Sports Betting Odds Explained
Understanding the odds and how to determine how much can be won on a wager is an important part of betting at any online sportsbook for U.S. players. But if you're not aware, have no fear, as we will walk you through the differences between the two, and explain how each works. We will break these down further and show you game lines, which include the moneyline, point spreads, and over/under (totals), as well as some of the exotic odds types like futures, props, and in-play odds.
All of the different types of sports betting odds may seem a little intimidating at first but once you learn them you will see that they are fairly straightforward and easy to understand. They all consist of doing a little rudimentary math in order to figure out the potential outcomes. Luckily, the best sports betting sites offer odds calculators that save you from having to rack your brain in any way, and let you know exactly what you stand to win with the click of your mouse.
Game lines are the most common odds types, and consist of moneylines, point spreads, and over/under total wagers. They are all different but each one is a common odds type you will find on any line for any of the big four leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), as well as on college football and basketball.
Making a wager on the moneyline is one of the simplest ways to bet on a game, and chances are you have probably seen them before. They consist of a large positive or negative number for each team. Moneyline odds are simple, and they are used to bet on the outright winner of a contest or match. If you are betting the Cardinals to beat the Cubs straight up then you will use a moneyline. With a moneyline, the odds are expressed in numbers tied to the teams. You may see something like this:
The negative number always indicates the favorite team to win the game. In this case, the Cardinals are favored to win. The number associated with it indicates how much you would have to bet to win $100. In this example, you would risk $130 for every $100 you might win. Alternatively, the positive number always represents the underdog. This number shows how much you stand to win if you bet $100 on the Cardinals. In this case, you would take back $110 on a $100 winning bet.
The point spread is another odds type, and probably the most popular of the bunch. Point spreads are used for basketball and football bets mainly, but can also be used for other sports. Again, the numbers are expressed in positives and negatives with the favorite having a negative number. However, the numbers will be smaller in value than moneyline odds, because they aren’t reflecting how much you will win. The numbers, in this case, represent points. The point spread adds points to the final score of the underdog, and takes away points from the final score of the favorite. This does not affect the actual outcome of the game, but it evens the odds for the bettors so that both sides have a somewhat equal chance of winning. As an example, let’s say the Patriots are favored by three over the Jets, then you would see:
In this example, the Patriots would need to win by four to win the bet, since they are giving up three points. Alternatively, if you bet on the Patriots, they could lose the game by two points but you would still win the bet because three points are added to their score. This is how the point spread evens out the playing field so that both sides have a chance of winning the bet.
The over/under, also known as total wagers, are easy to understand. With a total, you are simply choosing whether the total points scored in a game by both teams will be over or under the amount posted. If the over/under on an NFL game is 50 points and you bet the over and the total is 51 or higher, you win. You can get further information on the help section of your favorite online sportsbook.
MORE: Sports Wager Types
Now that you have a grasp of the game lines, it is time to delve into the slightly more complicated odds types. These allow you to wager on different aspects of a game or event, or let you string multiple bets together for potentially bigger payouts. They are simple to understand once you grasp a few key elements.
Props are used for betting on all the different aspects of a game that don’t include the outcome. They are also known as exotic bets, side bets, or novelty bets. Things such as the number of touchdowns thrown, the number of three pointers made, the result of a coin toss, or even injuries can be included as propositional bets. During the Super Bowl, there are thousands of props that cover the gamut of the game. You will find player and team props, which allow you to bet on the small details, such as whether a certain player will make a certain amount of yards in a given game. You can even find props bets for entertainment or political contests such as American Idol winners or props on which party will win the next election. You can basically think of propositional odds as everything surrounding a game that you can bet on, excluding the final score.
Futures odds are another way of getting involved in the action, even if a game or event has not yet started. An example of a futures bet would be betting on the Super Bowl winner before the season starts. Any bet that you make far in advance of an actual contest could be considered a futures bet. Also, the futures odds can change the closer a game gets, so betting early can have advantages as a long shot might gain might move up in the rankings as the game gets closer. There are futures props bets as well, and you can find all of them at your favorite sportsbook. These allow you to bet on the various aspects of a team or player before a game or tournament stars.
Futures odds are represented in fraction form, such as 5/1. This shows how much you could win depending on how much you wager. With 5/1 odds, you would win five times the amount that you bet. One of the benefits of this kind of bet is getting in early and locking in higher payouts. Let’s say you really like the Chargers but think they are underrated. You may want to make a futures bet at the beginning of the season that they will win the Super Bowl. When you place a bet that early you might get 40/1 odds whereas if you waited until later once they are doing well the odds would drop down. You would be rewarded for picking them before everyone else saw how good they are.
In-play odds are constantly updated odds in the middle of a contest or match. With every shift in the action, there will be commensurate changes in the odds. This can be an exciting way to watch a sporting event as you will constantly have new possibilities to bet on. For instance, after the Bobcats hit a couple of three pointers late in the game the odds would switch more in their favor for the win. If the Lakers score a few unanswered points and they seem to be headed to a win, the odds would change to reflect this. This is by far the most exciting way to wager, and all of the online sportsbooks allow you to do it.
Sports betting odds are simple to understand once you learn the fundamentals. For instance, a moneylines deal with the outright winner of a game or contest, while point spread evens out the playing field so each side has a relatively equal chance of winning the bet. These are both game lines, and they are the most popular odds we use. I suggest making your first few bets on the money line or the spread in order to get your feet wet, before diving into the more advanced odds.
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We hope you learned a little something from all the different types of odds that can be employed when placing your wagers, but you should know that not every sportsbook, especially land-based, offers all of these different types. Sure, it's not hard to find a place that has basic game lines (spread, moneyline, totals), but finding one that has all the different props and other exotics can be tricky...especially if looking to put more than a few dollars down. Enter our trusted online sportsbooks for USA players, and this problem goes away. In fact, some of these betting lines are only available online and we've highlighted a few sportsbooks to pay special attention to if you're looking to bet more than just the spread.
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