How to Read and Understand Betting Odds

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How to read betting odds

If you are looking to get into the world of sports betting, one of the most important places to start is learning how to read odds.

In this guide, we will review the most common types of odds and how to read them, accompanied by clear examples for better understanding.

What are the different types of betting odds?

There are three main ways in which betting odds are presented at the top sportsbooks: American odds, decimal odds and fractional odds. Here is an overview of each, accompanied by illustrative examples.

American odds

Also known as moneyline odds, American odds are particularly popular in the United States. With American odds, the favorite side in a bet is generally accompanied by a negative number (-) while the underdog will come with a positive number (+).

American odds are based on how they relate to $100, but the difference between what that means for favorites and underdogs can be a bit confusing for beginners.

Let’s take a look at a moneyline bet as an example. If the San Francisco 49ers are playing against the Kansas City Chiefs and the 49ers moneyline is listed as “-128” at DraftKings Sportsbook, what does this mean? It means that to win $100, you need to bet $128. On the other hand, betting on the Chiefs, whose moneyline odds are +108 in this case, means that with a $100 bet, you would make $108 in profit if the Chiefs win.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium.

You will also see American odds around a spread bet or over/under (total). The standard odds for a spread or total bet (no matter what the spread/total is) is -110, although the odds may differ depending on a number of variables.

Decimal odds

More popular at sportsbooks operating outside the U.S., especially in continental Europe, Australia and Canada, decimal odds tend to be easier to understand to the untrained eye. Decimal odds represent the amount of money you would earn for each $1 you put in. What makes decimal odds more simple is the fact that the odds are all-encompassing. They can be used to describe any bet.

For example, let’s say the Miami Heat are facing the Philadelphia 76ers. If the Heat moneyline odds are 2.75 at BetMGM Sportsbook, that means if you bet $1 on Miami, you get back $2.75 if they win, including your stake. In the same game, the 76ers’ moneyline is 1.48, meaning that betting $1 on the Sixers nets you $1.48 if Philadelphia wins.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the second quarter of a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

As you may be able to surmise, the side with the higher decimal odds is the underdog (the Heat in the previous example).

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Fractional odds

Fractional odds are most common in British and Irish sportsbooks and are also popular in horse racing. They are usually written with either a hyphen (-) or slash (/) between digits. 

If the Houston Astros have 8-1 (or 8/1) futures odds to win the World Series, this means that if you bet $10 on the Astros to win the World Series and they do win it, you would get $80 in addition to your $10 stake for a total of a $90 payout.

Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena celebrates with center fielder Mauricio Dubon (14) after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies during the MLB World Tour Mexico City Series game at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu.

In America, fractional odds are commonly used in futures betting, where most odds have a denominator of 1.

As a simple formula, fractional odds are the potential winnings amount divided by the amount you are wagering. So, if the odds are listed as 13-3, this means that to win $13, you would need to wager $3 on a particular bet.

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More information on reading odds

Is one odds type more valuable than another?

No odds type is necessarily more valuable than another. It’s mostly a matter of preference, although many sportsbooks in the U.S. list their odds in the American (moneyline) manner. For this reason, it is worth learning about all three types of odds, as outlined above.

If your sportsbook gives a choice of odds display type, feel free to go with whichever odds type makes the most sense to you. Being comfortable reading odds is essential to betting, so be sure you understand the odds before placing your bets.

What is a “push” and what happens when one occurs?

A push is essentially when there is a tie on a bet. Barring extenuating circumstances it won’t occur on a moneyline bet, but it could when betting a spread or over/under. Let’s say the over/under line for a New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders game is 6 goals. You have the option to choose over or under 6 goals. If exactly 6 goals are scored, it is considered a push.

When a bet is ruled a push, you will be refunded your stake. It does not count as either a win or a loss.

What do (+) and (-) mean in sports betting?

A plus (+) sign in sports betting generally indicates that side is an underdog, but there are times when both sides have a minus sign. This happens when the two sides are close to even and have close to a 50% shot to win.

In moneyline (American odds) terms, the side with a plus sign is usually the underdog, while the side with a minus sign is the favorite.

In terms of a spread, the same thing applies. If the Boston Celtics are -10 against the Dallas Mavericks, that means they are favored by 10 points. In this case, the Mavericks would be +10 as the underdog.

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Do all U.S. sportsbooks use American odds?

Although not all sportsbooks based in the United States use American odds, it is certainly the most common odds type at sportsbooks around the country. Some sportsbooks have settings that allow you to choose in which format the odds are displayed.

What are the different types of odds?

The three main types of odds are American, decimal and fractional. Each odds type comes with its pros and cons, so preference in odds type varies from bettor to bettor.

Is it better to have higher or lower odds?

There is a tradeoff. The higher the odds, the bigger the payout, but the less likely the bet is to win. With lower odds, there is a higher probability that your bet will win, but the potential payout is smaller.

What do “4 to 1” odds mean?

While fractional odds are pronounced “4 to 1” when verbalized, they are usually written as 4/1 or 4-1. If you wager $1 on a bet with these odds, if it hits you will win $4 on top of the $1 from your original stake.