calculating sports betting odds

How are Sports Betting Odds Calculated

Those who run sportsbooks and sports betting services, bookmakers, and brands, are not doing so in order to help players who use their sites and platforms make money, and this is why the matter of sports odds and the way they are calculated and set out is crucial to their business model.

Sports betting is experiencing a real boom, especially in the United States, and the abundance of options within the regulated market once a state legalizes the activity means that the customers are in a very strong position.

They can happily seek out the best options around, perhaps swayed by any promotions or bonuses offered as an inducement to join, and a key factor when selecting a sportsbook will come down to the odds offered by a brand.

Any sports betting enthusiast would do well to check the relevant odds across the prospective sportsbooks they are interested in, in order to get an idea of which offers the best potential payout, as this is effectively the best way to measure the providers against each other.

NFL player

How are Sports Betting Odds Calculated?


The odds are set by oddsmakers at a relevant brand and tend to be fairly similar across the industry. Odds set can and do often change multiple times ahead of a game and obviously during the relevant game also.

The task of setting odds is a hugely important task, and those responsible for doing so are very experienced in the field and tend to be very risk-averse. In other words, they will err on the side of caution and avoid setting odds in such a way that it could end up costing them a fortune. 

However, they can’t be seen to set the odds in too conservative a way; otherwise, those placing bets will decide not to do so or, even worse, look to other sportsbooks to find odds that might prove more profitable. 

numbers of odds

Who Sets the Odds?


The odds at a specific sportsbook are set by their respective head oddsmaker, and it’s their job to set the relevant odds and make sure that they are not overstretched, and this is no minor undertaking.

Any mistake, even one that looks minuscule on paper, could cost the sportsbooks a massive sum; therefore, many metrics are used, and state-of-the-art technology helps to keep things stable.

Obviously, a sportsbook can not afford to be overly risk averse; otherwise, a prospective bettor might not bother placing a bet; the key is for the odds offered to be just tempting enough to encourage a bet but not so enticing that a loss would leave the sportsbook open to a big loss. 


Different Types of Sports Bets and How They Work

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Let’s take a closer look at the most popular sports betting types; these are the bread and butter for all sportsbooks and the most commonly placed bets across all the major sports offered by a brand.




The moneyline bet, easily the most placed bet in sports, is essentially the bet placed on who will win a particular match or game. The odds are presented in the following way.


  • Atlanta Hawks +195
  • Boston Celtics -230


In this NBA clash, you get the choice of one team or the other, and the odds are worked out like this. If you bet $100 on Atlanta, you’d win $195; that’s because they are very much the underdog in this example; hence you are securing a decent payout if they should actually win the game.

It would take a bet of $230 for you to win $100 on a bet on the Celtics; this is because they are the favorites and expected to win. This is an example of a moneyline that is not particularly evenly balanced. 


Here’s another example, one that is a little more balanced.


  • Philadelphia 76ers +130
  • Brooklyn Nets -150


In this game, a $100 bet on the 76ers would secure you $130, while a $150 bet on the Nets would get you $100. This makes the game far more competitive, and the backing of a relevant bet is something of a calculated risk.


Point Spread

Baseball game

You may have heard the term spread quite a bit in relation to sports betting, and what this relates to is the point spread offered by a bookie. Here you are effectively predicting which team or player will win when they are given a handicap or the opposite. 

This is what it might look like on a betting slip, again using an NBA game as an example.


  • Los Angeles Lakers +5 (-110)
  • Golden State Warriors -5 (-110)


In this example, the underdog is the Los Angeles Lakers, and you are betting on them to win with a five-point head start, while a bet on the Golden State Warriors will only win if they beat the Lakers by more than five points. In both bets, it will take a bet of $110 to win $100. 

These are good bets to place if there is an uneven encounter, giving you an additional boost on either way to help sweeten your bet. 




In an over/under bet, the sportsbook sets a total amount of points they expected to be scored, and you then back the total actually being over or under what they have set. This type of bet is good for the neutral and doesn’t require a great deal of thought process, not least because the bookmaker will have set a standard level for the bet based on statistical analysis. Here is how it might look in an NFL clash.


  • Philadelphia Eagles OV 45.5 -120
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers UN 45.5 +100


So, suppose the game ends with a final score of 30-17 to the Eagles, and you’ve bet on over; then you will have one because the total points score is 47, therefore over the 45.5 that’s been set. In this instance, you will have to place a $120 bet to win $100. 



Basketball stadium

This is the type of bet that should really only be used if you have been backing sports bets for a while, not least because success in this area can prove very tough to secure. 

A parlay is the act of adding a number of bets together, with a view to all bets being won, leading to you winning a big sum. In Europe, these types of bets are called accumulators, and the chances of winning a parlay are very low. 

