Betting Explained: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re new to betting, one of the first things you should do is learn how betting works. It is critical because it allows you to understand how likely an event is to happen and what your potential winnings will be. It may seem confusing at first. But read this guide explaining betting to help understand.

In betting, odds represent the ratio between the amounts wagered by parties in a wager. So a 3:1 odd means that the first party (the bookmaker) bets three times as much as the second party (the gambler).

What is probability?

At its most basic level, betting offers you the ability to predict the outcome of a particular event. If your prediction is correct, you win money.

For any given event, there are a certain number of possible outcomes. Take, for example, throwing a die. When someone rolls a dice, there are six possible outcomes. So if you bet that the person will roll a “one,” there is a 16.67% chance that this will happen.

Using bets to calculate probability

Whenever you see two numbers separated by a slash, say 4/1, it is known as fractional odds. From this, you can use a calculation to calculate how likely it is that a certain event will occur. For ease of explanation, let’s replace the numbers with letters, i.e., 4/1 becomes A/B. Here’s the calculation: Probability (%) = B / (A+B).

  • 9/1 can be calculated as 1 / (9 + 1) = 0.10; there is a 10% chance that the event will occur.
  • 4/1  can be calculated as   1 / (4 + 1)    = 0.20   – There is a 20% chance that the event will occur.
  • 1/1 can be calculated as 1 / (1 + 1) = 0.50; there is a 50% chance that the event will occur.
  • 1/4 can be calculated as 4 / (4 + 1) = 0.80—there is an 80% chance that the event will occur.

Hurrah! We’re making progress. Given a fraction, we can now say how likely (the “likelihood”) what we are going to bet on will happen. Now let’s see how much money can be won with bets.

Using bets to calculate winnings

Betting allows you to calculate how much money you will win when you place a bet. Let’s use the same examples as before, with the same substitution of numbers for letters, i.e., 4/1 becomes A/B. Simply put, for every value of B you bet, you win A plus the return of your bet.

  • 9/1: For every £1 you bet, you will win £9.
  • 4/1: for every £1 you bet, you win £4.
  • 1/1   for every £1 you bet,  you win £1.
  • 1/4   for every £4 you bet,  you win £1.

What about decimals?

Decimals are much more common on exchanges such as Betfair, but all leading betting sites allow you to view bets in this format. They are an alternative to seeing bets in fractional format, and in our opinion, they are easier to calculate. Here’s the calculation: profit = (chance * stake) – stake. Let’s illustrate it with some examples.

  • 9.0   can be calculated as (9.0 * €10 bet) – €10 bet    = €80 profit.
  • 4.0   can be calculated as (4.0 * €10 bet) – €10 bet =    €30 profit.
  • 2.5   can be calculated as (2.5 * €10 bet) – €10 bet    €15 profit.
  • 1.25  can be calculated as (1.25 * €10 bet) – €10 bet   €2.50 profit.

Betting Example

To make all this information a bit more understandable, here’s a short example of a bet on a football match.

If you were to support Arsenal to beat Liverpool 2-0, you could see the odds of that outcome at 4.0 (decimal) or 3/1 (fractional).

You can instantly calculate how much your potential winnings would be if your stake were £10:

  • 4.0 can be calculated as 4.0 * €10 bet – €10 = €30 profit
  • 3/1 for every €1 you wager, you win €3 – €30 profit
  • Don’t forget that you also get your original bet back.

You can also use our betting calculator to calculate your winnings.

Decimal odds vs. fractional odds

One way is not better than the other, but there is certainly a trend towards using decimal odds. Fractional odds have traditionally been used in the UK, especially on racecourses and high streets. There are two main differences.

In general, decimal odds are easier to understand. Based on this, there is a movement to attract more people to horse racing by making it more accessible to the average gambler. If you went to Glorious Goodwood Cheltenham ten years ago, all odds would be represented as fractional odds. Now they are largely all in decimal.

The second difference between the formats is that fractional odds only represent winnings, not the return stake, compared to decimals, which do include the stake. The move from fractional odds to decimals largely began with the growing popularity of betting exchanges such as Unibet and Ladbrokes.

If the probability changes slightly, it is very difficult to marginally increase or decrease the probability without creating large fractions. These are difficult for the gambler to calculate and are not a good way to explain bets.

