Learning to Understand Football Odds

Football is one of the most popular betting sports in the world. In 2013, the BBC reported that the value of the football betting market is up to $1 trillion a year. As a football fan, you’ve built up a lot of knowledge over the seasons you’ve been watching, and football betting offers the chance to put that knowledge to use. But if you’re new to football betting, the first thing you’ll need to get a handle on is football odds. So how do football odds work?

Odds Explained

There are many different football betting strategies. Some people like to bet on individual matches and others combine several bets into one accumulator, like this lucky man who landed a £20,000 prize with his £0.15 bet back in 2015. But whatever your betting preference, you will need to know how to weigh up odds – numbers denoting both the likelihood of a particular result and the returns you will receive if your bet wins.

Different kinds of Odds

Football odds are an expression of probability. For example, odds of 2/1 indicate that the team in question has a 33.33% chance of winning. Of course, those odds might be wrong. Discovering situations where a team’s chance of winning is higher than the available odds suggest is the key to profitable football betting. But before you can get to that stage, you have to become accustomed to the three main odds formats.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are the most traditional type and appear in fractional form such as 10/1 or 7/2. To work out your potential profit on a bet displayed with fractional odds, simply divide the first number by the second number and multiply that by your stake. For example, if you bet £10 on a team to win at 2/1, you would win £20. With fractional odds, the result does not include your stake, only your profit. So in the above bet, you would win £20 and you would also receive your £10 stake back, making a return of £30.


Fractional odds can also be turned into percentages by dividing the second number by the total of both numbers, then multiply the result by 100. For example, if a team is 2/1, you would divide 1 by 3 and multiply the result by 100, giving a percentage of 33.33. So if you say a team should be 2/1, you’re saying they have a 33.33% chance of winning.


Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are a more modern format, used on betting exchanges and increasingly common with bookmakers. The main difference from fractional odds is that with decimal odds, your stake is included. Let’s take typical decimal odds of 2.5. If you bet $10 on a team at 2.5, you can work out your return by multiplying 2.5 by your stake, which in this case would be £25. As decimal odds include the stake, you will never see decimal odds of 1.00 or lower.


Fractional odds can be converted into decimal odds by dividing the first number by the second number and adding one, so fractional odds of 7/2 become 4.5 when converted to decimal odds. It’s also easy to work out what percentage chance a decimal odds quote represents by dividing the odds into 100. For example, decimal odds of 5.0 represent a 20% chance since 100/5 equals 20.


Positive versus Negative Odds

Positive and negative odds are also known as American odds as these are the typical way to bet on American sports books. With American odds, the favourite team will be indicated with a – symbol and the underdog team with a + symbol.


American odds work around a baseline figure of $100. So in a typical football match, one team might be priced as -135. That team will be the favourite and the odds represent the amount of money ($135) that you would have to bet on that team to win $100. Their opponents might be quoted at +350 so if you bet $100 on them, you would win $350. American odds are sometimes referred to as ‘the money line’.



An understanding of football odds is vital to bet successfully. Some people like to stick to one format of odds when they bet, but familiarity with all three formats can give you an edge if you are comparing odds available with different bookmakers. Odds conversion calculators are also a useful tool, particularly if you are new to football betting and can help you get to grips with how odds work as you learn your craft.

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