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What are American Odds in Sports Betting?

American Odds New to American betting? New to sports betting in general? Get to know the gist of reading US betting odds through this in-depth guide.
Trivesh Vassen
Author:
Trivesh Vassen
Updated:
13 October 2021
Table of Contents

    How Do American Odds Work?

    American odds (sometimes referred to as moneyline odds) are the quintessential, default betting odds used by sportsbooks in the US. These odds are denoted by a plus sign (+) for underdogs, and a minus sign (-) for the favorite team/contender in whatever event you’re betting on.

    The negative figure denotes the money stake you’ll need to put down on the table to win every $100 out of the award you’ll want to win, whereas the positive figure denotes the possible amount you could win for every $100 placed on the table. 

    This stake is also sometimes referred to as the vig, or vigorish, and to ensure the most neutral betting results, most sportsbooks will default this figure at -110. That means that for every $100 you want to win, you’ll have to put down $110 on the line. If your bet pays off, then you would take home both the $100 and the equivalent stake value, which would add up to a $210 award. 

    Those are just the basics of understanding American odds, but it would be a misnomer to say that’s all they entail. Learn more about American odds, how they work, and how they compare with other betting odds systems through this in-depth guide on the matter. 

    How To Understand American Odds

    The above was a primer on understanding the basics of betting odds, but that’s not all there is to them. Here are some other important primers on understanding American betting odds:

    They aren’t the same as point spread lines: A point spread is a number (or range of numbers) that a sportsbook operator predicts that a team will win or lose by. While they can be thought of as “odds” in a sense, they are simply corresponding odds with American betting odds, and not one in the same.

    Higher risks mean higher rewards: Most sportsbooks force you to wager slightly more when betting on the over, albeit for slightly better chances to win. Conversely, while the underdog has weaker chances of paying out, they can deliver a potentially higher payout.

    The house has the betting edge: You probably don’t need this spelled out, but it’s still worth emphasizing. The house makes the rules, and may skew those rules in a more neutral (or not so neutral) direction. Depending on the circumstances and the confidence in your decision, you might want to consider fading the public here.

    It’s also worth noting that -110 is simply a common vig default, but not a universal norm. Depending on which sportsbook you use, that default may be lower or higher. These things all vary on a case-by-case basis, but in most cases, $110 is what you should expect to wager for every $100 you want to win. 

    American Odds Vs. Decimal Odds

    Decimal odds are the most common betting odds used in Canada, Australia, and across most of Europe. It represents the potential return of a wager, but also factors in the total stake amount, so you wouldn’t have to independently add that as you would with American odds. 

    To calculate the potential total payout/return here, you would multiply the decimal odds figure by the stake. For instance, say you were to bet on a football game, which is amongst the most popular sports in Europe, or what is more commonly known here as soccer. 

    If the decimal odds of the team you wagered on were rounded at 4.240 and you put down a stake worth $110 USD, then your potential payout winnings would be equivalent to $466.40 USD. Really, one measurement system isn’t inherently better nor worse than the other (unless you consider slightly less math better), but these are just key differences between each one you should take into account. 

    For more information on decimal odds, read our comprehensive Sports Betting guide on the matter.

    American Odds Vs. Fractional Odds

    Fractional odds are ostensibly just multiples that would equate to your final payout when multiplied together. These types of betting odds are popularly used amongst bookmakers based in Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom as a whole.

    Like decimal odds and American odds, fractional odds may look confusing at first glance, but are fairly easy to calculate the total final payoff with. Take hypothetical 4-to-1 (4/1) betting odds on a team winning a game for example.

    If you put down a $110 stake on that bet, then you would potentially be able to net a $440 payoff should your wager win. 

    American Odds: Betting Spread Vs. Moneyline

    Now that we’ve covered how American betting odds compare with other systems of betting, it’s time to examine how American odds compare with two different forms of wagering; spread betting and moneyline betting. 

    A moneyline just requires you to predict the winner of a game, whereas a spread bet requires one or both teams to cover a certain score margin (known here as the spread) to win. The American odds would be represented on their own if you were wagering on a moneyline, or alongside a corresponding number (which would indicate the current spread) if you were wagering on a spread bet. 

    You can either bet on one spread, "bet the middle” of a spread (the numbers between a spread before and after a line movement), or the over/under to your heart’s content. Really, once you understand the distinction, neither spread bets nor moneyline bets are difficult to understand with American odds.

    Find The Best Odds With OddsSeeker

    Once you understand how to read American odds systems, it’s time to get to wagering! 

    Currently, 14 states in the U.S. have legal sports betting apps up and running, and since sports betting is now effectively legal nationwide, the market is only expected to keep growing, growing, and flourishing. 

    Consider learning more about the best options in the iGaming industry by signing up for our mailing list! 

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