How do betting odds work in football? action

How do Betting Odds work in Football?

By Sasha Isaacs - Jun 3rd 2022

Betting odds in football work by representing the likelihood of an event, or events, occurring. Compiled by the bookmaker, odds may seem confusing at first but understanding how they work is very important when placing a bet.

Are you new to the gambling world and football betting in particular? Are you confused by odds when placing a bet, or simply don’t understand how they work? Was maths not your strong suit at school? There’s no need to worry, as this blog will help you understand different types of odds, how they’re decided and how to take advantage.

A football better won £25,000 off a £200 bet

Adrian Hayward placed a wager in 2005 that midfielder Xabi Alonso would score from his own half at odds of 125-1. He did, earning Mr. Hayward £25,000 off a £200 bet.

How do bookmakers decide odds?

Odds are decided by probability, which is how likely something is to happen. For example, rolling a dice has six potential outcomes, each of which have a 16.67% chance of occurring.

If a bookmaker has an outcome with a high probability, it’s more likely to happen that not, with low odds offered. Conversely, if an event has a low probability, it’s less likely to happen, with higher odds on the table.

The chance of rolling a 6 twice in a row is 1 in 36 or 2.78%.

The chance of rolling 6 twice in a row is 2.78%

Like a dice, a football match and every football betting market has a finite number of outcomes. It’s the bookmaker’s job to quantify each outcome, giving a numerical likelihood of each event occurring. For example, the win draw win (1X2) market has three likelihoods, Home Win (1), Draw (X) and Away Win (2). Plain and simple, there’s a 33.3% chance of each of the three results come full-time. However, the odds for matches in the Win Draw Win market will change, due to external factors considered by the bookies, such as:

  • Team form
  • Injuries
  • Suspension
  • Home advantage
  • H2H record

Odds will reflect the bets chance of winning and how much money will be won if that punt is successful. It’s worth noting that in betting, the original stake is always returned if the bet is successful.

On, odds can be displayed as fractional or decimal, depending on how the better prefers to see them. Let’s find out what these mean.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are the more common type of odds a better will find in the UK. They are otherwise known as Traditional or British odds.

How they work:

[How much you will win] / [How much you stake]


  • 4/1 – If placing a bet with these odds and victorious, £4 will be won for every £1 bet, including the returning stake.

The probability of a 4/1 bet winning is 20%. This is based on the calculation 1 ÷ (4+1) = 0.20.

  • 13/2 – If placing a bet with these odds and victorious, £13 will be won for every £2 bet, including the returning stake.

To work out the returns that will be earnt if successful, divide the number on the left (numerator) by the number on the right (denominator).

In terms of the example above, 13 divided by 2 = 6.5, so the odds are essentially 6.5/1. If the number on the right (denominator) is above 1, it doesn’t mean this amount has to be wagered.

Harry Odgen reformed betting odds

According to, Harry Odgen conceived and refined the way betting odds are seen in 1790.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are an alternative to displaying odds in a fractional format and are common all around the world and especially in Europe, hence otherwise being known as European odds.

Some betters find the way these odds are displayed as more straightforward than decimal odds, as a punter new to the betting world may not know which are the higher or lower odds between 10/6 and 8/5, but it’s clear that 1.60 is higher than 1.10.

How they work:

These odds convey the amount the better would receive if successful, including the returning stake.


  • 12.50 – If placing a £1 bet with these odds and victorious, £12.50 would be won including the returning stake.
  • 5.00 – If placing a £1 bet with these odds and victorious, £5.00 would be won including the returning stake.

Someone who is into football betting may feel particularly familiar with one type of odds and a stranger to the other, or may just fancy one way of viewing odds more than the other.

How to convert Fraction Odds to Decimal:

  1. Divide the first number by the second number.
  2. Add 1.


  1. 6 divided by 5 = 1.20
  2. 20 + 1 = 2.20

Therefore, 6/5 as a fractional odd is equal to 2.2 as a decimal odd.

How to Convert Decimal Odds to Fractional

  1. Minus 1 from the original number.
  2. Turn the fraction into its most simple form. This is done by finding the nearest whole number (integer), as bookmakers never use decimal points in fractional bets.
  3. The number on the right (numerator) is the number of times it took to find an integer.


  1. 3.4 – 1 = 2.40
  2. 2.4 x 2 = 4.80, 2.4 x 3 = 7.20, 2.40 x 4 = 9.60, 2.40 x 5 = 12.

Therefore, 3.4 as a decimal odd is equal to 12/5 as a fractional odd.

1/1 2.0 50.0
6/4 2.5 40.0
9/4 3.25 30.8
4/1 5.00 20.0
9/2 5.5 18.2
5/1 6.0 16.7
11/2 6.5 15.4
6/1 7.0 14.3
13/2 7.5 13.3
7/1 8.0 12.5
15/2 8.5 11.8
8/1 9.0 11.1
17/2 9.5 10.2
9/1 10.0 10.0
10/1 11.00 9.1
16/1 17.00 5.9
33/1 34.00 2.9
50/1 51.00 2.0

A very useful graph found on

Odds on

A better may sometimes look at odds and wonder if they’re the wrong way round. Worry not, this isn’t an error. This occurrence in the football betting world is known as odds on. These types of odds mean the amount you stand to win is less than the amount you have wagered.

Example of an odds on bet.

A 1/4 bet means that the outcome is four times as likely to happen than not and in this instance, if betting £40 and successful, £50 would be won (£40 stake + £10 winnings).

It would be worthwhile placing a bet with these odds if you are risk-averse or fancy a straightforward win, with the chances of the bet not winning so slim. If victorious, a slim pay out would occur.

How can a better benefit from football odds?

As is now fabled in the world of betting, 47 crazy punters bet on Leicester City to win the Premier League in 2015 at odds of 5000/1. 24 of those bets still stood when they lifted the title, with one anonymous better picking up £200,000 after a £100 bet. This is of course an extreme example, but does prove that bookmakers don’t get it right all the time, and there are areas to win big money.

How do betting odds work

47 crazy football betters believed Leicester could win the Premier League at crazy odds.

The expert writers on will spend their time look at matches from all different markets in over 30 leagues all around the globe. It’s their job to find interesting patterns and statistics, to see if they can notice any eye-catching odds, attempting to catch out the bookmakers.

Odds are subject to change and may change prior to a match if there are initial cash projections. They may also change mid-match, for a number of different reasons, be it a red card, an injury, or a goal. You can check out the live score market here.

Written by Sasha Isaacs for

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