How Do Betting Odds Work? — Sports Odds Explained

Want to learn how sports betting odds work, and what they mean? You’re in the right place.

In a nutshell, sports odds determine how much you’ll get paid if you win your bet. More importantly they represent an approximate chance of an outcome occurring.

Here’s everything you need to know about sports betting odds.


Every Outcome In a Sports Event Has a Chance

Some sporting outcomes may seem too far-fetched or implausible to ever really happen.

But as a punter you always have to remain open-minded. Anything can happen in sport. No bet is ever a “sure win” or “certain loser”. Leicester won the Premier League, remember?

So whatever odds you accept, there’s always a chance you’ll win and a chance you’ll lose. The odds are there to decide how much you get paid if you win.


The Odds Determine Your Payout

The odds you accept decide your potential payout if you win the bet.In the UK the odds are commonly presented as fractions. For example:


This means “for every £1 staked, you stand to win £4”.

A £10 bet:

Total Outlay Total Return Total Profit
10.00 (1 bet of 10.00)


This means “for every £2 staked, you stand to win £7”.

A £10 bet:

Total Outlay Total Return Total Profit
10.00 (1 bet of 10.00)


This means “for every £3 staked, you stand to win £1”. This is not to be confused with 3/1.

A £10 bet:

Total Outlay Total Return Total Profit
10.00 (1 bet of 10.00)

The Total Return and Total Profit are easy to calculate:

  • Potential Return: Stake x (fraction + 1)
  • Potential Profit: Stake x (fraction)

Of course, your Bookmaker account will reveal the potential winnings as you enter your stake. So you won’t be needing to make any calculations yourself.


Odds Represent The Chance of An Event Occurring

The odds you bet at are proportional to the chance of an outcome occurring.

  • Low (“short”) prices mean the outcome is likely to occur.
  • High (“long”) prices mean the outcome is unlikely to occur.

Any successful bettor will tell you that the key to winning in the long run is working out when the odds are inaccurate. If you believe there’s a significantly greater chance of the outcome occurring than the odds suggest, then that’s your cue to bet.


The Higher The Odds The Better

Leading on from our last point is that you need to find the best odds you can.

Like with any transaction, you want the best deal possible. So shop around for the odds with the highest value — because it’ll pay you more when you win.

Our advice is to open several Bookmaker accounts in order to remain flexible with the odds you accept.


Odds Come In Various Formats

Sports betting odds are represented in different ways. Fractional, decimal, and American odds are the most popular. Fractional odds are most popularly used in the UK.

Different odds formats are supported by all major Bookmakers, and can be set as the default in your account preferences. We recommend using either Fractional or Decimal odds.

To convert between each type, use this neat little odds converter.


Bookmakers Specialise In Selling Odds

Bookmakers sell odds at prices that they hope will generate an income.

That’s not to all customers lose. However, every punter needs to bet responsibly, and well within their means. Bet for enjoyment rather than seeing it as a business.


Odds Are Constantly Changing

There’s a certain amount of guesswork that goes into creating the odds.

So as more information becomes available — for example a horse withdrawing from a race shortly before the off, or the team lineups of a football match — the odds will change.

When you select your bets, keep in mind that the odds aren’t static. Over time prices shift according to the changes in circumstances, rumours, news reports and other influences (e.g. pundits and populist opinions).

Pick your moment to strike. Aim to get a high price.

That covers the basics of sports odds. Welcome to the world of online betting!