How To Read Online Betting Odds: A Quick Guide

How To Read Online Betting Odds Large

If you’re a sports newbie who’s eager to make your fortunes on betting, your starting point should be how to read online betting odds. And this is a quick guide to your success. 

Sports betting is one of the easiest ways to make money, yet the business is actually trickier than you thought. 

Not ready to learn the rules of the game? Then you probably shouldn’t play it — because you’ll lose woefully. 

Though losing is all part of the game, a good bettor tries to lose wisely on rare occasions. This article is here to guide you on how to read online betting odds like a pro.

What are Betting Odds? 

We’re going to use a simple scenario to explain the concept of odds. Let’s say two football teams namely Manchester United and Liverpool, are playing a soccer match in the English Premier League. 

Each of these teams has a chance to win, lose or draw the game.

In betting, odds represent the probabilities of outcomes that’ll occur when bets are placed on matches or games. At the same time, odds also reflect the expected returns that a bettor (or gambler) is entitled to when his bet wins. 

Betting Odds Explained

How do odds work in football?

In the case of the premier league match cited above, the odds can be against Manchester United winning. Why? It’s because Liverpool’s performance in the 2019/2020 campaign has been consistent, so they’re less likely to lose a match.

On the other way round, the odds can be in favor of a draw. That’s if both teams are in-form, it’s hard to accurately predict the winner.

How to Read Odds Football

There are different formats of sports bets we can talk about. They’re the American format, the fractional format, and the decimal formats. 

You don’t need to go frenzy over these terms. Sports betting odds are pretty easy to read and understand. All it takes is time and willingness to learn. 

  • American (Moneyline) Odds Format

The United States of America uses a different odd representation for their sportsbooks. Those who bet on US sports betting websites will most likely come across the American odd system. 

The US odd systems indicate your expected returns with respect to a base value of a hundred units. 

One other characteristic feature of American odds is that they normally begin with a plus sign (+) or a minus sign (-). Examples include -300 and +300.

How do plus and minus odds work?

The negative sign indicates a bookmarker’s favorite team to win the game. On the other hand, a positive sign indicates the competitor who is likely to lose (the underdog).

A competitor who is given an odd of -250 has a higher probability of winning a game as compared to an opponent with -150 odd.

What do the odds of +200 mean?

An odd of +200 means that you’ll earn $200 on every $100 wager.

When it comes to positive odds, the rules change a bit. Higher positive odds have lower winning chances as compared to lower positive odds. For instance, an underdog who’s given a +200 odd has a higher winning advantage than an odd of +300.

Football odds explained

 In order to visualize how these odds work in real life, let’s say Barcelona and Real Madrid are playing a La Liga match. 

A sports betting company may decide to set the odds at +170 for Barcelona and -190 for Real Madrid to win.

If a bettor stakes $100 on the odd +170, his total expected winning is $270. That’s if all goes well, the better makes a profit of $170.

Assuming a different bettor wagers $100 on the odd -290 for Real Madrid to win, his expected winnings will amount to $152.6. The net profit will be equivalent to $52.6.

Now the big question is: how was that calculation done? To understand this, let’s revise our basic arithmetics.

Betting odds calculator

Here’s the formula for calculating the earnings on American odd systems.

Negative odds formula

(100/odd value)*stake amount = profit

How do odds work in football?

Using Real Madrid’s odd of -190, and a stake amount of USD 100: 

(100/190)* USD 100 = USD 52.6

Positive Odds formula

(Stake/100) * odds = Profit

Using Barcelona’s odd of +170 and a stake amount of USD 100,

(USD 100/100)*Odds = Profit

(USD 100/100)*170 = USD 170

How do you read the odds on a spread?

Aside from the raw odds, some betting companies attach point spreads to NBA and NFL odds.

In the La Liga match cited above, a point spread of +4  (-190) means that Real Madrid must win by 4 points (or goals) for the bet to be successful.

Over/Under Odds

Some betting websites allow their customers to predict goal (or point) outcomes within a certain range. for example, over 2.5 goals mean that more than 2 scores will be scored in the match.

  • Fractional Odds

Countries like the U.K and Ireland commonly use the fractional odd representation. 

Fortunately for you, fractional odds are also easy to understand. They express your expected total winnings as a fraction of your stake (betting amount).

This odd system uses a denominator to represent the stake amount while the numerator represents the expected winning.

For instance, a fractional odd (1/1) means that if you use $10 to stake on a bet, your winning amount will be $20.

Similarly, if you use $10 to stake on NBA match with odd (5/1), your total returns will be $60.

Here are equations to help you read the odd calculations.

[ (Stake amount/ denominator)*numerator ] + stake amount = total returns

Example1: odd (5/1), stake amount = $10

[ ($10/1)*5 ] + $10 = $60

Odd (1/1)

Example2: odd (1/1), stake amount = $10

[ ($10/1)*1 ] + $10 = $20

  • Decimal Odds

This is popularly referred to as the European odd system. Personally, I prefer decimal odds because they’re simple and straightforward. 

If only you had betting accounts from companies like and, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the decimal odd system. 

The odd representation takes a multiplication factor format.

Examples of decimal odds are 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 1.8, etc.

Decimal odds calculation

Your winnings = Decimal odd * your stake amount.

Example: If you use $10 to stake on an odd of 2.5, your winnings are calculated as:

2.5 * $10 = $25 

This means that your net profit = $25 – $10 = $15

How do the different odd formats compare?

Don’t be deceived into thinking that the different odds have significant advantages over one another. 

Basically, they’re unique ways of representing the same thing. This means that a fractional odd has its equivalent value in the decimal or American format, and vice versa.

Some betting websites have in-built calculators that convert odds from one format to the other.

This helps gamblers to easily calculate their potential returns.

Different bookmarkers offer different magnitudes of odds which are subject to change with respect to game trends. 

For the same match being played (say Man Utd vs. Man City), may give higher odds than my or


Sports betting is a multi-million dollar industry on its own. The industry is expected to grow even bigger within the next couple of years.

The truth is, humanity wants to conquer poverty. Many fortune hunters see sports betting as the best solution to their financial problems.

But, who are the players in sports betting? Well, the sector cuts across diverse demographics, from adults, grownups — and sometimes, underage children.

Learning how to read online sports betting odds, is paramount to succeeding in the game. Provided you use the best mobile sports betting apps, you can make bigger gains.

While searching for wealth, gamblers are advised to practice moderation in their betting habits. Of course, it’s possible for you to hit the jackpot one day.

Unfortunately, some gamblers have gone dead broke in their attempts to get rich overnight through online sports betting. Remember that when you lose, the betting company wins.

Do you still want to try your luck? Well, good luck!



Nana Santuoh, manages digital web products and leads the editorial team at Kumasiano - a mouthpiece for African and black people while reminiscing their good old days back home.

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