Few activities can match the thrill of betting on sports.
The games we love are packed full of twists and turns: built on intoxicating moments that even the finest Hollywood writers couldn’t script.
Whether it’s the last-minute winner, the 12th-round knockout or the walk-off home run, sports will often leave you slack-jawed – pounding the air with exhilaration or shielding your eyes from the horror.
Naturally, the rollercoaster ride of professional sport gets even more gripping when your hard-earned cash is riding on the outcome. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when a big bet comes in: the vindication of knowing your hunch was spot on combined with the delight of seeing the dollars or pounds flooding into your account.
But for the uninitiated, sports betting isn’t entirely straightforward. For many first-timers, scanning odds can feel like trying to read hieroglyphics. Perhaps you’ve tried yourself and thought, ‘I’ll never understand all this – I might as well just give up’.
Think again. At TXODDS, we’ve been providing the betting industry with the most accurate, lowest latency odds for 20 years. Simply, we know a thing or two about placing a punt – and we’re here to help.
Betting on sports isn’t as complex as it might seem on first impression. Read on, as we break down everything you need to know – from understanding odds to getting to grips with the different types of sports bets.
What are all these numbers? How to read odds explained
Before you can successfully place a bet, you must first understand how to read the odds.
If one look at all those numbers has got your head spinning, you’re not the first. But, rest assured – odds are more straightforward than they might initially seem. At core, they are a simple language: once you know the rules, and understand how odds work, reading them will quickly become second nature.
The first thing to bear in mind is that there are different odds systems.
Most bettors in the UK will be used to dealing in fractional or decimal odds, while gamblers in the US are more likely to use the moneyline system. Read on, as we explain the workings of these different odds systems.
As you’d expect, when you bet using the fractional odds system, your odds will appear as a fraction – two numbers separated by a slash (/). The number on the left of the slash represents your winning return – how much you will win if the bet comes in. The number on the right of the slash represents your stake – how much you would need to place on the bet, to receive the listed return.
So, if the odds are listed as 8/1, you would have to stake £1 to win £8 profit. If the odds are listed as 7/2, you would have to stake £2 to receive £7 profit.
Fractional odds can take a bit of getting used to, but once you get your head around the system, understanding them is easy enough.
Decimal odds work slightly differently from fractional odds. In the decimal system, your odds will appear as one number, which represents your overall collect – the total amount a £1 bet would return, including your stake.
So, if the odds are listed as 5.50, a £1 bet will return £4.50 profit – or £5.50 including your stake.
If you are switching between fractional and decimal odds, it is important to bear this in mind. Many bettors wrongly assume that decimal odds of 5.00 are equivalent to fractional odds of 5/1. This is incorrect – since decimal odds include your stake, whereas fractional odds don’t, decimal odds of 5.00 would be equal to fractional odds of 4/1.
For those unaccustomed to sports betting, moneyline odds can take a bit more getting used to.
In the moneyline system, your odds will be listed as a number equal to or larger than 100, with either a plus (+) or minus (-) in front of it.
When the number has a plus in front of it, it denotes how much you would win from a $100 bet.
So, if the odds are listed as +300, you would win $300 for every $100 you placed. (+300 is equal to 3/1 in fractional odds or 4.00 in decimal odds).
When a number has a minus in front of it, it denotes how much you would have to bet to win $100.
So, if the odds are listed as -300, you would win $100 for every $300 you placed.
When working with moneyline odds, it can be helpful to remember that minus numbers are always favourites, whereas plus numbers are always underdogs.
What are the most common sports bets?
Now you’ve mastered the various odds systems, you’re ready to go. The sports betting world is now your very own oyster – but what kind of bet should you place?
You’ll find all kinds of different bets offered in your sportsbook, so let’s break down some of the most popular sports bets:
- Outright winner/Moneyline
This is the simplest bet you can make – and involves picking the team or player you believe will win a specific game.
For most sports, there will only be two possible outcomes – Team/Player A wins or Team/Player B wins – and therefore two odds on offer.
For some sports (e.g. soccer), you will also be able to bet on the game being drawn – so there will be three odds on offer. However, most bookmakers will also offer a ‘draw no bet’ line, whereby you can bet on either team/player winning, but will have your stake returned if the game is drawn.
