Seasoned sports bettors know one secret to higher winnings that newbies often miss: Not every sportsbook has the same odds.
However, it’s not a secret hidden by some insidious cabal. It’s an open secret discoverable by anyone who takes the time to compare sportsbooks. For example, many bettors may have DraftKings or FanDuel accounts. If bettors made accounts based on which sportsbook ad they saw first, they’d miss out on two trends:
- DraftKings tends to have better odds on the favorite to win.
- FanDuel tends to have better odds on the underdog.
It only takes a few minutes of comparing those sportsbooks against each other to figure that out.
But at the time of this writing, there are 10 live sportsbooks in Colorado, with a dozen more on the way. Bettors need to know how to compare odds across many sportsbooks to find the highest potential payouts. Here’s how to do it.
Positive And Negative Odds
Viewing a sportsbook for the first time can be intimidating. It’s an extensive grid of positive and negative numbers accompanied by a wide variety of bets–some with unclear acronyms. However, it’s not as scary as it looks. Here’s what the numbers mean and here’s how to tell if they’re good.
Positive odds mean the sportsbook thinks the odds of that team winning are less than 50%. A team whose odds are positive is the underdog. Here are DraftKings’ odds for the Tennessee Titans/Denver Broncos game scheduled for September 14, 2020:
So how do bettors figure out how much money they’ll make on that line? There are three steps:In this game, the Titans are the underdog. DraftKings thinks the Titans are less likely to win than the Broncos.
- Put a decimal after the hundreds place.
- Multiply the bet times the number from step one.
- Add the original bet.
When bettors see positive odds, they should pretend there’s a decimal point after the hundreds place. (Remember elementary school math class?) That means they would pretend the +108 is 1.08. That way, bettors can calculate how much their bet will win back. To find out how much a bet would win, bettors would multiply their bet by that decimal number.
Let’s say I bet $10 on a Titans win. To find my payout, I would multiply $10 and 1.08.
So, if the Titans won, I would win $10.80 on a $10 bet.
But we’re not done. I would also get my original $10 back. Winners get their original bet back, plus a little more money on top. In this case, winners more than double their money.
If bettors win enough underdog bets, they can make exponential wins on a string of losses. However, betting on the underdog is riskier, because the underdog is less likely to win. Even worse, the higher a positive bet, the less likely it is to occur. Keep that in mind before you blow all your money on +30,000 NFL futures.
Negative odds mean the sportsbook thinks a team is more than 50% likely to win. A team with negative odds is the favorite to win. Remember DraftKings’ odds on the Titans/Broncos game:
Calculating the payout from negative odds is a little more involved. To do that, bettors must:In this game, the Broncos are the favorite to win. DraftKings thinks–correctly–that the Broncos will win against the Titans.
- Ignore the negative.
- Add a decimal after the odds’ hundreds place.
- Dive the wager by the number from step two.
- Add the original wager amount back.
Bettors don’t need the negative to do the payout math. It just tells bettors the team with the negative odds is more likely to win.
If I wager $10 on a Broncos win, first I need to ignore the negative and divide the odds by 100:
Moving the decimal over two places is easy, right? Next, I would divide my wager by that number:
So, if the Broncos win, I get my original $10 wager back and I get $7.69 on top of that. My total payout is $17.69. (DraftKings rounds it up to $17.70.)
Bettors win less money on a favorite to win than an underdog. However, the favorite is more likely to win, so bettors who rely on favorites over a series of bets is less likely to eat losses than an underdog bettor. However, the odds are usually close enough that the underdog still has plenty of chance to win. It’s up to each bettor to decide how confident they are in the sportsbook’s estimation of their teams.
How To Compare Colorado’s Sportsbooks’ Odds
Here’s what makes odds good:
|Positive Odds||The higher, the better|
|Negative Odds||The closer to -100, the better|
Here are the odds on the Titans/Broncos game across all Colorado sportsbooks: Comparing sportsbooks is easy. I just get all the sportsbook apps and list the odds in an Excel sheet. After that, I can find patterns with conditional formatting in Excel. (That means the highest numbers are colored green, the lowest red, and everything in between various shades of yellow.) The two easiest patterns to find are the best and worst odds across sportsbooks.
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos|
|Sky Ute Sportsbook||N/A||N/A|
There are clear winners among Colorado’s sportsbooks:
- FanDuel has the best odds on the underdog, because it has the highest number.
- BetMGM and Fox Bet are tied for the best odds on the Broncos, because those odds are five points closer to -100.
Two to five points is a tiny difference. But sportsbooks can have 30 to 50-point differences, and those bigger differences are why comparing sportsbooks is such a vital skill for serious sports bettors.
One Important Caveat
Odds are primarily calculated by determining how likely an event is to happen. That requires a strong understanding of the game and the teams involved. That means that odds can change based on real world events. If Von Miller snaps his leg during a game, the odds are going to change in real time. Odds on subsequent Broncos games will change, too.
For bettors chasing the best odds, that means checking sportsbooks more than once is important. I pulled the odds for the table above in the middle of June 2020. By September 2020, those odds will look different. Then they’ll change during the game as the outcome becomes more certain.
If bettors wager up to the last minute, they may want to wait to see whether the odds will increase or decrease on their desired betting line. It’s an even deeper layer in the art of comparing sportsbooks.
Quick Tools For Sportsbook Comparisons
Comparing odds is a basic skill that sports bettors must master. Sportsbooks tell bettors how much their wager will win, so here’s a shorthand table to eyeball which lines are worth betting on.
|Type of Odds||Shorthand Estimation||Example|
|Positive Odds||Amount a $100 bet wins||A $100 bet on +200 odds earns $200|
|Negative Odds||Amount a bettor has to wager to win $100||A $200 bet on -200 odds earns $100|
Both examples in the table above pay out $300 total. However, a bettor has to wager twice as much up front on the negative odds for the same total payout as the positive odds.
That’s why it’s so important to compare sportsbooks’ odds. If the positive odds are better, then winners will win more money from the same bet. If the negative odds are better, bettors risk less money up front to win the same amount of money. All bettors have to do is look at the sportsbooks and see which ones have the highest numbers for the same event. Excel is my favored tool, but the process can be done just as easily on pencil and paper.