How do American Betting Odds Work
Say you want to place a few bets, and sports betting was just legalized in your state. So, how do you get started? Whether you’re an experienced bettor or new to sports betting, understanding the odds is the first step in your betting journey. Odds are read differently in other parts of the world. But as you’re going to place your bets in a US sportsbook, let’s start with American odds.
Are you looking to bet on your favorite NFL team to win on a game day? Are you a baseball fan backing their team for the World Series? Or perhaps you’re betting on world soccer? The odds tell you the probability of an event happening and, more importantly, how much profit you can make by betting on that outcome.
While odds may look complicated to a betting rookie, you can understand betting odds quickly with a little helping hand. One principle always applies: the lesser the chances of an event happening (e.g., an underdog winning), the more money you’ll make if you bet on that outcome.
Most sportsbooks in US legal betting states offer three types of odds for you to use, fractional, decimal, and American. Often referred to as moneyline odds, American odds are most commonly used in the US. However, you can use whatever system of odds you understand best.
The American odds system is based around wagering 100 points (or, to make it simpler, $100) on either a favorite or an underdog. The numbers on the odds, combined with a (+) or (-) symbol, tell you how much you can make from $100 or how much you need to bet to win $100.
Read our expert guide below to learn the basics of betting with American odds. Even if you’re a betting beginner, our experts will take you through betting with American odds step-by-step, so you know exactly how to use them with your own betting.
American Odds Explained
While American odds may seem complicated to outsiders, many bettors find American odds the easiest to understand. American odds always assume you are wagering with $100, although you can bet with any amount you choose.
American odds will always display a triple-digit number next to a symbol. The symbol will tell you what the triple-digit number odds mean. There are two symbols commonly used in American odds betting:
- The favorite team is always indicated with a (-) symbol. This is the team that the sportsbook has determined has a better chance of winning. The number next to the (-) symbol tells you the money you need to stake to win $100. A higher number means a team or athlete is more expected to win, but you will need to make a bigger stake to earn $100.
For example, imagine betting on the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks against the Denver Nuggets at -490 using Caesars Sportsbook. To win $100 in profit, you would need to bet $490. If you place this bet and it is successful, you will have $590 in your account.
- The underdog will always have a (+) symbol next to its odds. This number tells you how much you can win if you bet $100. The higher the odds, the less chance the team or athlete has of winning an event. You can earn bigger profits from backing the underdog, but it is riskier.
If you’re an NFL fan, you could bet on odds of +200 for the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the New England Patriots. If you bet $100, you’ll win $200 in profit. Overall, you’ll have $300 in your account if the Jaguars win the game.
The good thing about American odds is that despite the system being built with $100 in mind, you don’t have to stake that amount. The odds are scalable both up and down, depending on how much you bet. Using the football or basketball betting examples above, you can bet $4.90 on the -490 Mavericks and win $1 or earn $2 for every $1 you bet.
American Odds with Moneylines
A moneyline bet is one of the most straightforward wagers you can place at a legal US sportsbook, where you need to predict which player or team will win an event. Unlike other bet types, like point spreads, the odds are the only thing you need to wager on a moneyline.
Here is an example of the odds for a matchup between two NHL teams, the Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning:
- Vancouver Canucks: -245
- Tampa Bay Lightning: +198
The sportsbook has determined that the Canucks are more likely to win the matchup and has selected the team as the favorites. If you want to win $100, you need to bet $245 on the Canucks to win. If you are correct, your betting site will give you your $245 stake and $100 in profit. However, if you want to back the Tampa Bay Lightning, you can win $198 in profit from a bet of $100.
Legal American Odds Betting US
Whatever type of odds you choose to use, you can find dozens of markets on the most popular sports at legal US sportsbooks. To bet legally in the US, you need to be in a state where online sports betting is legalized and use a betting site licensed by the local regulator. Check out our state-by-state guides for more advice on how to bet legally in the US. While at it, don’t forget to sign up through the links on this page and claim a generous welcome bonus to boost your bankroll and get you started!