Use our tool to convert bets into your preferred format.

It may be that your favorite online gambling site displays the odds as you probably have them. But sometimes you may need to convert them to understand them.

Our opportunity converter tool allows you to see opportunities in any format you want. Not only that, but it will also tell you how likely the selection is to win!

What are good odds?

There is no correct answer here, as every gambler has a rough idea of what good odds are at their chosen betting site. Commodity odds depend on the betting market the odds are available on, as some value can be found on certain selections that are not available from other bookmakers.

Good odds can be considered the best value for money because, as a gambler, you always want to maximise your potential winnings from a bet. If a bookmaker offers relatively short odds on a particular selection that are available elsewhere at much higher odds, then these represent good odds, with the bookmaker offering more for your money with the bigger odds.

There are many different betting markets available for a range of events, which is why gamblers often look around at different bookmakers for a particular selection in the hope of finding good odds that can potentially maximise a potential win.

Horse racing odds explained

Horse racing odds are relatively easy to understand, but we’ve provided some examples to make it easier for gamblers who are less experienced in understanding odds.

  • 3/1: For every 1 unit you bet, you will receive 3 units if you win (plus your bet).
  • 11/2: For every 2 units you bet, you will receive 11 units if you win (plus your bet).
  • 9/4: For every 4 units you bet, you will receive 9 units if you win (plus your bet).

Horse racing odds are displayed in fractions or decimals, and each gambler has their own preference for what they like to see on their chosen operator’s site. In horse racing, there is always a favourite in a race, and they have the lowest price compared to the rest of the field.

They also have an “F” visible next to their odds, which stands for favorite, so bettors unfamiliar with horse racing betting will know which horse is the favourite to win the race.

Football betting odds explained

Football is one of the most popular sports for gamblers to bet their money on, and with competitions taking place all year round on a daily basis, it is understandable why it is so popular among gamblers. They can bet on many different betting markets accessible through most of the leading betting sites, with potential value in and around certain selections. Finding the best football betting odds is crucial for gamblers looking for the best value for their money.

However, not all bookmakers have the same betting markets available, as some lack as much depth as others, which means that sometimes a lot more value can be found on the betting site that covers significantly more depth within its betting markets. Below, we have listed some of the most popular types of football betting that can be placed with most of the leading bookmakers.

  • Match betting: This is the most popular type of betting on football because you are predicting the outcome of a particular match. However, some bookmakers offer different odds for each selection, so it’s worth looking around for potential value within the bets offered by different betting sites.
  • Bet Builder Bets: The bet builder feature is extremely popular among bettors, as they can combine multiple selections on the same event to form a single bet. Therefore, there may be potential value within the opportunities, which makes it understandable why it is so popular.
  • Player/Team Props: This betting corner is one of the newest types of bets you can find at some bookmakers. Being relatively new in terms of the depth covered, it will come as no surprise to learn that not all bookmakers offer this type of betting market. These are sometimes called “stats-based betting markets” because you bet your money on players or teams to have a certain stat during a match. Some bookmakers have different lines and odds available in prop markets, so it’s an area where gamblers can find some value.
  • Accumulators: Football accumulators are regularly placed by bettors, and with the prospect of winning a significant amount of money, it is understandable why they are so popular. However, some of the best betting sites out there for accumulator betting offer accumulator boosts, which give bettors a bonus amount that is added to the bet’s original potential return.
  • In-Play/Live Betting: This is an area where gamblers can find their money’s worth, especially if they have accounts at many different betting sites. Bookmakers don’t price betting markets with the same odds across the board, and with the fast-paced nature of football matches, scenarios can often change, meaning bettors can find some value if they are quick enough. Expect this to become an important feature for fans during the World Cup as almost all games draw large TV audiences.


Betting odds represent the probability of an event occurring and therefore allow you to calculate how much money you will win if your bet wins. For example, with odds of 4/1, for every £1 you bet, you win £4.  There is a 20% chance of this happening, calculated by 1 / (4 + 1) = 0.20.

Next steps

That is it! Hopefully that explains the bets. You should now have the knowledge to read bets, understand how likely it is to happen, and how much you can win.

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