How to Read Odds

January 12, 2021

Watching matches, analyzing the statistics, following the latest news on injured/sidelined players, looking at the head-to-head stats, etc. can all well benefit sports punters. All successful long-term bettors know it. However, as significant as everything mentioned in the opening sentence is, it could count for little if you do not know how to read odds. 

Understanding how to read betting odds can be equally important as all statistics you may study. Everyone who likes to place wagers on sports simply needs to fully understand the betting odds and the connection between scores and odds. If you are new to betting, or if you did not pay attention to odds meaning, have no worries. Just stay tuned and keep reading to learn about betting terms and how to read odds. 

Betting Odds Explained

We’ll start with the bet definition and odds definition. The former is easy and straightforward to explain. A bet is wagering of money on an event with an uncertain outcome for the purpose of winning money. Anyone who is reading this article has probably placed a bet at some point. You all know what the bet is. You probably all know what the odds are. But do you know how to read the betting odds? 

How to read odds? Step-by-step guide

We will use the simplest NBA betting example to show you how to read odds: 
1 Favorites to win
We have the Los Angeles Lakers as 1 to 1 favorites to win against the Los Angeles Clippers. It means both the Lakers and the Clippers have the same chances of winning (50-50).
2 Odds offered
The bookmakers will likely offer you -110 odds on both the Lakers and the Clippers to win in that case. 
3 Odds calculation
As you can see, you would have to bet $110 to win $100 by betting on either the home or the away win in this case, even though both teams have 50% chances of winnings, meaning the odds should be set at +100 on each side. The odds offered by the sportsbooks are lower because the house needs to take its cut (provision, juice, vig). 
4 Calculate the value
If you know how to read odds and how to calculate the value of the odds and its connection to the probability of a certain outcome occurring, you will have a much more successful wagering career. 

Different types of odds

You can see several different forms of the odds, but do not be afraid if you can’t understand them all. Three of the forms are dominant in the sports betting world: 

  • American +100
  • Decimal 2.00
  • Fractional (UK) 1/1

We game you an example for the 50% probability odds for each of the three types. Since the Vegas odds are always shown in the American form, we will keep the main attention at this particular type moving forward. To help you get a better insight at how to read odds, we will briefly explain the other two. 

The decimal odds simply show you how much you can multiply your stake with. If you have 2.50 odds and want to bet $100, you simply multiply the two numbers and get the total amount you can cash out in case of a win ($250). 

Learning how to betting read odds fractionally may be somewhat more complicated. The first number shows you the winnings and the second number refers to your stake. So, how to read odds here? Let’s say we have 10/3 odds. In this case, you would receive $10 for every $3 you bet. Another way to calculate the odds payout in this example would be to sum up the two numbers (10+3) and then divide by the second number (3). It would be 13/3 = 4.33. So, the 10/3 fractional odds would be 4.33 decimal odds. 

American Odds

American odds are by far the most common type. All sportsbooks in the United States use them. While trying to learn how to read odds, you will notice two things in particular: 

  • The odds are shown in terms of 100
  • The odds have either a plus or a minus in front

The fact the odds are shown in terms of 100 will only help you to better learn how to read odds. So, to learn how to read odds, just imagine that you are betting $100 all times. The odds, after all, show you the potential payout on a $100 wager. 

It is easier to understand how to read odds when you see a plus sign in front of them. In this case, the odds show how much money you would get for a $100 bet. Let’s say the struggling New York Giants are +250 to beat the New England Patriots. It means you would get an additional $250 for wagering $100 on this NFL pick ($350 in total). These odds are equal to 3.50 decimal odds. 

Things can get somewhat trickier for those who are trying to learn how to read odds when they see a minus in front of the odds. These odds show how much you need to bet to win a $100 profit. For example, you want to back the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the New York Jets but do not know how to read odds. The odds offered by a certain sportsbook are -200. It means that you need to bet $200 to gain a $100 profit. If you know how to read odds, you’d be aware that these are equivalent to 1.50 odds in a decimal form. 

How to read odds for spreads & totals? 

While you will run into a much wider range of odds for moneyline bets, you should have a much easier task to learn how to read odds for spreads and totals. It is because the sportsbooks usually offer pretty much identical odds on both sides of the spreads or totals. They move the lines instead. 

If you know the over under meaning and the handicap meaning, you’ll easily get to learn how to read odds for totals and spreads. The -110 odds represent the industry-standard in this matter. In most cases, you will have to bet $110 to win a $100 profit for covering the spread or the total line. 


How to read odds? 

A plus sign in front of the odds shows you the amount of money you’d win by betting $100. A minus sign in front of the odds shows you the amount of money you need to bet to win $100. 

How do betting odds work? 

Betting odds show you the probability of a certain outcome to happen. In American form, positive odds are given to underdogs and negative to favorites. 

How to understand betting odds?

It is very easy to understand betting odds if you know what to look for. Always pay attention to whether you have a positive or a negative sign in front of the odds and follow the basics we’ve learned together in this article. 

Martin Evergreen
Martin Evergreen is a sports betting professional who provides initiated betting picks and predictions. His main focus is on NHL picks, sportsbook promotions, and casino stories.