager. 

Line Movement

Players that are learning how to read sports betting odds should also be familiar with why lines move and how they can provide the most value.

While bookmakers offer players various bets to make, no matter which side wins a wager, the goal of the sportsbook is to always win. 

They typically will use losing wagers on one side of the line to pay the winners on the other side while still making a profit at the same time.

“Juice” or “Vig”

The main way these sportsbooks make their money is on the “juice” or “vig” that it charges every bettor for the privilege of making a wager. 

Too many wagers on one side are the primary reason the odds will change. This is especially true when the lines are first posted, as sharp bettors will be sure to take advantage of any bad lines that may initially come out. 

Player’s Injury

Other reasons could be player injuries or other events that will affect the performance of either team.

Since bettors will place more wagers on the opposing team when negative events happen, the line needs to be adjusted to encourage even wagering.  

Popular Betting Markets

Once bettors understand the different types of odds, they can apply their betting strategies to the various wagering markets that are most common in sports betting:


The most common wager placed for sports betting is the moneyline wager. This is a simple wager in which the bettor only needs to pick the team they think will win the game outright with no point spread involved. 

These wagers are easy to make and reduce the chances of bettors making a mistake.

Value Found In Moneyline Odds

There can also be excellent value found in moneyline odds, as it’s much easier to pick the winner of a game than betting on the spread or total. It’s up to the bettor to determine if the value is there.


Betting on the point spread is the next most popular way to wager on sports. The number indicated on the spread is the margin of victory the favorite is expected to win by.

For example, the Giants as favorites will show their spread at -7, meaning they are expected to win by at least seven points.

The Underdogs

The Cowboys’ line as underdogs would read as +7, meaning for a wager on them to win, they would have to either lose by less than seven points or win the game outright. 

The line is placed by the bookmaker based on how well they think either team will play during the contest.

Scoring Related to Point Spread

Point spread betting is used more commonly in sports markets that have a high amount of scoring, like football and basketball.

In low-scoring sports like hockey and baseball, the “run line” or “puck line” for each sport represents the spread but is almost always set at plus or minus 1.5. 


Totals betting, also known as over/under, is the third most popular way bettors wager on sports, with the line indicating the total number of points the bookmaker expected to be scored by both teams throughout the course of the game.

The bettor must determine if the final score totals will be over or under the number set by the sportsbook. 

A Unique Wager

This wager type is unique as it doesn’t rely on picking a team to win, even if only one team scores all the points. The only thing that matters is the number of points scored by both teams combined. 

For example, if the over/under on the Giants vs. Cowboys game is posted at 42, for a winning wager on the under, the combined score for both teams would have to be 41 points or less.

Winning a wager on the over requires both teams to combine for 43 points or more for the bet to be a winner.

If the total score is exactly 42 at the end of the contest, the game is considered a “push,” and the amount staked is returned to the bettor. 

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How to read betting odds FAQs

Although American odds are used most commonly for sports in the US market, the most common format used around the world is decimal odds. Most online bookmakers will permit players to change the odds on their platform to whatever format they want.

Decimal odds are pretty straightforward and don’t take a lot of math to figure out what the payout will be on a winning bet. Players just need to multiply the amount of their stake by the decimal odds to find out what a winning wager will pay.

There’s no right or wrong answer when trying to determine which betting odds format is the best. Players should just use whichever format is most comfortable for them and is the easiest to understand.

There are many free odds converters available online to help change odds from one format to another and figure out payouts. However, most online betting sites give players the option to choose the odds format they prefer.

Odds and lines reflect the opinion of the oddsmakers about what they think the result will be in a sporting event. Not all sportsbooks use the same oddsmakers, so when they have different opinions, it will lead to variations in the odds offered by the bookmakers.