Betting Odds Explained

Published: 12th April 2018
Author: Joe Kizlauskas
Last Updated: 1st March 2023
Betting Odds Explained graphic

Understanding betting odds can be one of the most difficult things for new punters who are taking an interest in sports betting. Nothing looks straightforward, and with different ways to display odds, this only adds further confusion to the situation. If you are still struggling to come to terms with understanding betting odds then this guide is for you. This guide will teach you the basics and give you enough knowledge to begin your sports betting journey. By getting a head start you will be able to feel confident when you place bets, but you will also learn a lot on the way, which makes for a great learning experience.

The simple fact about betting odds is that if you don’t understand them, how do you know if you are getting a good deal or not? When we list the best betting sites, not only do we look at deals, but we also look at the odds on offer too. There are many bookmakers out there offering odds on the sport you want to bet on, and many of them are different. If you don’t understand how the odds work, how do you know if you are getting the best or worst odds available? Ultimately it comes down to profit if you understand betting odds, and you know which are the best, then eventually you will win the best possible profit every time you place a bet, which is why we are all betting in the first place.

If you are ready to have betting odds explained to you then sit back, relax and be prepared to become a better punter thanks to this guide to understanding betting odds.

How to Read Odds Ratio

Instead of just taking a fractional off or decimal odd at face value, it is worth knowing the probability of the bet to come in. There is more meaning behind the odds than what you would think. There is in fact a calculation behind the odds, which means that you can actually work out the probability of that selection to be successful, in the eyes of the bookmaker. If you know this, then you can make a more justified decision as to whether or not it is worth betting on and if it will be successful. The calculation that applies to calculating betting odds is: % = X / (Y+X). This may not make a lot of sense to some people and may be difficult to understand, so instead we can look at some examples of betting odds and how do betting odds work so that you can see the probability of them.

Betting Odds Calculator

Let’s take some straightforward odds. A 10/1 betting odd, would be entered into the calculation as 1 / (10 + 1) = 0.11 – What this means is there’s a 11/100 chance of the bet coming in. So as a percentage, there is an 11% chance. Here are some other examples:

Betting OddsCalculationProbability
1/66 / (6+1) = 0.8585%
2/11 / (1+2) = 0.3030%
2/88 / (8+2) = 0.8080%

Now you can take a look at current events that are upcoming at your online bookmakers and you can work out how likely the selections you are thinking of choosing, actually are. Or take a look at our latest football betting previews for some of the major events.

How Odds Work

There are three types of betting odds available to use, these are fractional, decimal and American. Odds displayed in the American format are very rare anywhere other than America, so you can forget about them for now and concentrate on the fractional and decimal odds.

Depending on the websites you use and what sports you bet on will depend on how you see the odds when you log on to your bookmaker’s website. If you want to change them, there is the option to do this and it is usually displayed somewhere on their homepage, so make sure you know where to find this for future reference.

You can decide whether you want to use one type of odds, or combine the main two and use them both, it is entirely up to you and what you feel best doing. If you do have the knowledge to use both and compare them then you will never find yourself in a situation where you can’t work something out, and that makes you a perfect punter.

Fractional Odds

The traditional odds format used by bookmakers is fractional odds. These were the first type of odds used and continue to be used by many people. Older punters continue to use them, while some younger punters struggle to understand and compare the different fractions, which is why they decide to use decimal odds when betting.

UK bookmakers will always offer their selections in fractional odds by default, and that is the same whether you are betting online or in a betting shop on the high street. If you are in the UK and placing bets, you will have to change the odds type from fractional to decimal by yourself, and from then the website will remember your own personal settings.

When shown in fractional odds, the punter is seeing how much profit will be returned from a set stake. For example, the odds of 5/1 show that the punter will be returned five units of profit from a one unit stake. If the fractional odds are 6/4 then the punter will receive six units of profit when they stake four units You will always be given your stake back, so in the above example if you place four units on the bet at 6/4 your total return back will be ten units.

Best Odds Guaranteed

A promotional offer that online sports betting sites try and proclaim now are best odds guaranteed. It is a common problem that punters end up wasting time looking through different bookmakers in order to find the most rewarding odds for you to maximise your winnings. When now, you can be certain of having the best odds with the use of the Best Odds Guaranteed promotion. There are only a certain number of bookmakers that offer this, and it is not for every sport. Here are some of the top bookmakers for you to claim this promotion:

Bet365: This bookmaker is offering Best Odds Guaranteed as one of their promotions, this is only available on the Daily Horse Racing events. They also offer great inplay betting odds.

