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Betting Odds & Formats

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Around the world, there are three main ways in which betting odds are shown by bookmakers. These are as fractional odds, decimal odds and American odds. The majority of bookmakers will allow you to choose how you see the odds listed on their website, and most have all three available, although some may only offer fractional and decimal.

Of the three odds formats, fractional is the traditional way of viewing odds, decimal is a new style and one that is used by the majority of punters in mainland Europe, while American is the smallest and least used, but big in America as the name suggests.

Here we take a look at each one and how popular they are, how easy they are to use and what the future holds for them. Will we ever see anything taking over fractional odds as the most commonly used around the world?

Fractional Odds

The traditional format for showing odds in the UK is fractional odds, and if you log onto the majority of betting sites then you will see these as the default setting. Horse racing is a sport that has been associated with betting for a long time, and it is through horse racing that these odds became used in other sports.

Every single betting price is displayed as a fraction, with the returns on the left-hand side of the fraction and the stake on the right.

For example, odds of 5/1 means that your winnings will be five units if you place a bet of one unit. While this is simple and easy to understand, when we get to the smaller fractions of 11/8, 7/5 and 6/4 these can often become very confusing for gamblers.

Many would struggle to work out which is the biggest from 11/8, 7/5 and 6/4 and if you cannot do that then you can never be certain you are taking the best odds available for you each time.

When it comes to sports such as football and tennis which are popular sports to bet on around the world, you will see these small fractions used on many occasions. This is why they are not as popular with sports players because they are harder to understand. For sports such as horse racing where the odds are more spread out, and bigger odds are available, it is highly likely that fractional odds will remain the number one odds format used for most people.

Decimal Odds

If you take away the tradition of fractional odds then there is no doubt that decimal odds would be number one for every sport around the world. This is because they are so easy to use and understand. As new gamblers come into sports betting and they see the types of odds on offer then the sensible choice would be to go with decimal odds.

Decimal odds show your returns from the bet, so it is easy to know which is the biggest when you are comparing the odds that you have on offer.

For example, 2.40 means your return of a one-unit stake would be 2.40. When these are shown like this, it is easy to determine the difference between 2.38, 2.40 and 2.50 which are the decimal equivalent of 11/8, 7/5 and 6/4.

Having decimal odds in place is also favourable for the bookmaker, who can make small changes to their market with ease, whereas with fractional odds this is much harder as there are bigger gaps. In theory, any price can be quoted with decimal odds, so, for example, a bookmaker could offer odds of 2.41 while in fractional odds this wouldn’t be used.

If it wasn’t for the traditionalists in the gambling industry still using fractional odds then it is likely that we would have already seen decimal odds take over and become the most commonly used format for odds. This has happened in places in Europe, especially in areas where horse racing is not common, as the countries bet on sports that use decimal odds.

What happens in the future remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised to see decimal odds continue to grow all over the world, and eventually one day we may see them take over and become the norm.

American Odds

The American format is certainly the least popular around the world, although as the name suggests it is used in America. The way these odds are shown is based on the returns you will receive from a bet of 100 units.

For example, odds of +600 would show a profit of 600 for a 100 unit stake and a total return of 700. This would be the same as 7.00 in decimal and 6/1 in fractional. This way of showing odds have a long history in America, though few other places around the world have taken them on and used them.

One of the main reasons is because of the staking units they use, few people bet in 100-unit amounts, so the returns shown are out of line with what people would actually be getting back on their smaller wagers.

One of the reasons why this format of odds has struggled to take off and grow is because people can see that it doesn’t really have a future. When gamblers look at decimal odds, they can see more and more people using them, countries favouring them over fractional odds and even some bookmakers using them as their default odds view. That isn’t the same with American odds, they are just another option for those who know them and understand how they work.

If you know about American odds and you would like to use them then the majority of online bookmakers will allow you to change the odds to American when you log in. However, if you don’t know of them and how they work then it is probably not worthwhile learning how to use them as they are unlikely to feature heavily in years to come.

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