What are American Odds in Sports Betting? How to Read American Odds

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OddsJam StaffJune 1, 2022, 09:10 AM

What are American Odds?

American odds is the way the sportsbooks list or display odds here in the United States. If you’re not an experienced bettor you might not even think twice about how the odds are listed, but only in the United States do sportsbook list odds in this way. There are also decimal odds and fractional odds.

Examples of American Odds:

Most point spreads and totals have odds of -110, but American odds can be wide ranging. For example, during Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season the Detroit Lions upset the Arizona Cardinals as a +500 underdog. The Cardinals were listed at a price of -800.

How to Read American Odds:

American odds are based on either risking or winning a $100 bet. The favorite (more likely outcome) is always listed with a minus sign, while underdogs (unless very small underdog) are listed with a plus sign. 

The minus sign means that the number following it is the amount the bettor needs to wager to win $100. So with our Cardinals/Lions example, if a bettor had bet on the Cardinals to win the game at -800 odds the bet would have needed to be $800 in order to profit $100. 

The plus sign shows the amount that a bettor will profit if the bet wins. So the Lions winning listed at a +500 price made a $100 bettor $500. 

Remember, if the bet wins the bettor also gets their stake back. So using our examples, a winning Cardinals bet risking $800 to win $100 would have returned $900, and a winning Lions bet for $100 to win $500 returned $600.

Of course, the vast majority of bets aren’t exactly $100 but the math still applies. Someone could have bet $5 on the Lions at +500, won $25, and walked away with $30. On the other hand, there could have been a $50,000 bet on the Cardinals that would win $6,250 and send the bettor home with $56,250 if it had won. 

American Odds in Spreads vs Moneylines:

When American odds are part of a spread, you will see the odds (usually in the -105 to -120 range, most often -110) accompanied by a point spread or an over/under total point value. Be sure to pay attention to both the American odds AND the actual point spread or total when placing a bet.

We talked about a football example, but here’s a table with some examples from other sports on that same Sunday in December. For the examples I’ve used the standard $100 bet structure that American odds use. The way the odds are structured always gives the favorite a bigger potential payout due to the larger stake needed, and the difference makes up the vig which is how sportsbooks make guaranteed money.

DO NOT assume this means it is a better bet than the underdog. We are just showing the math of the odds here, not talking about mathematical profitability of bets.

GamesMoneyline OddsRiskTo WinPotential Total Payout
Falcons @ 49ers (NFL)ATL: +320
SF: -425
ATL: $100
SF: $425
ATL: $320
SF: $100
ATL: $420
SF: $425
Penguins @ Devils (NHL)PIT: -165
NJ: +145
PIT: $165
NJ: $100
PIT: $100
NJ: $145
PIT: $265
NJ: $245
USF @ ASU (CBB)USF: -135
ASU: +115
USF: $135
ASU: $100
USF: $100
ASU: $115
USF: $235
ASU: $215
Lakers @ Bulls (NBA)LAL: +205
CHI: -250
LAL: $100
CHI: $250
LAL: $205
CHI: $100
LAL: $305
CHI: $350

How to Calculate Payouts in American Odds:

All sportsbooks should immediately calculate the odds and payout for you when you enter the amount you want to bet, but if you want to do your own calculations just follow this formula. Again, we’ll use a $100 bet on the Lions as a +500 underdog as an example. 

The amount risked multiplied by (moneyline/100), which is $100 * (500/100).

Simplified, $100 * 5 = $500

For favorites like Cardinals -800, do amount risked multiplied by (100/moneyline * -1), which in the example becomes $800 * (100/(-800 *-1)), which equals the $100 the bet would win.

Simplified, $800 * 0.125 = $100

How to Convert American Odds to Decimal Odds:

Decimal odds are another popular way odds are listed, especially overseas. If the American odds are positive (underdogs), convert using this formula: 

(American odds / 100) +1

So for Lions +500, the formula is (500/100) + 1, which equals 6.00

For negative odds (favorites), convert using this formula:

1 – (100 / – American odds)

For the Cardinals at -800, the formula becomes 1 – (100 / -800), which equals 1.13.

How to Convert American Odds to Fractional Odds:

Another way books display odds is by using fractions, called fractional odds, which is seen most in Horse Racing and futures. Simply multiply fractional odds by your stake to determine your payout. If the bet is positive  (Lions +500), the formula is:

American odds / 100

Our example would turn that into 500/100, which can be reduced to 5/1.

If the bet is negative (Cardinals -800), the formula is:

 -100 / -American odds.

Our example would turn that into -100 / -800, which is reduced to 0.125/1.