How to Read Odds

Joey Shadeck

When sports betting, the first time you go to read odds you might be a little intimidated. You’re probably saying, “I just wanted to bet on the game. What is all this crap?” That’s alright, we will cover how to read odds for moneyline, total (over/under), and spread bets in no time.

What are Odds?

Odds represent the likelihood of an outcome occurring. In sports betting, each team is assigned odds that represent the likelihood of them winning the game. When the odds for two teams are even, meaning 1 to 1, it means that each team is equally as likely to win the game. If Team A is assigned 2 to 1 odds, it means Team B is twice as likely to win. If Team A is assigned 10 to 1 odds, it means Team B is ten times as likely to win.

Odds are typically expressed with a positive or negative sign in front of them and are not written as 2 to 1, or 3 to 1.

How do Plus and Minus Odds Work?

In a betting line between two teams, the team expected to win, or favorite, will have minus or negative odds. This means for every dollar wagered you will win less than a dollar if your bet wins. The team expected to lose, or underdog, will have positive or plus odds. This means for every dollar you wager you will win more than a dollar if your bet wins.

The table below shows an NHL game where the Boston Bruins are favorited to beat the St. Louis Blues.

Team Odds Amount Wagered Total Payout
Boston Bruins -150 $1 $1.67 ($1 bet + .67 cent won)
Boston Bruins -150 $10 $16.67 ($10 bet + $6.67 won)
St. Louis Blues +130 $1 $2.30 ($1 bet + $1.30 won)
St. Louis Blues +130 $10 $23 ($10 bet + $13 won)

American Odds

American odds are what you will see displayed on any U.S. sportsbook. Just like the metric system, dates, and miles per hour (mph), Americans do things differently when it comes to odds. Take a look at this standard slate of odds from for an MLB game.

Team Spread (Runline) Moneyline Total
Chicago White Sox +1.5 (-115) +140 Over 9.0 (-120)
Los Angeles Angels -1.5 (-105) -120 Under 9 (-105)

The first thing you will notice when reading odds will be that:

  • Odds have either a plus or minus in front of them
  • Odds are in terms of 100

Odds are written in terms of 100 as an industry standard. The easiest way to think of the plus and minus signs is as follows. If it is a plus, you will receive more than a $100 payout on a $100 bet. If it is a minus, you will have to bet more than $100 to receive a $100 payout.

Thankfully, you can view your potential winnings on each bet before placing it at an online sportsbook. That said, it is beneficial to understand the odds.

Moneyline Bets

Definition of bet: A moneyline bet is a wager on which team will win the game outright. Instead of considering the spread of the game, both the favorite and the underdog are given odds to win the game.

Read the chart below to get started on reading odds for the following game:

Green Bay Packers (-150) vs. Detroit Lions (+130)

Moneyline Odds How to Read it What it Means
Lions +130 Lions plus 130 By betting $100 you will win $130 if the Lions win
Packers -150 Packers minus 150 In order to win $100, you must bet $150 on the Packers to win

Spread Bets

Definition of bet: A spread bet is a wager on which team will cover the spread or point spread.

How to read spread odds for the following game: Los Angeles Lakers +5 (-110) vs. Houston Rockets -5 (-110)

Spread Odds How to Read it What it Means
Lakers + 5 (-110) Lakers plus 5 points at minus 110 odds The Lakers must win the game, or lose by less than 5 for you to win your bet
Rockets -5 (-110) Rockets minus 5 points at minus 110 odds The Rockets must win the game by more than 5 points for you to win your bet. A tie is a push, meaning you don't win or lose.

Total (Over/Under) Bets

Definition of bet: A total bet is a wager that focuses on how many points are scored, regardless of who wins the game.  After a total point score has been set, bettors can wager on whether the actual score of the game will be over or under the set point score.

How to read over/under odds for the following game:

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox        Over 7 (-115) Under 7 (-110)

Total Odds How to Read it
Over 7 (-115) In order to win $100, you must bet $115 on the total combined run score to be greater than 7
Under 7 (-110) In order to win $100, you must bet $110 on the total combined run score to be less than 7

Keep in mind for both spreads and totals that if the game ends in a draw for the bet (Yankees 4, Red Sox 3) then you get your bet back but do not win or lose any additional money.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are used more commonly in parts of Europe, as well as in horseracing. To calculate fractional odds, you have to do some mental division or enter in your desired amount and see what the sportsbook shows as your payout! Here are some odds for a fictitious horse race and how you go about reading them.

Horse Name Odds How to Read it Your Bet You Win
Laser Focus 15/1 Fifteen to one $10 $150
American Pride 7/2 Seven to two $10 $35 (10 x 3.5)
Green Eggs 3/5 Three to five $10 $6 (10 x .6)

In this race, where we only have three horses, you can see Laser Focus is clearly the underdog, while Green Eggs (no ham) is the favorite. A lot of sportsbooks offer a fractional view if you prefer it to the American odds.

Decimal Odds

Decimals odds are used more commonly in parts of Europe. When using decimal odds the underdog has the higher of the two numbers, while the favorite has the lower of the two. To calculate decimal odds you can use the following equation.

Return = Initial Wager x Decimal Value

Example: Let’s say the Arizona Diamondbacks 2.00 are playing the Chicago Cubs 1.90

Team Your Bet Your Return Your Profit
Arizona 2.00 $1 $2 $1
Chicago 1.90 $10 $19.09 $9.09

A lot of sportsbooks offer a decimal view if you prefer it to the American odds.

In conclusion, American odds are almost always displayed at any United States sportsbook, while fractional and decimal odds are almost always displayed at any sportsbook outside of the United States. Check out our Guides Page to see where sports betting stands in your state!

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Joey Shadeck

About the author: Joey Shadeck Joey Shadeck is a research analyst for BettingBuck.com. He has been a sports fan all his life, football and basketball being his two favorites to watch. Joey remembers betting his mom that the Green Bay Packers would beat the Detroit Lions as early as elementary school. He has 5 years of online betting experience with hundreds of bets placed during that time.




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