Sports Betting 101: How To Read Sports Betting Odds

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Sports Betting 101: How To Read Sports Betting Odds
Photo Credit: John Shishmanian/Norwich Bulletin


Figuring out how to read sports betting lines can seem a nightmare for many bettors. Especially those who feel like they are a new bettor, who visit the sports betting world occasionally for entertainment purposes.

Sports betting odds take several different forms and are calculated in a wide variety of ways. Sports odds can feel like learning a new language. However, after giving this article a read you’ll be speaking that language like a local.

We’ll cover the three main ways to read betting odds – decimal odds, American odds, and fractional odds. These are all just different ways of showing how much money the bettor will get back from their initial outlay. Once you’ve got the handle on how to caluclate sports betting odds, you then need to get to grips with the vocabulary of sports betting types.

The most basic form of sports betting odds is the moneyline. This is what most people imagine when they think of sports betting. You pick an outcome and the bookmaker offers you odds that roughly match the likelihood of the outcome. Less likely, longer odds. More likely, shorter odds.

But there are plenty of other kinds of betting odds available to viewers of just about any sporting event. Points spread bets and over/under bets offer ways of handicapping an outcome. Futures odds provide betting options on longer-term prospects. And prop bet odds offer ways of wagering on games that go beyond just picking one team to win.

About half of U.S. states enjoy legal access to online sports betting. Your chance of winning goes up significantly if you understand different types of odds format and how to calculate a potential payout.

Reading Sports Betting Lines And Odds

In this article, we’ll show new bettors what to expect and how to navigate their way through their sportsbooks’ betting options.

It is worth noting that these categories are not all mutually exclusive. For example, you can find over/under bets that are a form of prop bet and you can make futures bets that make use of point spreads.

However, understanding what each type of wager means will help you pick the right sports wagers for you and to hunt down more ways to win.

Understanding what you are wagering on is a key part of gambling responsibly. So, read on to learn how to read odds, calculate how much profit you would win on a particular outcome, different formats of odds, and more.

Best Sports Betting Apps

Not all sports bets are created equal, and different sportsbook can offer different lines on a game at a given time. The library of sportsbook reviews can point you in the direction of the online sportsbooks available in your state.

Here’s a look at some of the reviews available to readers:

How To Calculate Sports Betting Odds

U.S.-facing sportsbook use American odds notation. For any kind of bet, you’ll see payout odds listed in a format that uses either a positive number or a negative number.

For example, a Week 3 matchup from the 2022-23 NFL season resulted in the following betting line from FanDuel Sportsbook:

 Point SpreadMoneylineTotal (Over/Under)
Pittsburgh Steelers+4.5 (-108)(+180)Over 38.5 (-110)
Cleveland Browns-4.5 (-112)(-215)Under 38.5 (-110)

All of the numbers in parentheses in the table above display payouts in American odds format. For example, FanDuel offers the Steelers at (+180) in the “Moneyline” column, while giving the Browns at (-215).

Moneyline bets (as we’ll discuss in detail later in this article) task the bettor with picking which team will win a game straight up, with no point spread involved.

Keep in mind that not all sportsbook give the same odds on a particular game at a given time. The advent of legal online gambling allows bettors to shop for the best odds on a chosen bet, taking advantage of the opportunity to browse different online betting sites.

For more on pro football odds, take a look at the guide to NFL betting.

Calculating Winnings For “+” American Odds

The Pittsburgh (+180) number refers to a payout using positive American odds. When looking at a moneyline bet, the team with a “+” in front if its payout odds is the designated underdog. You’ll achieve a bigger win if you bet on the underdog and that team wins, but underdog victories come with a lower percentage probability than the favorite winning.

The (+180) line on the Steelers means you could win $180 in profit for every $100 you bet. Another way to calculate positive American odds is to use the following formula:

American Odds Formula For “+” Odds

(odds/100)*(amount of bet)

Let’s say you bet $50 on the Steelers at (+180), and the bet ends up as a win. Calculating payouts with the above formula looks like this:


Which translates to

1.8*$50 = $90

A $50 bet on (+180) odds pays $90 in profit if the bet is a win. The sportsbook would return $140 total payout to the bettor ($90 profit plus the $50 original wager).

