Odds in gambling are how we refer to an event’s probability of occurring. These can depend on a number of factors and can change with new information and time. Understanding what odds are, how they shift, and the risks of relying on them are the cornerstones of knowing a good bet.
In the realm of professional gambling, probability refers to how we determine odds at the time of betting. Odds are developed to be as objective as possible at any one moment, but because they rely on developing knowledge, they can change over time.
To become adept at betting, a bettor must first internalize how odds work on a core level. Once the basic calculations come naturally, we reduce the chances of making mistakes. Hard numbers from bookmakers can then be compared with a person’s own understanding of a game, to determine where the potential to make money might exist.
This might seem like a simple starting position, but it can become complicated when looking at random chance, day-to-day variations, and our ability to predict patterns. As humans, our minds work by pattern recognition, but this recognition isn’t perfect, and can lead to mistakes. If this occurs when we bet, like assuming when we assume a winning streak is always reliable, then losses can result.
Odds in betting are usually presented as either decimals or fractions. These relay the same information in different ways, but both demonstrate the bookmakers’ perceived probabilities and payouts. Which type of odds is used often depends on the region.
For Europe and Canada, odds are typically related in the decimal format. A player’s stake is included in these odds, so they’re easy to calculate. For example, let’s consider a bet on basketball. If the odds here are 3.0, then a win would pay out 3x a player’s bet. This means a $10 bet would pay $30, resulting in a $20 profit, which could also be represented as a 2/1 fractional bet.
The fraction system is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and Australia. Let’s look at soccer this time, and consider a bet with three-to-one odds, displayed as 3/1. For these odds, a team like Manchester United winning would pay back 3x the original stake, plus the original bet. In this way, a $10 bet would pay back $40. This would be represented as a 4.0 decimal bet.
For a deeper look at probability, let’s turn to how the spectrum of 0-100% probability will work. On this scale, an outcome with a 0% chance will never occur. Probability on this scale isn’t even touched by betting organizations, because the outcome is already known. With the same type of thinking, an outcome with 100% probability is guaranteed to occur, so bookmakers wouldn’t bother.
Anywhere between these two points is where the action lies. Let’s consider a hypothetical tennis tournament with ten equally strong contenders. Though unrealistic, a situation like this would give each player one in ten odds to win. While this might make a player think that bets would reflect this with 9/1 (10.0) odds, real betting doesn’t work this way. In reality, bookmakers also take a cut, so the odds would usually be closer to something like 8.4/1 (9.4), so bookmakers can take a piece of the action.
Using odds to your advantage means leveraging your own expertise in a sport against the bookmakers. They might have overlooked some aspects that you didn’t, like that a tennis player updated their Twitter profile with complaints of a poor night’s sleep, for example. In this situation, that player’s odds might be worse than their competitors. There are infinite potential patterns to pick out along these lines, if you can look deeper than what most people know.
Now you know how odds work, you’re ready to move on to the last part of the equation: understanding stakes. For responsible gamblers, stakes are all about discipline. Know where to draw the line, and how to apply this to your betting game, and you’ll be more likely to have your starting bank last longer.
Take a starting maximum stake of $100 as an example. A good measure of how much to put down on this stake could depend on the odds. If a bet has a 40% chance of winning then $40, as 40% of $100, could be a strong starting position.
Betting this way can be a good way to stay consistent, and avoid making rapid decisions that pan out poorly. Just remember to watch the odds as the games appear, especially if you play live bets, so you always know exactly what you’re in for. Take into account the bookmaker’s odds, your stake, and what you know that others don’t, and your chances of a payout will be all the better for it.