From the trading floor - Steve Freeth
How do betting odds work?
What are odds?
Odds are a way of showing 1) how likely something is to happen and 2) how much you'll win if it does happen.
How are odds shown?
Odds can be shown in different ways. In betting, the main forms of odds you'll see are:
BOOKMAKERS ODDS eg 7-1 (as used in sports betting)
DECIMAL ODDS eg 11.0 (used on betting exchanges)
PERCENTAGE eg 25% (shown as payouts in casino games)
To explain odds, we'll answer the two most important questions
How much will I win? AND What are the chances of it happening?
How much will I win?
Bookmakers (or bookies) odds are shown as A-B ie 'For every B units you bet, you will win A units' (We'll call A the 'return' and B the 'stake') eg
3-1 : every 1 unit you stake will return 3 units
7-2 : every 2 units you stake will return 7 units
9-4 : every 4 units you stake will return 9 units.
Your stake is returned with your winnings, so your payout (ie the money you're given) is A / B x stake + stake
eg if you bet £100 on a horse whose odds are 9-4, your overall payout on a winning bet is 9 / 4 x 100 + 100 = £325
You'll sometimes hear of an 'Odds on' favourite. What this means is that the event is so likely to happen that the bookies have set the odds so that the return is less than the stake.
1-2 (or 2-1 ON) means you get 1 unit for every 2 staked
2-7 (or 7-2 ON) means you get 2 units for every 7 staked
Don't forget, though, that your original bet is still returned, so you still win overall.
Eg a £100 bet on a horse at 1-2 pays out £150 (1 / 2 x 100 + 100).
If this seems a bit confusing, try our Instant Bet Calculator and work out your winnings!
We've also included a section on different bet types (each-way, place and multiple (Yankee, Lucky 15 etc)
With decimal odds, things are simpler as the figure quoted is the payout per unit staked. For example, for a £100 bet at Betfair,
7.0 pays out £700 (7.0 x £100 staked)
4.1 pays out £410 (4.1 x £100)
1.2 pays out £120 (1.2 x £100)
Remember, though, the great thing about Betfair is that it's an exchange (see our guide to betting exchanges). As such, Betfair are not an ordinary bookmaker - they don't set the odds. They allow bettors to choose whether to back or lay on an event, so you're effectively trying to outwit other punters. Great fun and very profitable if you know what you're doing. To help you get familiar with the exchange, they'll give you free £25 bet when you open your account.
Percentage odds are an accurate way of showing how likely something is to happen (see below).
You'll most likely come across percentage odds when playing at casinos.
Casinos use percentages to show the odds of individual bets in a game, plus the overall payout rate for the casino. The closer the payout is to 100%, the more likely you are to win.
What will I win?
To see how much you will win for stakes of £1, £5 and £10, for each of the betting odds discussed above, have a look at our Betting odds comparison table (below) or simply use our Instant Bet Calculator.
Odds and probability
What are the odds of it happening?
If you choose a card at random from a standard pack (13 cards of 4 suits, no jokers), what are the chances of selecting a diamond?
There are 13 diamonds and 52 cards. So the chance of choosing a diamond is 13 chances out of 52 ie 1 in 4.
The easiest way to show this is as a FRACTION ie 1 / 4 - there are four possible outcomes and only 1 of them is a winner.
Another way to show this is as a PROBABILITY. Probability ranges from 0 (impossible) to 1 (certain). The card bet above would be shown as 0.25.
In bookmakers odds, this would be shown as 3-1. You might think it would be 4-1. It isn't, because bookies odds show the chances against the event. As there are 3 cases where this bet won't win and 1 where it will, the odds are 3-1.
In decimal odds, this bet would show as 4.0. Remember, in decimal odds, the number shown is the payout, not just the winnings. A £1 bet on this result would give you £4 (£3 winnings plus your £1 stake)
In percentage odds, this bet would be shown as a 25% chance.
Betting odds comparison table
To work out exactly how much you'll win on your bet, use our Instant Bet Calculator
Why Bookies odds aren't accurate
The problem people have in understanding odds is trying to link the bookies' odds of a horse winning with its actual chances of winning. This is because bookies' odds are influenced by probability, but are not an accurate representation.
