How Do Odds Work in Football?

What's all this fractions lark about then?


If you’ve ever wondered how odds work in football, you’ve come to the right place! Here, you’ll find everything that you need to understand how football odds work. This includes how fractional and decimal odds work, as well as how to read odds for probability.


1. What are football odds?

Football odds are a way for bookmakers to show you how much money a bet will return if it wins and the likelihood of the outcome happening.

As an example, odds of 2/1 say that you’ll get two coins back for every one coin bet, as well as the bet returned. When thinking about how odds work in football, 2/1 becomes 33.3 per cent in probability.

2. How do football odds work?

The two main forms of football odds in Europe are fractional and decimal. Between the two, the main difference is that fractional doesn’t reflect the value of the winning bet returned, whereas decimal does.

Fractional odds essentially display, against the slash (/), what you will win, on the left, against what you need to bet to win that amount on the right. So, 3/1 odds is quite easy – bet one, get three as the win – while 7/2 shows a 3.5 return on a 1.0 bet. Then, on top of the return calculation, you get your stake back as well.

For decimal odds, the number shown represents the complete return of a winning bet. So a 3/1 bet would be shown as 4.00, because winning at odds of 3/1 with a 1 coin bet would return 4 coins.

Of the two primary ways of working out how odds work in football, decimals are the most straightforward if you’re not one for fractional maths.

3. How to read football odds

For fractional odds, a bit of maths is often required. However, for the most part, to calculate for the question of how do odds work in football for fractions, you just have to assume the following:

  • The first number is what will be won;
  • The second number is what you have to bet to get the first number;
  • The odds are the first number divided by the second number;
  • To calculate winnings, you need to add your stake on top.

When it comes to decimal odds, it becomes a bit simpler. The decimals given reflect your total return on your wager. If you bet 2.0 on odds of 5.50 and it wins, you’ll get 11.0 in total returns.

4. What do odds mean in terms of betting probability?

Odds are a reflection of probability, information, and money influence. The initial odds, however, reflect the perception of the probability that the odds makers have for that outcome. In terms of probability, the odds can be reflected as a percentage chance of something happening.

These are the probability percentages for common odds found in sports games.

The shorter the odds, the more likely an event or outcome is going to happen. If the odds are longer, the maths and calculations assume that the outcome is even less likely.

5. How do bookmakers set the odds?

Odds makers use many tools to establish the odds these days. At its core, when people want to know how odds work in football, it comes down to numerical analysis of statistical data. Computers crunch the numbers, find the probabilities, and come up with the odds.

However, with such advanced computing, other factors come into play more subtly. The odds now also move to align with more people betting on certain markets and more money going onto certain bets.

Now that you know the answers to how do odds work in football; you can bet away knowing what the odds are really saying.


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