Sports Betting Odds Explained

In Canada, online sports betting websites give punters the ability to bet on all major sporting events. For anyone just starting out though, it can be confusing learning the different steps involved and betting terms. Questions about what sport to choose, how much you can win and what you have to stake are standard for newbies. Everything else aside, the most important aspect of online betting is understanding the betting odds.

In the world of online sports betting, the odds determine how much you can actually win in return for the money you stake. The odds are determined by the probability of an outcome and reflect how the bookmakers believe the result will turn out. Teams or individuals with lower priced odds have a higher chance of winning than those with higher priced odds.

Understanding the odds is possibly the most important aspect of the whole process. While most bet slips give punters a breakdown of exactly how much they could receive in payouts if their wager is successful, it is always a good idea to know how the various different systems work, and to be able to convert between them.

Odds can be reflected in one of 3 ways and generally depend on where the online sports betting site is located. The 3 types of odds commonly used are American odds, fractional odds and decimal odds.

Decimal Sports Odds

To be successful at online sports betting, you have to have detailed knowledge of the sport in question, a keen eye for numbers, an intuitive sense of shifting trends and the ability quickly calculate the risk to reward ratio of bet. This is not something that comes overnight. In fact, most successful punters spend years honing their skills and analysing the markets before they make any sort of profit. A key factor in this process is understanding the various different odds displayed and being able understand what they mean, calculate payouts and easily convert between them.

For anyone just starting out, it can be confusing finding out how the various sites display their odds for the different sports and markets. To simplify things, we can say the betting odds will be displayed in one of 3 ways. Firstly, they can be in fractional format such as 5/1 (five to one). They can also be displayed as Money line or American such as -124 and +130. Finally, they can be displayed in decimal format, such as 4.50 or 5.60.

Identifying Factors

The type of odds displayed can differ, depending on the site itself and the event, race or tournament in question. For major US such as American Football or basketball, bets will be advertised in fractional format or as a money line bet. This is not always the case though. In Canada, most top-rated sportsbooks will stick to decimal bets, which makes things a lot easier for punters to understand, and makes wagering extra simple.

For those who are new to online sports betting, decimal odds are easily identified since they are the only ones with straight number with a decimal point. Examples include 5.00, 7.20 or 11.20. These might seem like random numbers at first, but they hold significant amounts of information including the risk to reward ratio, how likely the wager is to win and how much you stand to win at the end of the day.

The easiest way to look at this option is to look at the size of the number, which basically determines how much you will win and who the online sports betting sites feels is the favourite. It takes just a second to make a mental calculation of the wager, since lower numbers mean a lower payout and less risk, while higher numbers mean a higher payout and a higher risk. For example, if there is an upcoming horse race and one horse is put in at 2.10 and the another is at 8.50. The horse with the lowest number has a greater chance of winning, but also pays out the least.

American Sports Odds

American odds are often used for popular American sports like baseball, American football, ice hockey and basketball. The odds are expressed as number with a minus or plus sign in front. This indicates the likelihood of a win. An example of American odds may be -120 or +130.

What this is displays is the amount you stand to win off a $100 bet. In the case of -120, you would have to stake $120 in order to win $100. On the other hand, if the odds say +130, a $100 bet would yield a profit of $130. Sports betting online sites will have higher numbers for underdogs and negative numbers for favourites.

Fractional Sports Odds

In Canada, most betting odds are displayed in decimal format, but not always. Understanding how each of these systems work, and being able to convert between the three is a skill every punter should have. Since the decimal system is pretty straight forward, we can turn our attention to fractional odds and get to grips with how they are displayed, what they mean, the theoretical chances of winning and of course, how much could take home at the end of the day.

Identifying Factors

The first step is identifying fractional from decimal odds. This is fairly easy to do since the decimal format is displayed as straight number, such as 5.00, while the fractional format is displayed as a fraction, such as 5/1 (five to one). Once you have identified a site that is displaying markets in this format, you can then make sense of the number and work out exactly what the risk to reward ratio of the bet actually is.

There are a number of ways to understand sports betting fractional bets, but perhaps the easiest is to look at how much you stand to win versus your total stake. For example, you are thinking of placing a wager at 4/1 (four to one), you stand to claim four times your original stake amount. If we flip the number around and you are looking to place a wager at 1/4 (one to four), then your stake is four times the amount you stand to win.

