Betting Odds Explained

Betting odds can be intimidating for newcomers to sports betting, but they don’t need to be. While betting odds can look different according to the location of the sportsbook, they are actually easy to understand. If you have ever wanted betting odds explained in a clear and easy-to-understand way, the following guide written by our betting experts at Playright can help.

Ziv Chen
Jan 04 2022

Our experts will explain the different types of odds you can find at online bookies and show how they can provide different ways to gamble and lay bets. You can make the most out of your sports betting experience with the following information.


What Are Betting Odds?

When you visit UK’s best sports betting sites, the key to making a successful wager is understanding betting odds. With complete knowledge of odds, you can make informed decisions about the bets you make. This is true whether you are betting on football, horse racing, or any sport. So whichever sport you are looking to wager on, it is essential to know the fundamentals before getting into the details of betting odds.

Odds in betting are the measure of the likelihood of a specific outcome. Sportsbooks use odds to highlight what they believe is the likely outcome of a sporting event. If you want betting odds explained, just remember that they are a ratio used to illustrate the chances of an outcome happening compared to chances that it does not.

It is easy to assume betting odds are complex and hard to understand, but that is not the case. Once you spend a little time learning the basics, you’ll quickly pick up betting odds. This is important because you can make sensible wagering choices and pick bets with the best outcome.

Unfortunately, sports betting does not have a universal system for showing betting odds. Different bookies use various methods, and it is essential to understand each of them.


Fractional Odds

Fractional odds will be familiar to punters from the UK. That’s why these are also known as UK odds or traditional odds. Bookies in the UK and Ireland will show odds written as a fraction by using a “slash (/)” or sometimes a “hyphen (-)”. Because the UK market is so established, fractional odds are used by some of the biggest global bookies.

For example, if you look at Sky Bet transfer odds during the football Transfer Window, you may see a player listed as 5/1 or 5-1 to join another club. Essentially you are looking at a ratio of the amount of profit you can win on a specific bet. So, in the example here, the 5 is the amount of profit you can make on the wager (1).

If you wager £20 on those 5/1 odds and are successful in your bet, you will make a profit of 5 times your wager (£100) and your initial stake (£20) for a total of £120 (profit and stake).


Decimal Odds

Decimal betting odds are also known as Euro betting odds because they are popular amongst sportsbooks in Europe. You can also find them at bookies in Canada and New Zealand, where they are known as digital odds or continental odds.

Some sports gamblers prefer to work with decimal odds because they believe them to be easier than fractional or American odds. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Say you are betting on Barcelona to beat Real Madrid in the next El Clasico. The decimal odds may be presented as 4.00 or something similar. This number represents the direct amount you win for each unit wagered. While fractional odds show the profit and investment, decimal odds show the total payout.

So, you can work out how much you can win with the following basic formula: Stake x Decimal Odd Number = Payout

Looking at our example, if you wager £10 on Barcelona to beat Real Madrid with decimal odds of 4.00, the formula is 10 x 4.00. This gives you a payout of £40 (the initial stake and profit).


American Odds

American odds or US odds are better known as moneyline odds and are popular with sportsbooks in the United States. These are perhaps the most complex betting odds to understand but still easy once you know the basics.

Odds for the favourites in a sporting event are shown with a minus (-) sign, which shows the amount you must wager to win back $100. Underdogs have odds with a positive (+) sign, which shows how much is won for each $100 you wager.

For example, if you are looking at Masters golf betting odds, you may see that Dustin Johnson is odds on at -500. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods may be an outside bet at +600. This means the bookie sees Tiger Woods as an underdog and gives Dustin Johnson more chance of winning.

If you stake $100 on Tiger Woods, you get back your initial stake and the $600 from the odds. Underdog odds show you how much profit you can make on a successful bet. Things get a little tricker if you wager on the favourite. These odds show that you need to bet $500 on Dustin Johnson just to win $100 back. Usually, you will only find these odds on sportsbooks available in North America like Bet365.


Advanced Betting

If you want to explain football betting odds or odds on any other sport, you need to know what type of bets are available. While there are universal ways of showing odds, prices on specific bets are often different. Understanding odds and how they combine with particular wager types can help you make the best wagering decisions.

Straight Bets

The classic sports bet and most popular is the straight bet, where you will be wagering on the direct outcome of a game. So, you’re betting on the team or athlete to win. For example, you could bet on Manchester United to win. If your chosen wager does not win, you lose the bet.

Points spreads are another common type of straight bet. Here you will be putting a stake on the margin of victory instead of the outcome. Similarly, a totals wager is a straight bet where you bet on a total points limit going under or over. These are popular with US sports like American football and basketball.

Accumulator Bets

Accumulators (known as Acca bets in the UK and Parlays in the US) are combinations of multiple wagers into a single bet with unique odds. Sportsbooks allow you to combine markets from the same event, same sports, or various sports. Acca bets are some of the most lucrative in the sports betting world and the riskiest.

That’s because each bet you add to the accumulator stretches the odds and your chances of winning. The more wagers you add, the greater the odds. If you win, the payout could be massive. However, if even one bet in your combination does not come in, you lose everything.

Futures Bets

As the name suggests, when you make a futures bet, you are wagering on the outcome of an event held at a later date. These are typically significant events like the Super Bowl, World Cup final, or competition outcomes such as the winner of a league or tournament. For example, you can bet on the overall winner during the Premier League season. It is worth noting odds will change throughout the season, so it is important to understand form and recent history to make an informed futures bet.

Different sportsbooks will offer more detailed odds on different sports. For example, some sites may have excellent coverage of American sports compared to others. Most will offer futures at least on the most popular sports globally. Be sure to check out a few different Playright reviewed sportsbooks before deciding which one is best for you.

Proposition Bets

Proposition bets are available on sportsbooks for specific games or sporting events. For example, you can predict who will score the first bucket in a basketball match or who will get the lowest round score in golf. These types of bets will be standard for popular sports markets, giving you more pre-game betting options.

In-Play Bets

In-play betting has become the new norm in the online sports betting world. It has modernised the industry in many ways and brought in casual bettors while also stirring controversy. As the name suggests, live betting allows you to wager on sporting events in real-time, making predictions on in-play situations.

The odds are dynamic and can fluctuate massively during a game, making in-play exciting and dramatic. For example, you can wager on the next goal, next card, next goalscorer, the next corner, and much more during a football game. You can find a similar selection of bets for basketball, ice hockey, tennis, American football, and many other sports.



You can take the knowledge above into your following sports betting session now that you understand betting odds. Understanding odds is an important starting point to making the best betting decisions and knowing when to commit your money on a bet. If you want to make quick assessments of odds, we recommend using a betting odds calculator.

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Written by: Ziv Chen
Jan 04 2022
With over two decades of work experience in the online gaming industry, Ziv has been covering topics such as casino table games, slots, poker and sports betting. He also loves to write about American sports, betting odds and game predictions. A self-proclaimed struggling artist, Ziv finds his creativity constantly torn between his two biggest passions: American football and world football (soccer).