Before you start placing bets on an upcoming match or sports game, it’s vital that you understand how the odds work and how to read sports lines. If you go into betting without fully understanding what you’re setting yourself up for, it’s unlikely to lead to success. Luckily, getting to grips with betting odds is easier than it looks, despite the varying lingo and systems depending on where you are and the sport you’re betting on, and you’ll be a pro at sports betting with Timeform in no time.

What are odds?

The key to understanding sports betting is gaining a sense of what your money is worth at a given match or game, which is known as odds. Odds are the mathematical chance of a victory, draw or loss for the team or player. Bookmakers make these odds and the average punter simply needs to be able to read the odds to be able to make their bet. Odds are dynamic and can change with betting trends or the amount of time left before the game takes place, so that bookmakers can draw in more favour for a favourite with low odds.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are also known as European odds and are the easiest form of odds to read. They express the amount of money that the punter will receive based on their 1-unit stake, which can refer to 1 pound, 10 pounds or 100 pounds. For this reason, it’s important that you know which unit your bookmaker is using before you place your bet. For example, if Manchester United is the favourite to win at odds of 1.60, your £100 bet would yield £160 in winnings.

Fractional Odds

In the UK, fractional odds are also commonly used, particularly for horse racing betting. Whereas decimal odds tell the bettor how much total they’ll make from a 1-unit stake, fractional odds tell them how much profit they’ll receive. To use the same example as before to illustrate how this works, a £100 bet on Manchester United would be written as 3/5 and would give you a £60 profit from your bet.

American Odds

If you’re placing odds on American-centric sports, such as American football, it’s helpful to understand how American odds or money lines work. They can be written as positives or negatives, such as +300 or -300 – when it’s a positive number, it tells you how much you’d win on a 100 stake, while negative money lines are how much you’d need as a stake in order to win 100. For example, the Manchester United example would be written as +60 or -167. Total bets are set against the total number of points scored in the game, which can be bet over or under the total set by the bookmaker. One thing to note with money lines is that these bets involve selecting a winner and over time, you’ll get more skilled at learning whether it’s best to place your wager on the favourite or the underdog team.