How to Understand Betting Odds to Make Successful Bets

Sports betting has never been more popular around the world, as millions of sports fans wager on their favorite teams and events.

Anyone who has ever made a sports bet will have come across odds. These are an essential part of the betting world and understanding how they work is vital. Whatever sport you are betting on, the ability to process odds, whether they are Euro odds, fractional odds or American-style odds, will help to secure you an edge over your competition.

About Betting Odds

Odds can be defined as numerical expressions that represent how likely a particular event is. They are usually expressed in the form of decimals or fractions, and there are three main types.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are used most commonly in the United Kingdom and Ireland. They are presented in the form of fractions, as the name suggests. For example, the fractional odds of a football match may look something like this:


  •       Liverpool       4/5
  •       Draw            3/1
  •       Arsenal         7/2

The profit from a winning bet can be found by dividing the first number by the second number and multiplying by the stake, while the probability represented by the odds can be established by dividing the second number into the sum of both numbers.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are increasingly common across all betting sectors, although they were initially more widely used in Europe and so are sometimes known as Euro Odds. Decimal odds are more precise than fractional odds, and they represent the potential return of a bet, including the stake.

  •       Liverpool       1.8
  •       Draw             4.0
  •       Arsenal         4.5

In this case, if you bet £10 on the draw, and your bet was a winner, you would receive a total return of:

  •       £10 x 4.0 = £40

The £40 in this case would represent both your profit of £30 and your stake of £10. To find the probability associated with decimal odds, you can simply divide the odds into 1.

American Odds

American odds are rarely used outside of the US and Canadian betting industry. With American odds, a positive number represents the underdog and the profit you would make with a $100 winning bet, while the negative number odds represent a favourite and the amount of money you would have to wager on that favourite in order to earn $100 profit. American odds for the soccer game above would be:

  •       Liverpool       -125
  •       Draw             +300
  •       Arsenal         +350

Probability and Payouts

As mentioned above, odds can tell you the probability that a bookmaker has assigned to a particular selection and the amount of the profit that you will receive. For example, the probabilities associated with the Premier League football game would be:

  •       Liverpool       0.56
  •       Draw             0.25
  •       Arsenal         0.22

Odds can also tell us how much profit we would make if a bet is successful. For example, a successful £10 bet on each of the three options in this game would yield the following profit:

  •       Liverpool       £8.00
  •       Draw             £30.00
  •       Arsenal         £35.00

What Factors Affect the Odds?

Odds are determined and affected by multiple factors. For example, in the case of a football match, there are hundreds of factors to weigh up, including:

  •       Form of the teams
  •       Fitness of key players
  •       Team morale
  •       Tactical weaknesses
  •       Weather

Odds can also change as a result of punters. If a particular selection becomes popular and receives a lot of bets, bookmakers will shorten its odds, regardless of what they think its true probability is.

Odds Knowledge and Sports Betting Success

Understanding odds and how they are related to probability is at the heart of making a success of your sports betting. Odds expertise can help in the following ways:

  •       Being able to quickly convert odds into probabilities and back can make it easier to grab the best prices when you are betting in-play.
  •       The ability to read odds and convert them quickly will help you to find the best betting opportunity when comparing bookmakers’ prices.
  •       Comparing the odds that you took with the final odds before an event starts can give you a clue about how successful your betting will be.


Betting odds knowledge alone will not enable you to make a profit when you’re betting on sport, but it will give you a firm foundation on which to build your betting strategy.

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