Calculating Your Chances of Winning

If you want to look at the risk versus reward ratio for the bet, you can actually calculate the theoretical percentage chance of winning from the fractional numbers. This will give you an idea of how likely you are to win given the amount you need to stake. It is possible to do this from an online sports betting app, but it is good to know how to do it yourself. To calculate the theoretical chance of winning, we simply take the two numbers in the fraction, add them together and divide by the right-hand number. If we look at the above example of 4/1, the total of the two numbers equals five. Then we take the right-hand number (1) and we divide it by the total (5) to get our percentage = 0.2 or 20%.

So, the above example has a 20% chance of success, which is why it pays out four times the stake amount. If we look at the other example where we have odds of 1/4, our total is 5 and we divide 4 by the 5 to get a percentage of 0.8 or 80%, which is why the stake is much higher than the payout amount.

Converting to Decimal Format

If you are used to working with live sports betting sites that use decimal format, there is a simple way to convert from one to the other. This is a similar process to calculating the theoretical chance of winning, except in this case; you add the two numbers together and then divide the total by the right-hand number and not the other way around. For example, odds of 4/1 totals 5, if we divide by the right-hand number (1) we get 5.00.  Let’s look at another example. If we have 5/3, our total is 8 which we divide by 3 to get 2.66.

Calculating Payouts

The only thing left to do now is to calculate the exact amount you stand get paid out from your wager at the online sports betting site. After doing all the hard work of converting, it is quite easy to calculate the payout. All we do now is simply multiply the stake by the number decimal number. If you wanted to place a $50 bet on a basketball game where the odds are 5/3. We have already converted to decimal which came to 2.66. Now we simply multiply our stake, which is $50 by 2.66 to get a total payout of $133, which includes our original stake. The money we made over and above our stake is 133-50 or $83.

If you have a sports betting calculator app, it will do all of this for you. As mentioned at the start, all top-rated Canadian bookmakers online will display the amount you stand to win on your slip. However, if you are looking at multiple markets and looking for bets with the best risk-to-reward ratio, the only way to do this quickly is to understand what you looking at, whether it is any of the three formats. 

Calculating Implied Probability

Bookmakers will often post false favourites early on in the betting cycle hoping to attract eager bettors who blindly back the favourite, where the odds are lower than what they should be. Experienced punters will instinctively calculate the chances of winning off any bet, but for those just starting out, the first step is calculating implied probability. This can be done by using the decimal odds. The formula to use here is 1/x 100.

This may look difficult, but is actually quite simple. If we are looking to place a wager at 5.10, we can calcite the implied probability as 1/5.10 x 100, which equals 19.6. This means that there is 19.6% chance of the bet winning. The higher the number, the less likely it is to win. For example, a bet of 11 would be 1/100 x 100 or 9.0%

Calculating Total Payout

Once you understand how likely the wager is to win, you can calculate the exact payout that leads to the risk-to-reward ratio. This can be done using a sports bet calculator app, but it is actually pretty simple. To calculate the total payout, we simply multiply the stake by the decimal amount. So, if we put down $50 at 5.10, we would be looking at a total win amount of 50 x 5.1 or $255. This would include our original stake of $50, so the amount we actually won is $205.

Now that we know the theoretical probability and the total payout, we can see if the risk is worth the reward. This is another skill that takes time to develop, but for beginners, it simply comes down to if the financial reward is worth the stake. If you are going to be going in at 2.00 or lower at any online sports betting site, you had better be sure that the team or horse you are backing is a sure thing. Otherwise the amount you stand to win is simply not worth the money. Odds below 2.00 would not be worth your time, unless you and everyone else agrees that there is no way the other horses will win or the other team will emerge triumphant.

Fixed Odds Betting Explained

In Canada sports betting is intimately woven into the fabric of sports, with bets being placed on every major game or match. Since the introduction of online sports betting, it has become a lot easier to put your money down on both local and international events. For anyone just starting out, the first thing to learn is the different type of bets that can be placed. These include pari-mutuel, fixed odds and spread betting. Of the three, the latter are the most common.

What Are Fixed Wagers?

Most of the bets found at the online sports betting sites in Canada will be fixed. These are defined by the fact that at the time of placing, the both the punter and the sportsbook are in agreement of how much will be paid out for a win. This is completely different to the pari-mutuel option, where all the wagers go into a single pool, which is why it is also known as pool betting. Once all the bets are in, the odds and the winning amounts are determined and do not shift.

