• Paul Cobley

Why are odds so odd?

I like to think that I am relatively intelligent. I also think 18+ years in the gambling sector is long enough for anyone to learn the ropes.

However, I will openly admit that odds confuse the hell out of me.

What are odds?

Odds are a representation of how much money will be paid out for a given wager.

This is not the same as the probability of an event taking place.

For example, if you and I were to bet £10 on the toss of a coin, the probability of either outcome would be 50% or 50/50 or 1/1.

Assuming a winner take all situation the odds would also be 1/1.

Now, what if we had the same bet but instead of winning £20 you only stand to win £19 while I still stand to win £20?

Suddenly you are only getting 9/10 for this 50/50 bet.

This is obviously a stupid bet and I'm sure you wouldn't take it but people take these kinds of bets all the time. This is called overround and you can find it with nearly every bet offered by bookmakers.

A few real examples...

Odds Formats

There are several ways that bookies present odds but often times it feels like this stuff was created just to confuse people.


Here in the UK and in Ireland we use Fractional odds. In my view, fractional odds are the worst of the lot.

The numerator in the fraction represents the net payout relative to the denominator which represents the stake.

Clear as mud!


Over in the US they have Moneyline odds (or US odds).

Using $100 as a base bookmakers use a positive number to represent odds that are greater than EVENS while a negative number is used to represent odds that are worse than EVENS.

+150 means that a $100 bet will return $150.

-150 means you must stake $150 to win $100.

Clear as muddy mud!


Decimal odds are the most common odds format. Especially in Europe and Australia. This is primarily because they are so much easier to understand.

To calculate your returns using decimal odds you simply multiply your stake by the odds.

£10 * 2.5 = £25

Fractions can be converted into the decimal format by dividing the fraction and adding 1.

Positive US odds can be converted by dividing the US odds by 100 and adding 1

Negative US odds can be converted by dividing 100 by the US odds and adding 1


Indonesian odds are similar to US odds except they use single-digit numbers instead of $100. So +220 US would be +2.2 in Indonesian.

Malay odds also work to one digit but they also use positive and negative numbers to represent favourite and underdog odds. However, Malay odds us the positive and negative sign in the opposite way to US odds. -0.2 means you would need to bet 0.2 to win 1.

Hong Kong odds work in a similar fashion decimal odds except the stake is not included. So 1.91 in decimal is 0.91 in HK odds.


Ok, I know why. These mechanisms were created to show a bunch of odds to a bunch of people at the same time.

If you only have a trackside chalkboard or a TV screen in a retail bookmaker then you're kinda stuck with odds.

But this is not the case in the majority of gambling scenarios.

Online gambling is a personal experience and even betting shops do more business via self-service terminals than over the counter so why are we still using these outdated, confusing mechanisms to represent odds?

Most sites allow the user to choose which odds format to use but why use odds at all?

Nobody has to manually update odds on a chalkboard anymore.

Let players start with how much they want to bet and then show how much they stand to win against each outcome?


Gambling has been around since the dawn of time but the world is ever-changing and online betting was introduced back in 1996.

Surely its time we updated things and stop confusing everyone with these generic mathematical conundrums.


(Keep It Simple Stupid)

#WhatsYourShiggle #BetAgainstFriends #SocialBetting #Shiggle #PeerToPeerBetting

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