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08. How are odds expressed at a sportsbook?

 
The Philosopher:
Most sports books that cater to an American clientele will use a system of "-" for favorites and "+" for underdogs. (International oriented sports books will often give you the option of getting the best gambling odds in this format if you prefer.)

Specifically, if you see "-130" as the odds on the team you are interested in, this tells you that you must risk $130 dollars for every $100 you stand to win. (Or risk $1.30 to win $1.00, risk $65 to win $50, etc.) If you see "+180," this means that for every $100 you risk, you stand to win $180.

When you see people refer to something like a "20 cent line," they mean the differential between the favorite and the underdog. So if the favorite is listed as "-140" and the underdog is listed as "+120," then this is a 20 cent line due to the fact that favorite sports betting sports bettors are risking that 20 more than underdog bettors stand to get back.

If the favorite is "-120" and the underdog is even money (which I've seen expressed as "-100" or "+100"-it's the same thing), then that too is a 20 cent line. It's also a 20 cent line if, say, both teams are listed at "-110" and there is no underdog.

So if the favorite is "-170" and the underdog is "+140," this is a 30 cent line. If the favorite is "-115" and the underdog is "+105," this is a 10 cent line, or a "dime line." Etc.

You will also see online gambling odds expressed in the form "x to y," e.g., "7 to 1," "50 to 1," "5 to 2," "1 to 3," and so on (or "7-1," "50-1," "5-2," "1-3," and so on). In this case, you are risking the amount on the right to win the amount on the left. So, "7 to 1" means if you risk $1,000 and your team prevails, you'll win $7,000. "1 to 3" means you would have to risk $30 to win just $10.

One deceptive thing to be wary of, though I've rarely seen this in offshore gambling, is if you come across something like "6 for 1." When it says "for" rather than "to" it means they are counting your original stake as part of the winnings, and so is worse for the player betting.

For example, if I am sports gambling $100 at "6 to 1," I will either lose $100 or win $600. If I am gambling $100 at "6 for 1" I will either lose $100 or get back $600-my original $100 stake plus a profit of only $500.

There are other forms of sports gambling odds that are commonly used in other countries, or that are conventional for certain sports or types of wagers. I will leave it to my colleagues to address some of these.

Buckeye:
This is one area where I think the "old school" way of expressing money lines as +120, -140 is more confusing to newbies and bettors from other parts of the globe, than a lot of other aspects of the betting process.

Most newbies to internet betting quickly understand spread betting and that the player must bet 11 to win 10, the difference being the book's profit. But the minute they see those money lines their eyes glass over. Those books that use decimal multipliers to express the gambling odds make the most sense to me. 1.909, instead of -110, makes sense in that it is what you can multiply your stake by (like 110) to get your return (110 * 1.909 = 210). This also makes parlay calculations self-explanatory. Parlaying two games of -110 lines becomes a simple multiplication exercise when decimals are used (1.909 * 1.909 = 3.644) which makes your return 3.644 times your stake. That seems easier to understand than 13-5, which returns 18 for every 5 bet.

Patton:
I am relatively new to the online sports betting scene, although I have bet the ponies for years. In horse racing, the horse betting odds are expressed in terms of the amount to be returned for a winning wager (including the amount bet) to the amount bet. Thus, gambling odds for a horse will be expressed "3-1," meaning a winning bet will return $3 profit for every $1 bet (or a total of $4 returned for a winning wager), or "5-2," meaning a return of $5 for every $2 bet (for a total of $7). So, it took me some time to get up to speed on even "old style" betting notations of -110 and the like.

The use of decimal pricing would probably simplify things for me, but many books I use do not support it (or at least I don't think they do), whereas everyone supports the old style.

Turkoman1963:
The key is that at most sportsbooks, you can request the format you feel most comfortable in: I prefer -120 to the more stately 1.80, but to each his own. You just have to make sure you know specifically what odds you are receiving.

Buckeye:
Some international books, which I call non-Vegas style, express internet gambling odds as decimals, as I mentioned before. The confusing part of this is when line shopping on futures you may mistake them for the "to" price instead of the "for" price that Philo was warning about. Vegas-style outs will list the "to" figure, so be careful when comparing to these outs. Newbies to European or UK books will sometimes get fooled by this format.

Another popular way to express internet betting odds is with fractions, with the win amount first. So a -110 line would be listed as 10/11 instead. Many of the internet gambling sites that use this format, also use a 9/10 (i.e., -111) as the default odds instead of 10/11. So as a bettor, you are getting slightly less favorable betting odds here than at a conventional book.

On a side note, I have read some posts speculating that the American method of expressing sports betting odds (e.g., -140/+120) is a subtle attempt to "trick" bettors into betting more on favorites (risk 140 to win 100) than underdogs (risk 100 to win 120). There is a rule of thumb that says betting favorites is inherently worse and harder to win with. So by "suggesting" that you stake more on favorites than underdogs, they say it increases the books' profits.

It is an interesting speculation, but I think bookies have traditionally not wanted to have to use calculators or deal in cents, etc. so they encourage round numbers be bet and returned to keep it easier. Even betting online where that is of little concern anymore, old habits die slowly.




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