Bookmakers set their prices with two intentions: firstly, to attract money for outsiders; secondly, to minimise their losses should the predicted winner win.
Unlike the fraction examples given above, betting on a horse at evens does not mean that it has a 50% chance of winning. Remember that the bookie has set those prices.
The 'rake' for bookmakers - ie the amount of profit they expect on their takings - is around 25%. In other words, their payout percentage is around 75.
The advantage of bookies odds
The advantage with Bookies is that in most races the favourite will generally set off with odds better than 1 to 1. For example, in a race like the Grand National, the favourite - ie the horse most likely to win (in the bookies' opinions) - will often pay out at 9-1.
Casino games and sports betting are different propositions and the odds and payouts are calculated very differently. Remember that casino games have very few variables - the results always occur within predictable ranges.
With horse racing, lots of factors can affect the result; the weather or an illness to horse or jockey could have a major bearing on the outcome.
Successful sports betting
The key to successful sports betting is to understand that whereas casino betting is an exact science - a battle against long-term probability - betting on horses is far more random.
Bookies try their best to ensure they don't lose - and in the main they don't.
But those random factors will always throw up the opportunity for a good return on your bet. Successful punters know how to read the market and see where the odds don't quite match up to the likely outcome.
Fancy a flutter?
Now you know all about odds, why not try out your new-found skill with a little wager? To help you on your way, we've linked up with a few online bookies, all of which are happy to offer you FREE bets - up to £200 in some cases.
Check out the latest offers to the right hand side of this page.
Getting the best betting odds
How to get the best horse racing odds - guaranteed
bet365 guarantee BEST ODDS on all horse races. This applies to both early morning and board prices, so if you can find yourself a winner, bet365 will allow you to maximise your profits.
If you take either an early morning price or a board price (ie the price showing at the time you put your bet on), then you will get that price at the very least.
Sometimes horse prices decrease and sometimes they increase, but with this offer, you get the best of both worlds.
If you bet at 3 to 1, in the morning or off the board, and the odds decrease to 2 to 1, then you will still be paid out at 3 to 1. Alternatively, if the odds increase to 5 to 1, then you will be paid out at 5 to 1. Guaranteed!
It's a great offer for both novice and experienced punters.
Click here for more information on this offer - and the offer of free bets up to £200 for new customers.
SBOBET - creating best odds
SBOBET offer customers the opportunity to guarantee themselves the best odds on fluctuating markets.
By simply checking the auto refresh button and accept best odds button when placing a bet, customers are guaranteed to get the best odds when prices shorten or lengthen in the next fluctuation.
If you take 3-1 about your selection and at the next fluctuation, the horse drifts to 7-2 then you will be on at 7-2 providing you checked the buttons - if the horse shortens to 5-2 then you will get 3-1, the price you placed the bet at. Guaranteed best odds.
Click here for more information on how to bet with SBO.
SBOBET also offer customers markets in Hong Kong, Indonesian and Malaysian odds, click here to find out more.
SBOBET are so confident that they offer competitive prices on all their markets, that customers can utilise their Odds Comparator tool to compare prices with up to 4 other bookmakers. Just enter the prices on the sports market your betting on and compare.
Best casino odds
Which casino pays out 100%?
Of all online casinos, Betfair casino has the best odds and the highest payout. This is because Betfair's Zero Lounge is the only casino in the world with no house edge. They offer four games (Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack and Jacks or Better) each of which has a payout of 100% (a house edge of 0 - hence the title). In other words, Betfair expects to win nothing from its Zero Lounge games!
This sounds like a gimmick, but since its launch, Betfair have made a loss in 28 of the 130 countries or territories in which it has customers. In Greece, for example, Betfair lost £29,700 at Zero Lounge Roulette - an actual payback of 100.02%, the highest payout of any online casino.
In order to reduce the edge to zero and take advantage of the 100+ % payout, you have
to know how best to play each of the games - what Betfair call 'optimal player strategies'.
Which is why you're at Fortune Palace! We've analysed the Zero Lounge games thoroughly and devised strategies that will actually give you the edge.
Check out our Betfair Zero Lounge strategy section and play to win!