How to Read & Calculate Sports Betting Odds

How to Read & Calculate Sports Betting Odds

EMAILED ON June 29, 2022

How to Read & Calculate Sports Betting Odds


Sports betting is one of the safest forms of gambling. First of all, it is legal in most states. And secondly, if you understand your sports well, there is a good chance of winning on most occasions. However, one thing is mandatory for your success here. You have to know how to read and calculate sports betting odds. 

You might have often seen betting odds like +130 or –255 or something like that. While it may seem complicated initially, it’s easier than you think. Learning how to read odds will automatically give you fundamental knowledge about calculating odds.

Whether traditional gambling is all about blind luck or not remains for discussion. But no one can deny that sports betting gives you the exhilaration of both gambling and sports in the same package, and nothing comes close to it. As a beginner, learning how to read and calculate sports betting odds is crucial so keep on reading till the end. 


What Are the Odds in Betting?

In general, odds are the measurement of the likelihood of any outcome. Whether sports or gambling, odds play a massive role in betting. In sports betting, not both teams have the same probability of coming out as winners. Mathematicians have discovered specific methods to measure the probability of each team’s result, known as odds.

However, you should also know that probability and odds are different. There’s a vast explanation of which is which, but that’s not our topic here. In sporting events, not all teams have equal strength. So, in a match, two teams won’t have the same chances of becoming the winner.

If someone bets on the underdog team, he is risking his money more than the one who bets on the favorites. So, if the winning amount is the same, that’s not fair because then the supporters of the underdog team have more possibility of losing money. So, the underdog team offers more cash prizes to the bettors.

To calculate everything regarding betting, teams’ probability of winning, the cash amount each team offers, etc., odds come into play. Every bettor must have a clear understanding of sports betting odds.


How to Read Betting Odds?

In the US, Moneyline odds are used. In every match, there is one favorite team and one underdog team. The odds against each team are calculated based on around $100. The favorite team’s odds have a negative (-) sign before the figure, and the underdog team’s odds have a plus (+) sign before theirs. It looks something like this:

Sacramento Kings: -325

Los Angeles Lakers: +195

So, what does it mean, you might wonder. At first glance, it might not seem very clear, but once we break things down, it will be as transparent as daylight. So, Moneyline odds are based around $100. The favorites have higher possibilities of winning. So to even things up, the bookmakers have adjusted the potential winning amount for each team.

Favorites have a high chance of winning but give you less money. On the other hand, underdogs have little possibility of winning, but the cash reward is more significant. The -325 for Sacramento Kings means you must bet $325 to win $100. If the Sacramento Kings win, you get $100 plus the initial bet amount which is $325. So the total is $425.

But if they lose, you lose $325. On the other hand, +195 for the LA Lakers means you need to place just $100 bets to win $195. Lakers winning means you get $100+$195=$295. They losing means you lose $100. The difference between the two odds is indicative of the difference in strength between the two teams. A more significant difference means favorites are more likely to win.

There is another method Americans odds are used which is called the spread. Spread isn’t as straightforward as Moneyline odds; it’s for more advanced bettors. In spread bets, winning or losing a match isn’t the only variable at play. In spread bets, there is more at stake. It’s more prevalent in soccer and basketball.

If the bookmakers give the favorite team (Suppose team A) a -5 spread, they have to win by a score difference of more than 5. if they win by this margin, team A spread bettors win the bet. The amount depends on the Moneyline odds and how much the stake. If they win, but the score difference is less than or equal to 5, the opposite team spreads the bettors’ win.

If the underdogs win, spreads don’t come into play at all. If they lose, but the score difference is less than 5, the underdogs spread bettors’ win. In soccer, the spread is usually 1 to 3 because it’s impossible to score 8,9,10, or more goals in a soccer match.

Spreads concern more than the score. In soccer, it can be a corner, free, penalty, etc.


How to Calculate Betting Odds?

The Moneyline odds are based on $100, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will place bets around $100 every time. It depends on how much money you have or how much you want to win. So, you have to know how to calculate precisely. Also, there are two scenarios; how much you want to bet vs. how much you want to win. Let’s discuss the first one first:


Calculating how much you want to bet

Retake the above example. If you bet on Sacramento kings, you have to bet $325 to win $100. If you don’t have $325, or even if you have but are not willing to put so much money on the line, that’s okay. You need to figure out how much stake will get you and how much reward.

Let’s assume you want to stake $50. The calculation is easy. $325 will get you $100, and $1 will get you 100/325=0.308. $50 will get you 0.308×50=15.38. Placing $50 will win you $15.38 if you win. The total amount is 50+15.38=65.38. You lose the whole amount if you lose, so there isn’t much calculation here.

