If you are a gambler located outside the United States, you may not be familiar with the slightly unusual system of representing odds preferred by American sportsbooks. In Great Britain you are likely to find all sports betting odds presented as fractions, whilst much of the rest of the world opts for decimal odds instead. America is currently the only country which makes widespread use of Moneyline odds.
Whether you are an American gambler or are based elsewhere in the world, most competent online sportsbooks will now allow you choose your favorite way of displaying the odds. For example, Unibet, which offers one of the best sports betting site in Arizona, has a simple dropdown which allows you choose between American, Fractional, or Decimal odds.
This begs the question – Is there a case to be made for using Moneyline odds? Are there any advantages to the system that players in the rest of world might appreciate, or would Americans be better off switching to an alternative system of representing odds? We decided to investigate all three systems to find out for ourselves:
This is the most common system of representing odds used throughout the world, commonly used by betting companies including sportsbooks in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, many European countries, and more. Decimal odds are very similar to Fractional Odds in that they both describe the amount you can expect to win as a ratio to your original stake.
If you are betting on a horse race and your chosen runner is given a decimal price of 5.00, this is telling you that if you place a bet of $10, the amount you can multiply this amount by 5.00 to find out how much you will win if your horse comes in. Decimal odds make it very easy to compare how much you will win by betting on each of the runners in a race, as a higher number always means that you will win more. Conversely, the higher the number in decimal notation, the lower your chances are of your chosen runner winning the race.
This is the preferred system for listing odds for any type of betting within the United Kingdom, but it is also used for specific sports, particularly horse racing, in many other parts of the world as well. Fractional odds are easy to recognize as they are written as a ratio such as 6/1 or 5/2. The equivalent to our previous example in decimal odds (5.00) would be 4/1 – this is because fractional odds do not include your stake in the calculation, so a bet $10 bet at 4/1 would return $40 plus your $10 stake.
If you see a ratio given with the larger number second, this is known as an “odds on” bet. A bet at 1/4, for example, means that you will only win a quarter of your stake for a winning bet. In line with the previous example of a $10 bet, make the same wager at 1/4 and you could expect to get back just $2.50 plus your original stake. Occasionally you will see fractional odds written as 4-1 instead of 4/1, but this makes no difference to your expected return.
One issue with fractional odds is that it can be difficult to compare many odds against each other quickly. When everything is expressed as a ratio of “to one”, this is simple – 4/1 is a better bet than 8/1, for example. Things get messy very quickly when bookmakers begin using odds such as 5/2, or 8/3, however.
American (Moneyline) Odds
Finally, we return to our original topic of American, or Moneyline odds. As unusual as this system can look to those who have never seen it before, many people do find Moneyline odds to be the simplest way of expressing odds to understand. In short, American odds do not tell you how much you stand to win when compared to your original stake, but instead show you how much you would win for a fixed stake of $100.
When describing decimal odds we gave an example of 5.00, which would be written as +400 in Moneyline odds. This is because, like Fractional odds, Moneyline odds do not include your original stake as part of the equation. If you were to bet $100 at +400 then, you could expect to win $400, plus your original $100 stake.
When Moneyline odds are expressed negatively the number shown tells you how much you would need to bet in order to win $100. For example, if the sportsbook gives you a price of -400 this is telling you that you will need to wager $400 in order to win $100 – not exactly the most tempting proposition!
In truth, the best system to use is almost certainly the one you are already used to – you will already be familiar with doing whatever math is required in your head, and you may end up placing the wrong bet by switching to another method of expressing the odds. On the other hand, the simplicity of Moneyline odds make them very tempting, especially if you are planning to bet $100 anyway! It is a useful system that is particularly appealing to people who don’t bet very often, and that simplicity is likely to ensure that Moneyline odds continue to be used for many years to come.