For practical purposes, these options are the safest and easiest to place. In Canada the numbers are usually expressed in decimal format such as 5.00 or 6.50. This gives a bettor an idea of how likely the outcome will be as well as the total payout, should their predication be successful. In this case, it is quite easy to determine the payout, simply multiply the stake by the number displayed. So, if $50 is placed at 6.50, the total payout would be 50x6.5 or $325.

Understanding Payouts

What defines these set wagers is the fact that at the time of placing them, both parties agree on the payout amount, which does not change even if the odds shift at a later date.

For example, if there is a cricket test match between the West Indies and England, wagers can be placed just before the event as well during the event as live bets. If we were to back England winning at 4.50, this could shift later. If England racks up a seriously high score in their first innings, the sports betting site would react accordingly and their odds would drop to 2.80 or lower.

If they continued to do well, their numbers would be down at 2.10 or even below 2.00 by the 5th day. This doesn’t matter for the punter who put money down at the start of the event. If England did go on to win, they would be paid out the agreed amount at 4.50.

Fixed wagers actually incorporate a number of different styles, but all with the same basic structure. At the end of the day, the amount placed cannot be changed, and the payouts are set no matter what happens from then on out. Live bets are also considered to fall under the same category, even though they take place once the game or match is underway. The odds are updated every 10 minutes or whenever a major shift in the game happens. Regardless of when the bet is placed, either before, at half time, or 10 minutes from the end, it is stuck firm and the payout amount is unchangeable.

When Payouts Can Change

The only time a fixed wager would pay out more or less than what was originally agreed upon is with horse racing. It may happen that in some races, a horse cannot participate even after the final declarations have been made just before the race. In such cases, online bookmakers implement rule 4 that then adjusts the odds accordingly since there is less competition and a greater chance of winning. This is quite rare but it does happen, and even if you place this type of wager, your odds can shift.

Some bookmakers offer special sport bonuses and a promotion that is called best odds guaranteed. If for any reason, they end up higher than their original starting price, then the bookmaker will pay out the higher of the two. This sometimes happens in horse racing when a new favourite is named or an additional horse joins the line-up.

Non-Fixed Bets

Fixed wagers also include over/under bets otherwise known as totals. This is where a punter must predict whether the score is above or below the total posted by the online sports betting site. The process is quite simple and the amount paid out for a correct prediction is set in stone. This must not be confused with spread betting where a stake is set on points.

For each point over or below the total posted, punters are paid out their stake amount. This also works the other way. For each point in the wrong direction, punters have to pay their stake amount. This means that a punter may win multiple times their stake or lose multiple times their stake with no set amount.

Understanding Moneyline Odds

When it comes to online sports betting, each sport presents its own opportunities and range of markets. In Canada and the US, the most popular markets for American Football include betting on the point spread, while baseball and ice hockey generally offer moneyline bets. For anyone just starting out, it can be confusing knowing what is what and why some bets are offers on these sports and not others.

Point Spread vs. Moneyline

Let’s look at betting on the point spread. This is often used where one team is pipped as the favourite and one is clearly the underdog. In such cases, the sportsbook will level the playing field so to speak by instituting a point spread by which the favourite must win by. This generates interest on both sides with punters backing the underdogs and the favourites. An example of this could see a punter bet +4.5 for team A and -4.5 for team B.

In this example, team A is the favourite and team B is the underdog. If we were to place a wager on team B, for the bet to pay out, the final score will have to be within 4.5 points of team A. Even if they lose, they must lose by less than 4 points to receive a payout. Similarly, backing team A, the final score would have to be 5 points or more.

Even if they win by just 3 points, the bet would not pay out. This is quite an exciting way to wager and requires a lot of thought about the exact score line and how many points will be scored in the game by either team. In many cases, it is actually worth going for the underdogs since the point spread is quite large and the favourite is unlikely to win by such as margin.

The Logic Behind Offering This Bet Type

Most online sports betting sites will offer point spread wagering on high scoring games like American football or basketball. However, with games like baseball, ice hockey or soccer, the single figure totals would make it difficult to include spread, in such cases, the bookmaker will use moneyline odds. Here again, this option is offered as sports betting online sites want to generate interest on both sides of the table. If there is a favourite and an underdog, the bookmakers want punters to be placing generous bets on both options. Not having one available option open means they have to use other methods to entice punters to take the bet.

