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What are sports betting odds and how do they work?

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A guide to understanding American, decimal and fractional odds

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This article was created by Sports Interaction. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission through our links on this page.

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Betting on your favourite team can be a great way to get closer to the action, but if you are not familiar with sports betting, your first look at how oddsmakers list odds can feel intimidating.

The three most common types odds are American, decimal and fractional, which are all offered at Sports Interaction. We’re here to break down everything you need to know to read these odds and get closer to the game.

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Make sure to check out Sports Interaction for a complete list of odds for NHL hockey, NBA basketball, MMA and more.

How to read American odds

American odds will be displayed by a plus (+) or minus (-) sign followed by a three digit number. These are generally the most commonly used odds in Canada. The minus sign indicates the favourite to win and the plus sign indicates the underdog. The three digit number determines the payout.

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In the example above, Florida is a -136 favourite to win. That means if you bet on Florida and they win, you need to wager $136 to earn $100 profit. If you take Toronto as a +113 underdog, a $100 bet would earn you $113.

How to read decimal odds

Decimal odds are most common in Europe, which is why you often see them associated with soccer. With decimal odds, the lower number indicates the favourite to win and the higher number indicates the underdog. To determine your potential payout, you just multiply your wager by the decimal number shown to determine how much you will win.

In the example above, Manchester City is the favourite to win, priced at 1.54. Liverpool is the underdog, priced at 5.10. A $10 bet on Manchester City would pay $15.40, including your original wager, if they win. A $10 bet on Liverpool would pay $51, including your original wager, if they win.

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How to read fractional odds

Fractional odds are not commonly used in Canada, with one exception: horse racing. An example of fractional odds would be a horse favoured to win at 12/1. The number on the left (12) determines how much you win, while the number on the right (1) represents how much you bet. For every $1 you bet, you win $12.

How to read the moneyline

Now that we’ve gone over different types of odds, we can look at the different bets you can make. A moneyline bet is the simplest type of wager and is a great choice for beginner and recreational bettors. This is a bet on which team you think will win.

In the example above, Boston is priced at -415. That means, they are the favourite to win and you need to bet $415 to earn $100 profit. Montreal is the underdog, priced at +338. If you bet Montreal and they win, a $100 wager would pay $438, including your original stake.

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How to read point spreads

A point spread is the number of points a favoured team is expected to win by. It is most popular in higher scoring sports such as football or basketball. The idea is to level the playing field because it gives bettors a chance to win even if they bet on a losing team.

In the example above, we know Cleveland is the favourite because of the minus sign next to the number (4.0) and Brooklyn is the underdog as indicated by the plus sign. Oddsmakers are expecting Cleveland to win this game by four points. 

That means if you bet on Cleveland, to win the wager, you need them to win the game by five or more points. If you bet on Brooklyn, you win the bet if they win the game by any margin or lose by three points or less.

If Cleveland wins the game by exactly four points, it is called a “push” and your original bet is refunded. 

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Oddsmakers often add a half-point (0.5) to the number to prevent a push. Let’s look at Cleveland versus Brooklyn with the half point added.

Cleveland -4.5

Brooklyn +4.5

In this scenario, if you bet on Cleveland, you win if they win the game by five or more points. If you bet on Brooklyn, you win if they win the game by any margin or loss by four or less points. There is no possibility for a push.

How to read the puckline

A puckline is essentially hockey’s version of a point spread. Because the scores are so much lower in hockey compared to sports like football or basketball, the puckline is usually fixed at +1.5 and -1.5. Like a point spread, the purpose of the puckline is to level things between two teams.

In the example above, we know Tampa Bay is the favourite because of the minus sign and Ottawa is the underdog because of the plus sign. If you bet on Tampa, you win the bet if they win the game by two or more goals. If you bet on Ottawa, you win the bet if they win the game by any margin, or lose by one goal.

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The second number is the price, shown in American odds in this example. A $100 bet on Tampa would earn you $188 profit if they win the game by two or more goals. If you bet on Ottawa and they win the game or lose by one goal, you would need to bet $227 to earn $100.

This article was written by Sports Interaction. Sports Interaction’s content provides information that helps readers navigate the new landscape of sports betting in Canada.  

Please confirm the betting laws and regulations in your jurisdiction as they vary from province to province and country to country. The site is not associated with nor is it endorsed by any professional or collegiate league, association or team. 

Information in the above article is for entertainment purposes only and is not targeted to under 19 audiences. Using this information to contravene any law is prohibited. Visit the Responsible Gaming Council’s Safer Play to keep gambling safe and fun.

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