Guide to the American Odds Format

Guide to the American Odds Format
  • Understand how American odds work
  • Find out how American odds can calculate probability
  • Finding the best odds

For anyone not living in the United States, seeing American odds can be quite confusing. These types of odds are primarily used on betting sites catering to US players only and have therefore not transitioned across the sea. Also known as moneyline odds, these are specifically used for moneyline bets, which are so popular with players from that country. However, American odds, despite how weird they might seem to the rest of us, are actually the easiest to understand as they simply show how much the punter will need to place a bet in order to win $100. It really is that easy!

American odds are just one of a number of ways to show the odds of an event. But within these odds, there are two different types – underdogs and favourites. Any time you see a favourite it will come with the “-” symbol attached to it. For example, -200 denotes the favourite and it will show that there is a better chance of that team or player winning than the one listed at -120. In this case, you can ignore the “-” symbol and just take the value of the odds. Underdogs will have “+” before the number with higher numbers indicating the team or player is less likely to win.

Understanding American Odds

All American odds take $100 as the baseline. When you bet on a favourite it means you are risking the amount listed as odds when you try to win $100. With underdogs, you are risking your $100 in order to win the odds’ value. For instance, if you have a -135 favourite, this means that you must risk $135 in order to win $100 from the bookies if the outcome is in your favour. If the team loses though, you’ll have lost that $135. With a +350 underdog you would only risk $100 but you could stand to gain a massive $350 if the underdogs actually win.

If you’re really stuck, then American odds are easily converted into both decimal and fractional odds too. However, most sites will offer you the choice so you can switch between the three formats. What’s really useful about American odds is that they can actually be converted into percentages. This can be really helpful to all players as it can give a breakdown of what you need in order to reach a long term win when you are choosing to consistently bet using specific odds. All you need to do is take the odds, divide by the final payout if the ticket wins and there’s the percentage!

Top American Sports

It will come as no surprise that the biggest sport in the US is American Football. When it comes to placing sports bets, there’s always a wide range of options for any game, be it a college game or the NFL itself. A close run second is baseball. Also with a huge fan base, you can be sure of getting some excellent odds on any baseball event, especially when the World Series comes around. Keep an eye out for some excellent underdog bets at this time as the World Series is known for its unpredictability. This gives you the chance to potentially capitalise. Check out other top sports:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Ice hockey
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

Pros and Cons of American Odds

Unlike decimal and fractional odds, American odds do not provide a quick and obvious way of figuring out the return from a specific bet. Instead, they only indicate the potential return from a set $100 stake. This can make it hard for players to compare odds across different markets or bookies. However, once you do understand them, they can be incredibly useful for following American sports and events as these are the way that odds are going to be quoted. It’s also helpful to have that little extra odds knowledge tucked under your belt for when it might matter.

Calculating Probability

Although looking at American odds gives you an idea as to which side is likely to win, it doesn’t give you a clear indication of the probability of the event occurring. In order to do this, you need to go through a few calculations to figure this out. For instance, if we have an American odds offer of -120 we remove the minus from in front of the number. We then have 120/(120 + 100). This comes to 120/220 which gives us an implied probability of 0.545. Multiplied by 100 gives us 54.5%. Positive American odds, for example, +180 work as 100/(180+100) = 0.357 or 35.7%.

Finding the Best Odds

When looking for the best odds on the market, the first step is to determine exactly which sport you wish to be betting on and the type of bet you want to make. This will instantly affect which odds you look at. Once you have decided these things, it is then time to check out a number of different sportsbooks and compare their odds. Generally, you’ll find that bookies will be highly competitive, offering similar odds, unless one is implementing an odds boost. Because of this, it’s prudent to check out other features of the sportsbook such as bonuses, security and payment options when making your final decision.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! American odds are really not as confusing as they seem to be. As we said at the start, they’re actually most likely to be the simplest of all the different betting odds formats that are available. However, it is likely that you may still be a little confused at times, so just practice converting them back to the format you are most comfortable with. Generally, though, American betting odds are very convenient and fast once you get used to them. Although, of course, as with everything, it does come down to personal preference!

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Author: Josh Slaiter
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