Betting Odds: The Top 3 Types and How They Work

Betting odds sheets next to a cup of coffee

If you're new to the world of sports betting, you may have noticed that there are a whole heap of numbers flying around. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner or not particularly mathematically minded.

But don't worry, these numbers aren’t an unbreakable code. Their meanings are actually pretty easy to figure out and are used to send little messages throughout the betting world. 

They’re called ‘betting odds’ and they’re used by online sportsbooks as a guide to show how likely something is to occur. They indicate the implied probability of an event or outcome. Odds also give an idea of the size of potential payouts available.

In this article, we’ll look at the basics of betting odds, including the 3 main types of odds used by online sportsbooks and the US’s favorite format.



  1. Betting odds: the basics
  2. American / Moneyline odds
  3. Decimal odds
  4. Fractional odds
  5. Other types of odds
  6. Making sense of betting odds

1. Betting odds: the basics

Odds are used in gambling, traditional sports betting, and matched betting. Understanding the basics of betting odds is essential for any sports bettor. They are used to indicate the probability of an outcome or event occurring.

Each team or competitor is assigned predetermined odds which show their chance of winning. These odds are initially created based on factors like team and player forms, previous results, home advantage, etc.

There are a number of different odds formats used across the world. The three main types of betting odds you’re likely to come across are American odds, Decimal odds and Fractional odds. The type of betting odds you’ll see may depend on location or betting platform, so it’s worth knowing a bit about each.

2. American / Moneyline odds

As the name suggests, American odds are a popular form of betting odds used in the US. You will see this format referred to as either ‘American’ or ‘Moneyline’ odds depending on the online sportsbook you use.

American odds are shown as a plus (+) or minus (-) symbol in front of a number. The plus sign represents the underdog and the minus sign indicates the favorite.

The symbols suggest differences in terms of the potential payout, while the number represents the actual odds. A plus sign, or positive odds, indicates the potential profit you could make on a $100 bet. A minus sign, or negative odds, represents the amount you would need to bet in order to win $100.

Read More: Sports Betting Terms - Top 150 Words & Phrases


  • Positive odds are typically associated with the underdog, hence the higher potential payout. So, if you're feeling lucky and believe in the underdog, positive odds can offer a chance to make a nice profit.

    A positive number, such as +150, signifies the potential profit you can make on a successful bet. These odds indicate that you could win more than your initial wager. For example, if you place a $100 bet on a team with +150 odds, you have the chance to win $150 in profit (in addition to getting your original $100 bet back).

  • Negative odds are associated with the favorite, which is why the potential payout is lower. They indicate the amount of money you need to wager to win $100. For example, if you see a team with -150 odds, you would need to bet $150 to get $100 profit (plus the initial wager returned).

    While the potential payout may be smaller, negative odds indicate a higher probability of winning. Online sportsbooks set these odds based on factors such as a team's previous performance, injuries and other variables. Betting on favorites with negative odds can be a safer and more reliable option, especially when the odds are heavily in favor of one team or player.

With American or Moneyline odds, your total payout is your profits plus your original stake.


3. Decimal odds

This is the format used by most sportsbooks across the world, predominantly in Europe,  (but also in places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In fact, you might see this type of odds also referred to as ‘European odds’.

Decimal odds represent the total amount you'll receive if your bet wins, including your original stake. For example, if the odds are 2.50 and you bet $10, you would receive a total payout of $25 ($10 x 2.50).

Decimal odds can be quite easy to understand with both favorites and underdogs being easy to spot. For example, the break-even odds are 2.0 and if you place a bet at these odds (and win) you will double your stake. Odds below 2.0 mean that the potential return will be less than your stake, while odds over 2.0 mean your potential return will be more than your stake


4. Fractional odds

This format is most commonly used in the UK and Ireland. You might also see them called “British odds”. They are written as two numbers separated by either a forward slash (/) or a hyphen (-) symbol. Again, they represent the potential profit you could make on a winning bet, excluding your original stake.

An easy way to read fractional odds is that to win the amount represented by the number on the left, you must stake the amount shown on the right. For example, if the odds are 5/1, in order to win $5, you will need to bet $1. Similarly, if you bet $10, you would receive a profit of $50 ($10 x 5) plus your original stake of $10.

You might also see fractional odds which look like they’re the “wrong” way round. For example: 1/10 or 2/5. These are referred to as ‘Odds-On’ selections and are used to indicate that there is a strong favorite to win. They tell the bettor that they need to stake $5 to win $2.

Read More: Regulated vs Offshore Sportsbooks: What's the Difference?


5. Other types of betting odds

We’ve just looked at the three main types of betting odds, but you might also come across other types which less common in the US.

These types are mostly found in Asian betting markets and examples include Hong Kong odds, Indonesian odds and Malaysian odds. While finding out how these odds types work can be interesting, there’s no real practical use for them here in the US - so don’t sweat it if you leave them out.


6. Making sense of betting odds

Betting odds can be overwhelming, especially to matched betting beginners. However, it’s important to remember that they’re not an impenetrable code; they are telling you something. And that something will help you make a profit from every matched bet you place.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the main types of betting odds as this will help you calculate potential profits. But don’t worry if math isn’t your strongest skill. You don’t have to work this all out in your head.

odds converter-1

At ProfitDuel, we have a range of tools and betting calculators designed to make earning guaranteed profits with matched betting a breeze. For example, our purpose-built Odds Converter instantly converts odds from any of the above types to the other two to give you 100% transparency over your bets…and that’s only the beginning!

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