The idea of fully understanding betting odds will often put many punters off from truly grasping the full concept of betting and betting value. With the introduction of the decimal odds format around the turn of the millennium, sportsbooks in general became very easy for people to follow, and the art of being able to identify good value fractional odds was simply not needed anymore. So, the question now becomes…why should you take the time to learn about odds betting? Well, knowledge is king. The more you know, the less chance that you will get confused when trying to place a bet, or when trying to find betting value.

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We will talk you through all the basics of betting odds and some of the advanced pieces of information that you will need in order to become a better all-round punter. Firstly, before we start, we should explain what betting odds all are about. In short, odds indicate how likely an event will happen and how much your potential returns would be. 

Take the following odds Canada betting example:

Fractional Odds of 5/1 = the sportsbook is staking five times the amount of the punter.

The example above outlines the overall ratio that is being wagered by the two groups involved. The first group is the sportsbook with the higher number and the second group is the punter with the lower number. You, the punter, stand to win five times the amount of your wager amount which will be paid out by the sportsbook.

Types of odds that you will find in sports betting

A total of three different odds formats can be found amongst most bookmakers nowadays. You will often be given the option to switch between these formats and especially between the two fractional and decimal formats, the other one being known as Moneyline or American odds. 

Here they are in list format and we will guide you through each of them below: 

Explanation of Fractional Odds 

Fractional odds are the traditional way of reading betting slips, and this format was used for years until around 2002 and the start of the online sports betting boom. It is still very useful to be able to read and understand the fractional format though, and so we will give you the basics below. 

Here is how you read and interpret a typical example of fractional odds:

2/1 Fractional Odds Canada Betting Example

If you were to stake $50 at 2/1 odds, then your full return would be 2 x your stake ($100) + your original stake amount ($50) returned back to you. This would then give you in $150 in total and a $100 profit overall.

A Difficult Concept to Grasp – Simple fractional odds are simple enough to understand, but many of the advanced fractional odds do start to become a little trickier. This is when a mathematical brain is required, and hence, why punters start to shy away from the idea of using fractional odds.

Use our odds betting Canada reference table below to work out how much you would get on a typical $50 stake.

Fractional OddsStakeReturns (including Stake)

The Simplicity of Using Decimal Odds – Fractional odds such as 7/4 start to cause headaches though, and so this is usually the time when punters tend to switch over to decimal format due to its simplicity. Those 7/4 odds work out to be 2.75 in decimal, which is going to bring a total return of $275 from a $100 stake and $175 in profits, a lot easier isn’t it!

Explanation of Decimal Odds

We have now seen firsthand how you can quickly work out the profits using the decimal format. This is why decimal odds have been the top choice for online bookmakers ever since the online betting boom happened around the turn of the millennium. If there was one thing that the online betting sites wanted to offer their punters, it was an easy-to-use service. The use of decimal odds gave them exactly that. For the record, we will quickly explain the concept behind the decimal odds format for you below.

3.00 Decimal Odds Canada Betting Example

If you placed a stake of $30 at 3.00 odds, then your full money return would be 3 x your stake ($30) which ends up as $90. You can then take away your stake amount ($30) to work out your total profit, which would work out to be $60.

The Straightforward Format – It doesn’t take much mathematics to work these out, as you simply multiply the decimal odds number by your stake amount and that will be your profit.

You can find one or two decimal examples below which will give you a quick reference and idea of what you can expect back from a $50 stake.

Decimal OddsStakeReturns (including Stake)

Decimal Odds include Your Stake – Your stake amount is included in the decimal odds calculation, which is not the case when using fractional odds because your stake amount gets included on top. This is why you need to minus the stake amount to work out your true profit when using decimals.

Explanation of Moneyline/American Odds

The Moneyline format is the perfect way to quickly identify who the favourite is and who the underdog is for each event. The first thing you will notice when viewing these odds are the plus and minus signs. The majority of the Moneyline bets will be based on $100 stakes and then you can quickly work out either what you would need to stake to win $100, or how much you would make from a $100 stake. So, this ends up with the minus sign representing the favourites and then the plus sign representing the underdogs.