A parlay can have as many bets as you like and can be as few as three, with a two-bet parlay being more commonly known as a double.

Here the odds of the different bets will add up exponentially, so it can really rack up, but again, it’s very hard to get all your permutations correct. Some sportsbooks will offer something called parlay insurance, and that means you can, on occasion, afford to get one or more bets wrong and still receive a payout, albeit less than you would if you got all the bets correct. 


The parlays could all come from the same game or could relate to entirely different games or even different sports. Here’s an example of a parlay you might place.


  • Atlanta Hawks +170
  • Los Angeles Lakers -250
  • New Orleans Pelicans -195
  • Philadelphia 76ers -340
  • Cleveland Cavaliers -240
  • Phoenix Suns -305


So in this example, you are betting on six teams to win, and even though five of those teams are favorites, the overall odds really do add up. 

The odds on this six-team parlay are +1292 and that means if you place a $100 bet, you will win a total of $1392.11.

Parlays are very enticing but require a decent level of knowledge and acceptance that, in all likelihood, you are not going to win. 


Futures Bets

Superbowl player

These are usually long-form bets. Bets that simmer and take a while to cook effectively and a fun way of backing a team or player that you personally support.

An example here might be a bet on which team will win the NFL Super Bowl, with the bet perhaps placed a week before the season kicks off.

Alternatively, a futures bet may actually relate to a specific individual. Maybe you are backing a particular player to end up as the NBA MVP for the season, so again, this is a bet that will take some months to pay off or fail.

Here the odds tend to be fairly competitive, especially if you are backing a non-favorite.


Other Factors to Take Into Account Before Signing Up With a Sportsbook


As stated earlier, the current climate for online sports betting in the United States, in particular, is very positive, and you have your choice of very strong and effective sportsbooks, but as well as considering which offers the best odds, there are other key factors that should be part of your thought process ahead of you potentially signing up with them. 

Here are a handful of important ones to consider.


User Interface


In 2023 you want your online sports betting experience to be smooth, initiative, and not antiquated, and on the whole, this is what you’ll get, but no two sportsbooks are the same, and often the look and feel of the user interface could prove pivotal.

The majority of online sportsbook betting now takes place over mobile devices, and every brand needs to make sure their app is as extensive and user-friendly as their desktop site, but that most definitely is not the case.

Some brands let themselves down when it comes to their mobile apps. They can be glitchy, slow, and poorly laid out. Check out user reviews, especially those conducted by comparison services, and then try them out. 

The best way to do so is to sign-up with a potential brand, make use of their welcome bonuses, and, if they pass the test, stick with them. However, if you are not impressed, there is no reason to hang around as there are plenty of other sportsbook fish in the sea.

This is particularly relevant when you are placing live in-play bets; this is when a mobile app needs to be 100% on the ball, as anything less will severely hamper your overall experience.


Welcome Bonuses and Ongoing Promotions


Some brands go all in on getting new users and let themselves down when incentivizing the ones they already have. Too many sportsbooks will have a raft of promotions and bonuses for new users and next to nothing for their existing customers. 

Look out for brands that have regular ongoing promotions, and another key thing to look out for is some type of loyalty or VIP program that really tries to reward repeat users. Some of the best brands in the market do this well, and others don’t do it at all, so be sure to check this before signing up.


Variety of Payment Methods

money, cards, business

A progressive, forward-thinking sportsbook will offer more than just the basic payment and withdrawal options, i.e., that might just be credit and debit card options. What you should look for are those that extend their options to include e-wallets and even potentially cryptocurrency.

Many users prefer to use e-wallets when using online sportsbooks, either for privacy reasons or security concerns. 


Depth of Sports Betting Markets


If you are a sports betting novice, you may choose to stick to betting on one particular type of action, but even then, you want your sportsbook to offer you a wide range of bets for that one form of betting.

Similarly, some sports bettors like to mix things up, choosing to flit between an NBA bet and an NFL wager and perhaps even dabbling in European soccer. This means you’d want a sportsbook that covers as much of the potential action as possible.

Some brands go very deep in terms of their sports betting markets, moving into lower-tier sports action or even offering obscure sports that could still throw up interesting possibilities.


Customer Service


You need to select a sportsbook that is responsive and able to deal with your queries. This is because, frankly, the only time you’ll need their assistance is when you actually NEED it. If your prospective brand isn’t available 24/7, then consider an alternative.

In 2023 your sportsbook should offer live chat facilities at all hours of the day, as well as telephone support and FAQ areas on their site, and they need to be able to communicate with you effectively and speedily. Read relevant reviews to ascertain if your particular brand of choice offers you this level of service.

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