The way they do this is by adjusting the payout amount. When moneyline odds are posted they may look confusing at first as some have a plus sign while others have a minus. A classic example of these sports odds would read: +120 for Team A and -116 for Team B. So, what does this mean and how does it affect the amount you will be paid out?

Backing the Favourite

If the number is a negative number, one with has minus sign next to it, this depicts the odds for the favourite. What this is basically saying is that you need to wager more than what you can win. If moneyline odds are posted at -165, this would mean that you would have to wager $165 in order to win $100. The better the team, the larger the negative number. If there is only as small difference between the favourite and the underdog, the number might be as low as -120 or -115.

If there is a major difference between the two teams, the numbers will shift to around -185 or more. This makes it less attractive for punters wanting to bet on the favourite. After all there is a chance they might not win and then we would seriously be out of pocket.

Going with the Underdog

At the same time, bookmakers also want punters to bet on the underdog. This is achieved by making the bet far more profitable for those who are brave enough to take it. Underdog moneyline bets are those that have a positive number next to the odds. This means that you have the opportunity to win more than you put down. An example of this type of underdog bet would be +156. In this case, for every $100 you bet, you would win $156.

While this may seem like a good deal, it is important to realise that you are backing the underdog and the chances of them winning are slim. Unless you have inside knowledge about the team performance or advantage, there is risk involved either way. That being said, moneyline bets are far easier than betting on the point spread as you simply have to pick the team who you think will win without worrying about the score or how much the favourites will win by. This is a great starting point for anyone just getting into online sports betting.

Odds Vocabulary Glossary

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the words that you’ll hear when talking about odds, but it should help you out to have a basic grasp of the lingo when choosing how to place your bets.  Once you know the basics you’ll find betting so much simpler, and you should be able to better your chances of a win!

  • Fixed Odds Betting
    Betting a fixed amount of money against the bookie to predict an outcome. The odds reflect how much you will win from the bookie if you are correct.
  • Stake 
    When placing a bet, this is the amount of money you wish to gamble.
  • Laying Odds
    When the Bookmaker agrees your bet, he is laying that particular outcome.
  • Odds Against
    This means that your bet will return more than double your stake.
  • Even Money
    An even money bet will return exactly double your stake.
  • Odds On
    This means your stake will be more than the return.
  • Short Odd
    Short odds have a good chance of winning, so won’t receive a large return.
  • Long Odds
    Long odds are very unlikely to win, so a payout will give a good return on your initial bet.
  • Drift
    When the odds on a player or competitor lengthen it’s said that they have drifted, or are on the drift. The further apart the odds drift, the less likely it is that the outcome will be a winning one.
  • Evens
    When the odds are matched 1 to 1. Even odds are also known as level odds or Scotch odds.
  • Favourite
    The favourite is the competitor that seems to have the most likely chance of winning. The favourite will also have the lowest, or the shortest odds, as the chances of success are the highest. That’s why betting against the favourite to win can be very risky, but very rewarding!
  • Futures
    Futures odds are those offered on the winners of an event well in advance of the event itself. These odds are very popular with American sports bettors and the futures markets are enormous.
  • Lines
    Pointspread, handicaps and odds offered to punters are called lines.
  • Morning Line
    A morning line forecast of the probable odds for a race, competitor or betting event. A tipster may guess the morning line, or on the rare occasion a sports book may announce it, but generally, this information is not available via an official channel.
  • Odds Compiler
    An odds compiler is the person who works for a bookmaker and sets the odds for an event. The odds are set after intensive research and can include an element of the odds compilers own intuition or feeling for the outcome of a competition.
  • Taking the Odds
    This refers to betting on the underdog. In any match bet the underdog is usually odds against, so the term taking the odds refers to the action the bettor is taking by placing a wager on them.
  • Teaser
    A teaser is a pointspread bet that allows the bettor to move the line in a way that works in their favour. The drawback to this is that the odds are reduced, but the advantage is that the player may stand a better chance of having the winning bet.
  • Value
    In odds terminology this refers to getting the best odds on any wager. The better the odds, the greater your chances are of success, so value is incredibly important to bettors who want to wager and win. Use this odds vocabulary to give you the edge and get your sports betting off to a great start today!

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