Football is not just a national sport. It is the biggest sport in the world. In terms of UK attendance figures, the Premier League attracted over 14m fans in the 2021-22 season.

Manchester United had the highest attendance figures with 1,243,659 heading to their 19 home games. That’s an average of 73,156 per game.

And with such a huge amount of football games on every day around the world, it’s reasonable to assume that bookmakers will want to get their numbers right!

But how do bookies calculate the football odds that are on offer?

Let’s start at the beginning. Pick a soccer game, any of them.

Most will have multiple markets that you can bet on. The correct score, the first goalscorer, even the predicted number of corners.

The closer the match gets the more odds that become available based on who will be playing and their current form.

What Do Odds Mean in Football?

In football, odds represent the probability or likelihood of a particular event occurring during a match or tournament. They are also used to determine the potential payout you can receive if your bet is successful.

Odds are typically set by bookmakers or sportsbooks who analyse various factors such as team form, historical data, player injuries, and other relevant information to assess the chances of different outcomes.

The odds reflect the bookmakers’ estimation of the probability of those outcomes happening. It’s important to remember that odds are not guarantees or certainties. They are simply a representation of the bookmaker’s evaluation of the event’s probability.

Factors such as team form, injuries, weather conditions, and other unforeseen circumstances can influence the outcome of a football match. Therefore, it’s crucial to conduct your own research and analysis before placing a bet based on the odds.

Ultimately, odds provide valuable information for bettors to make informed decisions and assess the potential risk and reward associated with a particular bet in football.

How Are Football Odds Calculated?

The first thing you have to know is that all bookmakers must make a profit. That is so they can stay in business.

So the football odds on offer are not exact probabilities. They have been adjusted slightly to ensure they bring in a profit.

So now we have two teams playing one football match.

Team one might have a 25% chance of winning. Team two may be much better in theory and will have a 55% chance of winning.

That leaves a 20% chance of a draw. That is 100% covered.

But based on those figures, bookmakers would neither win nor lose. Which also means they wouldn’t make a profit.

Because of that, they have to adjust those percentages. They may increase the odds on the weaker team to 32.4%, reduce the chances of the better team to 54% and increase the chances of a draw to 21.6%.

That adds up to 108%. This means the bookie has an 8% profit margin.

So if you decided to split £100 across the three possible outcomes of a match – Team 1 to win, Team 2 to win or a draw, no matter what the outcome, the bookmaker would end up paying you less than the £100 you bet overall.

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Other Factors To Consider

A bookmaker can’t just randomly choose odds. Competition from others in the industry means they also have to offer value.

If their odds are too short, punters will bet somewhere else with more value for money.

If their odds are too long, their profit margins shrink and they can’t make enough money to stay in business.

Interestingly the bigger football games have the most accurate odds as there is far more information available. Almost everything there is to know about every player on every Premier League team is known.

But if you venture further afield and go a few leagues down, the less a bookmaker may know about an individual player or his potential, impact on the game.

A lot of information also means bookmakers know which matches will attract the most bets. The more money that goes on a team or a player, the shorter the odds go.

Even if there are a few exceptionally high bets, bookmakers will still be able to make a profit no matter who wins.

How To Read Football Odds

Reading football odds can seem confusing at first, but once you understand the basics, it becomes much easier.

Football odds are typically presented in three different formats: Fractional (UK), Decimal (European), and Moneyline (American). I’ll explain each format in detail below.

Fractional Odds (UK):

Fractional odds are commonly used in the UK and are presented as fractions, such as 2/1, 5/2, or 3/4.

The first number (numerator) represents the potential profit, and the second number (denominator) represents the amount you need to stake (bet).

Here’s how to read fractional odds:

  • If the odds are 2/1, it means you can potentially win two units for every one unit staked. So if you bet £1 and win, you would receive £2 in profit, plus your initial £1 stake back.
  • If the odds are 5/2, it means you can potentially win five units for every two units staked. So if you bet £2 and win, you would receive £5 in profit, plus your initial £2 stake back.
  • If the odds are 3/4, it means you can potentially win three units for every four units staked. So if you bet £4 and win, you would receive £3 in profit, plus your initial £4 stake back.

Decimal Odds (European):

Decimal odds are commonly used in Europe and are presented as decimal numbers, such as 2.00, 3.50, or 1.75. The decimal number represents the total amount you will receive (including your stake) for every unit staked.

Here’s how to read decimal odds:

  • If the odds are 2.00, it means that if you bet £1 and win, you will receive £2 in total (including your initial £1 stake).
  • If the odds are 3.50, it means that if you bet £1 and win, you will receive £3.50 in total (including your initial £1 stake).
  • If the odds are 1.75, it means that if you bet £1 and win, you will receive £1.75 in total (including your initial £1 stake).

Moneyline Odds (American):

Moneyline odds are commonly used in the United States and are presented as positive or negative numbers.

Positive numbers indicate the potential profit for a $100 stake, while negative numbers indicate the amount you need to stake to win $100.

Here’s how to read moneyline odds:

  • If the odds are +200, it means that if you bet $100 and win, you will receive $200 in profit, plus your initial $100 stake back.
  • If the odds are -150, it means that you need to bet $150 to win $100 in profit, plus your initial $150 stake back.
  • If the odds are +120, it means that if you bet $100 and win, you will receive $120 in profit, plus your initial $100 stake back.

It’s important to note that different bookmakers may use different odds formats, so it’s always a good idea to check the format being used before placing a bet.

Additionally, odds can fluctuate based on various factors, such as team performance, injuries, and market demand.

Working Out Your Football Odds

In football, there is no option for an each-way bet on the actual Match Odds. So if you put a bet on one team to win, that’s it. They either win or they don’t.

However, you can often get higher odds and each-way options on other markets. Picking a First Goal Scorer can give you both.

Simply put, if you back your team to win at odds of 5/1, for every £1 you bet, you win £5 back.

If the odds are not as straightforward and are, for example, 11/8, that means you would get back £2.38 for each pound of your win bet – if they win!

If you would like to know how much you could potentially win before you bet on a football game, check out our Odds Calculator here.

And shop around for the best odds. Bookmakers are in competition with each other so you may find that some are offering better odds than others.