Advertise with usContact UsRTI Team

Sports Betting Odds: Understanding How Odds Work and How to Read Them

Legal sports betting is sweeping the nation as more states legalize mobile sports betting. Betting on sports is now legal in 33 states and online sports wagering is permitted in 26, so bettors have more options than ever as the popularity soars.

Here, we break down everything you need to know about sports betting odds, how they work, the different types of odds you’ll see at sportsbooks, and how to read them. 

Where Can I Legally Bet on Sports Online?

Over half the states in the country allow mobile sports betting, and even more allow you to place a bet at a retail sportsbook in person. If you live in one of those legal sports betting states, you can access any online sportsbook, scan its odds, and place a wager. 

Below, we have included some of the best mobile sportsbooks, the states they operate in, and each book’s welcome bonuses for new users. 

DraftKings Sportsbook

FanDuel Sportsbook

BetMGM Sportsbook

Caesars Sportsbook

BetRivers Sportsbook

Types of Sports Bets at Online Sportsbooks

There are several ways that online sportsbooks allow you to place some action on sports. Every sportsbook will offer “the big three” regarding sports wagering; point spread, moneyline, and total.

Of course, you can place a wager on any sporting event in hundreds of ways, including futures, player and game props, parlays, and much more. 


The moneyline is the simplest and most traditional form of betting. When you take a team’s moneyline odds, you are betting on that team to win the game straight up. 

Each team in any given matchup will have pre-set odds that determine which one will play as an underdog and which team will play as the favorite. The underdog (represented with a +) will net a more significant return if it wins compared to betting on the favorite (represented with a ). This means that a wager with plus (+) odds will pay out more than a successful bet with minus (-) odds. 

Point Spread

The most popular form of betting at most online sportsbooks, the point spread allows bettors to pick the underdog or the favorite in the matchup to cover the spread. This means that oddsmakers will set a number as the spread, and you can bet on a team’s margin of victory or defeat. 

A team must fall within the number the oddsmakers gave to win a wager on the spread. For example, if the Tennessee Volunteers are 5.5-point favorites (-5.5) over the Florida Gators in basketball, Tennessee would need to win by at least six points to cover the spread, and Florida could win outright or lose by a maximum of five points for them to cover. 

With point spread betting, you can bet on the team that ultimately wins the game, but your wager will be graded as a loser if they are outside the spread number set by the books. 


Also known as the “total,” the Over/Under for a matchup is the combined number of points scored by each team at the end of the game. The oddsmakers will set a number for each game, and if the two teams’ combined score goes over that number, then the Over will win, and if it goes under the number, the Under will win. 

For example, if the total is at 137.5 points in any Tennessee Volunteers basketball game, the Over would hit with a final score of at least 138 points, and if there are fewer than 138 points scored, the Under bet would be a winner.


A futures bet involves betting on an outcome that will be decided in the future. You could wager on a team’s odds to win its respective championship, conference, or any other accomplishment that will be settled in the short- or long-term future. Hitting a futures bet will result in a high payout due to the difficulty of picking a league winner when there are still plenty of games left to be played.

A futures bet can be placed before or during the season, and odds will change almost daily due to various factors, including injuries and transactions. 

You can also place futures bets on individuals. For example, you can wager on which player will bring home the Heisman Trophy at the end of the college football season, who will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, which hitter will lead the MLB in home runs, and so much more. You can bet on the winner of most individual awards and the leader of the majority of statistical categories across professional sports.

Parlay Betting

A parlay combines two or more wagers to increase your bet slip’s potential risk and payout as a result. In a parlay, each bet is referred to as a “leg,” and you will need every leg of your parlay to hit in order to win your bet. As you add additional wagers to a parlay, the odds will increase, offering you a more significant payout. It’s harder to hit multiple bets so you will be rewarded for taking on more risk with parlay wagers.

Prop Bets

A prop bet is a wager on a specific aspect of a game unrelated to the final score. Examples include player props, meaning you can bet on a player to go above or below (Over/Under) a particular stat, or team props such as team totals, team stats, etc.

How to Read Sports Betting Odds

If you are in the United States, you will most likely only have to deal with American odds, but sometimes, you may come across decimal or fractional odds. Knowing what these odds mean and how to read them is essential so you are fully aware of what you are putting your money on. 

American Odds

Odds will be listed as a three-digit number with a (+) or a (-) sign in front. Minus odds (-) usually indicate which side will be playing as the favorite and plus odds (+) are typically assigned to the underdog. There are some cases, though, where both teams will have minus odds in the same matchup. 

American odds can be simplified to represent how much money a $100 wager would win. The most common odds on a point spread wager will be around -110, meaning you must wager $110 to win $100. If the odds are +110, a $100 wager would net $110 in profit for $210 in total payout.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds represent the amount you would win for every $1 wagered. So, you can multiply the listed odds by the amount you bet to determine your total winnings. For example, betting $10 on the Tennessee Titans to win a game at 3.50 odds would result in a total payout of $35 (3.50 x 10). 

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are, you guessed it, written as a fraction. It is a common misconception that they are the most challenging odds to understand, but it is actually one of the easiest to read once you learn them, and you are probably already familiar with how they are laid out. 

For example, in 2/1 odds, the bottom number represents the amount wagered, with the top number representing your winnings. So a $100 bet on 2/1 (2 to 1) odds would pay out $200 total.

How are Odds Created?

Sports betting lines and odds are set by professional oddsmakers who use years of experience, statistical research, trends, and other technology to develop the most accurate odds and lines so each bettor can get a fair number to bet on. 

Each sportsbook has different oddsmakers with different ideologies, but at the end of the day, each sportsbook will have similar odds and lines. We advise everyone to check out each available sportsbook to get the best odds and lines for whatever you plan on betting on. 

What Sports and Leagues Can I Bet on?

You can bet on practically every sport, and with some of the top sporting leagues in the world located in the United States, the further legalization of online US sports betting is going to prove to be massive for each state’s revenue.

Some of the more popular leagues to bet on include: 

  1. NFL
  2. NCAAF
  3. NCAAB
  4. NBA
  5. MLB
  6. NHL

There are also end-of-season championship games and tournaments you can place wagers on, like the March Madness basketball tournament and the NFL Playoffs. 

Sports Betting Odds FAQ

Is online Sports betting legal in the US?

Yes, but only in states that have officially legalized mobile sports betting.

Can I bet on college sports in the US?

Yes, you can, but some states have different rules regarding wagering on a college team. For example, you cannot bet on in-state teams in New York. Make sure you are caught up with your state’s rules for betting on college sports. 

Can I bet on a game that has already started?

Sportsbooks will offer live betting for most matchups. The odds and lines will routinely shift depending on what is happening in the game. During breaks or scoring plays, the odds may be pulled to allow oddsmakers to adjust to the action. 

Can I make money betting on sports?

Absolutely, but always remember to bet within your means. Ultimately, the house will always win, but if you pick your bets wisely and responsibly, you can make a nice chunk of change betting on your favorite teams. 

How do I get started betting on sports?

All you have to do is be in a legal sports betting state, create an account with an online sportsbook, and place your wager. Once you learn the ropes, reading and understanding the odds and lines becomes easier.