Sports Betting Odds & Payouts Explained

For the inexperienced sports bettor, understanding odds and calculating payouts is the first thing beginners need to familiarize themselves with. Before placing your first wager, knowing how this works is a must. This article will explain how betting odds work and how you can calculate the potential payouts as you begin your quest to make a profit in sports gambling. For the more experienced bettor, you may learn new ways to think about odds and payouts by following this post.

How to calculate American odds

As you might imagine, American odds are used most often by sportsbooks in the United States. The easiest way to think about calculating American odds is using the $100 mark on either the plus side or minus side. Plus value signifying the outcome is less likely to happen than items that show a minus sign in front.

For a number with a minus sign in front of it, a bettor needs to put up that amount of money in order to gain $100. For example, if you see an item that has the standard -110 odds, you will need to bet $110 to win $100.

On the other side, with a number that has a plus sign in front if it, a $100 bet will equal whatever the given number is. For example, when the odds are listed at +300, a $100 wager would turn into $300 if it’s a winner.

This calculation can often be used in calculating the moneyline, that we will get to later.

How to calculate fractional odds

Occasionally you’ll see something like Team X has 9/1 odds to win the championship. Now, you can use your preferred search engine to find a sports betting odds calculator or you can use this simple formula to calculate the odds in a bet you are considering placing:

  • B / (A+B) = %

In our 9/1 odds example, 9 is A and 1 is B, which when entered into the formula will look like this:

  • 1 / (9+1) = 10%

In this example, we learned that 9/1 odds mean there is a 10% chance of whatever you’re betting on will occur. If you were to bet $100 on something at 9/1, you’d multiply $100 by 9 for a net profit of $900. It’s a big payout because the outcome is unlikely to occur according to the odds.

How are point spreads/point totals calculated?

Most sportsbooks will typically try to set their point spreads and point totals at a number that will feature half the bettors taking a side in each direction. When the point spread is set at 7.5, sportsbooks would prefer 50% of the money to come in on the side of the underdog at +7.5 and the other 50% of the cash to come in on -7.5 for the favorite.

The reason sportsbooks want 50% on each side is because of the vigorish, which is mostly known as the “vig” or the “juice”. The vig gives the sportsbooks the upper hand over sports bettors because they automatically take a portion of your bet the second you place it. As unfair as it may seem, sports bettors typically need to get more than 50% of their wagers correct just to break even when betting point spreads.

When analyzing the gambling board, you’ll recognize the point spreads and point totals shown. Next to those numbers will typically show another number usually somewhat close to (-110), which is the standard vig number. Essentially what this means is you would need to bet $110 to earn a $100 profit.

Where does that extra $10 go? It goes to the sportsbooks because of the vig fee.

Some sportsbooks will change the -110 vig slightly in either direction on point spreads and/or point totals, but most will remain in the low 100s for those two categories.

How are moneyline payouts calculated?

Calculating the moneyline is similar to calculating point totals and point spreads, except the vig may be quite a bit different. Instead of seeing -110 next to the moneyline, numbers could fluctuate greatly depending on expected outcome going into the game. If the underdog wins a game it is expected to lose by a significant margin, the higher the moneyline payout would be.

A big underdog may be listed as +300, while a favorite could be listed at -200. As we learned earlier, a $100 bet on the underdog at +300 would be a $300 winner, and a $200 bet on the favorite would wind up as a $100 winner.

How to calculate futures bets payouts

Some sports bettors go with a strategy that involves futures betting, which is a wager that an outcome will happen over a given period of time, sometimes even a season-long bet. An example of this might be wagering on which team will win the Super Bowl this season.

Since there are so many possible outcomes, oftentimes all of the outcomes that may be selected are plus value. Calculating these types of odds are the same as calculating the moneyline, assuming all are plus value. Like the moneyline, betting $100 on a +200 option would get you $200 if it ends up being a winner.

Examples of sports betting payouts

Now that you understand sports betting odds and calculating payouts, let’s dive into some potential examples you’ll see when analyzing the day’s gambling board in the future.


Let’s start out with an NFL betting example and go with the Super Bowl game in 2017 between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. After taking a look at all the bets available, you decide it’s a bad idea to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in a big game, so you side with the Patriots as three-point favorites. Your goal is to hit three figures by the time the night is over, so you put up $110 on New England.

The bet looks like this:

  • New England Patriots -3 (-110)

Late in the third quarter, you’d probably be ready to give up hope as the Falcons grabbed a 28-3 lead. However, in one of the biggest comebacks in sports history given the significance of the game, New England scored 31 unanswered points with an overtime victory giving the Patriots another Super Bowl. They won and more importantly for you, your bet is a winner since New England won by more than three points in a 34-28 final score.

Now, let’s calculate your winnings.

Since you wagered $110 on a standard point spread vig of -110, you earned exactly $100. Congrats! Not a bad Sunday night.


For our next example, let’s dive into some basketball. During the NBA offseason in 2019, you look at the betting board and identify teams with the most value to win a championship in the upcoming year. You identify the Toronto Raptors as a sleeper title contender with the fifth best odds in the sport, so you take a flyer on them at 14-1 using fractional odds.

Using our formula mentioned above, you want to know what percentage chance the Raptors have to make this happen. Enter all the values:

  • 1 / (14 + 1) = 6.7%

So oddsmakers think Toronto winning a championship has a 6.7% chance of happening, but you think the payout is significant enough that a wager is worth it.

Say you bet $100 on a futures ticket that says the Raptors will win the championship. To see how much you’d win, you would multiply $100 x 14 to get a total of $1400. In the end, Toronto got all the way to the NBA Finals and beat the Golden State Warriors for the title, making you the winner in the process.


Next up, let’s talk some baseball wagering. For this example, we go to a 2019 World Series futures bet and you decide to wager on the Washington Nationals to win the whole thing, but this time your sportsbook is using American odds.

After scouring the board, you identify the Nationals at +1200 odds. As we discussed earlier, it’s easy to calculate American odds by using the $100 mark. Since Washington has plus value at +1200, a $100 bet will net you $1200. Washington won it all in 2019, so you would’ve made quite a bit had you placed this wager before the season started.

College football

For our last example, we head back to football for the college game and go back in time to the 2019 College Football Playoff national title between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers.

Instead of placing money on the point spread, you decide Clemson is going to pull off the upset and win it outright as six-point underdogs. You put money on the Clemson moneyline, and here’s what your bet looks like:

  • Clemson ML (+190)

Since this is a plus number, it typically signifies Clemson is the underdog and you’ll receive a much higher payout if your bet is a winner. Like in previous examples, let’s say you made a $100 bet on Clemson moneyline. Since the Tigers won at +190 odds, your $100 bet led to a $190 payout. Had you bet Alabama moneyline at -235, you would’ve needed to bet $235 just in order to win $100 had the Tide won. But they didn’t, and your gamble cashed out big.

Key takeaways on understanding odds and payouts

  • Understanding odds and calculating payouts are essential items to know for sports betting beginners.
  • Most sportsbooks in the United States use American odds.
  • Fractional odds are often used when discussing odds for futures bets.
  • -110 is the standard vig for point spreads and point totals.