How do you read/interpret fractional odds?
This text is based on our personal experiences and represents our opinions.
For the novice punter, getting to grips with the tried and tested format of fractional odds can be a bit overwhelming. Just what does 11/10 mean? How strong an outsider is a 5/1 shot? Why do 1/5 odds look reversed? What value am I getting for the stake? Let’s start with the basics. Fractional odds are the preferred method of presenting odds in the UK, and while they may look confusing, there are some simple guidelines to follow so that you can actually start to enjoy looking at them. For starters, it is important to know that Evens is the bookmakers betting line. Putting it simply, that is when they think that an outcome has just as much chance of happening as not. So, if something has less of a chance of happening than Evens, it will be represented by a positive fraction, say 3/1, 6/1 or 10/1. However, if an outcome has a better than Evens chance of happening (such as the favourites in a football match winning), then picture the odds beneath that line as negative fractions, such a 1/3, 1/6 or 1/10. What is the difference in terms of profit between the two?
Let’s look at a bet which is offered at 3/1. This means that for every unit of stake, you will get three times that initial stake back as profit. So, if you bet £10 at 3/1, you would win £30 (plus get your stake back on top of that). Essentially, you bet £1 for every £3 of profit. However, if a bet is offered at 1/3 however, then you would need to bet the reverse, you need to bet £3 to win every £1of profit. This is the distinction between a favourite in the betting odds for a sporting event, and the underdog. The bookmaker will offer the lower price on the favourite, simply because they will not want to give away profit on something which is more likely to happen than not. That is a basic look at how to read fractional odds, and they are simpler to manage that they may first appear. What does add a little more confusion into things, is when more complicated odds appear on a bookie’s website, lets say for example, fractional odds of 5/4. How is this interpreted into profit? Well, the basic match behind the fraction is the same. For every £4 you stake, you will win £5, so as you can see it’s relatively short odds. One good way to quickly look at fractions like this, is to break them down to more manageable numbers. How do you do this? You simply halve them.
Break 5/4 in half and it leaves you with 2.5/2 and break that in half an it leaves you with 1.25/1, so you can see that 5/4 odds are just better than Evens. Of course, there is no such thing as halves in fractional odds, so that is why you will see these slightly strange looking prices. Because in this instance the bookmaker thinks there is room to go over a price of Evens for a market selection, but it’s too risky to put the price up there at 2/1, then they will find somewhere in between. Because halves and quarters can’t be represented in fractional odds, the only way for the bookmakers to offer these odds is to do the reverse of what we just did in breaking them down. They round them up to the next physical whole fraction. So, a 23/20 breaks right down to, 11.5/10, 5.75/5, 2.8/2.5, 1.4/1.25 and again is just a little better over Even odds, showing you where the bookmaker was coming from when he set the initial odds. For a quick step on that one you could simply have halved the 23/20 to the 11.5/10, divided that by ten giving you 1.5/1 just for a rough, ballpark estimate. One handy tip would be to find yourself a good bet calculator for accurately tracking your fractional odds.