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What are American Odds

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The most important thing in sports is assessing the value of a particular bet, and to do that with any success the first thing you need to understand is the format of the odds. There are three types of odds that are typically used: fractional (British), decimal (European) and moneyline (American).

American odds are designated with either a plus (+) or minus (-) sign in front of each team’s moneyline. This tells the bettor which team is the favorite and which is the underdog. The favorite is designated with a minus (-) sign, while the plus (+) sign indicates the underdog. The larger the numbers, the less competitive the game is expected to be in the eyes of the bookmakers. The number indicates how much money needs to be wagered to earn a $100 profit.

For example, when the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers faced off in Super Bowl 54, the Chiefs were listed as the -125 favorites, while the Niners were listed at +105. The odds would look like this:

Kansas City Chiefs     -125

San Francisco 49ers     +105

If you expected Kansas City to win, you would need to bet $125 to earn a profit of $100. If, on the other hand you liked San Francisco, that $100 wager would earn you $105 in addition to your initial stake.

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The $100 is used as the benchmark, but you don’t need to bet that amount. If, for example, in the above scenario you bet $10 on the Chiefs, you would net an $8.00 profit, while if you laid the same amount on San Francisco, you would see a return of $10.50. If you had $500 to play with and put it down on Kansas City, your profit would be $400, while a bet on the 49ers would earn you $525. If you win, the initial stake is returned on top of any profit.

Betting on the underdog is obviously a bigger risk, which is why the payout is higher. And if the teams are less evenly matched than would be expected in the Super Bowl, you can earn a lot of money if you correctly pick an upset. Let’s look at another example in a game the bookmakers expected to be less competitive:

Baltimore Ravens     -500

Cincinnati Bengals     +400

If your research (or a gut feeling) tells you that the Bengals can pull off the upset, you can rake in some money. If you put down $500 on Cincinnati to win this matchup, you would profit $2,000. But if you made the same bet on the Ravens, you would only win $100.

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