Calculating Winnings For “-” American Odds

The favored Browns don’t pay as much as the underdog Steelers, but the sportsbook has calculated that Cleveland has a better implied probability of winning the game than Pittsburgh. Negative numbers in front of a moneyline odds listing (negative American odds) denotes the team that’s favored to win.

The (-215) line for the Browns means you need to bet $215 in order to win $100 in profit. Calculating “-” American odds involves the following equation:

American Odds Formula For “-” Odds

(100/odds)*(amount of bet)

If you bet $50 on the Browns at (-215) and won, your payout would look like this:


Which equates to:

0.465*$50 = $23.25

Your $50 bet on Cleveland would yield $23.25 in profit. The book would return $73.25 to you total ($23.25 profit plus the original $50 bet.)

Bettors achieve less of a win betting on favorites, but the bet should come in as a winner more often than an underdog bet. Remember, a negative sign in front of a team’s odds on a moneyline bet means that team is favored to win the game.

How To Read Moneyline Odds

A moneyline bet is a good starting point for anyone who wants betting odds explained to them. This is the most basic type of wager. The bettor picks between two teams and the sportsbooks offer betting odds.

The options here are usually limited to which of two teams or players will win a given game or match. Though you may get a moneyline bet on a draw if the sport allows it.

An NFL example would be something like this:

 Point SpreadMoneylineTotal (Over/Under)
Buffalo Bills-1.5 (-108)(-138)Over 45.5 (-110)
New England Patriots+1.5 (-112)(+100)Under 45.5 (-110)

This moneyline bet comes from a theoretical NFL game line between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. The Vegas odds on the moneyline are -138 on the Bills and +100 on the Patriots. These betting odds can also be expressed in fractional odds (Bills 8/11, Patriots 1/1) or decimal number odds (Bills 1.73, Patriots 1.0).

This means that in order to make a profit of $100, you would need to wager $100 on the Patriots (even odds) or $138 on the Bills.

Looking at it from the other side, if you wager $100 on the Bills you would receive $173 back from the bookie if Buffalo won. The $100 you paid for the wager and $73 in potential winnings.

If the Bills lose, then the bookie keeps your $100 wager.

How To Read Point Spread Bets

An alternative to moneyline bets are point spreads bets. These are usually listed at odds of -110 (10/11 or 1.91) for both sides of the bet. So if you bet $100 and win, your profit by $91 on the bet. Instead of adjusting the odds for each game, the point spread creates a private handicap on the score (a plus sign for the favored team, negative for the underdog team).

In order to win your wager, the difference between the teams’ scores has to beat the point spread.

For example, in Super Bowl 56, sports bettors found that a typical pregame line between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams looked like this: 

 Point SpreadMoneylineTotal (Over/Under)
Los Angeles Rams-4 (-110)(-200)Over 48.5 (-110)
Cincinnati Bengals+4 (-110)(+165)Under 48.5 (-110)

A point spread of +4 (the line that was offered at Caesars Sportsbook shortly before the game) means that the Bengals are the underdog. For Cincinnati bettors to win the bet, the have to keep the final score within three points of the Rams.

If Los Angeles wins by five points or more, Rams bettors win the bet. If Rams win the game by exactly four points, the bet is a push.

How To Read Totals (Over/Under) Odds

An over/under bet is a type of wager that you can place on any quantifiable outcome. You choose either the over or under side of the threshold for the bet. If you bet over, the outcome must be higher than the threshold to win, for an under, the outcome must be lower.

We will use the example of the total number of goals scored in the Women’s World Cup game between Germany and England. Then you and the sportsbooks will set a number, (let’s suppose DraftKings Sportsbook offered over/under bets of 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5 goals for the Germany-England match all with different odds). 

You can then place your wager on whether the total outcome will be over that number. Using the 4.5 over/under line as an example, the over hits if the game ends on five or more goals. The under hits if the match ends on four or fewer goals.

