It’s hard enough trying to figure out if the odds for a given game are fair or attractive. It’s even harder when you have to figure out how to read the odds in the first place. There are several different ways that sports odds can be written. While they all ultimately mean the same thing it can be confusing when you first see each type, or when you try to figure out how they all relate. We’re going to take a look at four of the most common – North American and European books most often use U.S., decimal, or fractional odds, while Asian events most commonly use Hong Kong odds.
Fractional odds – We’ll start here because these are the easiest to understand, and they are the ones that most people who don’t know much about sports betting talk about. They will occasionally be used in North America, but are most common in the UK. As the name suggests, these odds are presented as fractions. For example, if the odds are 3/2 then for every two dollars you bet on the game you would make a profit of three dollars. At 3/1 you would make three dollars for every dollar you bet, and so on. An even money payoff is 1/1, and payoffs of less than even money are represented by fractions less than one – like with odds of ½ you would make a profit of one dollar for every two dollars you bet. All you have to remember here is that the top number in the fraction represents the amount of profit you are making, not the total amount paid. at 3/2, for example, your total return on a winning two dollar bet would be five dollars – your three dollar profit, plus the original two dollars you bet.
U.S. odds – Not surprisingly these are the odds used most often in the U.S. and Canada. The odds are either positive or negative numbers, and they are at least three digit numbers bigger than 100. Negative numbers are for bets that will pay off at less than even money. The easiest way to think about these is that they are the amount of money you would have to bet to win $100. For example, odds of -200 means that you would make a profit of $100 for every $200 bet – the same as fractional odds of ½. Odds that pay more than even money are represented by positive numbers, and can be thought of as the amount you would win if you bet $100. Odds of +150 means you would make a profit of $150 if you bet $100 – the same as fractional odds of 3/2. Even money bets are expressed as +100.
Decimal odds – These are the types of odds most commonly used in continental Europe. These odds are expressed as numbers greater than one, and can be thought of as the amount you would get back for every one dollar bet including your original bet. Decimals odds of 1.50 mean that for every dollar you bet you make a profit of 50 cents. That’s the same as fractional odds of ½ and U.S. odds of -200. Decimal odds of 2.00 are even money, and 2.50 would be the equivalent of 3/2 or +150. They are most commonly listed with two decimals places, but can be expressed with more than that in some cases.
Hong Kong odds – These are essentially the same as decimal odds, except that they don’t factor in the original bet. That means that Hong Kong odds of 1.00 are even money – you get one dollar back for every dollar you bet. To continue our examples from the previous types of odds, fractional odds of ½, U.S. odds of -200, decimal odds of 1.50 and Hong Kong odds of 0.5 are all the same thing, and so are 3/2, +150, 2.50 and 1.50 respectively. Hong Kong odds aren’t tough to understand, but if you can’t figure them out don’t worry about it unless you plan to head to Asia to place your bets.
Several different online sportsbooks allow you to change back and forth between the different types of odds – at least the top three types – so if one way of expressing them makes more sense to you than another you can easily makes your bets in that way.