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Betting Odds and Markets

When you first bet at an online sportsbook the array of betting odds (prices) and markets on offer can be a little overwhelming but it really isn’t that complicated.

In this section we will look at the betting odds / lines in relation to the US market as well as well as the UK / European market. For the US we will use the NFL market as an example but the same principles will apply to NBA, NHL, MLB and other sports and events. For the UK / European market we will use the soccer market as an example and again the same principles will apply to other sports and events.

Go straight to UK / European market examples.


This type of market is basically the ‘staple diet’ of sportsbooks in the US and
Canadia – especially in NFL / Football. Pointspreads are a great way of attracting betting business, especially when there are two uneven sides. In this market one team basically gets a head start over the other. Let’s look at an example.

When you first look at the market you might see this.

Pittsburgh Steelers +7 (-110)
New England Patriots -7 (-110)


Pittsburgh Steelers            (-110)
New England Patriots  -7  (-110)

(It isn’t really necessary to show the spread on both teams. If one is -7 then the other is +7 by default).

The ‘7’ refers to the points advantage / disadvantage. The ‘-110’ refers to the betting odds or line.
Both numbers are variable. In a different game with different teams, the ‘7’ might be a ‘3’ or another number. The odds too might be slightly different as the markets move. The ‘-110’ might be -105 or -120 and so on. We will cover odds later on.

If in the above example, if the Patriots win 21-12, then they would be the ‘winner’ as far as the betting market was concerned. 21 take away 7 (the -7 being the ‘handicap’ given to them at the start) equals 14. So from the sportsbook market perspective the Patriots won the bet and the game 14-12. If, however, the Steelers had won the game or come to within 7 points of the Patriots, the market would deem them to be the winner. So for example if the Patriots had still won the game but by 21-18, then the Steelers would still have lost on the field but the sportsbook / line makes the Steelers the winner. 18+7 (the +7 being the advantage given to them at the start)= 25. So from a betting market perspective, the Steelers ‘cover the spread’ and win 25-21.

A Draw on the Spread

What if the game ended in a score of e.g. 27-20 in favor of the Patriots? The game bet would then be a draw on the point spread, with neither team winning. (Patriots -7, the score would be 20-20 / Steelers +7, the score would be 27-27). In this instance the game would be a ‘push’ because the final game score has landed exactly on the point spread number. When this happens all bets should be fully refunded. Neither the sportsbook nor the customer is disadvantaged.

Betting Odds / Lines

So what does -110 in the above example actually mean? US odds start with a positive ‘+’ or negative ‘-‘ before the number. So -110 or indeed +110 (or any other number for that matter but ‘110’ is the most common number for pointspeads markets). The numbers will of course vary based on the matchup / teams. You need to think in terms of $100. The negative number tells you the amount you need to bet to make $100 profit. The positive number tells you how much you could profit from a bet of $100.

So if you bet the line at -110, then you would have to place a bet (stake) of $110 to potentially make $100 plus your original stake returned. If you bet a line at say +114, a bet for $100 could potentially return $114 plus your original stake.

Of course you are not limited to bets of $100! You can bet what ever the sportsbook will allow. Many sportsbooks have minimum stakes as low as $1 or $2 and upper limits of $5000. It is simply that the principle calculation of your potential returns is based around a stake of $100.

Totals or Over / Under Bets

Totals or ‘O/U’ bets involve betting on the total points scored in a game. The market might be displayed like this:

58.5 o -110
58.5 u -110

So using our Steelers v Patriots example, if the final score was 28-21, then the ‘under’ bet would win, the total being 49 and under the posted 58.5. If the score was 35-28, then the ‘over’ bet would win, the total being 63 and under the posted 58.5. Both betting odds and lines can of course move in the lead up to a game.

Here is a brief overview of other markets you will come across at US style sportsbooks.

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline bets are available across any market but you might see them more often used in the MLB and the NHL (mainly due to the way scoring works in these sports). Here you simply bet on which team you think will win the game without any points spread or handicap. The market might be displayed like this:

New England Patriots -155
Pittsburgh Steelers +135

Here you can clearly see that the Patriots are favorites and the Steelers are the underdog (‘dog’).

Once you get the hang of betting in the above three markets you might look at other markets such as:

Futures (long term markets such as Super Bowl) Parlays (combining two or more teams) Teasers (combining two or more times with the ability to ‘shift’ the line) Proposition (Special bets e.g. how many yards will be run, how many touchdowns will QB throw in the game.)

UK / European Market

Win Market

The ‘win draw win’ or ‘1X2’ betting market is the most popular betting market for soccer in the UK and Europe. You are simply betting on Team A, Team B or the draw.

As an example, in a match between Chelsea and Arsenal, the market is displayed as follows:

Chelsea 2.00 – Arsenal 3.75 – The Draw 3.40

Chelsea being favorites have the lowest payout at odds of 2.0. Next is the Draw at odds of 3.4. Arsenal have the biggest payout at odds of 3.75.


Sometimes odds are show in fractions, especially in the UK, although this format is less commonly used nowadays. Most sportsbooks now allow you to choose your odds format anyway. In fractions the above example would look like this:

Chelsea 1/1 – Arsenal 11/4 – The Draw 12/5

So what do they mean? Let’s use the first example (digital odds).

If you bet €100 on Chelsea at odds of 2.0 you could potentially win €100 plus your stake back. So your total returns would be €200 (€100 profit plus your stake of €100 = €200).

If you bet €100 on Arsenal at odds of 3.75 you could potentially win €275 plus your stake back. So your total returns would be € 375 (€275 profit plus your stake of €100 = €375).

If you bet €100 on the draw at odds of 3.4 you could postentially win €240 plus your stake back. So your total returns would be €340 (€240 profit plus your stake of €100 = €340).

Fractional betting odds work in a similar way but don’t take into account your stake return. The latter is assumed.

So using a quick example for Arsenal at 11/4. You would multiply your stake of €100 by 11 and then divide by 4 which would give you a potential profit of €275. Or you can divide 11 by 4 at the outset to get 2.75 and then multiply that by your stake for your potential profit – so: 2.75 x € 100 = € 275.

Other Markets

Other soccer markets that attract a good bit of action are over / under 2.5 goals. Essentially you are betting on whether or not there will be over 2.5 goals or under 2.5 goals in game.

Other markets you could look at include: Ante Post / Outright Betting (long term markets like Premier League Winner) Correct Score (predict the correct score in a match) Time of first goal (when will the first goal be scored) First Goalscorer (who will score the first goal) Both Teams to Score (bet on both teams to score in a match). There are numerous markets available.

Asian Handicaps

These types of bet are popular in Asia, hence the name. They have gained popularity in Europe as well. The main advantage of Asian Handicaps is that they take the draw out of the equation. There are only two possible outcomes rather than the traditional three outcomes with win-draw-win. Essentially goal handicaps are applied to teams which will result in different payouts to the customer. Asian Handicaps are worth looking into if you prefer to narrow the possible result / outcomes of your bet.

Good luck.