Aidan, from London, asks: I am new to betting and don’t understand how sport betting odds work. Can you please explain them to me?
A: Hi Aidan, that’s a very good question and one that we hear a lot in our conversations with AccaDooers – especially those who are fairly new to the game.
Understanding how betting odds work is crucial to sports betting success, but it can seem like a bit of a tangled web to the newcomer.
The short answer to your question is that betting odds are a mathematical representation of the probability of an event occurring.
Bookmakers will evaluate an event – a horse race or football match, for example – and then create their odds on what they perceive to be the chances of the various potential outcomes actually taking place.
So, to use a football match as an example, there are three possible outcomes: a home win, a draw, or an away win. The bookmakers will look at the statistical information they have available to them and decide the probability of each of those three outcomes occurring.
In this hypothetical example, let’s say the probability is the same for all three outcomes – so if you played the game three times, one would end in a home win, one in a draw and one in an away win. That example would, then, give a one in three chance of any event occurring or, put another way, a 33 per cent chance.
The bookmakers then translate this percentage into a fractional figure, which is the odds you will see offered in the betting markets – so, the 33 per cent chance is translated to odds of 2/1.
In the UK betting industry we mostly use what are usually called fractional odds, where you will see numbers separated by a slash like this: 100/1, 20/1, 6/4, etc. These numbers represnt both the predicted chance of an event occurring and also the returns you will get back in the event of your selection winning.
In fractional odds systems, your stake – the amount you will be betting – is represented by the number on the right of the slash, and the return – what you will win – is on the left. So, to use the example of the football match above in which any outcome is priced at 2/1, you would win £2 for every £1 you staked should the event you are predicting take place.
A useful exercise for those trying to get to grips with how betting odds work is to try to come up with your own betting odds. Start with a straightforward football match bet, like the example above, and work out what you think will be the chances of a home win, draw or away win.
Compare your hypothetical results with the actual odds on offer by the bookies and see how you measure up.
It’s worth noting that betting odds are only the representation of a bookmaker’s opinion of the probability of an outcome occurring. They are often wrong, and that is where you can make your money.
If you opinion is better than theirs, you can see where there odds are wrong and exploit that to make profit.
For more information on odds, see our useful betting guides.
We’d love to hear your views on our site or anything betting related. Get in touch with us via email, instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Don’t forget to check out our free bet offers for exclusive deals directly from the bookies.