If the underdog is your team, placing a $100 bet on the Lakers will win you $195. The calculation is the same here. Betting $100 will get you $195, and $1 will get you $1.95. Placing $50 will win you $97.5.


Calculating how much you want to win

Now, let’s say you want to win $650 and want to bet on the favorites. To win $100, you will have to stake $325. To win $1, you’ll have to place 325/100=3.25 or $3.25. To win $650, you must place 3.25×650=2112.5 or $2112.5. By calculating the needed amount, you have to stake; you can figure out the money you will lose if your team doesn’t come out on top.

The math is the same if you want to win $300 by betting on the LA Lakers. You will win $195 by placing $100. To win $300, its (100/195) x300=153.85 or $153.85. So, to win $300, you’ll have to bet $153.85.


Which Odds Are Better: Negative or Positive?

We believe you already understand what negative and favorable odds mean by now. So next comes the critical decision-making phase. Good odds are the underdog teams. The bookmakers consider many variables before making the bets, so it’s always safe to go with the favorites.

The underdogs give you bigger payouts, but at the same time, they are more likely to lose, which means you are more likely to lose money. A stronger team is expected to win, which means you are likely to win cash, although the amount is less than the negative odds. Favorites are less likely to lose, but you lose more money if they do. Let’s take a look at the table below for a more precise understanding:

Odds Team Strength Winning probability Losing probability Payout amount (if win)
Positive odds Underdogs Weaker Less More More
Negative odds Favorites Stronger More Less Less


It should be no brainer which you should pick, but then there is a payout amount. It is a temptation that’s hard to avoid. If the underdogs win, the payout is lucrative. But then again, they are less likely to win.

So here is our advice; always go with the favorites unless you are very knowledgeable about the game or have some strong intuitions. If you go with the underdogs, keep your stake amounts in check. Don’t go over the top and place ridiculous amounts you can’t afford to lose. Negative odds are always better, and you should stick to it. Also, don’t go for spread bets as a beginner.

It takes considerable expertise to figure out spread bets. Simply winning or losing won’t get you money here. It takes time to learn spread bets, and you must watch specific sports events regularly to figure out the spread successfully.


Why Should You Know About Betting Odds?

Betting odds gives you a heads-up about everything about the game. The bookmakers calculate everything like the likely winner, runner-up, the probable score (in case of spread bets), etc., before making the bets. If you learn to read and calculate betting odds, you can play diligently instead of placing bets blindly.

Also, learning about betting odds lets you calculate precisely. Moneyline odds are based on $100, but you won’t always put $100 on the line or want to win $100. You can easily calculate what amount you should place to win a certain amount or how much the payout will be if you place a specific wager if you have elementary knowledge about sports betting odds.

Not only that, sports betting knowledge will give you a heads-up about the game’s state. If you know how to read odds, you can tell if it’s a high-octane match or just a low-profile one by looking at the Moneyline odds.

It will also give you a relative idea about the strength of each team. So even if you don’t want to bet for a match, learning to read betting odds can come in handy in other shapes and forms.


Common Mistakes About Sports Betting Odds

There are some common mistakes that everybody is likely to make. Although these mistakes can be costly, they are easy to avoid. All you need is to be slightly discreet. As beginners are more likely to make these mistakes, you should be very cautious. Here are some common sports betting mistakes:

  • Failing to read the odds properly

Even if you know how to read and calculate betting odds, many people make mistakes that cost them their hard-earned money. Reading sports bet odds is not just about knowing the stake and the payout amount; there’s more to it. The odd difference indicates the strength difference between the team. If you fail to notice it, you might place a bet on the underdog and lose miserably.

  • Going over the top

If the odds difference is slight, both teams are somewhat equally strong. The favorites are not likely to wipe the floor with the underdogs, but this is where many people make the second mistake, uncontrollable gambling.

Underdog always gives you more payout, and, in a match where two teams are more or less equally matched, the temptation to stake massively on the underdogs is hard to avoid. But you have to control yourself to prevent going broke.

  • Spread betting as a beginner

As we have mentioned above, spread betting is not for beginners. You are likely to make many mistakes and lose excessive money without the slightest idea of what you are doing. As a beginner, betting without spreads at stake is the safest.



Many want to make a career in sports betting or participate in it as their pastime to earn some extra. Regardless of which group you belong to, knowing How to read & calculate sports betting odds is the prerequisite. Learning is not enough; you must practice tirelessly and know when to hold your horses. 

Hopefully this article was informative enough to help you understand how to read & calculate sports betting odds. If you are interested in staying updated with the latest information on sports betting, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day. 

How to Read & Calculate Sports Betting Odds
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