How Sports Betting Odds Work

By Tadas Peckaitis
March 06, 2022

Understanding how odds work is one of the key aspects without which you can’t successfully bet on any event. Moreover, as sportsbooks often display sports betting odds in different formats, you should also know how to read these so that you always make the smartest decisions.

With this in mind, we’ll cover the three widely accepted variations of betting odds.

prop betting on sports

How Decimal Odds Work in Sports Betting

Decimal odds are the most popular type of odds format in sports betting, as well as the easiest format to understand. This is because you can easily spot the favorite and the underdog just by looking at the decimal odds. Naturally, the team with the lower decimal odds will be the favorite, and the team with the higher odds is the underdog.

The decimal number that marks the particular odds represents how much money you stand to win for a $1 bet. It’s important to remember that this number includes the total payout, not only the profit. Here’s an example of how decimal odds work in sports betting.

For example, Real Madrid are playing Manchester City in the Champions League Final. The odds are 2.1 on Real Madrid and 2.4 on Manchester City. Even though the two numbers are close, you can easily see that Real Madrid is the slight favorite, as the odds are slightly lower.

So, in this particular example, if you were to bet $100 on Real Madrid, you would win a total of $210 and a profit of $110. If you bet on Man City and they win, you win a total of $240 and a more rewarding profit of $140. That said, don’t forget that there is also an option for a draw in the game, which would result in both of these bets losing.

How Fractional Odds Work in Sports Betting

Moving on to a more complicated odds format, fractional odds are the most popular type of odds format among UK sports bettors. These odds are generally written using slashes or hyphens between the numbers.

For example, you might see fractional odds of 4/1, also listed as 4-1 by some bookies. This means that the profit for winning this bet is $4 for every $1 you bet. However, unlike decimal odds, fractional odds don’t include your initial bet in the calculation. In other words, when you bet $1 on 4/1 odds, you’re getting a total payout of $5, meaning you get your $1 back plus a $4 profit.

Sometimes, these fractional odds can also be a bit more challenging to interpret, as they can be listed as 5/2, 7/3, or any other number. Still, the key thing to remember is that the former number represents how much you stand to win in relation to how much you bet, which is represented by the latter number.

If this sounds complicated, make sure to check our guide on how to bet on sports and it should answer most if not all of your questions.

How Moneyline (American) Odds Work in Sports Betting

Moneyline odds are also commonly known as American odds. This is because they’re the most popular type of sports betting odds format in the US. Moneyline odds differ from the previous two in the sense they always feature a minus sign when showing the odds on the favorite and a plus sign when showing the odds on the underdog.

The plus and minus signs work differently. To be more specific, the number following the minus sign shows how much money you need to bet to win $100. On the other hand, the number following the plus sign shows how much money you can win by betting $100. This is a bit complicated to grasp if you’re a beginner, but it’s not that challenging once you learn it.

To make it a bit clearer, let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say that Liverpool are playing Leeds in the FA Cup. As the heavy favorite in this matchup, Liverpool have moneyline odds of -350. If you decide to bet on Leeds, the odds for this are +380. So, if you were to wager $100 on Leeds and they win the game, you would win a whopping $380. In comparison, you need to bet $350 on Liverpool to win $100.

So, the simple rule of thumb that can help you weigh the odds is to see the difference between the plus and minus numbers. If there’s a huge difference, the favorite is very likely to win.

These are great tips if you are starting out, but if you want to learn more about online betting and casino games, make sure to check our article on 5 ways to be a better gambler.



Sign up
Tadas Peckaitis poker author
Written By.

Tadas Peckaitis

Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author of the free poker book “Play ‘A’ game and be the boss at your poker table”, and poker coach at He is also a big fan of personal effectiveness and always trying to do more. Tadas shares his knowledge about both of these topics with his […]

Latest Post


Mixed Game Festival VIII

Pokercoaching All Access

WPTGlobal Welcome Offer

Don’t miss our top stories, exclusive offers and giveaways!