How to Explain Odds in Sports Betting

Anyone who has ever placed a bet on sports knows that the odds of winning or losing a particular game can be difficult to understand. It’s almost like the bookies have a conspiracy to keep you in the dark! The fact is, the odds are always there to be explained, they just need to be unraveled.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of breaking down the odds so that even novice sports bettors can understand what they are and how they work. Along the way, you’ll learn a thing or two about betting and how to make the most of your sports wagers!

Key Terms

Riding the wave of the ever-popular proliferation of online gambling, sports betting has become a multi-billion dollar industry. People who enjoy the thrill of gambling but don’t necessarily want to bet on every game they watch have found the next best thing: betting on the outcome of certain sporting events. In order to place a bet on a sporting event, you need to know a few key terms:


The most basic form of a bet is called a “straight up” bet or a “moneyline” bet. In a moneyline bet, you are literally placing a bet on the outcome of the game. The bookmaker will then apply their own odds to that result and give you your payout. For example, if a bettor places a $10 wager on the San Antonio Spurs, then the bookmaker will give him credit for $10 + the odds of the game (in this case, the Spurs are 11-2), which totals $21 in total. This is a simple way to place a bet but one that comes with some major complications. If you want to find out more, continue reading.


Another important thing to note about sports betting is that many books have adopted a “over/under” format, where teams are grouped together regardless of their final score in order to make things simpler for the bettors. For example, if the over/under is set at 49 points for an NBA game, then the bettor will automatically win if his team scores more than 49 points, and he’ll lose if they score less than 49 points.

What is an “over”? An over is when a team or individual scores more points than the total sum of their points in the game. When an over occurs, the team or individual winning the bet is said to have “covered” or “defeated” the over/under. When a team or individual defeats an over, they are said to have covered an “under”.

For instance, if a bettor sets his over/under at 49 points and his team scores 48 points in a game, he will win the bet because the 49 points were over the total sum of 48 points. In this case, the bettor covered the under.

Predictive Odds

Predictive odds are just like the odds you would find at the bookmaker’s, except they are calculated using statistical formulas that take into account all the previous games played. This means that even though you may not know much about basketball, the bookmaker will still give you the correct odds for the game you are betting on. This makes them virtually indispensable for serious bettors.

For example, if the total sum of points in the previous five games was 400, and the most recent game was played with an over/under of 40 points, the predictive odds for that game would be (assuming the other team doesn’t make a comeback):

(400 + 40)/(400 + 40) = 1.16

This is a really good number to be able to come up with when combined with the straight up odds. It means that if you wanted to place a $10 wager that your San Antonio Spurs would beat the Miami Heat this coming Saturday night, the predictive odds would be 11.6-to-1 (11.6 meaning the odds of the Heat winning are 1.6 times the odds of the Spurs winning).

Understanding The Odds

With all these odds and variables thrown in the air, it’s easy for even the most seasoned sports bettor to get a little dizzy. However, with a little bit of organization and a few key terms, breaking down the odds and knowing when you have covered an under versus an over will become second nature.

If you want to understand the odds completely, there are two things you should do. The first is to look at the point spread, the second is to look at the over/under. If you wanted to find out what the odds are for the NY Jets to win the next game against the Buffalo Bills, you would do so by looking at the point spread first:

The point spread is the total amount of points that will be scored by both teams in the upcoming game. If the point spread is 7 then each point represents $7 in wagering. You can then use the over/under to determine whether you have covered an under or an over. Let’s take a quick look at an example:

In the scenario mentioned above, the point spread is 7 points, which will make each point cost you $7. The over/under is 40 points, which means that if the Jets score 40 or more points, you win, and if they score less than 40 points, you lose. Let’s use this example to walk through how to come up with the predictive odds for the game:

(7 + 40)/(7 + 40) = 1.16

7 + 40 = 57 points will be scored by both teams in this game, which will make it worth $7 each point. In this case, you are correct in assuming that the under has been covered. Because the over/under has been exceeded by 7 points, your payout will be $21.

The Future Of Sports

Although illegal in many parts of the world, online sports betting is rapidly expanding, which means there is plenty of opportunity for experienced sports bettors to make money. More and more people are looking for ways to get involved in sports gambling, which makes it easier for them to do so legally. The future of sports gambling is definitely something to look forward to!