Learn How To Read Odds

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How to Read Betting Odds: A Beginner’s Guide

When it comes to betting, there’s one thing in particular that can leave people feeling a little confused: we’re talking about betting odds. An essential component in calculating not only how likely an event is to happen, but also how much money you can win, betting odds are one facet of gambling that you really do need to understand if you want to do well.

But teaching yourself all you need to know can be easier said than done. Complex and complicated at first glance, betting odds can confound even the cleverest among us – that is unless we take the time to educate ourselves.

So, want to learn how to read betting odds as adeptly as any pro? Read on to learn more.

What is probability?

At its most basic level, betting is little more than a game of probability, and the better you are at predicting outcomes, the more money you’re going to win. Look at it this way: for any given event, there are a fixed number of outcomes. If we take a dice as our example, there are six potential results. This means that if you put your money on someone rolling a one, you would have a 16.67 chance out of 100 of winning.

Betting odds work on the same principle – essentially, they tell you how likely an event is to occur. In most instances, bookies will present these odds in fractional form (in the case of our example, the odds of rolling a one would be 5/1).

Using betting odds to calculate probability

When we see two numbers separated by a trailing slash, we refer to these as fractional odds. What this means is that we can use the numbers we’re given to work out how likely a certain event is to happen.

Let’s take these as examples:

- When we say we have odds of 9/1, we’re saying that the event is nine times more likely not to happen than it is to happen – essentially, that there’s a 10 per cent chance of it occurring.
- If we say instead that the odds are 1/4, we mean the outcome is four times more likely to occur than not to occur – essentially, that there’s an 80 per cent chance of it taking place.

The pattern to note is this: the first number tells us how likely it is that the odds work against your specified outcome, whilst the second number shows us how likely it is that the odds work in your favour.

Following so far? Then let’s move on to considering not just what our given fractions teach us about likelihoods, but how we can use them to make some money.

Using betting odds to calculate winnings

As important as probabilities are, let’s not forget that the overarching aim of betting is to grow your capital. In order to do this, you’ll need to know how much you can earn from placing a particular bet.

Betting odds are our means of doing this. We’ll now use the same examples as above to illustrate how it works.

- If you were to place money on odds of 9/1, you would win £9 for every £1 you bet. Simple enough, right?
- Likewise, if we were to put our money on odds of 1/4, we would win £1 for every £4 we risked.

What about decimals?

As we noted above, fractional odds are probably the most commonly seen, but lots of exchanges use decimals instead, which means it’s important to be able to interpret both. Viewed by many as being the easier of the two to calculate, decimal odds can also be found on most leading betting sites should you select this as your preferred option.

So how exactly do decimal odds translate to monetary earnings? Well, all you need to do is multiply the odds by your stake, and then minus the stake to reach your final figure. For example:

- Odds of 9.0 with a £10 stake would equate to £80 of winnings (9 x 10 = 90. 90 – 10 = 80).
- Odds of 2.5 with a £10 stake would equate to £15 of winnings (2.5 x 10 = 25. 25 – 10 = 15).

Decimal odds versus fractional odds

As we mentioned above, many view decimal odds as being easier to calculate than their fractional counterparts, and a trend towards the latter is increasingly appearing. However, it must be said that neither one is really superior to the other.

However, there are two key differences worth nothing between decimal and fractional odds. The first of these is the one we already mentioned: that decimal odds are arguably simpler to understand, and thus make betting more accessible to the masses. The second is that fractional odds only represent winnings, as opposed to the returned stake.

When it comes to selecting your preferred format, our advice is this: choose whichever of the two you feel most confident using.

What if I still can’t work out the odds?

Although we suggest using whichever of these two formats you prefer, we know that some people struggle to wrap their heads around either. If you’re amongst them, don’t fret. This won’t mean you’re prevented from playing alongside everybody else, nor that you’ll have a greater likelihood of losing. Rather, it means you’ll need a bit of extra help.

So where can you find this? Luckily for you, there are plenty of online tools that can translate your odds into easy-to-understand numbers, including our own betting calculator. Allowing you to work out the returns on your bets, this should make your life a whole lot simpler if numeracy isn't one of your strong suits.

What if I still can’t work out the odds?

Before we finish, there’s one more thing we think we should address: price boosts. Used by bookies to incentivise customers to bet with them, these enhance your odds, so that you end up with a greater return on your stake.

An example of this would be if a sports betting provider had given you odds of 5/1 that Alexis Sanchez would score first. As part of a price boost, they might raise these to 7/1, so your profits would be greater if you won.

The practice is much the same as retailers hosting promotional offers like ‘buy one get one free’. Most commonly offered on prominent markets such as Premier League or Football League matches, price boosts are a means of both attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

Want to find out more about reading odds or anything else pertaining to betting? Then take a look through the numerous resources on our website.