How to Read Odds

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ThusTo a seasoned gambler, betting odds are second nature, something that is processed instantly and without issue. But if you’re new to gambling, they can be a little confusing. There are several different systems. None of them seem to share anything in common and there seems to be little consistency with regards to how they are used from one site to the next.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to read odds and tell you other essential info relating to:

  • When do odds payout?
  • How do betting odds work?
  • What are the different systems?
  • And more.

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Odds Explained

One of the most complicated things about betting odds is there are several different systems. All systems are used to describe the same thing, but some are better suited to specific sports and industries.

As an example, the following all represent the same odds:

  • 1/1
  • Evens
  • 2.00
  • +100

In each case, the odds are stating that your chosen market has a 50% chance, which means you will get a like-for-like profit. Thus, if you bet €5, you will win €5 (you’ll also get your money back for a total return of €10).

In the next section, we’ll show you how to read odds and make sense of this, but first, let’s look at why these systems exist and why they are used:

1/1 and Evens – Fractional

These are known as “Fractional” odds and both “1/1” and “Evens” refer to the same thing. Fractional odds use a simplified system that benefits a wide range of bets offered on a single event. They became popular thanks to horse racing, because every horse in the race could be assigned a specific, simple value and every punter would understand that value.

These odds are very common in the United Kingdom and Ireland and are also used in parts of North America, but beyond that, they are quite rare. Generally speaking, you’ll see them in connection with horse racing and in UK/Ireland betting shops and race tracks, but may not find them anywhere else.

2.00 – Decimal

These odds are known as “Decimal” and are popular throughout Europe and Asia. They have also become more common in the United Kingdom thanks to the spread of online betting exchanges and European sports books.

Decimal odds maybe a little more confusing, especially if you’ve spent your life using fractional odds, but they also allow for more nuances and specificity. As an example, 3.00 in decimal is represented as 2/1 in fractional, while 4.00 is 3/1.

Decimal odds allow for easy incremental increases, while fractional odds complicate them. In fact, many bookmakers would only offer two or three increments between 3.00 (2/1) and 4.00 (3/1), while decimal odds allow for 100.

+100 – American

American odds weren’t based on horse racing fields, nor did they factor betting exchanges and incremental increases into the equation. They were born out of Vegas sportsbooks, where big money was exchanged for simple bets, often on American Football, Baseball, or Basketball.

This system isn’t conducive to lots of prop bets and expansive betting markets and is generally confined to match bets, whereby you’re betting on a winning team, fighter or player as opposed to multiple in-game outcomes. System, which is also known as a Moneyline, is designed to be simple and straightforward, as we will discuss when we ask: How do betting odds work?

How do Odds Work?

As explained above, there are three main systems of betting odds. Before we learn some simple methods for calculating these odds, there are a few things you need to understand:

Purpose of Odds

Betting odds are there to give you an idea of how much money you will win if your chosen bet is successful. You can use them to compare one sportsbook’s markets to another and determine which market, betting site or bet is the best option.


All odds stem from probability calculations, which are conducted using vast quantities of data and analytics, while also taking other bets into consideration. If a bookmaker sees a lot of money coming in for Team A, they will reduce the odds to balance the books.

Bookie’s Share

If you were betting on a coin flip, your odds of winning would be 50%, so you might expect betting odds that reflect that. However, if 50 people bet on tails, 50 people bet on heads, and everyone gets Even odds, what does the bookie stand to gain?

All odds are reduced slightly to allow the bookmaker to profit. In cases of 50% probability, you’ll often get odds more reflective of 45%. That way, if half the punters bet on Tails and the other half Heads, the bookmaker can collect the remaining 10% regardless of the outcome.

Are They Necessary?

Online sportsbooks have made betting odds somewhat redundant. That statement may anger a lot of hardened gamblers, but before you get the pitchforks out, let us explain.

If you click on a betting market you will see a list of all available bets from the shortest odds to the largest odds. You don’t need to know betting odds to understand that the team/player at the top of the list is the favorite and that the ones towards the bottom are outsiders.

If you then select your chosen bet, you’ll be taken to a bet slip where you can estimate your return in real-time. If you bet on a 5/1 selection, for instance, then the betting site will tell you that you stand to make a €6 return if you bet €1. As soon as you delete that 1 and swap it for a 2, you’ll see that projected return increase to €12.

However, if you’re betting offline or simply want to be prepared for all eventualities, it is important to learn betting systems. It’s also very easy and something you can understand by the end of this guide.

Understanding Odds: Fractional System

The best way to calculate fractional odds is to see the 1st number as your profit and the 2nd as your stake. For example, in odds of 5/1 (“Five to One”), if you stake €1 and win, then you’ll get a €5 profit. You’ll also get your money back for a total return of €6 (5 + 1 = 6).

This can get a little confusing when there are short-priced favorites as these are represented in a format known as “Odds-On”. For example, you may see odds of “1/2”, which is expressed as “Two-to-One On”. In this case, you can use the same principle. A bet of €2 would earn a profit of €1 for a return of €3.

The term “Evens” is often used in place of “1/1” and means the same thing (a bet of €1 for a profit of €1).

Understanding Odds: Decimal System

First number of fractional odds represents the profit while the combined number presents the total return. In decimal odds, the number you see is the total return.

For instance, if you stake €1 on odds of 3.00 then you can receive a total return of €3 (€2 profit, €1 stake). These odds are much easier to calculate when things get specific. For example, you might have a hard time estimating how much profit you’d get from a €1 bet on odds of 4/6, but if those odds were represented in a decimal format (1.67), you’d know that a €1 bet would generate a return of €1.67.

Many bettors familiar with fractional odds will convert decimal odds to fractional before calculating how much they can win. For instance, they’ll reduce the decimal figure by 1 to get the fractional amount, so 3 (3.00) becomes 2 (2/1) and 10 (10.00) becomes 9 (9/1). But when you understand how to read odds properly, you’ll realize that it’s much easier to focus purely on the decimal odds and to calculate your return from there.

Understanding Odds: American System

 American system works in a similar way to the fractional system, in that you need to imagine a specific stake to arrive at an estimated return. In this case, that stake is €100 and the two things you need to look out for are the “-“ and “+” symbols.

When you see the Plus, it means you can win that money if you bet €100. When you see the minus, it means that you need to bet that amount of money to win €100.

As an example, let’s imagine the following scenario in a sport where draws are not possible (sports for which this system was created):

  • Team 1 +600
  • Team 2 -800

In this scenario, Team 2 is the favorite by a long way. To win €100, you would need to stake €800, which means those odds are the same as 1.13 in decimal. As for Team A, you would win €600 if you bet €100.

Summary: How to Read Odds

Betting odds are not as complicated as they first seem, but it’s essential that you learn them if you’re going to start placing bets, comparing odds, and getting to grips with the whole betting process. You won’t see these odds in online casinos, poker rooms or bingo rooms, but they are integral to the sports betting process and are used throughout sportsbooks, betting exchanges, racing tracks, and everywhere else that bets can be placed.

If you’re struggling with the sums and can’t remember which system does what, then stick with one of them, preferably decimal. Even in the UK, where fractional odds are commonplace, many betting sites now offer decimal conversions while some of the biggest sites have always focused on decimal odds.