American Odds and How They Work in Sports Betting

Detail of the betting and odds board.
Detail of the betting and odds board. / Tanya Breen

If you’re just getting started in sports betting, it’s important to understand exactly how American odds work and what they mean when navigating your respective sportsbook. 

Experienced sports bettors may be used to American odds, but since decimal and fractional odds are more common around the world, let’s break down exactly how American odds work and how to calculate your payout when wagering. 

Sports Betting Odds: How Do They Work?

Ever find yourself trying to figure out what the -110 (or in the case below, -105 and -115) means next to the bet you want to make?

These are American odds, which differ from the decimal or fractional odds that are more commonly used around the world. It may seem tricky at first, but we plan on helping you understand American odds, how to read them, and how to calculate your potential payout with them. 

In the case above, the -110 or -115 are the odds for the outcome of the game. For example, a bettor that wants to wager on the Detroit Pistons +7 would be placing that bet at -115 odds. If a bettor wished to place a bet on the over or under in this matchup, it would come at -110 odds. 

So, how exactly do you read American odds? 

How to Read American Odds Explained

American odds are based on winning or wagering $100 on a given wager, but you don’t  actually need to wager $100 for it to work. American odds scale up and down based on a bettor’s wager amount. 

American Odds When Betting a Favorite

If you are betting on a favorite with American odds, they will have a minus sign (-) in front of them. In this case, it means you need to risk that dollar amount in order to win $100.

In this matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, a bettor would need to risk $300 on the Los Angeles Rams to win on the moneyline in order to win $100. This scales for the size of the bet, so if a bettor wanted to only risk $10 on the Rams to win, they would earn $3.33 if Los Angeles wins (plus their original $10 that they risked back). 

American Odds When Betting an Underdog

When betting on an underdog with American odds, there will be a plus sign (+) which indicates the amount of money that you will win if you risk $100. 

In the Seahawks-Rams example, a bettor who picks Seattle to win and wagers $100 would win $250 if the Seahawks end up winning. As mentioned earlier, this also scales, so if a bettor wanted to wager just $5 on the Seahawks, their potential winnings would be $12.50 (plus the original $5 that they risked back). 

When using American odds, you can also look at it in terms of $1. In this game, you would win $1 for every $3 risked on the Rams, and $2.50 for every $1 risked on the Seahawks. 

How American Odds Are Used in Spreads vs. Moneylines

American odds are used in two ways. 

They are either used on their own in a moneyline wager, or next to a point spread or over/under (for totals and prop bets). Let’s break down how to understand each instance. 

Understanding American Odds On Their Own

American odds will appear alone in a moneyline bet, which just requires a bettor to choose the winner of the game.

Using the odds from WynnBET in the same Rams-Seahawks game, we see American odds for each team on the moneyline. Unlike a point spread, you're only selecting a winner with a moneyline bet, so we only need the odds for that to happen. 

In this instance, the Rams are at home and perceived as the stronger team, hence why you’d need to risk $3 to win $1.

American Odds Alongside Point Spread or Over/Under

Americans odds aren’t only used alone, as they will also be used next to a corresponding point spread as well as on an over/under on a total or prop bet. 

Reading these odds also takes into account the understanding of reading a point spread.

In our Seahawks-Rams example, the Rams are favored in this game by 6.5 points. This means that a bettor who wishes to bet on the Rams in the point spread would need the team to win by seven or more points. 

If a bettor intended on making a wager on the Seahawks’ spread, then they would need Seattle to either win the game, or lose by six points or less. 

Here, you will usually see -110 or in this case, -105 and -115 odds, as oddsmakers are essentially making the game “equal” with the point spread. Most of the time, the odds will be -110, or a 10 percent tax on your bet.

In lower scoring sports like baseball and hockey, the point spread is usually set at 1.5, but the American odds accompany said spread will have much more variance than in basketball and football. 

When betting on a point spread such as this Seahawks-Rams game, you would win $1 for every $1.05 bet on the Seahawks and $1 for every $1.15 bet on the Rams if they cover the spread in this game. 

How to Calculate a Bet With American Odds

As you continue to use American odds, finding out how much a wager on -110, -120 and other denominations of American odds will eventually become second nature. Luckily, sportsbook will calculate your bets automatically, and there are also several calculators that you can use as well. 

However, if you want to figure out your bets amounts on your own, we can also give you the math.

Explaining the Gap in American Odds Between Favorites and Underdogs

You’ll notice that there is a gap in the odds between underdogs and favorites, meaning that you usually need to risk more money to win $1 on a favorite than you’d win by betting $1 on an underdog. 

This is called juice – which is essentially the tax the respective sportsbook charges for taking your action. This tax will add up over time and make it hard for bettors to be profitable.

Learn more about sports betting in the US in our Sports Betting Education guide.