Sports Betting Odds

Before you can start betting on various sports events to make some money, it is your job to learn everything about betting odds first. You need to know how the odds work and how you can read the sports lines. Sports betting success is highly impossible if you can’t get a good grip on these concepts. An online sportsbook gives you the advantage of working on any events taking place around the world, but some sites from different countries will announce their odds in different ways. Odds are used to show the bet’s chances of winning, and it is important that one knows how they work. So in this article, we will talk about how sports betting odds can be read and interoperated to better the chances of winning.

Types of Sports Betting Odds

There are mainly 3 different ways that online sportsbooks use to display the odds. They are –

  • American Odds
  • Fractional Odds
  • Decimal Odds

Since laws regulate the usage of proper sports betting options in Canada, Canadians like to go to offshore sites to better chances of winning the bets. This is why as a Canadian you are likely to come across any 3 of the mentioned odds display. It is better to get a good grasp of all these types to understand and take advantage of the odds.

Explanation of the Different Types of Odds

American Odds

As the name indicates, American odds are mostly used on sportsbook in the United States. The American sports betting odds work differently for the underdogs and favorites of any events. American odds for betting on a favorite is displayed by showing how much you would need to bet on in order to win $100. Say, for example, the Miami Dolphins, a favorite in this tournament, are at -110 to win. A bet of $110 bet can get you $100 in winnings if the team wins. In addition, you get the initial stake of $110 back, which makes your total payout $210.

But if you are betting on an underdog, things are going to be a bit different. The American odd here will show the positive number to show how much you can win for placing a $100 bet. For instance, the Buffalo Bills, the underdog in this example, have the odds of +240 in the upcoming game. Placing a $100 bet will get you $240 in winnings if they win. You will then get your initial $100 back, which makes your total payout worth $340. In the case of American odds, sometimes there will be no favorites on the game. In that case, there will be the letters PK written alongside the odds. You then get to pick the winner of the game and hope your team wins for you to get the payout.

Fractional Odds

In the past, odds used to be displayed in a fraction or ratio form, such as 5/1 and 9/2. This way is still being used in the UK and Ireland markets. The way to understand how the fractional odds work is to take them as winnings/stake, in that order. Let’s say, for example, the odds are being displayed as 5/1. According to the fractional odds rule, this means that for a stake of $1, you will get winnings worth $5. So your total return from this bet is $6. This is because you get your initial stake back against each win. For placing larger stakes, the winnings are multiplied accordingly.

Decimal Odds

This is the type of odds that is mainly used in Canada, Australia, and Continental Europe. The format uses a simple numerical representation. This shows the potential return of a bet, which also includes the stake amount. The potential return from a decimal odds is easy to calculate. All you need to do is simply multiply the amount you wish to bet on with the offered decimal odds. So it always goes like Odds X Stake. So for a game with a decimal odd at 2.230 and a $100 bet, the answer is 2.230 X $100 = 223. Remember that this includes your original $100 stake as well, so the potential return is 223 – 100 = $123.

Types of Bets

These are the types of bets you can make on multiple sports events. They include odds as well, so it is better to get a good grip on them

Money Line

Money line bets are betting on the team you believe will win. Most of the times though, there is a favorite in the play. If you bet on the underdog, you will be getting more than the even money for their win. If you bet on the favorite, you will be risking more than what you stand to win. For example, Rams are the underdog and the Vikings are the favorite. So for an odd of +400 for the Rams, it means you will get 4 to 1. And the -600 on the Vikings mean that you have to lay 6 to 1 if you bet on them. In simpler terms, a $100 bet on the Rams will win $400, while a $600 bet on the Vikings will win $100.

Point Spread

This is the most commonly used bet for betting on sports like football and basketball. Most bettors place bets on wagers that have a 50% chance of winning. If it’s lesser than that, you are more likely to lose. More than that won’t mean much in terms of payout even if you do win. To keep the 50-50 chance of winning on a mismatched game, the sportsbooks use the Point Spread bet. A point spread is something you give to the weaker team or minus from the stronger team. This will depend on your understanding of the teams’ standings. For example, the Vikings getting a -10 in the point spread means that the Vikings are the favorites here so they are favored to win by 10 points. If you bet on the Vikings now, it means you are giving up on 10 points. And if you point on the underdog, you get 10 points. Generally with point spreads you will be risking $11 for every $10 you stand to win. Again, placing $110 on the Rams will win $100 if they win or lose the game by less than 10. And a $110 bet on the Vikings will win $100 if they win by more than 10. Both of the bets will push if the Vikings win by exactly 10.