William Hill: William Hill is one of the top dogs in the gambling industry, they are offering best odds guaranteed on daily greyhound and horse racing in Ireland and the UK. William Hill also offers great odds on Premier League fixtures. Restrictions apply.

Bet Victor: BetVictor has taken the same bonus as their rivals and followed up with the same offer of best odds for greyhound racing and horse races across the UK and Ireland. T&Cs apply.

Football Betting Odds Explained

One area where fractional odds are not as good as decimal odds is for football betting. When you are placing football bets you will often be backing teams who are short-priced selections, either just above evens or below evens. When you are placing bets at these prices, fractions can be difficult to work out and compare against each other.

For example, at a quick look would you know which odds were the best between 11/8, 7/5, and 6/4? This is where things can get confusing and why many football punters stick to decimal odds. The choice is entirely up to you, but if you are going to place a lot of football bets and you want to be able to quickly compare the odds on offer with different bookmakers, decimal odds will allow you to do that the easiest.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are becoming increasingly popular, and as mentioned above they are becoming popular with football punters as well as those who bet on other sports at short prices. Pretty much every bookmaker offers decimal odds, and if they are not on by default with your bookmaker, you can change this in your setting so that the odds are shown as decimals every single time.

When you look at decimal odds, they can often look a lot simpler and easier to understand than fractional odds. Decimal odd shows how much you will be returned, including your one unit stake. For example, the decimal odds of 4.00 means that if you place a one unit bet, you will receive back a total of four units, three units of profit plus your stake back.

When you are comparing small decimal odds this is done much easier than when you are comparing fractions. For example, it is clearly easy to see which odds are the greatest out of 2.37, 2.40 and 2.50, and you can just do this by a quick glance in a second. That would take much longer to do if they were displayed as fractional odds.

Understanding Betting Odds

When you are reading about betting odds or speaking to people about them they will use terminology that you may not be familiar with. Our list of terms below will cover all the basics, and allow you to read and understand, or talk to your friends about betting odds without feeling like you are unsure of what is being said.


The odds are given by bookmakers and they are what your payout is based on should you win. Odds are determined by the probability of your selection winning, and this is done by the bookmaker. For example, if he thinks that there is a 33% chance of a football team winning a game, their price will be calculated at 2/1, which is the same probability. Odds can change as people place bets on them, and if a bookmaker takes a lot of bets on the same outcome, they will shorten the odds to make other odds bigger and try to balance the books by accepting bets on other selections.


The stake is the amount of money that you place on your bet. When you place a bet you pay the bookmaker whatever the cost of the bet is. If you have a winning bet then your winnings will include your stake money back. For example, if you place a bet of £10 and get back £50, that will consist of £40 profit and £10 stake back.

Odds Against

When something is called odds against this means that the profit on your bet should it win will be more than the stake you have placed. For example, if you place a £10 bet on a selection at 6/4, you will receive back £15 profit and £10 stake back. This means the profit is bigger than the stake, so the bet was placed at odds against.

Odds On

Odds on is the opposite of odds against, and this is when your stake back is greater than the profit you have made on your bet. For example, if you place a £10 bet and your return is £15, this means the profit from the bet is £5 and your stake back is £10. The stake back is bigger in this situation, so the bet was placed at odds on. In this situation, you are risking more than you will get back in profit if you win, which means the odds are short so you must be very confident before placing bets at odds like these.


Evens is right in the middle of odds against and odds-on. This is when you place a bet and you win the exact same amount of profit as the stake that you have placed on the bet. For example, if you placed a £10 bet at evens, your total return would be £20, £10 of that is profit and £10 of that would be your stake back.

Long Shot

When something is described as a long shot this means that the odds on that selection winning are very big. Long shots do win from time to time, but it either requires an incredible amount of skill and knowledge, or a slice of luck to make one land. You can see this in horse racing events such as the Grand National, where the outsider will be a long shot, estimated at around 200/1, don’t think you need to use our Bet Calculator to work out that the probability percentage is very unlikely.

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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.