How To Understand American Betting Odds

If you’re new to betting or just new to betting with American odds, then you’ve come to the right place. It can be difficult to understand the odds correctly, so we have put together a simple guide on how to read the odds.

Even if you are an avid sports bettor, understanding a new odds format can be frustrating at first, especially if you’re unsure how to differentiate between the favorites and underdogs.

Let’s take a look at how to read American odds first, then we'll give a brief breakdown of how fractional and decimal odds differ.

American Odds

American odds, are one of the most popular ways of expressing the potential payout of a bet in the world of sports betting, but many people believe it can be quite difficult to read American odds.

To put it in the most simple format: the American sports betting odds use a baseline value of $100 and use this represent how much money you could potentially win or lose on a bet.

When betting on a favorite (usually negative american odds) the odds are showing you the certain amount of money you need to risk to win $100. It can be useful to remember it this way: the negative numbers are associated with the required bet amounts you need to wager to win $100. For example, if the odds on a favorite team are -135, this means you must risk $135 to win $100 from the sportsbook.

You have three potential outcomes: you lose $135, win $100, or your wager is a push. (A push is when your stake is returned, which can happen for a number of reasons)

On the other hand, when betting on an underdog (usually positive american odds) the odds are representing what you will win when you wager $100. For example, if the odds on an underdog team are +350, this means you must make a $100 bet to win $350.

One of the benefits of American odds is that they can be easily converted into other odds formats, such as decimal odds or fractional odds, using an odds calculator.

This can be useful for bettors who are more comfortable with a different format, or for those who want to compare odds across different sportsbooks. Most sports betting sites present odds in multiple formats, making it easy to switch between formats and set your preferred format as the default option. If this isn't available on your chosen sports book, I would recommend converting american odds to decimal or convert american odds to fractional to make it easier to understand.

Another useful aspect of American odds is that they can be converted into percentages. This can give you a break-even percentage that you need to achieve long-term to win when betting certain odds. For example, the most common odds are -110, meaning you need to wager $110 to win $100. The way to work out how often you need to win to break even, is to take the total payout of $210, and divide your wager ($110) by that number. $110/210, returns .5238 or 52.38%. This means you must win at least 52.38% of your bets at -110 to break even.

Another example, based on a +200 underdog, we take a $100 risk and divide by the ultimate payout of $300 and get .3333, or 33.33%. This means that any +200 underdog that wins 34%+ of the time is a profitable bet.

American odds are also attached to point spreads in most American sports such as the NFL and NBA. For example, in an NFL match between Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, the odds could be represented as: Atlanta Falcons +3 (-115) and Carolina Panthers -3 (+110). This gives the bookmaker influence over the point spread without changing the key number of 3.

In conclusion, American odds are a popular way of expressing the potential payout of a bet in sports betting. They use a baseline value of $100, and can easily be converted into other formats and percentages, allowing for easy comparison and understanding of the potential payout. It is important for bettors to take into account the odds when making a bet, as it can affect the potential payout and the break-even percentage.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are presented as fractions, such as 2-1 or 8/4. The profit can be calculated by multiplying a wager amount by the fraction. If you bet $20 at 2-1 odds, you'll get your $20 back plus a profit of $40.

Favorite bets will have a denominator that is greater than the numerator, for example, 3-4 or 1-2. Whereas for longshot bets, it is the other way round, the numerator will be greater than the denominator.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds will be shown as one number, this will be the quantity that you would earn from winning a $1 bet. For example, if the odds were an 8, you would have won $7 from the $1 bet you made.

If the odds are between 1-2, it signifies a favorite bet, if it is a 2 then it will be an even money bet.

If the odds were 1.70 and you placed a $20 bet, you would just need to multiply them together to work out what you would win. In this case, you would have earned an extra $14 on top, making the overall prize $34.