Betting odds will give you an idea of the probability the bookie has calculated of an event happening, while also displaying the payout you would receive if you were to win on that bet.
Most online bookmakers will offer you the choice of displaying their odds in either fractions or decimals. You will still receive the same amount in winnings whichever you choose, but it is worth familiarising yourself with the differences between the two methods so you can work out which suits you best so you can quickly recognise a good value bet.
With fractional odds, 5/1 means that for every time you win, you will lose five times but, for every £1 you stake, you receive £5 back in addition to your original bet. By the same token, 2/1 represents you losing twice for every time you win, which is obviously a much better hit rate, but returns only £2 in prize money for every £1 staked.
The equivalent of 5/1 in decimal odds is 6.00. This is the number you multiply your bet by in order to work out your winnings, with your initial stake included in the final sum rather than returned separately. Putting £5 on a horse at 6.00 returns £5 x 6.00 = £30 in total, in the same way that 5/1 pays out (£5 x 5) + £5 stake = £30.
An evens bet in fractional odds is represented as 2.00 in decimals, with anything less than that being the same as a fractional odds-on bet.
Many people prefer decimal odds because it is more obvious to work out which bet will bring the biggest return. For example, at first glance it is not easy to decipher whether 9/7 or 11/9 represents the best return to a punter. The decimal equivalents, 2.29 and 2.22, show straight away that the former offers the biggest return, due to it being the larger of the numbers.
Traditionalists tend to prefer fractional odds as they were the only type on offer for many years in the UK and remain the usual method of advertising odds at bookmakers’ shops, on racecourses and at dog tracks across the country.
There are only a few UK sportsbooks, such as 32Red and 888Sport, which offer American odds in addition to fractional and decimal options. With American odds, also known as money lines, you will find a number with a + or a – preceding it. The plus is the amount you would win if you bet £100 and the minus shows how much you would have to stake in order to win £100. Neither figure includes the original bet, which would also be returned to you if you win.
For example, a bet worth 5/1 in fractional odds is 6.00 in decimal and +500 in American odds, whereas evens in American odds will be represented as +100.
Read more about betting odds at the Betting Basics page.
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