Total bets are similar to point spreads. The difference here is that here the bettor places bets on the total points. The house edge for Total bets is 4.54%, and the bettor will generally have to risk $11 to win $10. For example, a $55 bet on the underdog will win $50 if the total points in the game were exactly 40 or less than that. A $55 bet on the favorite will win $50 if the total points of the game come out to be 42 or less. Any bet for any of the teams will push if the total points of the game turn out to be exactly 41.


These type of bets are a popular way to win big with a significantly small wager. The Parleys let the bettor pick 2 or more events. The catch is all the games need to win or push for the bettor to win. One or more losses will result in the entire bet to lose. In case of a push, that portion of the parley bet will be ignored. The win will then be reduced to whatever the pay would have been without the selection. The parlay bets can be done on either a parlay card on off the board. For off the board bets, the calculations are done based on the odds of each event. You will win the same amount for each event separately. The exception here is that if every event you pick is at -110 odds, it means the predetermined nice round odds will come into play now.

Other than the three-leg parlay, the preset odds are generally not as generous. This is why it is a good idea to have at least one event in the parley that’s not -110. This will force that the calculation method is put into action. If you don’t like being in the line, you can fill out the parlay card instead. The cards are colored cards with many choices to bet on. You can bubble over the picks you want to bet on, including the bet amount and the total number of picks. The machine will then read the card and print out your ticket.


These are similar to parlays, but the point spread on each game moves a specific number of points in the favor of the player. The players get 6 to 7 points in football and 4 to 5 in basketball. The players pay for this in form of lower winnings.

Buying Half a Point

In basketball and football, the straight bet player can move the point spread ½ point to take advantage. The cost of this half point is 120. Not all online sportsbooks will let you do this though. Even if they do, they don’t let you buy the common three-point margin in most of the cases.


This lets you bet on the champions of the tournament when there are more than 2 teams on the run. The house edge for this bet varies a lot from sportsbook to another. But in general, they tend to be a sucker bet.


Sometimes the big games will have this type of bets where you can bet on things that are not directly related t the final outcome of the game. These include things like the number of runs in the first innings, the possibility of someone scoring a hat trick and such. The odds are displayed in the point spread bets style. For example, a game might have propositions like the following:

Will there be a safety in the game?

Yes: +700

No: -500

This means a bet on the Yes option will pay 7 to 1, while on the No it will pay 5 to 1.

Basic Strategy

Now let’s talk about the basic strategies to win your bets by simply taking note of the odds. To make this work, you should have a good grip about the teams of the event, to realize the underdogs from the favorites. From the odds, it is quite easy to get an idea of that. The favorite will have the smallest numbers with negative numbers, while the underdog will have the opposite.

Because of the payouts, the favorites are less likely to make you decent wins. You will win less money by betting on the favorites. And the opposite is true for the underdogs, as they are perceived to have a smaller chance of winning. So you will get a bigger payout if you bet on them and they win.

If you are unsure about how to go on your betting, consider taking the following as a basic guideline:

  • Money Lines: Bet on the underdog.
  • Point Spread: Bet on the underdog.
  • Total: Bet on the underdog. 
  • Parlays: Try to bet on off the board rather than on the cards. Try to do either a three-team parlay or a mix in one event that doesn’t have a -110 odds. 
  • Teasers: Avoid this type of bets completely unless you know how to cross the key numbers, for example, numbers 3 and 7 in case of football. 
  • Futures: Avoid these bets as well, as they have a house edge of about 30%. If you want to still bet on them, do so in moderation. 
  • Propositions: Bet on the underdogs. 
  • All Bets: Try to shop around in the online sportsbooks. This is because the lines tend to vary a lot among the sportsbooks. It is worth paying to learn the comparison of lines for better odds or extra points.


Sports betting odds are a fun way to understand how the betting system works and what makes the chances of winning better. However, no betting odds are a sure shot way of winning a particular bet. Underdogs win over favorites sometimes and that can make your winnings a lot more significant if you learn when to know to trust your gut feelings. Regardless of what the betting odds say, try to enjoy the game and the bets to fully enjoy the thrill of betting.