How to Interpret Sports Betting Lines

When you place a bet on the outcome of a sporting event, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a bookmaker who accepts wagers on that particular sport. If you’re wondering how to interpret betting lines for sports betting, then this article is for you. Here are some helpful tips on how to decipher the numbers and letters that bookmakers use when laying out their odds on sporting events.

Understand The Basics

The first thing you should do before placing a bet on the outcome of a sporting event is try to understand how bookmaker’s work. If you’re not familiar with the industry, all you need to know is that bookies set the lines in order to entice wagering. They do this by creating a mathematical equation that determines the winning chance of an event. When a bettor makes a wager on an event with one of these bookies, the bookmaker takes the wager and enters it into their system. After the bet is settled, the bookmaker credits the winnings and the account is closed.

Now that you know the basics of how bookmakers operate, you can look at the numbers and letters they use when setting their odds and begin to familiarize yourself with some of the more common odds phrases and terms. Later on you can use this knowledge to your advantage when placing wagers on sporting events. For example, if you see that a certain team has odds of +10000 to 1 or 10/1, that means the public is likely to win big if they choose to place a wager on the game.

Interpretation Of Common Odds Phrases

One of the things you’ll notice when looking at odds is that they’ll often use phrases like “win, place, or show”. Some bookmakers, like PaddyPower, will use additional terminology that you may not be familiar with, like “pull the plug” on a bet or “penny-farthings”. The point of all this is that you need to learn to look at odds in a sporting context and know what each part means in order to have any chance of winning money when betting on sporting events. Here are some examples of common odds phrases and their interpretations:


This is the most basic part of an odds phrase and can simply mean that the favorite will win the game. For example, if you were betting on the upcoming Super Bowl game and the Baltimore Ravens were listed as +220 to beat the New England Patriots, that would mean there’s a good chance (in this case, 90% chance) that the Ravens will beat the Patriots.


When a bookmaker places a “place” bet, they’re simply saying that the selected player, team, or event will come in second. For example, if you’re betting on the Super Bowl and the Seahawks are the favorites, you might see odds of +120 or +130 on that game. This means there’s a 12% chance (1/12th) that the Seahawks will win the game and a 11.9% chance (1/11.9th) that they’ll place second.


When a bookmaker sets the line on an event to “show”, that means the selected player, team, or event will finish in third place or less. This could be the case if there’s a tie for first or if the favorite doesn’t win. For example, if you’re betting on the Super Bowl and Kansas City is listed as +145 to beat the New England Patriots, that would mean there’s a 14.5% chance (1/7th) that Kansas City will beat the Patriots and a 14.4% chance (1/7th) that they’ll place third.

Understand The Margins

Odds are often accompanied by margins of error that indicate the amount of betting that goes into the odds. For example, if you look at the previous Super Bowl bet example, you’ll see that there’s a +110 margin of error. That means there’s a 11.1% chance (1/10th) that the Patriots will win and a 10.9% chance (1/10.9th) that they’ll place second. You could also place a “push” bet, which is commonly referred to as a “toby” in the sports betting world, on the same game with a +105 margin of error. This means there’s a 10% chance (1/9th) that the Patriots will win and a 9.5% chance (1/9.5th) that they’ll place second. Be careful not to put too much faith in these kind of numbers as they can sometimes be misleading. If you want to get an idea of how certain a team is to win a particular game, then you can look at their recent record or if they’re considered favorites, you can simply check their form.

One of the interesting things about sports betting is that most of the time, the public really doesn’t know how much betting takes place. While it’s common for bookmakers to admit to having large sums of money on certain sports and horses, the majority will try to keep their betting strategies under wraps. With this in mind, be careful when placing a bet on an event that you’re not familiar with because there’s definitely a strategy to following. If you want to win, then you need to find the one that works best for you and stick with it. If you decide on a strategy to never bet on a team you’re not familiar with, then you’ll certainly be able to find a bookmaker who accepts your wagers.