Understanding Betting Odds: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a first-time bettor or a true beginner, you might be surprised to see all those different numbers at sportsbooks. Well, most of those numbers represent the betting odds. Sportsbooks represent the probability of a team or a player winning or doing something during the sporting event through the odds. 

Whether you’re a novice in the betting world or a seasoned bettor, it’s crucial to understand betting odds, know how they work, what they represent, and what their shifts mean. It will massively improve your betting strategy and increase chances of being successful in your betting journey. 

So, if you’ve found a betting site that you like at and are preparing to place a bet, but you’re not sure how the odds work, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide in which we will explore the fundamentals of betting odds, decode the different odds formats, and discuss what drives odds shifts.

Understanding Different Odds Formats

To understand betting odds, think of them as the likelihood of something happening. It doesn’t even have to be a sporting event, but for easier understanding, we’ll stick to sports betting odds. Depending on the betting type, they might indicate which team or player is the favorite for the event, what’s the likelihood of the event finishing as a draw, and what are the chances of the underdog winning. 

The betting odds also show how much you would win if you wagered on the particular bet. However, before we explain how it works, we must point out that the odds can be displayed in different formats. The three primary odds format types are:

  • Moneyline Odds: Predominantly used in the US, these odds indicate the amount that you have to wager to win $100, or the profit you’ll make on a $100 bet. For instance, if the odds are +150 moneyline, it means that if you were to wager $100 on that betting line, you would win $250 in total, out of which $150 in profit. On the other hand, negative moneyline odds, such as -200, imply that you need to bet $200 to win $100.
  • Decimal Odds: Usually used in Europe and Australia, decimal odds represent the total return on a bet, including the original stake. They’re the easiest to understand because they indicate how much your stake will be multiplied. For example, odds of 4.00 mean that a $1 bet would return $4, including the $1 stake. So, if, in a hypothetical game between Fulham and Manchester United, the odds for Fulham to win the game are 3.20, and you wager $10, your potential return would be 10×3.20 = $32.
  • Fractional Odds: They’re most commonly found in the UK and represent the potential profit in relation to the stake. For example, if the odds are 5/1, it means that you win $5 for every $1 wagered, in addition to your original wager. So, if the odds for Sheffield United to win against the Wolves are 3/1, and you wager $15, your potential win is $60, out of which $45 is profit.

Besides the potential winnings, the odds also show the implied probability – or the bookmaker’s estimate of the likelihood of the event happening. For example, if the odds for there to be a red card in a game between Atletico Madrid and Napoli are 3.00 decimal, it means that the implied probability is 33.33%. To calculate the implied probability, you should use the following formula:

100 / Odds (in decimal format) = Implied probability (in %)

The implied probability percentage is important because it can provide you a better understanding of what the sportsbook believes will happen in the game, and what are your odds of winning.

Which Factors Influence the Betting Odds?

The first mistake that many novice bettors make is to believe that the odds are fixed in place. In reality, however, the odds for a particular event fluctuate all the time, and they can shift significantly towards one side or the other. 

There are various factors that influence the betting odds, and understanding them can give you a strategic edge when betting on sports.

  • Team/Player Performance: The most important factors that determine the odds are recent performances, team or player statistics, and form. For example, if an EPL team has won the previous 5 matches, bookmakers will adjust odds based on the team’s form, strengths, and weaknesses when compared to the other team.
  • News and Information: Breaking news, injuries, and other significant developments can lead to quick changes in odds. For example, if news breaks out before a hypothetical matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles that Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ star quarterback, is injured and won’t play in the game, sportsbooks will adjust the odds accordingly.
  • Outside factors: Factors such as the weather or other potential discrepancies to the sporting event might affect the odds. For example, if a Formula 1 race is to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the forecast indicates that it might be a rainy race, sportsbooks will adjust the odds based on which drivers have proven themselves as masters in the rain.


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