Understanding the layout of the Odds

Explaining the Odds

The odds for sports events at many casinos can be found at DonBest (www.donbest.com), a leading aggregator of odds. Below are a number of sections to help make sense of the information provided:
  • Understanding the Layout of the Odds
  • Defining Odds and Converting Odds to workable formats
  • Four Types of Bets (explaining the various types of bets available)
  • How do the Sportsbooks Make Money (explaining how ‘juice’ or ‘vig’ work)

1. Understanding the Layout of the Odds

The odds on this site are as seen in Las Vegas – a lot of info in a condensed space. (If you need a refresher on the terms used, please see below, or check the website section ‘bet basics’)

The formatting of the odds are broken down into 4 concepts:

1: #s to the left of teams
2: Teams
3: A minus next to one team, the favourite in the game
4: A total figure next to the other team, the underdog in the game


951 Washington Nationals -130
952 St Louis Cardinals 7.5o15

These 4 aspects are Explained Below:

1: #s to the left of teams/cities
For baseball, this usually starts with 951 (or 901). This means that the first visiting team (visitors are always shown 1st or on top of the home team) of the day’s list of games will be team 951, in every casino in sportsbook. (Their opponent, the home team will be 952). These figures help with references so if you want to bet the visitor in the 1st baseball game of the day, you can go up to the sportsbook cashier and ask to bet team #951.

2: Teams/cities
In the middle, to your right of the team #s are the team names with cities.  Again, the road team is always on top and the home/host team is on the bottom.

In the EXAMPLE, Washington Nationals are the road team and St Louis Cardinals are the home team.

3: A minus next to one team, the favorite in the game
Next to whoever the oddsmakers deems to be the favorite in the game will be a minus, then a 3 digit number, the amount by which they are favourite. In the EXAMPLE, Washington is the favourite, -130. We know this because they have the -130 next to their name. -130 means you must risk $130 to win $100 on Washington (see ‘odds’ and ‘convert odds’) below for greater clarification. The other team is the ‘underdog’. In baseball there is usually a 5 cent line (or 10 cent spread between favorite and underdog) so if the favorite is -130, the dog is usually +120 meaning you get $120 for every $100 bet.

Note: for other sports with a 10 cent line, a -130 favorite usually corresponds to a +110 dog. In this EXAMPLE, St Louis is the underdog +120, (but had it been another sports, they would have been +110).

4: A total figure next to the other team, the underdog in the game
Next to the underdog is the ‘total’ or over/under for the game. In this case its 7.5 o 15. This means that the total is 7.5 runs and the over is the favorite (because it has an ‘o’ not a ‘u’) and you have to risk -115 (because there is a 15) to win $100 on the favorite side. Over unders use a 10 cent line like other sports so the other side would be -105, meaning you need to risk $105 to win $100 on the under 7.5 run total.

Note: had there been just the number 7.5 and no ‘o’ or ‘u’, it means its 50-50 at 7.5 total runs and betting either over or under costs you 10 cents, or -110, standard ‘vig’.

Note 2: Odds on over/unders do not usually go higher then 25, meaning risking -125 to win 100 (and getting +105 on 100 wager the other way).  After that, the total is usually moved a half run.

2. Defining Odds and Converting into Workable Formats

Odds – This is the payoff on your bet and generally represents your chances of winning. American odds at sportbooks come in the ‘to’ variety, meaning you get those odds PLUS your principal back. So if you bet on a team that is a two-to-one ‘dog’ and risk $25 you will get back $75, your bet PLUS 2x your bet profit. Under the European odds system or decimals, the formatting comes in the ‘for’ variety, so the exact same bet as above would pay 3.00 meaning you get back a total of 3x your wager. As before, if you wager $25, you’d get back 3x 25 = $75. Please see ‘convert odds’ for a more detailed explanation.

Convert Odds – ‘Odds’ tend to come in two forms: American (moneyline format) or European (decimal). Most online shops allow you to choose how you want your odds formatted (often at the top or bottom of the site).  American sportsbooks (at the Wynn, Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, etc.) tend to show odds in the American format. For mathematical calculations (see ‘parlays’ and ‘expected value’ for examples in the ‘best basics’ section of the website), the European system is superior. If the American odds show: -125/+115, you can convert the -125 to European decimal odds by adding 100 to the numerator and dividing by the bet, so it is (125+100)/125 = 1.8. -125 is the same as 1.8. -125 means risking $125 to win $100 and 1.8 means you get back $80 profit for every $100 risked (and had your risked an additional $25 on the wager, you’d get back $20 more with the same ratio and you’d be at the same point as with the American style wager). For the underdog, simply add 100 then divide by 100, so +115 is (115+100)/100 = 2.15. Under the American style system you get +115 so a $100 wager gets you $115 of profit. Under the European style system you get back a total of 2.15, or $215, which after your cost makes a $115 profit.

3. Four Types of Bets

Point Spread

-meaning a favorite has to win by x number of points and if they win by less or lose, the other side, or underdog wins/covers the spread.  I.e., in game 1 of the 2013 NBA finals the Miami Heat were a 5.5 point favorite over the San Antonio Spurs.  If you bet the Heat you only win if they win by 6 or more.  If they win by 5 or less or lose, the people betting the Spurs win.  In betting terms the Heat are said to be ‘minus 5.5’, written as -5.5, meaning they have to win by MORE than 5.5 to win.  The underdog Spurs are said to be ‘plus 5.5’, written as +5.5 meaning you have them to win PLUS 5.5 MORE points so they can lose by 5 or less and you still win.

