Understanding how odds work is among the first steps in becoming a sports bettor. Before you consider placing your first wager, knowing what the odds mean and how they pay out is crucial to understand. It’s a simple concept to figure out, but it may be confusing at first when you see the various numbers next to a particular game or event on the betting board.
We will explain the basics of sports betting odds to help you get started in the growing industry and get you on the right track. We also have a dedicated live odds feed so you can compare the odds across Indiana sportsbooks.
There are two major ways sports betting odds are listed. One is referred to as American odds, and the other is oftentimes called fractional odds. Depending on what sports you’re betting, it might make sense to familiarize yourself with each of them.
When you see the pluses and minuses in front of numbers on the betting board, you are likely looking at American odds. Given the name, this method is used most often in, you guessed it, the United States. Here are a few examples of what American odds might look like.
An easy way to understand this is the plus sign shows an outcome that is less likely to happen than the minus sign, which signifies that side is favored or more likely to occur.
So what do the numbers mean? How do we calculate them?
When using American odds, it’s easy to remember calculating odds by using $100. If you decide to bet on the Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South with -120 odds, that means you would need to bet $120 to gain a $100 profit. In this scenario, the oddsmakers are telling us they think it’s more likely than not the Colts win the division, which makes the potential payout for your wager less than a longshot winning the division.
In the second example, which is the Colts winning the Super Bowl, oddsmakers think there’s a significant chance that will not happen. With the plus sign in front of the number, we use $100 as the mark again as the easiest way to determine payouts. If you bet $100 on the Colts to win the Super Bowl at +2,500, your $100 bet turns into $2,500 in profit if the outcome occurs. Since it’s less likely to happen than Indianapolis winning the division, the payout is much more.
Now that you’ve seen how to calculate American odds, let’s dive into fractional odds. Occasionally you’ll see something like Team X has 10/1 odds to win the championship. You can also see this type of odds listing in horse racing. You can easily use this simple formula to calculate the odds in a bet you are considering placing.
If we refer back to our Indianapolis Colts example to win the Super Bowl, the Colts would be listed at 25/1 odds to win it all. In the formula, 25 is A and 1 is B, which when entered into the formula will look like this:
In this example, the Colts odds at 25/1 mean the oddsmakers are saying there is a 3.8% chance that will happen. If you were to bet $100 on something at 25/1, you’d multiply $100 by 25 for a net profit of $2,500. The payout is quite large because the oddsmakers determined it is very unlikely Indianapolis wins the Super Bowl. You would be rewarded heavily if you cashed in on a longshot like the Colts in this scenario.
Betting the point spread is a very common way to wager on sports. When you hear somebody say a team is favored by a certain number of points, that number is referring to the point spread on the game. The idea is the oddsmakers even the playing field by giving the lesser team a certain amount of points to start the game with.
For example, if the Indiana Pacers are favored by 5.5 points over the Boston Celtics, the spread would look like this using American odds.
In this scenario, the Pacers are expected to beat the Celtics by at least 5.5 points.
Most sportsbooks and oddsmakers will typically try to set their numbers in a way that each side will get around 50% of the action. In this scenario, they would like half of the bettors to take the Pacers at -5.5 as the favorite and the other to take the Celtics at +5.5 as the underdog.
Why is that? It’s because of the vigorish. The vigorish is most commonly known as the vig or the juice. The vig gives sportsbooks a big advantage over the betting public because it takes a portion of your bet the second you place the wager.
You’ll notice that there is a -110 next to both the -5.5 and +5.5 numbers. That is the standard vig number when betting point spreads. It may fluctuate depending on the sportsbook or point spread, but -110 is the standard.
For this reason, sports bettors need to successfully win bets more than 50% of the time. If you bet the same amount on point spreads every time and get half of your bets right, you are losing money, as unfair as that may seem.
Just like in our earlier examples, the minus sign means you’ll need to bet that number to gain a $100 profit. A $110 bet on the Pacers to cover the -5.5 point spread would net a $100 profit. That extra $10 goes to the sportsbooks for the vig fee.
