An Overview of Sports-Betting Odds

By – Michael Chen 

Some people are comfortable making sports bets based on their gut. Everyone has heard a story or two about “a friend” who managed to make big money picking a team or horse based on the color of the uniforms, the animal’s name or another unscientific method.

For those in the know, though, these stories amount to nothing more than luck. Experienced gamblers, who have won significant payouts from their wagers, know that to be truly successful a bet should be at least partially based on odds or the amount the wager will payout if you correctly predict the winner.

Bookmakers invest a great deal of time and research into calculating the odds to maximize their own earnings. Determining the odds requires completing complex mathematical equations that take into account various factors, such as statistics about past performance. However, not all sportsbooks use the same type of odds. To make appropriate wagers, it’s important to understand what the different types of sports odds are.

The three most common types of sports odds are: decimal, fractional and moneyline (also called American). Each type expresses the potential payday for successful bettors differently and is used in different scenarios, but knowing the basics of each can increase your chances of scoring a major payday.


Decimal odds are most common in online betting and VIP betting sites, and are the favored odds in Europe, Canada and Australia. Their popularity stems from their simplicity: They clearly state how much money you can make from a bet of one unit. To determine your payout, the sportsbook multiplies your stake in the game (how much money you placed on your predicted winner) by the odds. The payout includes the amount of your original wager and in most cases, the decimal odds go out two places to ensure accuracy.

For example, assume you bet $10 that the New England Patriots will win their game versus the New York Jets. Bookmakers determine the decimal odds of this happening are 2.25. When Tom Brady throws a Hail Mary in the final seconds of the game and the Patriots take the lead, your payout is $22.50 — $12.50 in winnings and $10 for your original stake.


While decimal odds may be the most commonly used, fractional odds are probably the most widely understood. Essentially, fractional odds express the amount of money you can win compared to a particular wager in the form of a fraction. For example, if the odds are 10-1, that means your payout would be 10 units to every one unit you wager.  As with decimal odds, units can be 1, 10 or 100; for example, if the odds are 10-1 with a unit equal to 100, then you would win $1,000 for every $100 you wager, while you would win $10 if the unit is 1.

Moneyline (American) 

In the U.S., moneyline bets are commonly used in sports where a point spread does not apply, such as auto racing and boxing, or in sports where the point spread is too small to be significant, such as baseball and hockey. Instead of using fractions or decimals, the odds are expressed as numbers greater than 100, with either a positive or negative sign.

When the odds are positive, that’s the amount of money you can win if you make a $100 wager; for example, if the odds are +200, you can win $200 on a $100 if your prediction is correct. If the odds are negative, then they indicate the amount you would have to bet to win $100 if you are correct. Odds listed as -200 mean you would have to bet $200 to win $100.

While moneyline bets are expressed in $100 units, you do not have to wager that much money. Moneylines work with amounts as small as five dollars.

Understanding how the different types of odds are expressed allows bettors to make educated decisions regarding sports wagers. So while it might be fun to bet on your hometown team, serious bettors rely on odds to increase their payouts.

About the Author: Michael Chen often placed his bets based on his loyalty to his alma mater’s teams. When he began wagering in earnest, however, he had to find tools to help him put aside emotion and bet to win. If you’re new to the world of online betting, he advises to click here.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports