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How Do Sports Betting Odds Work? American Odds, Explained

How Do Sports Betting Odds Work? American Odds, Explained article feature image
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Westgate SuperBook

All U.S. sportsbooks default to what we call "American odds" — which are centered around winning or risking $100.

Any odds with a minus sign (like -110) indicate that you must risk more than you'll win — a $110 bet at -110 would win $100. Any odds with a plus sign (like +150) means you'll win more than you risked — a $100 bet at +150 wins $150.

If you win a bet, you'll receive the payout, plus your original wager back. So a $100 bet at +150 would return $150 in profit, plus your $100 back to your account.

You don't need to wager exactly $100 of course, and sportsbooks will calculate your payouts automatically no matter what the amount you want to bet. You can also use our betting calculator to familiarize yourself with how it works.

This format is only used in the United States. Decimal odds and fractional odds are more common around the world. Still confused? Let's dive deeper.

Betting Odds, Explained

Table of Contents
1.How to Read American Odds
2. American Odds in Spreads vs. Moneylines
3. Decimal & Fractional Odds
4.Why You're Risking More
5. How to Calculate Payouts

How to Read American Odds

American odds are centered around winning or wagering $100 on a given bet, though you don't need to actually wager $100. It scales up and down depending on your bet amount.

  • If You're Betting a Favorite: The odds for favorites will have a minus (-) sign in front, and indicate the moneyyou need to risk to win $100.

So if you're betting on the Yankees at -130, you need to risk $130 and will win $100 if New York wins the game (plus your original $130 back).

  • If You're Betting an Underdog: The odds for underdogs will have a plus (+) sign in front, and indicate the money you'll winfor every $100 risked.

So if you're betting the Red Sox at +120, you'll risk $100 and will win $120 if Boston wins the game (plus your original $100 back).

It might be easier to think in terms of dollars instead of $100's, so for every $1.30 risked on the Yankees in this game, you'd win $1, and for every $1 risked on the Red Sox, you'd win $1.20. You can explore this concept further by using the BetMGM bonus code to try it out.

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American Odds in Spreads vs. Moneylines

When you're trying to bet on sports, you'll see American odds everywhere.

But there are two different ways they're used:

  • On their own, like for a moneyline (which just requires you to pick the winner of the game).
  • With a point spread or another line like an over/under. The team you bet still needs to cover the spread, but the American odds indicate how much you need to risk for that bet.

Let's use Penn State vs. Ohio State in college football as an example, with odds from DraftKings.

American odds on their own

american odds-moneyline example

Ohio State is the perceived stronger team in this game, so the Buckeyes are the favorite at DraftKings. Based on these odds, Ohio State is expected to win about 70% of the time.

To bet Ohio State -250 to win, you'll have to risk $2.5 for every $1 you want to win. Remember, OSU just needs to win the game.

If you're betting on Penn State, you'll win $2 for every $1 risked.

Since the moneyline just requires you to pick a winner, we only need the odds. We don't need a point spread or line of any kind.

American odds next to a point spread or over/under

juice example-screenshot-ohio state vs. penn state

The second way American odds are used is next to a corresponding line, like a point spread or over/under.

The odds dictate how much you have to risk, but not what needs to happen for you to win the bet.

You only have to risk $1.10 for every $1 you want to win when betting Ohio State -6.5, but it has to win the game by at least 7 points.

Same goes for Penn State +6.5 — you're only risking $1.10 for every $1 you want to win. If the Nittany Lions lose by 1-6 points or win the game, you win your bet.

Most of the time, football and basketball spreads will be -110 — just a 10% tax on your bet — since the spread makes things equal.

For lower-scoring sports, the point spreads will be low (often -1.5) but the odds on each side will be different because it's harder for a baseball, soccer or hockey team to win by multiple goals.

For example, you could get paid +150 betting Yankees -1.5 against the Red Sox, and have to risk -200 for Red Sox +1.5 in that same game.

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Fractional & Decimal Odds

Around the world, most sportsbooks and bettors use decimal odds or fractional odds. Here's how they work.

Decimal odds: Your total return for every dollar risked (including that dollar). Anything above 2.0 means that team or player is plus-money; anything below 2.0 and they're minus money.

So if the Jets are 2.5 on the moneyline against the Bills, you'd return $2.50 for every dollar wagered, a profit of $1.5 (because that original $1 was included in your return).

In American odds, that's +150.

If the Bills are 1.5, you'd return $1.50 for every $1 wagered, a profit of 50 cents.

That's -200 in American odds.

Fractional odds: Fractional odds are still used in horse racing, so they're not totally unusual to American bettors.

These are pretty straight forward. Divide the fraction into a number, then multiple by your bet amount.

  • Bucs 13/2 to win the Super Bowl: 13/2 is 6.5, so every $1 risked wins $6.50.
  • Ravens 20/1 to win the Super Bowl: $1 risked wins $20

Why Do I Have to Risk More on The Favorite Than I'll Win on the Underdog?

Risking $2.5 for every $1 you want to win on Ohio State seems unfair when you'd only get paid $2 for every $1 you want to risk on Penn State.

This gap in odds is what's called juice or vigorish — it's essentially the tax a sportsbook charges for taking your action.

Over thousands of bets, this tax adds up and makes it difficult for most bettors to become profitable.

If you want to bet smartly on college football, here are a few of our recommended resources:

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How To Calculate My Bet With American Odds

Over time, figuring out how much -120 returns when you risk $60 (it's $50) will become second nature. And sportsbooks from PointsBet to FanDuel always calculate your bets automatically. You can also use our odds converter.

But if you want to figure out your bet amounts on your own, here is the simple math.

The basic formulas vary slightly depending on if you're betting a favorite or an underdog.

There are two ways to calculate each — based on either how much you want to wager or how much you want to win.

Favorite Method No. 1: The first method is calculating how much you want to win.

Let's say you want to win $25 betting on the Yankees at -130 — you're willing to risk a little more money to get the $25.

Enter $25 as the win amount and -130 as the moneyline into the following formula. You'll arrive at $32.50, meaning you need to risk that much to win $25.

Win Amount * ((-1 * Moneyline) / 100)

$25 * (130/100) = $32.50

Favorite Method No. 2: The second method is calculating how much you will win if you wager a certain amount. Let's say you're only comfortable wagering $25 on the Yankees at -130, knowing you'll profit a little less if they win.

Enter $25 as the win amount and -130 as the moneyline into the following formula. You'll arrive at $19.23.

Wager Amount * ((100/(Moneyline * -1))

$25 * (100 / (-130 * -1)) = $19.23

Underdog Method No. 1: There are similarly two options for underdogs. The first is calculating how much you want to win based on a set bet amount.

Let's say you want to bet $40 on Tony Ferguson. Enter $40 and +230 into the following formula.

Wager *  (Moneyline / 100)

$40 x (230 / 100) = $92

Underdog Method No. 2: The second option is calculating how much you need to bet to win a certain amount.

If you want to win $100 on Ferguson when his moneyline is +230, you would do the following and arrive at a $43.48 bet:

Win Amount / (Moneyline / 100)

$100 / (230 / 100) = $43.48

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Next in Betting Education 101: Point Spreads

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