Sports Betting Odds: How Betting Lines Work

With the spread of licensed sports betting across the United States, more Americans want to know how betting odds work. The following guide to online sports betting gives a quick overview of how point spreads, moneyline bets, and other sportsbook odds work. It provides a how-to guide for reading sports odds, so anyone can make a bet on their favorite sporting event.

How do Sports Betting Odds Work?

Sports odds are different from one country to the next. If you travel a lot, you might encounter any of the three major types of betting odds: American, fractional, or decimal odds.

American Odds

For most US sports bettors, these are the type of odds you encounter the most. The favorite’s odds have a minus prefix (-110). Meanwhile, the underdog’s odds have a plus prefix (+200). Both indicate what you would bet in relation to $100. -110 means that you’d wager $110 to win $100, while +200 means you’d wager $100 to win $200.

Bettors do not need to wager $100 in order to make a sports bet, of course.  The cost of the bet would be relative to the odds given. If you made a $10 bet on -110 odds, then you’d wager $11 to win $10 (plus your original bet). A $10 bet on +200 odds would mean a $20 payout if you won.

Fractional Odds

Also known as British odds, fractional odds are found most often when betting on horse races. Often, they are shown on odds boards using a hyphen or a backslash.

If you wagered 15/1 on Mage to win the Kentucky Derby, you would win $15 for every $1 wagered. If you saw odds reversed, such as 1/3 offs, then you would win $1 for every $3 wagered.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are quite common in European sportsbooks. Also called continental odds, you calculate the winnings by multiplying the odds by the wager.

Most Popular Sports for US Bettors

Sports Betting Odds Explained

When it comes to US sports betting, most odds can be summarized by three types of bets: point spreads, moneyline betting, and total betting. In the example below, we provide a quick example of each. Those unfamiliar with total bets might be more familiar with the term over/under betting.

Team Point Spread Moneyline Total
Eagles -1.5 -120 51.0 Points
Chiefs +1.5 Even Money 51.0 Points

The table above reflects the pre-game odds of Super Bowl 57. The Philadelphia Eagles were a 1.5-point favorite in the game, while the over/under was 51 points. Since the eventual score was 38-35 in the Chiefs’ favor, the winning bets were the -1.5 point spread bet on the Chiefs, the even money moneyline bet on the Chiefs, and the over proposition.

Point Spread Betting

Betting on a point spread is betting on how much a team or individual will win or lose. The spread is an attempt to level the playing field, so half of the bettors wager on either side of the proposition. If one team has a major perceived superiority, the point spread takes away that superiority and lets bettors.

If a team is a -110 favorite, that means you would need to bet $110 to win $100 (plus your original bet). A +500 underdog would receive a $500 payout for a $100 wager, though they would be a huge underdog in that case.

Moneyline Betting

Some bettors don’t want to deal with the strength of favorites or the weakness of underdogs. They simply want to bet on whether a team or individual is going to win or not. For those gamblers, moneyline betting is best. With a moneyline bet, you wager on who you think will win.

In the Super Bowl example, the Eagles were -120 favorites. You’d need to lay $120 in order to win $100. For the Chiefs, you’d only need to wager $100 to win $100 plus the original bet. It’s not common for a team to be an even-money bet, but it’s hard to make the Kansas City Chiefs a major underdog.

Over/Under or Point Total Betting

Bettors might not have a good feel for the ultimate winner of a game, but they might think the match-up will be a shootout or a defensive struggle. In that case, they want to make a total bet. Therefore, you wager on whether you think the teams’ combined score will be over the total or under the total.

In the example above, the over/under was 51 points. The Eagles had one of the league’s best defenses, while Patrick Mahomes was still recovering from a high-ankle sprain. In addition, the Chiefs receiving corps was dealing with multiple injuries. Finally, the Chiefs’ Defense had shown marked improvement as the season wore on. The Eagle Offense was effective but often methodical. Both teams were known for long drives that ate up the clock.

Thus, a 51-point total bet seemed plausible. As it turned out, once the teams began to score, the offensive output was impressive.

Sports Odds FAQ

What are sports betting odds?

Sports odds are implied probabilities that will happen in a game, match, or sporting event. The odds allow bettors to make wagers on different sporting events and decide winners or losers. Several types of sports odds exist, so gamblers should learn the type of odds that fit their betting style best.

How do I read sports betting odds?

It depends on whether you use American, British, or Continental odds. American odds use the plus or minor symbol. British or fractional odds use the familiar fractions that you see if racebook betting. Continental or decimal odds are used for European sports bets.

What does +/- mean in betting odds?

Whether it’s a point spread or moneyline bet, the minus symbol denotes the favorite in a bet, while the plus symbol denotes the underdog. In point spread betting, this denotes the number that’s added or subtracted from the point spread to determine even-money odds. A -10 designation means a team is a 10-point favorite, while a +10 designation means a team is a 10-point underdog.

In moneyline betting, the number denotes how much you would need to bet relative to $100. A +200 bet means, if you bet $100, you would receive $200 if you won. A -125 bets mean, if you bet $125, that you would receive $100 if you won. In all cases, the original wager is returned to the player.

What are the different types of sports betting odds?

The three main types are point spreads, moneyline bets, and total bets. Point spreads are how strong of a favorite or underdog a team is. It evens the playing field, so an underdog only needs to stay within a certain score to win — or a favorite must win by a certain margin to cover the bet.

Totals are about the final combined score. Bettors wager on whether the combined total of both teams is over or under the given total.

How do I bet on sports online?

Bet at an offshore online sportsbook. The wagers are handled just like they would be at a land-based sportsbook, though the controls are much easier. Log in to your site, then click on the game you wish to bet on. To make a straight bet, pick the team you think will win. The sportsbook will ask if you prefer a straight bet or parlay bet, and otherwise walk you through the process.

What kind of sporting events are available?

Name a sporting event and sportsbooks offer a wager on it. Every popular US sport is available: NFL Football, NCAA Football, NBA Basketball, NCAA Basketball, MLB Baseball, NHL Hockey, PGA Golf, ATP Tennis, UFC, Boxing, and EPL Soccer. Bookmakers post odds for special events throughout the year: the Super Bowl, March Madness, The World Series, the Masters, Wimbledon, The NBA Finals, and so on.

How do I calculate my potential winnings?

If you sign up at the best online sportsbooks, the software calculates your winnings and prints it on the bet slip. Pick a trusted sportsbook online and you should know the potential payout anytime you make a sports bet.

Where do I find updated scores and odds?

Once again, sign up at a trustworthy online sportsbook and you’ll get the latest odds updated on their page. If you want the latest information, visit the live betting page. Sportsbooks post scores in real time so that it’s possible to make micro-bets during a game. Scores are easy to find, whether you visit the sportsbook or a general sports news site.