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Understanding Betting Odds

Updated on March 27, 2012

For many people one of the most difficult things about placing bets other than the baffling array of bets available is understanding the odds. Not only are odds often difficult to calculate for those not used to them, but on top of that there are different ways that odds are displayed depending on where you are betting.

Fortunately with a little research and and practice in how odds work, familiarizing yourself with how odds work is fairly straight forward.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are perhaps the easiest to understand for those generally unfamiliar with betting. They are based on what a single unit stake will return, and unlike fractions are only in one form, making odds easier to compare.

With decimal odds the selection with the lowest number is the favorite, and will pay the smallest return. To calculate the return, simply multiply the stake by the odds. So for example:

Chelsea 2.5 vs. Manchester United 1.9

So in the above example Manchester United would be the favorite, returning $1.90 from a bet of $1 and Chelsea, in this case the underdogs, would pay $2.50 from a $1.00 bet.

To calculate a bet of say $15 dollars on Chelsea to win, we would simply do the following:

15 (stake) X 2.5 (Odds) = $37.50 (Return)


The oldest and still most common way of displaying odds is through fractions, sometimes called English odds. They are a little more complicated than decimal odds due to the fact that they are not always divisible into the same form.

Using the above example again in fraction form would look like this:

Chelsea 6/4 vs. Manchester United 10/11

With fractional odds, the figure on the right represents the stake, while the figure on the left is the return minus the stake.

So using the above odds, placing an $11 bet on Manchester United would give you winnings of $10, which added to your original stake of $11 gives you a return of $21.

Fractions also don't always equate exactly to decimals, so you may find that when placing a fractional bet your return will often be slightly higher or lower than you were imagining if you worked out the returns using the approximate decimals. For example decimal odds of 1.13 falls between 1/7 and 1/8 using fractions and so a betting site will generally offer one or the other.

Basic Conversion Table


American Odds

American odds differ once again in that they are based on how much you would need to place as a stake in order to make a $100 return.

Even odds, i.e a bet that would return exactly double the stake, are essentially expressed as zero, while odds above and below this are expressed as figures with a + or - next to them. The + indicating that a bet of $100 would return more than $100 as winnings and a - indicating that a bet of this amount would be required to return winnings of $100.

Once again then, expressed in American odds, our example would look like this:

Chelsea (+150) vs. Manchester United (-111)

In this case then the underdog Chelsea would pay $150 for a stake of $100. The favorite however would require a bet of $111 in order to give winnings of $100.

Asian Handicapping

Asian odds are a little different in that they are not an entire system odds per-se but rather are a type of betting option aimed at leveling the odds for any particular event. In order to do this the favorite is started out at a handicap and the perceived less likely outcome is given a starting advantage.

So in this example the favorite Manchester United might be started out at a goal down, while the underdogs might be started with a 1-0 lead.

Chelsea (1-0) 1.50 vs. Manchester United (0-1) 1.50

This then levels out the odds so that both teams essentially have the same chances of winning within the terms of the bet.

The other unique thing about Asian handicapping is that in the result of a score draw resulting from a handicap situation, a 'push' occurs. What this means basically is that if having started out at one nil down Manchester United were to go on to win the game 1-0, (making the score 1-1 by the terms of the bet), the bet is then void, and the stake is returned.


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