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Beginner’s Guide to Sports Betting

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While betting on sports like football or horse racing can be an exciting hobby with the potential to generate some serious profits, it’s important to remember that it is also inherently unpredictable. Like other forms of gambling, betting on sports relies heavily on chance, meaning that even the most seasoned bettors are no strangers to losing streaks, let alone beginners.

As such, it’s vital that you do everything in your power to reduce the likelihood of losing your bets. One of the best ways to do this is by understanding how betting odds work and using that knowledge to your advantage.

Below, we’ll look at what betting odds are, how they’re calculated and interpreted, and discuss the different odds formats you may encounter while placing wagers.

Read on to learn how to read betting odds and take your wagering game to the next level!

What Are Sports Betting Odds?

Bookmakers, the people responsible for taking wagers and calculating betting odds, make a living off bettors who don’t know how to properly interpret the numbers they’re given.

At their core, the odds in sports wagering have two main purposes: they’re used to predict the likelihood of an event taking place, and they’re used to determine how much money a person will make if their bet wins.

The lower odds imply that the event in question is more likely to occur, while the higher odds represent a much smaller chance of victory. This translates well into your profits, as more challenging bets with higher odds tend to pay out much more than easy bets with an almost guaranteed outcome.

To put this into perspective, let’s use a football match between a relatively unknown third-rate team and Manchester United as an example. Manchester United is one of the most recognizable and successful football clubs in the world, so it stands to reason that they will win a game with a less experienced team.

The bookmakers are fully aware of this, which is why their odds of Manchester United are often significantly lower than their odds for a third-rate team. If you bet on Red Devils and your wager wins, you’ll make significantly less money than if you bet on the underdog and they come through.

Who Sets the Odds?

As you might have suspected, betting odds are not simply a whim of the bookmakers trying to trick their customers. Rather, they are calculated by teams of highly skilled professionals who closely monitor the situation on the field, as well as any other factors that might affect the outcome of a match. 

That means odds may be influenced not only by the number of goals and the past record of the two teams but also by several mundane factors, such as the weather forecast for the day of the game or the recent events related to one of the clubs.

Even something as seemingly unimportant as a change in the coaching staff may have an impact on the odds, so the bookmakers never rest and are always on the lookout for new information.

Sports Betting Odds Formats

Although betting odds work in a seemingly simple way, it can be difficult to apply that knowledge in practice. One of the main reasons for this is that bookmakers use different systems when they calculate their odds and present them to customers.

We can distinguish three main formats frequently used by bookmakers around the world: decimal odds, fractional odds, and American odds.

Fractional Odds

Although slowly replaced by decimal odds, fractional odds remain the traditional system used throughout the UK. In the fractional format, a bookmaker’s odds are expressed as a ratio of two numbers, such as 7/1 or 3/1.

The fractional odds system itself is pretty straightforward, although the calculations themselves are a bit more involved. The first figure signifies how many units it is possible to win, while the second one represents the number of units required to place a bet. 

To illustrate the point using the examples provided above, in a 7/1 bet, you may be able to win 7 units for every single unit you bet. However, a 3/1 bet will only win you 3 units for the same amount staked. Assuming you wagered $1000, your profits from a successful 7/1 bet would be $7000, while a 3/1 bet would net you $3000. 

Of course, the number of units you are required to bet in a fractional odds format can change too, meaning that your winnings may vary drastically depending on the amount of money you put in. A won 15/10 bet sounds impressive until you realize that the ratio actually stands at 1.5 times the stakes you bet on. 

Decimal Odds 

This system is the most popular in Europe, as well as Canada and Australia. Its widespread adoption can be attributed in part to the fact that it is even easier to use than the fractional format. In the decimal odds system, your chances are expressed as a single number, with 2.00 serving as the equivalent of 1/1 odds. In other words, winning at the 2.00 rate will net you exactly the same amount of money as your bet. 

As you’ve probably guessed, the rate can go either up or down, meaning that you can make higher or lower profits depending on the betting odds you’ve been given. 

For example, a winning bet at 1.50 will net you 50% more money than what you’ve staked. Conversely, a successful bet at 3.50 will pay out 250% of your original wager. This system is ideal for customers who don’t have time to waste on calculations and want to know exactly how much money they’re going to earn from their bets as quickly as possible. 

American/Moneyline Odds 

Commonly used in the United States, the moneyline/American odds system is based on positive and negative numbers. The positive numbers indicate how much money you can win by betting $100, while the negative numbers represent how much you need to bet in order to win $100. 

For example, a horse racing bet with -200 odds will require you to bet $200 in order to win $100. Conversely, a bet with +200 odds will let you win $200 for every $100 bet.

Which System Should I Use? 

There is no single answer to this question, as all formats have certain advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it depends on your personal preferences and expectations, so feel free to experiment and find the system that works best for you.

If you find that you’re having trouble understanding one system, don’t worry – most respectable bookmakers allow you to convert betting odds to the format you prefer. 

The decimal system is generally considered to be the easiest sports odds format to understand, meaning it might be a better choice for beginners afraid of miscalculating their profits. However, if you’re a bettor living in the United Kingdom, you might want to stick to the fractional system, as this is the preferred method among the bookies there. 

How To Find the Best Odds? 

As each bookie has their own way of calculating the probability of an event, it’s not uncommon for the same teams or clubs to have slightly different odds across various betting platforms. This is why it’s important to do your research and find the bookmaker that offers the best odds on the markets that you’re interested in. 

If you live in the UK, this is easier than ever before – all you have to do is use our site to compare the different bookmakers and find the one that offers the most favourable conditions. We offer comprehensive reviews on reputable betting sites like Rhino, Zetbet, or Luckster, including the analysis of their odds, bonuses, and available promotions! 

To make your decision more informed, try to ask around on various forums and see what other gamblers have to say about the bookies you’re interested in. With our reviews and the community’s feedback, you should have no issues finding the platform with the best odds for you!


Odds are an essential part of the sports wagering experience, as they can help you predict the likelihood of an event occurring and determine your potential profits. Although they may seem confusing at first, understanding how they work is fairly simple and only takes a bit of practice. 

Now with the betting odds explained, you should stand a much better chance of limiting any potential losses. Just remember to always do your research and compare the odds offered by different bookmakers before placing your wagers. May lady Luck smile on you!

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