Football Sports Betting Odds Explained

Football Betting Odds

In sports betting, bookmakers offer odds to reflect their opinions on the probability of a result occurring. Bookmakers present odds to customers to provide them with the idea of how much they will win if placing a certain amount of money on a sports bet. On first look, odds are difficult to understand. They are probably the most complicated facet of betting to grasp for people new to the market, as they are presented in a range of different ways and with a huge spectrum of values.

Betting allows customers to guess the result of a certain event and money will be won if the match or race ends up in the way the bettor predicted. Bookmaker’s odds are the means that decides the probability of something happening – and as a result decides how much money will be won in return for predicting a sports market correctly.

A large amount of research goes into deciding odds for matches in the football market, with matters such as previous form and records considered, along with injuries, suspensions, quality of opposition and match objectives all being considered. Different bookmakers may offer slightly different odds on the same match but that is completely common, and a big part of the enjoyment of betting is finding the best potential return on a certain market.

Of course, working out how much will be made from betting a certain amount on a specific bet is now far easier to find out with the growth of online and mobile betting, with built in bet slip calculators offering the potential returns on any bet once the stake is entered; whether that be in fractional or decimal format.


The Popular Forms Of Odds

While ‘American odds’ (Moneyline odds) are popular across the pond, in the United Kingdom bookmakers tend to distinguish between decimal and fractional odds only. Fractional odds are the more popular style of the two and are presented as just that; fractions. The title of decimals also speaks for itself, and most bookmakers will offer on their websites an option to switch between the two different styles to suit the user’s preference.


Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are the most common way to display betting odds in the United Kingdom and have been used most frequently in the history of British betting.

They appear in the format as, for example 2/1. The slash in between the two numbers is expressed as ‘to,’ or ‘two to one’ taking the whole number into account. The first number in the fraction will tell you how much you will win relative to the second number in the fraction. So, taking the 2/1 price as the example, a £10 bet at those odds would mean the bettor would win back two times that amount if the bet was successful. However, fractional odds don’t take into account your stake as a return, so in addition to the winnings the original stake is also added to the return. In another example, betting £10 at odds of 6/4 would mean one and a half times the original stake would be earned back in addition to the stake.


Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are the slightly less popular version of the presentation of odds and they can often be found in the settings of certain websites, if looking to change from the fractional display.

However, they are far easier to understand than the fractional type. Simply multiplying the stake by the decimal number of the betting market chosen will give the possible return amount, including the original stake. For example, betting £5 at decimal odds of 5.00, £25 will be the winning return if the bet is successful.


A Brief Overview Of American Odds

American odds are also sometimes referred to as money lines, but are never used in UK betting markets.

These odds are based on a $100 stake and give both positive and negative numbers as outcomes. A positive number (+150) means that that amount of money will be won when a $100 stake is placed. However, negative odds (-150) mean that in order to win $100, the number in the bracket needs to be staked.


Odds Conversion Table

Odds in British betting markets are either presented in fractional or decimal format and can be difficult to get to grips with. Below is a table comparing the fractional and decimal equivalent of odds ranging from 100/1 to 1/100.

8/191/1 (evens)2 (evens)1/161.0625

Betting calculators are a huge advantage nowadays with online betting, with such a wide variety of odds the table helps to put into perspective the order they each rank in.

Football Handicap Betting

Known as ‘spread’ betting in the American market, handicap betting in European football terms involves giving a head start or deficit to one of the teams involved in a fixture for the purposes of creating longer, more lucrative or more achievable betting odds.

The reason for the handicap is to even the playing field for the purposes of the bet, usually with an extra goal (or more) deficit being applied to the favourite and extra goal advantage applied to the underdog. Selections only win if the chosen team’s score is still greater than its opponent’s after the handicap has been applied.

Handicapping is common place in football betting, but it is usually used by bettors to attain larger reward from backing a favourite. Strong teams in good form generally have very short odds to win a fixture, and if they are especially playing at home against a notoriously weaker team their odds to win are near pointless backing because of the certainty of a result.

Typically, teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain’s ‘La Liga’ competition will generally have very short odds because of the qualities of their line ups in comparison to most of the other teams in the division. Typically, if either side plays at home to a team placed any lower than fifth in the league the odds are impossibly short – so this is where the handicap comes into place. It is introduced to give far more value if a bettor strongly fancies a team to win by a clear margin.

See the picture below for the difference in odds (in fractional values) between an outright Real Madrid win against Almeria, and below the odds for Real Madrid to win the game by a handicap of -2.

As explained, handicap betting is used to even the field slightly. So, it also allows bettors to give their unfavoured selection a head start in games for the chance at more realistic returns. Almeria’s odds shorten with the two goal handicap applied, but they can also be found just to offer better values on any match, regardless of the gulf in class between oppositions. Read on as we delve deeper in to how handicapping works in football betting.


Explaining Handicap Betting Terminology

Still speaking about the example above, pitting Real Madrid against Almeria from the Spanish top division, Almeria effectively have a 2-0 advantage for the purposes of the bet before the match begins. Essentially, for a bet on Real Madrid (-2) to succeed, they need to win by three clear goals. The actual result of the fixture will have the handicap applied to it in order to determine the winning team or outcome for the purposes of the bet.

