What Are American Odds?

us map states and flag illustrationWhen you visit an online sportsbook, you will be able to see the odds for the market(s) you’re interested in when you click on it. Depending upon your location, you may see the odds displayed in different formats. In the United Kingdom, for example, it is most common to see them in fractional format. If you visit mainland Europe, then the decimal odds format is much more common to see.

Crossing the seas to the land of North America, you’ll usually find that American odds are used at sportsbooks. These differ quite considerably from the fractional or decimal odds, and they’re not quite as simple to work with. Yet once you get used to them, they become easier.

The Details Behind American Odds

american odds example for an american football game

As the name of the odds suggest, American odds are popular in the United States. The favourite in American odds is denoted by the presence of a minus symbol before the number. This indicates the amount that you need to stake to win $100. For the underdog, you will see a plus symbol before the number. This indicates the amount that you will win for every $100 you stake.

In both instances, winners of wagers will receive their initial wager back, plus the amount won.

The best way to describe American odds is with a simple example.

In this example, you visit an online sportsbook providing betting odds on an NFL game taking place between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. You see the following moneyline odds on each of the teams:

  • Seahawks: +585
  • Broncos: -760

The odds of +585 on the Seahawks indicates that this team is considered the underdog in the game, and thus has a lower probability of winning the game. In this case, you need to risk $100 on the Seahawks to win $585, should the Seahawks pull it out of the bag. If the team did manage this, you would receive those winnings, plus your original $100 wager back, totalling $685 as a payout.

The alternative option is to bet on the Denver Broncos, which has a higher chance of winning according to the sportsbook’s odds of -760. To be able to win $100 on this team, you need to wager $760. If you do this and the Broncos are the winners, you win that $100, plus your $760 back, for an $860 payout.

The odds are significantly different in this particular game example, which indicates that the Broncos have a much higher probability of winning the game, according to the bookmaker.

American Odds as Part of a Spread Line

spread for american football fixtures with american oddsWhile moneyline bets are one way that American odds come into play, they are also active in point spreads. This is like the UK/European variation of over/under markets. The odds once again dictate the amount of money you need to risk, but not what needs to take place to win the wager.

Let’s say that another NFL game is occurring between the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers. The sportsbook you’re a part of offers the point spread in the same way as an over/under market, with various options available. You need to wager on the option that you believe will win, thereby determining how many points difference there will be. The sportsbooks has the following options for you to select from:

  • New York Giants: -6.5     -110
  • Carolina Panthers: +6.5  -110

In this case, you would only need to wager $1.10 for every $1 that you want to win, when backing either team. The Giants need to win the game by at least 7 points, though. With Carolina’s Panthers, they need to lose between one and six points or win the game instead, and you stand the chance of being successful with your wager on them.

Most of the time, spreads on NFL football games, like that described in our example, will be -110. That’s a standard 10% margin on your bet, as the spread makes things equal. Sports that often have lower scoring games will come with low point spreads as well, such as -1.5. Yet the odds on each side will also be different because it is harder for sports like soccer or baseball to win by multiple goals or points.

Converting American Odds

While the examples here are for American football you can switch many sportsbooks to display American odds for all the bets they offer.  This is often in the preferences where you can select between fractional, decimal or American.

You can then convert the American odds to fractional odds by simply dividing by 100.  American odds of +550 here would be 550/100 = 5.5, of course that doesn’t work as a fraction so the fractional odds would be 11/2.

The conversion of American odds to decimal is also easy.  Take the American odds divide by 100 and add 1.  Taking an example of +600 American odds in decimal this would be: (600/100) + 1 = 7.0.