How to Read Betting Odds

Our Comprehensive Guide to Odds

If you are entering the world of betting for the first time, there are aspects to this new environment that may at first appear daunting. One of the first difficulties you may encounter is a spread of numbers assigned to different sports or events. These numbers are called odds; they are what inform the punter of whether a bet will be profitable or not. Furthermore, odds give the punter information on the likelihood of the bet being successful in terms of betting on the “underdog” or the favourite”.

Most importantly, it can be difficult to understand how to read betting odds and what they will mean for you, as you take up this new venture into the world of betting. Therefore, we have written this guide to aid you through this process so that you may better understand the nuances of how to read betting odds.

What Are Betting Odds?

Before you can move on with any betting, it is imperative you understand what it is you are looking out for when placing your bet. When the bookmaker puts out a set of odds for a game or event, they are telling you what the likelihood of each outcome will be (or several outcomes in cases such as political candidates). It will thus also tell you what your expected pay-out will be for that event based on the odds given. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you understand how to read betting odds before you enter the world of betting itself.

A basic example of odds and outcomes can be shown by the simple task of flipping a coin. You have a 50% chance to hit tails and a 50% to hit heads, this is telling you the likelihood of the outcome. Should there be an 80% chance of rain during a cricket match that would mean there is a 20% that it will not rain, this means to say that the probability of it raining is 4 times higher.

Understanding the Odds

With the purpose of betting odds now explained, it then falls to you as the punter to understand how to read betting odds. If a bookmaker has for example put up odds on a football match Arsenal vs Leeds, you as the punter will want to know who the favourite is and who the underdog is. In this scenario, with Arsenal being the favourite and Leeds the underdog, the bookie will place lower odds on Arsenal to win the match. This means that your return on your bet in terms of winnings will be lower. Should you have bet on the underdog Leeds to win the match, your winnings would be higher as they would have the higher odds.

So essentially, should a team have lower odds they are considered favourites as the bookmaker firmly believes they will win and therefore won’t pay-out a large amount. Whereas if the odds are higher, your return on your bet is likely going to be much bigger. So in its own way, learning how to read betting odds can enable the punter to have more knowledge about what it is they are betting on.

The 3 Types of Odds

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds have been predominantly used throughout the UK and Ireland in years past and are still the preferred form of odds today. It has been around for a very long time in the UK and is mostly used for betting on horse races. Fractional odds are in fact very easy to understand and shouldn’t scare you off if you think doing the calculations will be a problem for you. Be sure to look out for the dash symbol or a hyphen to know what type of odds the bet is. For example, 6-1 or 6/1.

First and foremost, you need to understand what the fraction represents for your potential bet. The number on the right is the amount bet and the number on the left is the amount that your initial wager will net you. For example, should you bet £20 on an underdog who has been given 5/1 odds and the bet is successful, you would then win £100. It is important to note that your return is £120 and that includes your initial wager, so that is £100 winnings plus your initial wager of £20 back. Fractional odds form an important basis in how to read betting odds.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are used for the most part throughout Europe and have thus also been called European odds. They are also used in Australia and Canada. This form of odds has gained popularity because it is easy to grasp and easy to use. Decimal odds require minimal effort in terms of calculating your potential winnings from your bet. Decimal odds are equally important as fractional odds when it comes to understanding how to read betting odds as a whole.

For example, if you place a £100 bet on decimal odds of 3.5 then your winnings would be £350. The sum is essentially your stake x odds = pay-out. It is important to remember here that your stake again forms part of your return,, so in the example of £350 it would be £100 (stake) + £250 (winnings) = £350 (pay-out).

 American Odds

American odds, as the name suggests, are predominantly used throughout the United States. Another term for American odds is Moneyline odds, so should you ever see this term on the bookmaker’s website don’t get confused, they are one and the same thing.

American odds always have the punter risk a minimum of $100 on a bet. Furthermore, when placing your $100 bet you will see either a negative symbol (-) or a positive symbol (+) next to each of the competitors. The negative symbol implies that the team or person is the favourite to win the bet whereas the positive symbol implies that the team is the underdog. The value next to these symbols can represent the better chance for the bet to win.

For example, a -150 has a better chance to win than a -120. The same principle applies to the underdog, the bigger the value next to the + the bigger the underdog they are. Furthermore, the value next to the symbol implies the amount you are risking for the favourite team, so if you bet on the team that are favourites at -135 then you are risking $135 to win $100. Should you bet on the underdog at say -250, then you are risking $100 to win $250.

How Are the Odds Calculated?

How bookmakers calculate the odds you see before you on the bet is down to a host of varying factors depending on the sport or event. If it is a sport you are betting on, the bookmakers will take into account anything from the team’s recent form, their injuries, recent statistics or any prior history between two teams in a particular fixture. Furthermore, they will also observe and consider any managerial changes in the team and what the past success rate has been of that manager. Therefore various factors in sport can impact how to read betting odds and there is always a difference between the best odds for betting on the market.

Try These Betting Guides & Strategies

With a firm grasp on how to read betting odds and what they mean for your potential future winnings, it would be wise for you to take a look at some of our betting guides and strategies. For example, understanding how accumulator betting works will help you understand how a combination of four selections make up one wager.

There are different kinds of betting such as a system bet where you do not need all your selections to win in order to have a successful bet. You could learn more about combined betting, for example; this is a a bet where the punter places multiple wagers on a series of different selections in order to minimise their risk and maximise their gain. Furthermore, you could read up on a draw-no-bet, which implies that a bet will be successful should the team you wagered on win and will not lose should the team draw the match. However, should the team lose the match, then the wager is lost.

You may as a new punter ask yourself at some point how does a betting exchange work? If so, we've got a great betting exchange guide that should provide all the information you need to know.

These are all useful guides in helping you as a new punter understand all the nuances the world of betting has to offer. You will become a more knowledgeable bettor which will only aid you in trying to maximise your winnings in the future.

We can also help you with specific sporting strategies - such as our cricket betting strategy guide which, when combined with our cricket odds comparison will have you betting with confidence in no time.


Odds can at first seem daunting and difficult to understand how to correlate to certain wagers but, having now read this guide, you are already more knowledgeable than you once were in the environment of betting. You can now as a newer punter feel more at ease when looking for the best odds and understanding what bet is best for you. Learning how to read betting odds is imperative for your future success and with that in mind you are now at least better equipped to join the world of betting.

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