In the above image the option stands for a bettor to pick a handicap draw, which effectively means that the outcome of the game will end with a two goal margin, leaving both sides level after the handicap has been applied. For example, if Real Madrid were to win 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 and so on, the handicap draw would be the winning market from the match.

Standard handicaps in football markets are typically found as ranging between one goal and four goals because of the relatively low scoring nature of the game. When a goal is scored the score line moves up in increments of one so there is little reason to go any higher with handicap numbers. However, there are different variations on handicap betting which don’t consider the possibility of a draw occurring, which are explained further below.


Asian Handicap Betting

The Asian Handicap is a variation on the standard handicap method already explained. This style of handicap works similarly, in terms of both teams in a match being given a virtual head starts or deficit scores which are added to or taken away from at the full time whistle. However, the key difference is that the possibility of a draw is not considered, leaving only two outcomes to choose from.

If the result is a draw after the handicap has been applied following the match, the stake the bettor originally placed is returned. Typically, many UK bookmakers will offer Asian handicap markets under the alias of a ‘no draw handicap,’ with both terms effectively meaning the same thing. However, apart from the two markets already explained, there are other styles of handicap betting which are less popular but still crop up with bookmakers.


Whole And Half Handicaps

Both standard and Asian handicaps tend to appear in the format of whole numbers, with the possibility of a draw being possible in both types. While the stake is lost in a draw for a standard handicap and returned in an Asian handicap, the possibility is eliminated out of the question completely when ‘half handicaps’ are introduced.

Half handicaps are used to ensure that after the match is completed there will always be one winning team after the handicap is applied. They help to eliminate one possible outcome from the betting market and allow only two possible results for the purposes of the bet.

Half handicaps are always found in decimal format, and although they are not offered by every bookmaker the half handicaps are very popular. They are seen in increments of 0.5 to separate both sides at the end and decipher whether a market wins or loses.

Referring back to the example above featuring Real Madrid hosting Almeria in Spain, if each team were applied a handicap of 1.5 for instance (Real Madrid -1.5 and Almeria +1.5) the 1.5 would be added to Almeria’s total goal sum at the end of the game while taken away from Real Madrid. In order for Real Madrid to win, they would have to win the match by two clear goals or more, while anything beneath that margin would result in an Almeria victory in betting terms.


Split Handicaps

Split handicaps may also appear from time to time. Teams are generally given two handicaps in total – one goal and one half goal in this betting instance.

For example, given Real Madrid (-2,-2.5) vs. Almeria (+2,+2.5) are the markets, the total bet placed would be divided between the two handicaps of the team the person bet on. For example, at £5 bet would be split into 2x £2.50 bets on each handicap.

Real Madrid would need to win by three goals or more for the full stake and full pay out to return to the bettor if that was the chosen selection. A win by two goals would mean the -2.5 handicap is lost and the -2 handicap (half the bet) is returned as stake to the bettor, while anything less than a two goal victory for Real Madrid would see the entire stake lost. The roles reverse for a bet on Almeria but the same rules apply, just as opposites.


Handicaps Overview

Though difficult and confusing to get to grips with, the several different variations of a handicap in football markets are used to even up the possibility of betting on any outcome in a match. Typically, they offer better value on choosing an underdog to win a market and offer further reward on a favourite.

Football Betting Terms

Football betting can be difficult to understand, especially considering when the terminology used to describe situations to newcomers is not familiar.  This page aims to bring together a comprehensive list of terms that bettors will come across within the football betting world and aim to explain their definitions concisely.


Accumulator – A bet with multiple selections, where all selections must win for the overall bet to succeed. Also known as a Parlay bet.

Ante Post Betting – Deriving from horse racing, ante post betting refers to placing a bet weeks, months or possibly years in advance of the event happening. In football terms, this may be betting on a team to win the World Cup far before the tournament starts.

Arbitrage Bet – Where a variation in odds on one market between bookmakers (usually because of different opinions or error) allows a punter to back all possible outcomes and still guarantee a win.

Asian Handicap – A variation of a ‘handicap’ which sees football teams being given an imaginary deficit or head start for the purposes of making odds more appealing to bettors. The option of a match draw is removed and if a match is tied, the stake placed by the bettor is refunded.


Back – To back an outcome is to bet on a certain selection to win.

Banker – Banker bets refer to backing a team that is hugely favoured to win a match.

Bet – To place money on a team to win a match with a bookmaker.

Betting Exchange – Differing to the bookmaker who sets odds and offers on a possible outcome, a betting exchange allows people to bet against each other instead of the bookmaker. The betting exchange acts as a middle man, taking commissions from the stake.

Bettor – Someone who places a bet. ‘Bettor’ is typically an American term, and in the UK is known as a ‘punter.’

Bookmaker/Bookie – A licensed company who is legally able to accept bets from customers on the result of an event based on their market odds.

