One of the most fundamental concepts when it comes to betting on sports is understanding how to read odds the right way. Without having a full understanding of how odds work, it is impossible to have a decent understanding of how to take advantage of some favorable odds.

People betting on sports will usually notice money line odds as the most common choice. Also known as American odds, negative and positive numbers might seem completely random at first to the uninformed. However, learning is relatively straightforward, and it becomes so much easier to identify great betting opportunities as soon as they arise.

A standard look at odds

Before jumping into money line bets, understanding the fundamental basics of odds is a great starting point. Odds can be used not only in betting, but just in a common discussion as well.  Even coaches will refer to their team’s odds of winning, and how big of a favorite or underdog they are.

If a team has the better chance to win, they are considered the favorite. Trying to break down the odds of them winning is usually by percentage points, which can be something like a 60% chance to win, and a 40% chance to lose (in a head-to-head matchup).

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Sportsbooks start with these fundamental odds before skewing them a bit in their favor. After all, the saying goes that “the house always wins” in gambling. If one team has a chance to win 60% of the time and the other side has a chance to win 40% of the time, the actual betting lines won’t pay out precisely that way. Their goal is to set lines to get reasonably even play on both sides, making sure that they end up making a profit either way.

Looking at money lines

Money lines are based on the odds of a favorite and underdog winning, but put into terms that make sense from a money perspective. Based off of a $100 bet in most cases, people can start to get an understanding of how much they can win at any given time.

Favorites

If a person or team is the odds on favorite to win, their odds will start with a minus sign, such as -110. This is the simplest way to identify who is the favorite, but the number shows exactly how big of a favorite they are.

In the example of -110, a person would need to put down $110 to win $100. This means there is only a slight favorite, so a person gets pretty close to even odds. Specific scenarios will have overwhelming favorites in the thousands.

When there are more than two options, there is a chance that no choice is the real favorite receiving negative odds. At most, only one choice will have negative odds in a group, with everyone else labels as underdogs with positive odds.

Underdogs 

Betting on the underdog is enticing to a lot of people. If they pick correctly, a person can experience a pretty big payout. The problem is, most individuals and teams are listed as an underdog for a reason. It is a huge gamble to try to pick only upsets all the time, and people have to weigh the pros and cons based off of the money line.

So, what do odds of +150 and +200 mean? A winner will receive that amount, in addition to their initial $100 bet, as the payout. If the +150 bet is a winner, a person ends up leaving with $250 in their pocket.

Some people are always set on putting money on underdogs, because there is less of a need to win all the time. It just takes a few big predictions to end up a significant winner. Betting on favorites is the safer approach, but it is a little easy to get burned if there are a slew of upsets.

Alternative betting odds

American betting odds are used very frequently in sports all around the world, so understanding them is essential before even thinking about putting wagers down. However, there will be times where other types of odds are discovered, and having the ability to read them is also important.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are used a lot in European sports, and occasionally in other settings as well. The equivalent to a -110 in American odds is 10/11 in fractional odds. What is the easiest way to convert these numbers?

It is just a matter of listing them in a fractional form, and then simplifying. For favorites, take the payout amount ($100) and divide it by the amount used to place the bet ($110). Simplified, the fractional odds are 10/11. 

For underdogs, flip the numbers. A +200 favorite is a 2/1 favorite using fractional odds, since $200 in winnings is divided by the $100 put up for the bet.

Decimal Odds

The use of decimal odds are still fairly scarce, and usually, they are accompanied with American or fractional odds anyway. However, figuring decimal odds out are pretty easy as well. Follow the same instructions as converting American odds to fractional odds, and then add 1.0 to the total.

For a -110 bet, the conversion to decimal odds would be 1.909. For a +200 bet, it would convert to 3.000. It might seem like too many added steps to some, but some betting lines have become very specified with wide ranges. Having odds out to three decimal places allows for that. It also is generally easier to use decimal odds for APIs and other digital feeds online.

Why are American odds the preferred method for most sports bettors?

With a few different options when it comes to displaying odds, why are American odds the predominant choice for most sportsbooks these days? It is considered the most precise way to put odds into terms of money. One single clear number is thought of as a cleaner way to process information than fractions or decimals.

It also encourages gamblers to put money down in easy denominations. When using $100 for a bet, a person will know exactly how much they are taking home if they win with an underdog. When betting on the favorite, the amount of money is right there for them to have to put down to win $100. Less thinking during the betting process makes it that much easier to move at a fast pace.

Conversion is also pretty easy for those who want to simply move the decimal up or down. Betting in increments of $1, $10, $100 or $1000 is all math quickly done in the head when looking at American odds. With fractions and decimals, some odds don’t translate very well at all. Try figuring out 14/5 or 12/13 odds quickly without the help of a calculator.

All in all, most seasoned bettors will ultimately have their own personal preference when it comes to odds. Online, companies are becoming more and more user friendly, doing a lot of conversions for their clients right there for them. It makes everything a little messier with so many numbers next to each bet, but at people can instantly recognize their format of choice.

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