American Odds

For bettors (or “punters”) from the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia, seeing Jacksonville -105 or Kansas City +120 can be confusing. The fact that these are known as ‘American Odds’ only adds to the confusion, as point spreads and moneyline bets are also primarily American.

The truth is, American odds have nothing to do with the point spread, and are simply a version of listing odds and calculating payouts that originated in the United States. As with fractional or decimal odds, American odds can look confusing to the un-initiated, but the concept is simple once you understand that everything is relative to 100.

HOW DO AMERICAN ODDS WORK?

With American odds, everything is related to a $100 wager, with the numbers listed next to the teams signifying the expected payout.

For example, say the Raiders are hosting the Titans and are listed as moneyline favorites, as shown below:

Tennessee +105
Oakland -125

This means that a $125 wager on the Raiders wins $100, while a $100 wager on the Titans wins $105.

HOW TO CALCULATE PAYOUTS FROM AMERICAN ODDS

Essentially, American odds are fractional odds that always use 100, and never show their work.
In the above situation, when listed as fractional odds, the -125 Raiders bet is the equivalent of 100/125 (4/5).

When the odds are listed as a positive number, such as the underdog Titan side in the example, that means the 100 moves to the other side of the fraction– therefore, the Titans odds would be 105/100 (or 21/20) when written as a fraction.

For references sake, and for our European NFL bettors, fractional odds would list the -125/+105 game as 1.8/2.05.
As you can see, the differences between American odds and their European variants are primarily aesthetic, as they all say the same thing in a different way.

Because the 100 “moves” there are two separate American odds formulas for calculating expected return.

If the number is negative, like the Raiders: (100/Odds) x stake
If the number is positive, like the Titans: Odds x (stake/100)

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WHO USES AMERICAN ODDS?

As suggested by the name, American odds are widely used in the United States. They are also generally understood in other markets that follow American sports, such as Canada, Mexico, the Pacific Islands and parts of South America.

With the growth of American sports internationally and the rise of internet sportsbooks, American odds are now seen across the globe, and are important to understand for anyone who wants to win money betting on football. Increasingly, bettors in the UK, Europe and Australia are learning how to wager with American odds.

WHAT ABOUT THE POINT SPREAD?

The point spread has long been intertwined with American betting.

Seeing the Chicago Bears +3.5 or the Chicago Bulls -5.5 can be confusing for novice NFL bettors unfamiliar with American sports. Though the point spread and American odds are both American concepts, they are far from the same thing.

The point spread is a way to handicap or level the field when dealing with high scoring sports like American football and basketball, while American odds are a way of calculating payouts, like decimal odds or fractional odds. Sometimes, the point spread is used to turn NFL matchups into a pick ‘em, where both teams are -100, but this isn’t always the case. Even with the spread, teams can pay out differently.

For example, let’s take the earlier Oakland/Tennessee example and make Oakland a 3.5 point favorite, while keeping American odds.

Tennessee +1.5 (+100)
Oakland -1.5 (-120)

With Oakland giving up points, the Raiders now pay out better than they did with no spread. This could also be written with fractional odds – Oakland -1.5 (5/6) or decimal odds – Oakland -1.5 (1.83).

AMERICAN ODDS VS. THE MONEYLINE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

American odds are often used interchangeably with moneyline odds. The truth is, although moneyline odds are by definition written with American odds, American odds are not necessarily moneyline odds.

To give a non-sports analogy – everyone in London is in England, but not everyone in England is in London.

Put simply, the moneyline refers to a straight up bet listed with American odds, while American odds refer to any bet listed with American odds.

Back to the example:

Tennessee +105 at Oakland -125 are moneyline bets using American odds.
Tennessee +1.5 (+100) at Oakland -1.5 (-120) use American odds, but the first example (Tennessee +105 at Oakland -125) is still the moneyline.

WHY LEARN AMERICAN ODDS?

The fact is, the only real difference between American odds, fractional odds and decimal odds are the way they are listed. The different styles are a matter of familiarity and comfort more than anything.

Though some may see the relative similarity as reason not to stray from one’s comfort zone, the more NFL wagering concepts understood, the better your chances are when placing bets.