Point totals are also commonly referred to as betting the over/under in a particular sporting event. In this wager, you are betting on how many total points the two teams will score in a game, no matter who wins or how many points a certain team wins by. Instead, you simply add the two teams’ scores at the end of the game to determine if your bet was a winner.
Calculating point totals is very similar to calculating point spreads. Just like in point spreads, the vig is typically set at -110 for both sides, whether you’re betting on the over or the under.
An example would look like this if you’re betting on the Indianapolis Colts against the Green Bay Packers.
Whether you decide to take the over or the under, a $110 bet would gain a $100 profit if you predict the outcome correctly.
For beginners, the moneyline is simply placing a bet on which team will win a certain game or event no matter by how many points and no matter how many points the two teams combine to score. The biggest difference between the moneyline and point spreads or win totals when it comes to odds is the vig, which could vary significantly.
Instead of the typical -110 you will see on both sides next to point totals and point spreads, the moneyline odds could range greatly depending on which side you take. This all depends on the expected outcome of the game or event. If an underdog wins a game it is expected to lose by a significant margin, the moneyline payout could be quite large. On the other hand, if you bet on the team favored by a large margin, your payout will be much smaller.
In this example, let’s go to college football and make a wager on Notre Dame in a hypothetical matchup with its annual rival USC. Notre Dame is coming in as the better team, so its number will be significantly less than that of USC. Here’s a look at the potential moneyline scenario.
Since oddsmakers decided Notre Dame is the better team when compared to USC, the payout will be less for the Fighting Irish. A $100 bet on USC would net a $300 profit if the Trojans pull off the upset, while those backing Notre Dame would need to place $200 just to win a $100 profit.
Instead of betting on a particular game or event, some sports bettors like to predict an outcome that might be months away from happening. This can be a season-long bet that you placed before the season even started, like wagering on which player will win the Heisman Trophy.
With so many outcomes to choose from in this bet, oftentimes every single option will be at plus value, meaning you get a fairly significant payout if you pick the right player to win the Heisman.
For example, here’s a look at what the Heisman Trophy odds might look like:
As you’ll notice, every single player has plus value because predicting who wins the Heisman Trophy is so difficult to do. It seems obvious to take one of the top players right off the board, but we’ve seen in the past that longshots do have significant value to place a wager on.
In 2019, Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy despite being listed at +2,000 to win it. He eventually won it in a landslide after he led the LSU Tigers to a national championship. Those who bet $100 on Burrow to win it went away with a $2,000 payout.
Parlay betting involves wagering on multiple outcomes to take place. It’s an all-or-nothing style of betting that requires every prediction to come true. It’s a bit of a risky bet as you will need plenty of outcomes to occur for it to be successful. Because of this, the payouts can be quite large, as you have the ability to bet a small amount of money and gain a significant amount in return.
In this example, let’s say you would like to wager on a three-team parlay on an NFL Sunday. After looking at the board, you identified three outcomes you predict will be correct and place them all into a single bet.
Notice each item is set with -110 odds. Instead of betting $110 to gain $100 like all the previous examples, a $110 bet would net a $655.26 profit. The massive payout is what makes parlay bets attractive, though they are difficult to win consistently.
If any of these outcomes does not occur, you lost your parlay bet.
Prop betting refers to something happening that doesn’t involve the final result of a game or event. An example of this would be how many receiving yards a particular player ends up with or which player scores the first basket of the game.
You will often hear about prop betting during the Super Bowl since it features a ton of action on prop bets. The Super Bowl is the biggest sports betting event of the year, and props play a big role. Sports bettors could decide to choose bets based on skill like which quarterback will have the most passing yards. Other bettors will attempt luck-based bets to make for a more entertaining experience. Some examples of these types of bets include how long it will take to sing the national anthem or the color of Gatorade that gets dumped on the winning coach after the game.
In our example, let’s go with the Gatorade color prop bet. After your “research,” you decide to go with blue. The betting odds could look something like this:
With blue coming in at +300 odds, your $100 bet would net a profit of $300.