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How to Read Betting Odds in Sports Betting

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There are many things to consider when you are learning about sports betting, from setting aside a bankroll of money that you can afford to lose to finding the best bookmaker sites. Analytical services such as Match Center Ireland can help you identify the best platforms to bet on, but one aspect of sports betting that you may find tricky to get to grips with is learning how to interpret odds. 

Knowing how to read the odds on a market is essential to sports betting, but it takes a little time to adjust to, and the subject is not made any easier by the fact that there are three main types of odds that you will see when betting on sport. So, if you are confused by the array of numbers you see on sports betting markets, this is the article for you! 

Odds: The Basics 

The odds on a sports betting market give you two important pieces of information: 

  • What return you can expect from a winning bet
  • What probability has the bookmaker set for this selection

To take a simple example, in a Match Betting market, odds of 2/1 next to a football team tell you these facts about the selection: 

  • If you bet on that team and win, your profit will be two times your stake
  • The bookmaker has assigned a 33% winning chance to that team

These are the basics of odds, but there is an additional complication in that there are three main different formats for sports betting odds. 

Fractional Odds 

Fractional odds are the oldest form of odds and are still the most commonly used in long established sports betting cultures such as the UK and Ireland. 

With fractional odds, you have two numbers, which you can use to establish both your potential profit and the probability that the bookmaker has assigned to that outcome. 

To find your return, you simply divide the first number by the second number and then multiply by your stake. For example: 

  • £10 on Arsenal to win at 2/1
  • 2 / 1 = 2
  • 2 x £10 = £20
  • Your actual return will be £30 because you also receive your original stake back

All odds are also a statement of probability. To find the probability with fractional odds, you divide the second number into the total of the two numbers: 

  • Arsenal to win at 2/1
  • 1 / (1+2)
  • 1 / 3
  • Probability of an Arsenal win = 0.33 or 33%

One more thing to note about fractional odds is that you will sometimes see some strange combinations, such as 11/8 or 5/6, but just follow the simple steps outlined above and you will quickly be able to work out your return and the probabilities. 

Decimal Odds 

Fractional odds are still preferred by some sports bettors but they are slowly being replaced by decimal odds, which are widely used across Europe. 

Decimal odds differ from fractional odds in that they indicate the total return you may get from a winning bet, rather than just your profit. To find your total returns, simply multiply the decimal odds by your stake: 

  £10 on Arsenal to win at 3.0

  • 3.0 x £10
  • Total return = £30

You can also use decimal odds to find the assigned probability of the bet, by dividing the odds into one or 100: 

  • Arsenal at 3.0
  • 1 / 3.0 = 0.33 or 100 / 3.0 = 33.33
  • Probability of an Arsenal win = 0.33 or 33%

American Odds 

You will only usually see American odds if you are betting with American sportsbooks. In the American odds format, there are two types of odds, positive and negative, but both can tell you the same two pieces of information that you get with fractional or decimal odds: 

  • Arsenal +200
  • Arsenal -200

The positive odds tell you how much money you would win if you bet $100 on Arsenal. The negative odds tell you how much money you would have to bet to win $100. 

Both types of odds can be translated into probabilities but it is often quicker to use an online odds converter as the calculations differ for the positive and the negative formats. 


The most important rule with sports betting is never to bet with money you can’t afford to lose. But understanding the main odds formats and what they represent is also high on the list of key betting skills. Spending time to learn how to read the odds can be an invaluable step on the road to more effective sports betting.  

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