How Do I Read Sports Betting Odds and Lines?
Who could forget the moment right after the Boston Celtics won their 17 th NBA Championship when Kevin Garnett dropped one of the most famous lines during a live interview that I can remember in quite some time. The big 6-foot-9 power forward was overcome with emotion and caught everyone by surprise when he shouted "anything is possible" three times in a row. That statement couldn't be more accurate. Anything is possible, and no matter what the "anything" is, it will likely have a set of odds attached to it. For example, the odds of being struck by lightning once in your life is 3000/1. Compare that to the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, which is 292,201,338/1, and you see what I'm getting at. Odds are very prevalent in our day-to-day life and even more so when it comes to sports betting and wagering.
What are Odds?
In sports betting, when a sportsbook offers odds on a game or any type of bet, it is a representation of the payoff they are willing to offer bettors who correctly predict the outcome of said game or event. For example, if the odds on a game are 10/1, that means that for every dollar a bettor bets, the sportsbook is willing to return a profit of $10 if the bet is a winner. On the other hand, if the odds were 1/9, then the bettor would have to bet $9 to receive a profit of $1. It should go without saying that the outcome with the 1/9 odds is much more likely to happen than the one with 10/1 odds. Those are just an example of odds displayed as a fraction. The same would hold true for odds that were +1000, or -900, and 11.00 or 1.11.
Different Kinds of Odds
There are a number of different ways that odds can be expressed, and it all depends what you are betting on and where you are placing your bets. In North America, the two most common odds types are the fractional odds and the American odds.
Fractional odds are what we discussed at the start of the article - 3000/1, 10/1, 1/9, etc. American odds are whole numbers and are commonly known used in relation to the money line.
Favorite and Underdog Odds
An example of American odds would be +300 or -400. There will almost always be a plus and minus option when odds are available. The money line odds give you a potential return in relation to a $100 bet. For example, if the odds were +300, then that means you would profit $300 for every $100 you bet if the bet was successful. This is the exact same as seeing 3/1 odds. If you happen to bet on the odds of -400, you would need to bet $400 to profit $100. This is the same as 1/4 odds.
In relation to almost every game available to bet on, there will be a set total that bettors can wager upon. The total of a game is the combined score of both teams regardless of who wins the game itself. All that matters is the final score, and as such predicting the correct outcome will get you paid.
For example, let's say the Miami Heat are taking on the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, and the total is set at 212.5. It does not matter which team wins the game, but if the two teams combine for 212 points or fewer, those who bet the 'under" would be deemed winners. If there are 213 or more points scored in the game, those who bet the 'over' would win. Keep in mind, the odds that you see next to the line will give you an indication on which outcome is the likeliest. It's up to you to decide whether you will take the safer odds (the likelier outcome) or go with the better odds and try to win more money.
Point spreads are the margin of victory expected between the two teams. If there is a minus sign next to a team's name, I.E. New England -4.5, that means that the Patriots are favorite and they must by five or more points in order to 'cover the spread'. The flip side of that is their opponent, Buffalo, who would be +4.5-point underdogs. Should Buffalo win the game outright, or lose by four points or less, bettors who backed the Bills would be declared the winner. Typically, these point spread lines are given -110 odds, which is the industry standard for point spread wagers.
How Do Bettors React to Odds?
If you consider yourself a handicapper, you have basically one job, and that is to determine what the true likelihood of a team winning or covering the spread is. Once you've done your own analysis, you can compare it to the current odds being offered. If you come to the conclusion that the odds are about equal, then it could be called a fair bet. If the comparison was favorable to you, then the opportunity to turn a profit over the long term is very achievable. On the flip side, if the odds aren't high enough to cover the true risk of the bet, then any bet made on that event would be a losing proposition both in the moment and over the long haul.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how the odds are expressed -- fractional or American. They both represent the risk and reward of any given event. And only when a bettor truly understands the difference between fair odds and lowball odds, is when they can start betting appropriately.
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