Both Teams to Score – A bet where both teams in a match need to score a goal for the bet to win.


Canadian – Also known as a ‘Super Yankee,’ a Canadian consists of 26 bets, involving five selections in different events. The bet includes one accumulator, five four folds, ten trebles and ten doubles, with a minimum of two selections needing to succeed in order to win.

Correct Score – Betting on the exact score line in a sports match.


Double – When two matches are selected into one overall bet, with both predicted outcomes having to be successful in order for overall bet to win.

Double Chance – Backing a team to win or draw a fixture to heighten the chances of a bet win. 2 of 3 outcomes are backed, with the only way to lose if the chosen team loses.

Draw No Bet – Picking a team to win a fixture, where if the outcome is a draw the stake is returned to the bettor.


Each Way Bet – A bet placed on any selection involving a win and place bet, with the stake split evenly between the two. It allows punters to still make a return if the backed selection wins or comes in the top three, four, five or even six places (this is always subject to the bookmaker’s terms announced beforehand). Typically used in football terms when betting on the winner of a competition or tournament.

Evens – A bet placed at odds of 2.00 (1/1) which offers your money back plus the amount originally bet.


Favourite – The selection that bookmakers rate as the more likely winner of an event.

Fold – A fold represents the number of selections made in an accumulator bet. For example, seven selections in one accumulator would be known as a ‘seven fold accumulator.’


Goliath – A bet that consists of 247 bets involving 8 selections in different events. The bet includes 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four folds, 56 five folds, 28 six folds, 8 seven folds and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to win a return.


Handicap Betting – Also known as ‘spread’ betting, a handicap involves giving one team an imaginary deficit that they have to overcome during a game for the purposes of a bet. The odds as a result are made more attractive as there is more to overcome.

Heinz – Consists of 57 bets involving six selections from different events. A Heinz bet contains 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four fold accumulators, six five fold accumulators and one six fold accumulator. A minimum of two selections must be successful to win a return.


In Play Betting – Refers to live match betting where it is possible to place bets on the fixture while it is in progress.


Lay – To bet against a certain outcome happening, common in betting exchanges.

Longshot – A selection that is unlikely to win in the eyes of a bookmaker.

Lucky 15 – Consists of 15 different bets deriving from 4 selections in different events and contains 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and 1 four fold accumulator. Only one winner is needed to win a return.

Lucky 31 – Consists of 31 different bets deriving from 5 selections in different events and contains 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 four fold accumulators and 1 five fold accumulator. Only one winner is needed to win a return.

Lucky 63 – Consists of 63 different bets deriving from 6 selections in different events and contains 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four fold accumulators, 6 five fold accumulators and 1 six fold accumulator. Only one winner is needed to win a return.


Match Betting – Betting on the outcome of a sports event, typically the most common bet in sports betting.

Multiple – Another term for an accumulator bet, involving more than one selection.


Odds – The chances or probability of a selection winning a fixture according to the bookmaker.

Odds Against – Where the odds are longer than evens, for example 7/2.

Odds On – Where odds are shorter than evens, for example 1/3. If the selection wins, the amount won is less than the amount staked, plus the original stake.

Outright Betting – Betting on a team to win usually a competition or league overall.

Over/Under Betting – Involves the punters betting on a number of goals, corners, cards or other events in a match.


Patent – A patent consists of 7 bets involving three selections from different events, consisting of 3 singles, 3 doubles and 1 treble. 1 selection needs to be successful to win a return.

Price – Another term for betting or gambling odds.

Punter – A person who places a bet, known in the US as a bettor.


Returns – The amount of money or potential money to be won from a bet.


Scorecast Betting – Predicting the first scorer and correct score in a fixture.

Single – A bet consisting of one selection on a sports market.

Specials – Bookmakers will often offer special markets which are not usually available, or markets that are available with enhanced odds.

Stake – The amount of money placed on a bet.

Super Heinz – Consists of 120 bets involving 7 selections from different events. A Super Heinz bet contains 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 four fold accumulators, 21 five fold accumulators, 7 six fold accumulators and 1 seven fold. A minimum of two selections must be successful to win a return.

Super Yankee – Consists of 26 bets, involving five selections in different events. The bet includes one accumulator, five four folds, ten trebles and ten doubles, with a minimum of two selections needing to succeed in order to win. A Super Yankee is also known as a ‘Canadian.’


Treble – A bet consisting of three different selections in one bet. All three selections must win for the bet to win.

Trixie – A bet consisting of 4 bets (3 doubles and 1 treble) with 3 selections in different events.


Underdog – The selection that is not expected to win.


Value Bets – Bets that have odds that are longer from a bookmaker’s point of view than a punter’s. The return offered would be more than a punter was hoping for, making it a good value prediction.

Void Bet – When a stake is returned for a number of reasons, where no winnings are won and nothing is lost, essentially with the bet being cancelled.


Wager – Another word for a bet.

Wincast – Predicting an anytime goal scorer and the overall winner of a football match.


Yankee – Consisting of 11 bets involving 4 selections in different events. The bet includes 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 four fold accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to win some kind of return.