If you are looking to bet on football, or have seen the odds quoted on a particular match for this Saturday, the terminology and numerology used can seem arcane or hard to understand. In reality, though, once the key concepts behind betting odds are grasped, it is easy to master and apply them to your own betting strategy.
Different System of Odds
Part of the difficulty lies with the fact that there are different ways of expressing odds, depending on where in the world you happen to be.
- Fractional Odds – Used throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland
- Decimal Odds – Found in the Rest of Europe, and countries like Australia and Canada
- Moneyline – The prevailing system in the United States
Fractional odds are displayed typically in forms such as 3/1, 7/2, or 9/4, and allow a gambler to calculate how much they will win in comparison to their original stake.
For example, at odds of 9/1, for every £1 bet, they will win £9. This can also be calculated as 1/(9 +1) = 0.1 which means that there is a 10% chance that the bet will succeed. Equally, at odds of 7/2, they will win £7 for every £2 bet, which equals to a 2/9 (7+2) or a 22% chance of winning.
Decimal odds, by contrast, show a player how much they will win if their bet succeeds. So odds of 7 indicate that they will get back, for every euro bet, €7, consisting of winnings of €6 plus their original €1 staked.
Moneyline betting is based on the concept that most people bet on the favourite in a contest, so it sets a figure – the moneyline – that has to be beaten in order for a bet to succeed. A team which carries negative moneyline odds is regarded as the favourite, whereas a positive figure signifies an underdog.
For example, if the odds quoted for a certain team are -110, you would need to bet US $110 to win US $100 (remembering that, in the event of a successful bet, you claim back your original stake). By contrast, if the moneyline odds for another team were +140, that means that a punter would be able to win US $140 by placing a bet of US $100.
Which is Better?
There is no hard and fast rule, and each has its merits. However, the trend in recent years has been to the decimal system because it is easier to understand.
Whichever system of odds are used, the key concepts behind them are the same. The first one is the principle that betting odds are merely the numerical expression of the likelihood of something to happen, or not. The shorter the odds, the more likely the bookmaker forecasts an outcome will occur, and the vice versa.
The second idea that should be grasped is that, whereas betting on a favourite may not be as attractive as a long shot in terms of the odds on offer, there is a very good reason why the outsider is priced like that. Whilst the returns on your wager will be much higher if the underdog wins a league match or a cup tie this weekend, it needs to be balanced with the fact that the chances of it happening are much diminished.
How Bookmakers Calculate the Odds
The odds that you will see displayed by bookmakers – whether online or in a bricks and mortar shop – have been calculated by their in-house actuaries and statisticians, using complex computer models with proprietary algorithms. No two computer models are exactly the same, which Is why two different firms may offer slightly differ odds on the same player or match. However, the direction of travel is almost always consistent – Liverpool will always start favourite to beat Newcastle United at home, irrespective of the odds offered by a particular bookmaker.
Some experienced gamblers collect their own statistics and devise their own models to calculate the odds on matches and players. However, no individual is likely to have the same time and resources to devise a model that has the same sophistication as that used by the leading bookmakers.
Now that you understand some of the key concepts involved, look at the odds involved for some of the key matches coming up this Saturday and decide if you want to place a bet. If you do, there are some simple rules to bear in mind, the most important of which is to only bet what you can afford to lose. The sad fact is that more than 80% of all bets fail on average, so do not expect to make any money from gambling in the long term. It should be a bit of harmless fun – if it looks like becoming something more serious than that, seek help.