What Do Negative Odds Mean When Betting?

Odds are one of the most essential parts of any betting game. After all, you’ll never know how much you actually won or lost until you see the final tally. When it comes to online betting, you’ll often see odds represented in two ways:

  • As a percentage. For example, if you’re betting on the favourite team during a sports match and they’re at a -5.0 (that is, they are 5.0 points worse than you thought they would be), the odds will say something like “They are 5.0 points worse than you thought they would be”
  • As a fraction. For example, if you’re betting on the favourite team during a sports match and they’re at -5.0, the odds will say something like “They are -5.0 to 1.0” (that is, 5.0 to 1) which, when read from left to right, means they are five times (5 x) as likely as you thought they would be to win the game

No matter which way you look at it, odds are essentially just a measure of what you think will happen compared to what actually does happen. When you get negative odds, it usually means that your opinion is the opposite of what the odds measure. For example, if you think that a particular team will lose and the odds say they will win, you are effectively betting against the odds (or, at least, on the opposite outcome).

Negative odds can be pretty appealing when you’re talking about betting. After all, if you think that a team will lose, you are effectively betting on them to win. Or perhaps you think that a sports star will have a bad game and are effectively betting on them to have a good game. In general, you’ll see that most sportsbooks offer odds that are close to, or exactly, what you’d expect to see based on the pre-game line for that particular sport (if there even is one).

Odds will almost always be greater than or equal to zero (0) as long as there is any hope of making a profit from your bet. However, if you are betting in order to lose, the odds will always be less than or equal to zero (0). Despite this, you’ll still see people placing bets with minus (–) odds all the time. While this may seem like a good idea at first blush, it can actually be very confusing when you start seeing regular results like this. After all, you may not understand why your bookmakers decided to give you such a huge discount on a seemingly straight-forward wager. The answer is usually something along the lines of:

“We know you usually have bad luck when betting on sports, so we decided to give you some good luck by discounting the price of your bet. We hope you enjoy your time here at the casino and have a great year!”

To avoid any misunderstandings like the one described above, it is generally a good idea to assume that all the odds are really bad (that is, you’ll never have a good outcome) until you see otherwise. In fact, you may want to consider changing your betting strategy a bit if you start seeing lots of results like this. Remember, you’ll never know if what you’re seeing is an aberration or the new normal. Or, perhaps, neither. All you can do is try your best and have a little more fun. At least, that’s how I like to think about it.