Below you can find an example of a typical Moneyline bet:

Moneyline/American Odds = -150 (backing the favourite)

Moneyline/American Odds = +250 (for the underdog)

You will find these types of odds on most of the North American sports betting markets, so sports such as the NFL, NHL, and the NBA all make use of the Moneyline format. Again, you do not need to worry too much, as nowadays you can quickly switch between the different formats in the website betting settings.

The Tale of Two Sides & How Bookmakers Use Odds

The easiest and most logical way to understand how bookmakers use odds and create a profit is to use the coin toss example. As we all know, tossing a standard coin will always give you two possible outcomes. The head and tail options will both give you a 50% probability of winning in terms of percentages. 

In betting circles, this probability would be shown as 2.00 in decimals, Evens, or Evens +100, and you might even see a phrase called “Pick’em” which also means Evens and a 50% chance. As it stands, the bookmaker is not going to make any profits in the long run because they are paying out the true value of both the head and tail options landing. 

Enter the ‘over-round’

The over-round is where the bookmaker introduces an edge in their favour to ensure a profit is made in the long run over the total number of bets made on the event. For example, the bookmaker might introduce odds of 1.90 for either the head or tail options landing, or this would be 9/10 in fractional odds.

Let us move on to the flipping of the coin and say that the bookmaker has taken a total of $100 in bets for the head landing, and another $100 in bets on the tail landing, which makes $200 in total. Now, no matter which side the coin lands on, the bookmaker will only ever pay out $190, which creates $10 profit.

The head and tail example is a stripped-down version of how bookmakers use odds to their advantage. It is clear that the 1.90 odds is not a true representation of the outcome, and this is why you need to understand how to calculate the odds to find the best betting value.

Explanation of Combination Bets & Odds

A combination bet is something that is often connected to the experienced punters, the ones who seem to have more of a grasp on betting than others, but this is not actually the truth. Combination bets involved multiple selections and are actually very simple to break down and understand. The reason why people might want to put money down on a combined bet is that it effectively allows you to maximise your returns by reducing your risk.

To begin with, do not get a combination bet confused with an accumulator bet. There is one simple difference between the two and that is the accumulator requires all selections to win to make a profit. Combination bets are much more forgiving and even if one or two selections don’t win, you are still likely to pick up at least some winnings. Combination bets will often require larger stake amounts, but the overall risk reduction helps to balance that initial cost out. Sometimes you may find that your winnings will not even cover your initial stake amount, but at least it is something back in your pocket.

Let’s take a simple football example to help explain how a combination bet works:

The weekend is coming up and there is a full schedule of Olympic Ice Hockey games to be played. You want to back Canada to win their game and you have $200 available as your stake amount. Instead of putting all of your $200 on Canada, you choose to divide that money up across four different games instead. So, you stake $50 for Canada to win, and also $50 on Sweden, Russia, and the US to win their games over the course of the weekend.

What is the main reason behind splitting up your money?

Stake $200 on Canada and if they lose, you lose $200 straightaway. However, if you decided to spread your money out and also back Sweden, Russia, and the US, and then perhaps Sweden and Russia both won, at least you would get some money back from those two teams. You can think of it as betting more wisely and spreading out your risk over multiple selections.

Combination bets in more detail

You have extensive options when it comes to choosing a combination bet and some of these you may have already heard of before. The likes of Patent, Trixie, and Lucky 15 bets are all common in horse racing betting circles, and Yankee and Super Yankee are also top choices for sports betting fans.

The only major rule to make clear with combination bets is that your initial outlay may be bigger than a typical accumulator. This is because of the multiple bets that you get over an “all selections must win” one-bet accumulator. The simple combination bets include doubles, trebles, and then accumulators are included as you pick more selections. Each one of those bets will offer you a separate return from your initial stake, which is the whole reason why you have better chances of making a profit from this type of bet. 

