The odds of an event usually appear in two forms: “The favorite” and “The underdog.” While there is some overlap in meaning, the way these two terms are used often creates confusion.
The Fan Favorite
The favorite is the name given to the performer that an individual thinks will win the race or match. For example, if you are backing Roger Federer to win his upcoming tennis match against Andy Murray, you are considering him your favorite to win. In this case, “Roger Federer” is the favorite. He is the one you are backing to beat Andy Murray in the match.
Odds makers make an effort to reflect these kinds of implied favorites in their betting odds. When the betting odds are made available for a sporting event, one of the first things you will see is the favorite expressed in the form of a percentage. For instance, if Roger Federer is a 5-to-1 favorite in a tennis match, the odds makers will likely assign him a percentage of 55% (five units out of nine points) to reflect his status as a popular pick to win the match.
The Undefeated Underdog
The underdog is the name given to the performer that you think will lose the race or match. For example, if you are backing Serena Williams to win the upcoming women’s tennis tournament in London, you are considered an underdog with respect to her competitors. In this case, “Serena Williams” is the underdog. She is the one you are backing to lose in the match. In some cases, the term “underdog” can also be used to describe the team that you are backing in a match. In others, it can simply describe the player on the losing end of a competition.
Unlike the favorite, the underdog is usually presented in the form of fractional odds. When the betting odds are made available for a sporting event, you will see the underdog expressed as a decimal point followed by a fraction. For example, if you are backing Serena Williams to win the tournament, her odds will be 0.55 (five units out of nine points). This reflects her status as an underdog in the match — a fact that can be attributed to her lack of experience versus her rival, Simona Halep, who has many more tournament wins.
While the favorites and underdogs can be used to describe implied or stated opinions, this is not always the case. Sometimes, people will simply use these terms to describe the players’ skill levels or past performances. It is extremely rarer for someone to use the terms “favorite” or “underdog” to describe their own team or player. In these cases, the terms “SF” (short for “subject to factoring”) or “TU” (short for “tournament underdog”) are used instead.
The Subject To Factoring
In the world of professional sports, events can be subject to factoring. This means the odds makers can adjust their original odds to account for situations such as injuries, bad weather, or even a controversial referee call. When this happens, the odds experienced by the bettor become very volatile and can change in the blink of an eye. For example, in the 2004 U.S. Open tennis tournament, a controversial rule violation at the end of the fourth set of a match between Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetzova resulted in a massive shift in the betting odds. Before the rule violation, Sharapova was a 2.5-to-1 underdog to win the set and the match. However, after the rule was applied and the set was awarded to Chakvetzova, the odds shifted to favor Sharapova by more than 10 times. As a result of this shift, many bookmakers banned U.S. Open match bets, or at least made them highly suspect. This is why, when people mention the U.S. Open these days, they usually throw in a few gambles to make sure their money stays safe.
The Ties That Bind
In the world of professional sports, events can also be tied. When this happens, the odds makers will have a special symbol or term they use to indicate that a certain team or player is tied to another team or player. When a match or event is tied, the officials will usually pull a coin flip or dice roll to select home teams and captains for the upcoming match. The tied team or player cannot select the score nor can the other team or player select any penalties. These are then applied by the officials. When a game or match is tied, the only thing you can do is wait for the end and hope for the best.
Beyond The Basics
Beyond the basics, the odds makers will also use a few other terms that can be quite useful in understanding sports betting and odds. One of these terms is “money line.” This is how you can think of it: Imagine you are a bookmaker and you want to set the odds for the next tennis match. You will set the “money line” for the match to be 50 units (five dollars) each. In this case, you would expect the player on the left side of the match to earn 50 units for a Win and a half for a Loss. This is also known as a “Half Time Score” in cricket and other sports where they use this type of scoring. Similarly, in American Football, half time is the point at which the second half begins. To give you some idea of how this works, if the money line is set at 50 units and you bet on the underdog, your maximum win would be 500 units (50 x 2 = 100)).
Another useful term with respect to sports betting is “against the spread.” This is a term you will see a lot when it comes to betting on college football and basketball games. You might have seen it before when it comes to NFL and NCAA football playoff games as well. For example, if you were to bet on the Chiefs versus Cardinals in the upcoming NFL playoffs, you would likely see this phrase attached to the wagering in the form of a “+” or “-“ sign. In this case, you are simply taking the point spread and applying it to the outcome of the game. To keep things simple, let’s assume the spread is three points in favor of the Cardinals. In that case, you would earn 3 x 5 = 15 units for a win, and you would lose 15 units on a loss. If you were to win the bet, you would earn 15 units plus the 3 points you gained, which brings your total to 18 units.
Hopefully, you can see how these terms and phrases can help you have a better understanding of how sports betting and odds work. Using these terms and phrases can also make you sound more confident when placing bets or asking questions about them. Having a general idea of how sports betting and odds work can also help you look for better lines or lower prices when placing your bets. This can help you have some fun while also doing good for your wallet.