In some cases (e.g. horse racing, Formula 1, athletics), there will be several competitors – and therefore several odds offered.
Of course, you can place outright winner/moneyline bets either before an event starts (pre-game) or during an event (in-play). The pre-game odds should remain relatively stable, although may shift slightly according to the bookmaker’s leverage; in-play odds will change according to how the game progresses.
- Handicap/Point Spread Bets
These bets are typically available in high-scoring sports – like rugby, basketball or American Football – and are especially beneficial when one team/player is an overwhelming favourite.
For handicap/point spread bets, the bookmaker picks a spread – or a number of points – in order to level the stakes between the favourite and the underdog.
Take the following example, illustrated using decimal odds. New Zealand are playing Italy in rugby – and are huge favourites for the game, to the tune of 1.01. This means you would win 1p for every £1 you stake – a pretty unattractive bet for most punters. Equally, you could back Italy to win at 17.00 – but this is a long shot, which will be equally unappealing to many bettors.
The handicap/point spread market levels the playing field. For this particular match, the bookmaker has set the spread at 26.
So, you can bet on New Zealand -26 (to win by more than 26 points) at 1.90. You can bet on Italy +26 (to win, draw or lose by less than 26 points) at 2.00. Or you can bet on the tie +26 (the exact difference between the teams to be 26 points) at 17.00.
Essentially, the handicap/point spread market opens up more even markets for events where there is a heavy favourite.
- Over/Under Bets
Over/Under bets invite bettors to predict how many times a specific event will occur during the course of a game.
A popular, and slightly unusual, over/under is the number of corners that will occur during the course of a soccer match. Say the bookmaker sets the line at 7.5: by betting ‘over’ you are predicting there will be 8 or more corners; by betting ‘under’ you are predicting there will be 7 or fewer corners.
Likewise, in cricket, many bettors like to wager on the first-innings over/under score. Here, the bookmaker sets the line at roughly how many runs the batting side will score during the course of their innings. Betting ‘over’ is predicting they will score more runs than the set line; betting ‘under’ is backing them to score less than the line.
Over/under bets allow gamblers to open up a game within the game, ideal for instances where you don’t want to bet on the overall outcome.
- Prop Bets
Prop bets allow you to bet on specific incidents during the course of events. In soccer, for example, you can bet on which player you think will score first or whether a player will score during the course of a match. Some bookmakers may even offer a line for the method of the goal (e.g. ‘header’, ‘outside the box’ etc.).
There are all kinds of prop bets out there – like over/under bets, they provide great opportunities for gamblers who don’t want to bet on the overall result of an event.
An accumulator, parlay or multi-bet involves combining several bets into a single line. To be paid out, all the bets on your ticket have to be correct. Say you fancy Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool to all win their upcoming matches – an accumulator/parlay is the ticket you want.
What type of bet is most profitable?
Naturally, betting is grounded upon probability. The more likely something is to happen, the lower the odds will be. By contrast, events which the bookmaker sees as being unlikely will have high odds. But, of course – the greater the reward, the greater the risk.
Accumulator bets tend to offer very high payouts because bettors have to correctly predict several outcomes. Essentially, they are backing one outcome, then placing their entire stake and profit on another outcome, over and over again – as many times as there are ‘legs’ in an accumulator. This is why accumulator odds can often stretch past 100/1.
Equally, the more specific your prediction, the higher the odds you’re likely to receive. Betting on a favourite to win a soccer match will yield relatively meagre odds – whereas correctly predicting the score would prove much more lucrative.
Now that you understand how odds work, and the different types of sports bets you can make, you’re ready to roll the dice. Of course, no lesson can compete with lived experience – so why not start shopping around, and see if any odds catch your eye?
Want to check you’re getting the very best price? For over 20 years, TXODDS has been the go-to odds feed provider for the betting industry – and the partner of choice for sportsbook customers around the world.
As the number-one sports betting data provider, TXODDS can help provide the most accurate betting odds. Anyone seeking the best odds – or looking for either real-time odds or historical sports betting data – should head straight to TXODDS.