How to Read American Odds

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Sports betting is one of the sure ways of enjoying your favorite team’s play. There are many legally accredited sportsbooks in the United States that you can join today and place bets in minutes. However, it would help if you had a clear understanding of the betting odds to increase your chances of winning.

That said, you don’t need to be a prodigy in math to decipher the odds’ meaning. 

The three most common odd formats in the US are:

  • Fractional odds
  • Decimal odds
  • American odds

Most bettors refer to American odds as moneyline odds, with many US sportsbooks commonly using them. You will often find numbers presented with a plus (+) or a minus (-) sign, each having its own meaning. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you read American odds correctly.

American Odds Simplified

To most people, the American odds are the simplest to understand. Unlike other odds, they have a specified baseline value of $100. As mentioned earlier, the is always a (-) or (+) symbol featured next to the odds, and each has its meaning.

  • The minus (-) is used to indicate the favorite team or player in a game. It also shows the amount of money you will receive if you bet on the team to win. The higher the (-), the higher the chances of winning the bet.
  • The plus (+) is used to indicate the underdog team or player. You can use it to calculate the amount of money you will win if you stake $100 on this team or player winning the game. The higher the odds, the lower the chance of the underdog winning. Underdogs with smaller (+) odds are more likely to succeed than those with a high odd.

When placing bets in a platform that uses American odds, it’s not mandatory to stake with $100 and above. The odds can increase or drop depending on the size of your bet. For example, for every $1.50 staked on the favorites at -150, you stand a chance of winning $1 back. On the other hand, for every $1 stake on the underdog at +150, you will win $1.50.

Difference Between Moneylines and Spreads

You can leverage American odds to place moneylines or spreads. Let us briefly look at each option to help you decide which one to use. 


A moneyline bet involves you picking the winner of a particular sporting match, game, or event. Only the odds are required to calculate the cashout, for example.

  • Team A: -150
  • Team B: +150

Team A is the favorite, so you have to stake $15 to win $10. But if you bet on the underdog team, you will win $15 for every $10 you stake.

Point Spread

The point spread is another fun way of using American odds to increase your profit margin. In this kind of bet, you wager on a margin of victory. In point spreads, there are added numbers significantly lower than the team odds. For example;

  • Team A: -5.5 -150
  • Team B: +5.5 -150

The above example shows you how much you need to stake on each team but does not explain what must happen to win the bet. In Team A, -5.5 means that the team has to win with at least 6 points for you to win the bet. For every $15 you risk, you will win back $10. 

Team B +5.5 means that the team has to lose by 1 to 5 points or win the game for you to win the specified cashout amount. If you stake $15, you will win back $10 if the game goes your way.

How to Calculate American Odds

Most US sportsbooks will automatically calculate your bets for you, and there is also a plethora of free odd converters online. Yet, if you prefer, you can do the calculations yourself. The choice is entirely up to you. 

The basic formula differs depending on whether you decide to bet on the favorite or underdog team or player. Do both calculations to know the total amount you will win.

Underdog Method One

This formula will enable you to know how much you will win if the underdog team wins. In this example, say you wish to stake $50 on a team with odds of +250. Follow the subsequent calculation:

Wager x (Moneyline ÷ 100)

$50 x (250 ÷ 100) = $125

Underdog Method Two

This second formula will help you know how much you need to wager to win a particular amount. For example, if your goal is to cash out $150 and the player has a moneyline of +250, here is what you need to do:

Win Amount ÷ (Moneyline ÷ 100)

$150 ÷ (250 ÷ 100) = $60

Favorite Team One

Since many US bettors prefer betting on their favorite teams or players, this formula will help you know the total amount you will win. For instance, if your target is $50 when you bet on a team with odds of -150, use the following formula to know how much you will need to risk.

Win Amount x ((-1 x Moneyline) ÷ 100)

$50 x ((-1 x -150) ÷ 100) = $75

Favorite Team Two

This second formula calculates the total amount of money you will win if you stake a specific amount of money on your favorite team. For example, do the following calculation if you plan to bet $75 on a favorite team whose odds are -150.

Wager Amount x (100 ÷ (Moneyline x -1))

$75 x (100 ÷ (-150 x -1) = $50

Final Thoughts

Having a clear understanding of American odds will increase your chances of winning bets and making a profit. Be sure to follow the four formulas highlighted in this guide and compare the results to make the right decision.

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