-if you open up an online betting site or stare at the Las Vegas sportsbook game list, this game will be written as follows:

MIAMI HEAT   5.5   San Antonio Spurs

The favourite (minus the points) is written first

The point spread is in the middle

The underdog (plus the points) is written last

The capital letters signifies the home/hosting team, which in game 1 of the 2013 NBA finals was the Heat.


-meaning a wager on the TOTAL points scored in the game.  In game 1 of the NBA finals the ‘total’ was 188 so if you bet ‘over’ you need a sum total of 189 or better (i.e, a final score of 100-89) and if you bet ‘under’ you need a sum total of 187 or less.

Note: for both bets described above, a tie is a ‘push’ and the bet is cancelled meaning you get your money bet back but zero profit.  So if the final score in game 1 of  Heat v Spurs was 95-93, that adds up to 188 which ‘pushes’ the total or ties it and the bet is cancelled.

Money Line – Who will win the game

-meaning a wager on who will win, with no point spread.  The money line requires the favorite to lay odds, i.e., you risk $150 to win $100 and the underdog gets odds, meaning you risk $100 to win $150.  Since the Heat (in the above game 1 NBA finals example) are the favorite you need to risk more with them and since the Spurs are the ‘dog’ you get odds.  The favorite is said to be ‘minus $150’, written as -150 meaning you need to risk $150 to win $100.  The dog is said to be ‘plus $150’, written as plus $150 meaning you get $150 for every $100 risked.

Note: the $100 betting amount is just an example.  Most sportsbooks will let you bet $5 or $10 and online there are often $1 minimums.  Same rules and ratios apply as the examples above.

Note 2: if both teams are equally likely to win, the game is said to be a ‘pick em’ or 50-50.

Proposition Bets

Also referred to as ‘prop’ bets or ‘exotics’, these can be more complicated wagers.  There are 2 types:

  • -in game.
  • -season long.

In Game Prop Bets: this could include an over under on how many rushing yards Adrian Peterson gets in a game or the number of points scored in the 2nd quarter.

Season Long Prop Bets: this could include bets on which team will win the Super Bowl (before the season or playoffs starts), or, an over under on how many total wins the Green Bay Packers will have during the 16 game regular season.

Note: You can also bet ‘parlays’ but should avoid them unless they are ‘correlated parlays’.  See Definitions below and ‘5×2 Commandments of Sports Betting’ for details.

4. How the Sportsbooks Make Money

Sportsbooks (in Las Vegas or online) charge juice/vigorish/vig.  This is in essence commission for the transaction of placing a bet.

If you bet with a point spread, general juice is -110 or 11/10, meaning you must risk $110 to win $100 regardless of the side you choose in a game (again you can bet $5 and risk $5.5, always the same ratio).  The organization (casino sportsbook or online shop) booking your bet usually hopes to get ‘balanced action’ meaning an equal amount of money bet on either side, in which case they simply make the commission.  For example, the San Francisco 49ers were a 4.5 point favorite in Super Bowl 47 against the Baltimore Ravens.  If one guy bet $550 on the 49ers – 4.5 to win $500 and 5 guys risked $110 each to win $100 on the Ravens +4.5, the sportsbook’s action would be balanced as they have $500 of action each way.  If the 49ers win by 5 or more points, the big bettor wins his $500 and the losing 5 Ravens bettors each drop $110 and the sportsbook would get $50 profit (collected 550 on the Ravens and paid out 500 on the 49ers).  As it happened, the Ravens upset the 49ers and the underdog bettors won.  Each of the 5 guys made $100 for a total of $500 and the big bettor lost $550.  The sportsbook still made $50.

Total handle and profit percentage: notice that the sportsbook took in $1100 worth of bets, $550 each way – their ‘total handle’.  They made $50 profit, for a profit percentage of 4.5% (50/1100).  That is the general relationship between balanced bookmaking and profit.  A perfectly balanced sportsbook charging -110 ‘juice’ should earn 4.5% of their ‘total handle’.

See ‘Linemakers’ defined below to better understand who is setting the lines and how they adjust it.

If you bet with the money line, there will be a bid/ask spread to represent the sportsbook’s juice.  I.e., if the chances that the Ny Yankees win a game are deemed to be 60% and the chances that the Boston RedSox win are 40%, the line would be Yankees -160 and RedSox +140, meaning you need to lay or risk $160 to win $100 on the Yankees and risk $100 to win $140 on the RedSox.  Notice that the middle number between 160 and 140 is 150, and 150/100 is 3-2 meaning the Yankees win approximately* 3 times for every 2 times the RedSox win, or 60% Yankees to 40% RedSox.

-if you open up an online betting site or stare at the Las Vegas sportsbook game list, this game will be written as follows:

NyYankees  -160/+140  BOSTON RED SOX

The favorite is written first

The money line is in the middle.  Again, the -160 shows the Yankees are the favorite and the requirement of risking $160 for every $100 of profit.   The +140 shows the RedSox are the dog and you will get $140 for every $100 risked.

The underdog is written last

The capital letters signifies the home team so in this particular example the Boston Red Sox are a home underdog to the Yankees.

Note: in baseball, some sites will list the starting pitchers instead of the teams playing (and if the starting pitcher doesn’t pitch, the bet is usually cancelled).

(*The approximate is because whenever a sportsbook takes juice, it could be coming from either side, so the NyYankees may be the correct price at -160, and all the juice is coming from the RedSox, who should really be +160 and are only +140.  In this case, the NyYankees are an ok bet and the RedSox a terrible one.  It is sometimes difficult to determine what side the juice is coming from, but focusing on the ‘Sharp Approach’ helps.

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