Take a read through some of the different combination bet types below

Trixie – Three selections required to create a total of four bets, these include three doubles and one treble and so you only need two of the three selections to win and you will receive some winnings.

Patent – Very similar to the Trixie bet as this also requires three selections, but the standout feature here is that all the single bets are included, too. So, instead of the Trixie’s four bets, the Patent bet gives you a total of seven bets: one treble, three doubles, and three single bets. The Patent bet would cost more than a Trixie due to those three additional single bets.

Yankee – Yankee’s consist of four selections and offers a fourfold accumulator, four trebles, and six doubles. Similar to the bets above, you would only need two selections to win to start seeing some returns, and that fourfold accumulator will significantly increase the overall potential returns as well.

Lucky 15 – One of the popular combination bets out there in the betting world, online and offline, is the Lucky 15. A total of four selections is required but this one covers all the four single bets as well. So, this is just like the Yankee but with the singles included, too. The Lucky 15, therefore, gives you potential returns on the one fourfold accumulator, the four trebles, the six doubles, and those four singles. The Lucky 15 makes a great choice for a day out at the races, or even just watching from home!

Working out your returns from a combination bet

If you decide to place a combination bet, then you are going to be dealing with multiple bets and combined odds. So, instantly we would recommend to sticking with decimal odds to make all this a lot easier, as we found out earlier on in this guide. Nowadays, online betting slips will provide you with instant profit potential and the overall cost of your bet, too. 

But, for the record, and if you like to play around with selections and odds, then you can find betting calculators online that will show you the returns and stake costs for any type of bet. It just goes to show that you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out these types of bets nowadays, but it doesn’t hurt to understand how they work either.

Explanation of Asian Handicaps

An increasingly popular area of betting can be found under the Asian Handicap markets. The phrase ‘Handicap’ in this sense indicates that you are offering a player or team a head start before the event has started. This is done by allocating points or goals to one side to even out the playing field. Many of these bets also allow you take the ‘Draw’ scenario out of the equation, and this is done by using half points or half goals. The idea being is that no player or team can score half a point or half a goal, and so there will always be a winner with the handicap in place.

A typical Asian Handicap for a soccer event would use the 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 handicaps. You can therefore choose to give the underdog a 2.5 goal head start, and so whatever the outcome, there will always be a winner at the end of the match. You will sometimes come across full point or full goal handicaps, and as you can tell there is the possibility of a draw when using this type of betting market. However, the rules often state that stakes are refunded in any case of a draw, which represents a sense of insurance when using this type of bet. 

Below we have described a typical Asian Handicap for a soccer match:

An international women’s soccer match is to be played between Canada and Germany. In a typical betting scenario, you would be offered three outcomes, two wins and a draw:

Under the standard half goal Asian Handicap market, the selections would look a little different with just two possible outcomes. The draw has been taken away and you choose your winner with the handicap in mind. If Canada are the clear favourites to win the match, then maybe the bookmaker will give them a handicap of 2.5 goals, therefore, the betting market would look this:

If you go ahead and back Canada, who are the clear favourites, then you will need them to win by at least three goals to get any return on your bet. You win nothing if Canada lose, if the game ends in a draw, or if Germany win.

Quick Reference on Typical Odds

To give you a quick idea on what some of the typical odds look like, what they relate to in decimal format, and what you can expect to win, take a look at the table below:

FractionalDecimalWin Returns from $50 (inc. stake)

FAQ - Betting Odds

Do I need to be able to calculate odds in my head?

No, nowadays you can find everything you need online, from odds calculators to convertors. It is still going to benefit you in the long run if you understand how the different odds formats work.

Who sets the odds for each sporting event?

Most bookmakers have their own specialist odds team who base their odds via various criteria including the location, the weather, injuries, player absences, form, etc. In-play odds are also being analysed and change throughout the event by a specialist team, which is usually managed in-house.

How do I change the odds on the betting site?

Changing the odds format on your betting site should be an easy process. Head to the settings and you should be able to find an Odds Format or Betting Format section where you can choose between fractional, decimal, and Moneyline.