It doesn’t matter which team scores those goals, all that matters for this over/under bet is the total score.

Let’s say a sportsbook is offering +600 on the over and -1,200 on the under. That means that if you bet $100 on the over, and the final score of the game was 3-2 then you would win (3+2 =5 and is greater than 4.5). At +600 odds you would make a $600 profit.

On the other hand, if you took the under in this example, you would lose your $100 wager, and regret the $8 profit you would have made if the score had been 3-1.

How To Read Futures Odds

Futures odds are any bets that are placed on an event that takes more than a single game or match to settle. In NFL betting this might be a wager on which team will win the Super Bowl or in NBA betting, wagering on who will be the MVP this season.

The Premier League is the top soccer league in the UK. You can place a wager with any betting site on a given team to win the league. This would be a futures bet.

As an example of how these odds work, at the time of writing Manchester United is +2,500 (25/1 or 26.0) to win the whole league, meaning $2,500 profit for you if you win plus your $100 back.

For comparison, betting on Man. Utd to win its next match a few weeks in advance would be a moneyline bet, even though the event is far in the future. This is because a futures bet must be decided over more than one match or game.

How To Read Prop Bet Odds

“Prop bets”, short for proposition bets, is a catch-all term for any either/or wager that is not decided by the outcome of the game.

A good example of this is whether there will be overtime. An upcoming WNBA exhibition game between the Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream has betting odds of +1,200 on there being overtime. If you took that wager and the event went into overtime you’d earn $1,200 on a $100 wager.

If you took other side of that wager and put $100 on there being no overtime in the game, you would get odds of -5,000, earning a tiny $0.20 profit on your wager if you won.

Check out the guide to Super Bowl Squares and Prop Betting for more ways to wager on NFL football.

How To Read Sports Betting Odds FAQ

What are betting lines?

A betting lines (sometimes called a money line) are the odds set by a bookmaker for a wage on whether a professional sports team will win, lose, or draw their match. Betting lines can also include odds on events from within a game or a season from a sport, not related to wins and losses.

A bettor picks a team and whether the team will win, lose, or draw. The bettor then wins if the outcome they chose comes to pass. The potential profit of a bet is set by the moneyline odds determined by the odds on that betting line.

What sportsbook has the best odds?

The best sportsbooks for a given bet will change from event to event and from bet to bet. This is because different sportsbooks all set their odds a little differently and have different odds.

As a result, if possible, it is worth having accounts with multiple online sportsbooks and the top sportsbooks in your area. Then, whether betting online or in person, you can always shop around for the best odds.

Remember, different states have different laws on what kinds of online gambling sites are legal. Some states offer full scale online sports betting, while other states are limited to betting on horse racing and daily fantasy sports.

What does a +200 line mean?

All the betting odds at North American sportsbooks are based around a bet of $100. A plus sign (positive odds) indicates your profit on a bet of $100, while a minus sign (negative odds) indicates the amount you would have to bet for a $100 profit.

So, a +200 line means that, should the sports bettor win, they receive $200 profit for every $100 they wager (plus their original $100 back). If the wager had a minus sign (i.e. -200), it would mean that the sports bettors will earn $100 profit for every $200 they wager.

+200 can also be expressed at 2/1 in fractional odds and 3.0 in decimal odds.

What does a +7 point spread mean?

A +7 spread means that your sports team receives a 7-point or goal handicap for the bet.

In a practical example, you wager on Sports Team A with a +7 point spread at -110. Sports Team A can lose the game by up to seven points and you will still win the wager.

It also means that if you place a point spread wager on Sports Team B, you will have a handicap of -7 points, meaning Sports Team B will have to win the match and do so by more than seven points in order for you to win your wager.

The odds on spread bets like this are usually set around -110.

What does an Over 42.5 line mean?

An “Over 42.5” line indicates that you will win the wager if the outcome is 43 or more. The outcome in question can be almost anything that is quantifiable from the total number of points scored in a match to the amount of injury time added to the clock.

The other side of the bet would be “under 42.5.”