Betting odds are everything when it comes to sports betting, including payouts and amounts wagered. These odds can translate implied probabilities as well, so understanding how to read betting lines is crucial for anyone looking to become a professional sports bettor.

There are various betting odds such as decimal and fractional. This article will focus on the American odds, which include plus and minus values. Let’s go through the different ways to read sports betting odds and what they mean. 

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The Correlation Between Odds and Payouts

Sports betting odds help measure the likelihood of an outcome occurring, which also correlates with the payouts a bettor can win. It’s important to understand that sports betting odds aren’t exact calculations of a probability occurring, but rather the implied probability a sportsbook sets. 

We’ll dive deeper into that soon, but first let’s talk about the payouts. In American odds, the betting odds are set based on a bettor wagering at 100 units per bet. For example, if a bettor wants to take -110 betting odds on the Broncos winning then it will cost a bettor $110 to win back $100. If the odds for Denver is +110 instead, then it would cost a bettor $100 to win back $110. 

All American odds are set at 100 units, although a bettor can typically wager as little as they prefer. With +110 odds a bettor could wager $1 and win back $1.10 instead. So as you can see, betting odds are basically price tags that tell a bettor how much it will cost to place a certain bet along with the potential you could win back. 

Outcomes that are likely to occur typically have ‘expensive’ odds, whereas outcomes that are not likely to occur have ‘cheap’ or ‘valuable’ odds. If the Broncos are expected to win, they might see odds at -315 which would cost $315 to win back $100. If the Broncos are expected to lose, they might see odds at +400 which would cost $100 to win back $400. 

How to Read Odds and Calculate Implied Probability

American odds also come with at least three digits in a positive or negative value. Underdogs have ‘plus’ or ‘positive’ values, while favorites have ‘negative’ or ‘minus’ values. For underdogs, the further away the number is from ‘zero’ the less likely it is to win. For favorites, the further away the number is from ‘zero’ the more likely it is to win. 

These values can also translate an implied probability of an outcome occurring. Of course, there is no possible way to accurately predict the outcome of an event. There are measuring tools and data that sportsbooks use, however, to create the sports betting odds you see everyday. 

These odds are the probability the sportsbook uses which includes the amount a sportsbook will take off the top. This means the probability will always pass 100%. The formula below is used to find the implied probability, but it’s recommended to use a website that automatically does this for you – such as an odds convertor. 

P – = 0/(0+100)*100
P + =100/(0+100)*100

Negative Odds

Negative odds imply the probability of the outcome exceeds 50% – also known as the favorite. If a favorite has odds to win at -200, this means it will cost a bettor $200 to win back $100 on an outcome that has a 66.7% chance to hit based on the implied probability. 

200/(200+100)*100 = 0.0066667

Positive Odds

Positive odds imply the probability of the outcome is at 50% or less – also known as the underdog. If an underdog has odds to win at +500, this means it will cost a bettor $100 to win back $500 on an outcome that has a 16.7% chance to hit based on the implied probability. 

100/(500+100)*100 = 0.00166667

Common Sports Odds and What They Mean

The most common sports odds you will see are very close to EVEN moneylines in either the spread or total markets. 

-110 Odds

-110, -115, -105 and -120 are the most common sports odds a bettor can wager on because it is affordable. A bettor might see a point total at -110 for either the UNDER or the OVER, while another bettor might see a -5.5 or +5.5 spread that is -110 for either side too. 

30-to-1 Odds

Sometimes a bettor might see betting odds referred to as ‘X-to-1 Odds’. This is just another way to format odds, as 30-to-1 would indicate +3000 or 30/1 for fractional odds users. 

5-to-2 Odds

Just like the format above, this is another way to refer to odds but can be a bit more tricky. Since the odds are to-2 and not to-1, the conversion is different. The easiest way to translate this is to simply make it a fraction. 

If someone refers to odds as 5-to-2, simply think of the odds as 5/2 which would translate to +250. 7-to-2 odds would be 7.2 which translates to +350, and so on and so forth. 

11-to-4 Odds

Once again, don’t be afraid of the numbers and simply go with fractional odds. Just put the 11 over the 4 as the odds would be 11/4, which translates to +275 in American odds. Using conversion websites to input fractional odds into is recommended if you don’t like doing the math in your head. 

Include a bulleted list of the 3-5 common betting odds and briefly define what they mean.

“Chalk” and “Pick-em” in Sports Betting

Chalk is nothing more than another word for a ‘favorite’. If someone says your bets are all chalk, that simply means you’re betting on all favorites. The heavier the favorite you wager on, the ‘chalkier’ your bets are.

Wagering on heavy favorites is never a bad idea if you can afford a few losses. Being a ‘chalky’ bettor is a compliment for some, meaning you are patient and never taking underdog bait. Going too heavy into ‘chalk’ is not recommended all the time though, such as filling out a March Madness bracket. 

Pick-em refers to a game in which the outcome is even on both sides, basically implying the sportsbook couldn’t determine a predictive winner. If you see a game is listed as pick’em then there is no spread, because there is no favorite or underdog. 

With pick-em bets though, a bettor will typically pay -110 betting odds on either side to win. So although there are technically no favorites or underdogs in a pick-em bet, both sides have favored odds (minus-value). 

Use Betting Odds to Play Strategically

Now that you understand how to read betting odds, the ones to wager on are up to you. This comes down to your bank account and how much you’re willing to wager. A sportsbook’s worst nightmare is a very rich high roller wagering on all heavy favorites. 

Heavy favorites are very expensive because they are likely to hit, scaring most people away. But if someone with a lot of money wagers on 100 heavy favorites, he will likely make a profit. Most people don’t have that money however, so wagering on underdogs or closer-to-even moneylines is typically the way to go.

Avoid parlays if possible as well, as adding multiple betting odds into one bet is less likely to hit and overtime will net big losses. The best strategy in betting is to survive the next day, so start small but bet on odds you’re comfortable losing with instead of payouts you desire. 


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