Betting Basics

Understanding American odds

Odds 101

Everything you need to know about American Betting Odds

If you’ve dabbled in the sports betting marketplace, you’ve seen all of the options that lay at your fingertips. Whether it’s betting the point spread or taking the moneyline, there are a myriad of ways you can bet on a game. At the end though, the question that always arises is, ‘how much do I win?’

That’s where the odds come into play. Before you’re rolling in dough you need to understand the odds of a wager and how to read them. This might require a little bit of math, but we’ve done our best to make this as digestible as possible for you. Don’t worry, you’ll be crunching the numbers like a pro in no time.

American odds

Of course, America does sports betting a little differently than anywhere else, and our odds – like the measurement system – are unique. However, American odds do allow us to easily explain how much money you can make when risking a Benjamin Franklin. 

First, it’s important to note that betting $100 on a game isn’t a requirement, but at least it makes for simple math. In all of our examples, we’ll be using $100 as our sample wager because it’s the easiest way to explain American odds. If you’re traveling abroad and hope to gamble on some Irish Pickleball, you’ve arrived at the wrong place.

ODDS: Determines how much profit you receive if you hit your bet.twitter-icon

Still confused?

We’ve got you covered with our handy dandy flashcards.


Ready to test your knowledge?

Quiz: The Point Spread 101

Your thesis paper is due in two months, how are you game planning?
My outline is already done, and I’ll have the first draft finished by tomorrow
I’ve started some research
Two months? That’s a lifetime. We can pull an all-nighter
Damn, there’s a thesis paper? I haven’t been to class yet



Your car breaks down on a deserted road with no cell service – what do you do?
You sit and wait … someone’s got to drive by, right?
It’s time to go search for service, but the car has to stay in your line of sight
Sneakers were a good shoe choice because it might be a long walk ahead
Time to pull out the toolbox and fix the problem yourself



What’s the most satisfying play in football?
Lockdown defense in the red zone
Escaping the pocket and connecting with a wide-open receiver
A huge 3rd-down sack to shift the momentum
A game-winning Hail Mary as time expires



Do you eat oysters?
The snotty thing that comes in a shell? PASS
Only if it’s a special occasion and I’m at a nice restaurant
Anytime they’re on a menu
You can find me every Tuesday at 50 cent oyster night at that place under the interstate with no air conditioning



Share the quiz to show your results !

Subscribe to see your results

Quiz: The Point Spread 101

I got %%score%% of %%total%% right




American odds can land in one of two categories: Negative odds and positive odds. How much money you win depends on which of these odds you get.

Negative odds

Negative Odds are usually associated with a likely or favorable outcome leading to a bet with higher stakes but a lower reward. Sometimes called ‘minus money’ odds, these odds come with a ‘-’ sign in front of the number, as shown on the Point Total Bet below. Click here to learn more about betting Point Totals, Overs and Unders.

Odds - Board 1

As you see in the column marked ‘Odds’, both of these bets have negative odds of -110. 

If the Odds have a ‘-’ sign, you must wager the amount that follows in order to profit $100. In this example (-110) you would need to risk $110 in order to profit $100 on either of those bets.

When are the risks worth it for negative odds?

Sometimes the risk is not worth the reward when there are negative odds. Take a look at this moneyline example for instance. To learn more about moneylines and how to bet them click this link.

Odds - Board 2

If the Kansas City Chiefs win this game, your moneyline bet would cash. In order to profit $100, you would’ve had to bet $850. That’s not exactly the best return on investment.

Jacksonville’s money line odds paint a different picture, however. You see the ‘+’ sign? That denotes the other basket our American odds can fall into: positive odds.

Positive odds

Positive odds are the big-bang-for-your-buck-rocketship-to-one-percenter-status plays because they offer high rewards for unlikely outcomes. They’re also referred to as ‘plus money’ odds, as they come with a ‘+’ sign in front of the number. Let’s go back to our Chiefs/Jags moneyline example to show you how they work.

Odds - Board 2

If you bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to win the game and hit their moneyline, you would get plus money odds of +900. If the odds have a ‘+’ sign, then the number that follows is how much you profit if you wager $100.

In this case, if you wager $100 on +900 odds, then you stand a chance to profit $900. 

This seems like a gold mine right? Well don’t count your millions yet. This bet involves the very unlikely scenario of the Jaguars beating the Chiefs, hence the large odds. There aren’t many plus money bets that are guaranteed hits. Beware as many are built to draw you in as you hope to hit the lottery and get rich quick. Let’s look at positive odds under more optimal conditions.

Odds - Board 3

In this Point Spread bet between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals the odds for both teams are pretty even. If you’d like to learn more about how to bet a point spread, click this link.

The Ravens spread of -2.5 has +115 odds. This means if you bet $100 on the Ravens then you stand a chance to profit $115.

If you back the Bengals at +2.5 then you get +105 odds. So if you bet $100 on the Bengals to cover then you stand a chance to profit $105.

Even money

There is one last, albeit rare, option for American odds to fall into. They are even money odds, as shown below.

Odds - Board 4

Even money odds (Ev) are simple to calculate. It means you stand to profit EXACTLY as much as you wager. Whether it’s a penny or a Bugati, if you play even money odds, your return is exactly the same as your investment.

Explaining profit

The word ‘profit’ has been used quite a bit in this article, and it is important to understand the difference between profit and winnings. When you make and win a sports bet, you are awarded both your profit as well as your original wager.

For example: If you bet $100 on the Buffalo Bills to cover a -3.5 point spread at +110 odds and you win, you are handed $210 as you cash in your ticket. 

Here’s the math: $100 (original wager) + $110 (profit) = $210 (winnings)


Now you have a complete understanding of how American odds work and what you are risking versus receiving when you place a bet at a sportsbook. For more information check out our explainers on sports betting or test your knowledge and win prizes by taking a pass on our Betting Academy courses.

More courses

Never miss a thing

Stay informed and entertained, for free
[hubspot type="form" portal="20007691" id="d8b55005-d443-4268-851a-9e30ee9eec65"]