The one topic that every gambler should understand. Personally, I thought that learning how odds worked was the single least fun part of my early sports betting education, so I ended up coasting through all those long boring mathematical explanations. Luckily, after I started placing bets and suddenly found myself in way over my head, I went back and learned them correctly…so now I get to give the details to you in a way that (hopefully) won’t make you nod off.
Not only that, you don’t really need to know everything. If you’ll only be placing bets on horses, for instance, you only really need to pay attention during a quarter of the following explanation. You can always come back and get the rest when you start to develop an interest in other sports (which you no doubt will after spending some online gambling time at the sportsbook!)
The Big Four
The odds (also known as “the line”) come in four flavors: American, Decimal, Fractional, and Horse Odds
American odds use “-” (negative sign) for favorites and “+” (positive sign) for underdogs.
So basically, when you hear that the line is “-110”, a bet of ten dollars will win you a dollar (i.e., you end up with 11 bucks). On the other hand, if the line is “+110,” and you put ten dollars down, you’ll end up with 21 bucks.
Now you and I both know that a little juice (or “vig”) has to go to the people who made it all happen, right? This is where the “dime line,” comes in. This just means the difference between the favorite and the underdog. When the favorite gets listed at “-120” and the dog (short for underdog, of course) is at “+110,” then the guys who are putting money on the favorite are risking ten cents (i.e., a dime) more per dollar compared to the guys who are putting money on the underdogs. This is the main way that a sportsbook (online or otherwise) makes it’s money.
Decimal odds use the good ol’ decimal point. You’ll find that a lot of European online sports betting sites use this pretty exclusively. Decimal odds are pretty self-explanatory for people who made it through math class, and the rest of us can easily use the multiplication button on any old calculator. All you have to remember is: if the odds are 1.75 and you bet 100 dollars, you’ll end up with $175 bucks.
Fraction odds use fractions, but otherwise they’re pretty much the same thing. They’re even used in the same kind of places (i.e., some European sports books, and more often in the UK ). Just remember the win is the top or first number; i.e, when you put down 10 dollars and the line is listed at 6/10, you’ll get $6 if you win (so you’ll walk away with a total of $16 bucks).
Horses odds use “x to y” or “x – y”. It looks a little screwy at first, if you’re used to one of the more straight forward types of odds, but it makes just as much sense. Like fraction odds, the win comes first; so you’re risking “y” in order to win “x”. So, when the odds are listed at 10 to 1, it means that you are risking $10 and stand to win $100. And obviously, if the odds are 1 to 10, it means that you win one lousy buck for every 10 dollars you put in. Don’t laugh, a bunch of those in a row pay off just fine (it just takes a lot longer…).