Betting odds

Betting odds

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Fixed betting odds - introduction

In the main section of our online betting guide, we explained that most online betting sites catering to UK customers offer the opportunity to place bets on a fixed odds basis. This section provides further details about how fixed odds betting works. It includes examples of fixed odds expressed in different formats (explaining what is the difference between fractional decimal and American odds) and provides a worked example of how potential returns can be calculated when considering placing fixed odds bets.

Before we start, however, here's some good news for anyone who dislikes maths. The betting slips on most online betting sites include interactive calculators that allow you enter potential stakes and automatically see how much you could receive in winnings if you were to place and win any given bet (or combination of bets). In most cases, you don't need to be logged in or even signed up with a bookmaker before being able to experiment with adding selections and potential stakes to online betting slips. This can be a really helpful way to learn how odds work. However, be careful not to submit bets accidentally if you are logged in. And remember that you can lose however much you bet, too!

Fixeds odds betting - risks and rewards

Fixed odds betting involves you agreeing to a set level of return that a bookmaker is offering to pay if you place and win a particular bet. When betting at fixed odds, you'll be risking a known stake - the amount of money that you choose to place on that bet. It's up to you how much to bet, although all bets placed online will be subject to minimum and maximum stakes set by your chosen bookmaker.

If you place a single / straight bet to win and are successful, you'll receive winnings based on the odds you accepted. The easiest way to work out potential winnings for a single bet is to multiply the stake by the fractional version of the odds. When you win a bet, you'll also receive your stake back from the bookmaker. On the other hand, should you lose a single / straight fixed odds bet, you'll lose your whole stake.

When we talk about placing a single bet to win, we don't mean that you have to bet on a win. We just mean that you're gambling on winning your bet. For example, if you're going to bet on a football match, you might want to bet £1 on Team A to win. Or you might want to bet £1 on Team B to win. Or you may want to bet £1 on a draw. Or you might want to bet £1 on the first yellow card being shown within 15 minutes of kick-off. Each of these bets (which could all apply to the same football match) would, if placed individually, be a single (or straight) bet to win on one selection. The bet is simple: you've chosen to bet on a single, specific outcome and have bet your stake on that happening, with no ifs or buts. If you win, you'll receive a proportion or multiple of your stake as determined by the odds, plus your stake returned.

How do fractional, decimal and American fixed odds work?

Wondering what is the difference between fractional, decimal and American fixed odds formats? The following example shows how much you'd win under the same fixed odds bet - a single bet to win. Let's assume that your bet was for Team B to win a particular football match. You placed a bet of £1 and your bet was successful; Team B won the match. The same odds can be expressed and the same winnings calculated in up to three different ways as follows:

(a) Fractional odds of 1/2

When using fractional odds, you can calculate your winnings from a simple bet to win by multiplying your stake by the fraction (we appreciate this sounds easier in theory than it may be in practice). In our example bet, you'd win £1 x 1/2 = 50p. You'd also have your stake of £1 returned along with your winnings, making a total return of £1.50. To consider it a different way, you won half of your stake, "half" being the fraction. Another way to understand fractional odds is to read the second/bottom number first, then relate it to the first/top number as follows: "if I bet <bottom number>, I'd win <top number>". So for fractional odds of 1/2 you'd say: if I bet £2, I'd win £1. In this case, as you bet £1, you won 50p.

(b) Are the same as Decimal odds of 1.5

Using decimal odds, you can calculate your total return from a simple bet to win by multiplying your stake by the decimal odds. In our example, this works out as £1 x 1.5 = £1.50. With this calculation, the return of your stake is already included - you don't need to add it back in again, as you do with fractional odds.

(c) Are the same as American odds of -200

Americans, naturally, prefer to approach things from an entirely different direction. American odds are always expressed around the notion of $100. As we're in the UK, we'll call it £100 instead. When the sign before the number is negative (which it is in this example), the way to understand American fixed odds is to say "this is how much I'd have to risk in order to (potentially) win £100". We say potentially, because of course you may not win your bet. In our example, however, we're assuming that you have won your bet. The odds of -200 mean you would have needed to risk £200 in order to win £100. Given that we only risked £1, the win is therefore 50p - the same as under the fractional and decimal odds definitions. Where the sign in front of American odds is positive, the way to understand American odds is to say: "this is how much I'd (potentially) win if I staked (risked / bet) £100".

Most betting sites let you choose to see odds displayed in whichever format you prefer.

Remember, many bookmakers' online betting slips feature a facility that enables you to enter potential stakes and see calculations of potential returns before placing bets. Take care not to submit any bets by mistake if experimenting with this feature.

More advanced fixed odds betting

The distinction between types of fixed odds bet is very important, because different rules can apply for different types of bet (eg an "each-way" bet or an "accumulator"). The calculation of any payout under a fixed odds bet will always involve the odds and your stake, but they can be applied in many different ways compared with a simple bet to win.

For example, if you place an each-way bet in horse racing, half of your stake will be applied as if was a bet for your selection (in this case, your chosen horse) to win. The other half of your stake would be placed on your selection (the same horse, in the same race) finishing within a specified number of places behind the actual winner (eg second, third, etc). Each-way bets can therefore still provide a return if your horse doesn't win, but finishes within a certain number of places. On the one hand, if the horse finishes first, you won't win as much as if you'd placed the whole stake as a simple bet to win. But on the other hand, you can still end up with some money back in your pocket if the horse "places", whereas you'd have lost the whole stake if you'd bet only on the horse winning. (The number of places that qualify for a payout under each-way bets varies by bookmaker and by race, so be sure to check the place terms advertised for any event before placing an each-way bet).

There are plenty more variations of fixed odds bets including accumulators and many others, some of which are described in our betting glossary. Before placing any bets, be sure to check the betting slip and help section areas of your chosen bookmaker's website for details of available bets and the basis on which that particular bookmaker calculates and pays out winnings.

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