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The first thing that’s important to know is what kind of odds you’re looking at. The most common style used in North America is appropriately named American. You’re going to encounter American odds almost exclusively in the United States. There are two equally important components.
The first is a negative or positive sign. All American odds will feature one or the other.
The second component is a number. Let’s look at an example from a hypothetical NBA game:
The negative or positive sign denotes whether the bet would pay out more than your wager or less than your wager. In this example, if you bet on Team World and you win, your winnings would be more than you wagered.
If you bet Team USA, your winnings would be less than you wagered. Sportsbooks decide whether to set odds as negative or positive based on how likely they believe that outcome is to happen.
A positive sign denotes they believe the outcome is less likely. Sportsbooks also determine the number part of American odds based on that same factor. The higher the number, the less likely they believe the outcome is.
Using that number, you can figure out exactly how much a bet would pay you if you win. Negative lines, like the one for Team USA in our examples, show you exactly how much you would need to wager in order to make $100 in profits.
In this case, it’s $200. If that bet were to win, you would get your $200 wager plus another $100 in winnings from the sportsbook.
Positive odds show how much you would win on a $100 wager. In our example, if you put $100 down on Team World and that team won, you would get your $100 wager back plus $165 in winnings.
While you won’t see anything but American odds at most North American sportsbooks, on the rare occasion you may run into decimal and fractional lines.
Sportsbooks all over the world also use decimal and fractional odds. These odds types convey the exact same information as American odds, just in a different form.
It’s no different than watching a foreign film with English subtitles. The characters in the movie are communicating the exact same messages as the subtitled text.
As a matter of fact, some bettors find it easier to figure their projected payout using these odds types. To determine your payout using decimal odds, simply multiply your wager by the line.
For example, if the line is 1.65 and you bet $100, you would multiply 100 by 1.65. You would get $165 back from the sportsbook if you win.
Where bettors sometimes get tripped up by decimal odds is that they forget to subtract the value of their wager from the result of their multiplication. You need to subtract your wager from your product to show your actual profit.
Using the same example, you would only actually profit $65 from the bet. The other $100 is just the sportsbook returning your wager to you.
Once you get used to seeing odds in American form, anything else might look weird. Converting decimal odds to American odds and vice versa is quite simple.
All you have to do is remove the decimal point and put a negative or positive sign in front of the number when converting from decimal to American. Whether you use a negative or positive sign depends on whether the payout would be more or less than the value of your wager.
So again, using our example, 1.65 becomes -165. If you were looking at a decimal line of 2.40, for example, that would become +240 ($100 x 2.40=240, which is $140 in profit after you subtract your wager).
To convert the odds the other way, add a decimal point after the first digit and remove the negative or positive sign. Again, it’s crucial to remember to subtract your original wager when you figure potential winnings.
A third type of odds listing you might come across is fractional. Though they look different, they work essentially the same way as decimal odds.
The easiest way to understand fractional odds is the numerator is the profit while the denominator is your wager. If the numerator is larger, the profit will be more than your wager.
If the denominator is larger, however, the profit will be less than your wager. Calculating your payout requires simple multiplication just like using decimal odds.
Suppose the line on a particular wager is 3/2 and you want to bet $100. You would multiply 100 by 3/2, the result of which would be $150. That would be your profit, as the numerator is larger.
If the line was 1/2, however, your profit would only be $50 on a $100 wager. Some bettors find this method simpler because the calculation shows only what their profit would be.
The conversion process here is quite simple. Whether the numerator or denominator is larger comes into play again.
If the denominator is larger, you will use a negative sign. To determine your number, multiply the fraction by 100. Then add that number to 100 and you have your American line.
Let’s use our last example again. In a 1/2 line, the denominator is larger, so we need to use a negative sign in our American line.
100 x 1/2 is 50, so we add that to 100, which is 150. Therefore, 1/2 in American odds is -150. If the numerator is larger than the denominator, it’s an even easier process.
The difference is that when you have a larger numerator, you don’t add 100 to your product. Suppose the line was 2/1. The numerator is larger, so you use a positive sign. 100 x 2/1 is 200, so 2/1 in American odds style is +200.
Odds in every style tell you more than just how much your payout would be if you win, however. They also tell you how likely the outcome is. In betting, that’s called implied probability.
Implied probability tells you how confident the oddsmakers at a sportsbook are about whether an outcome will actually happen. The process of calculating implied probability varies a little based on whether the line is negative or positive.
For negative odds, you divide the number in the line by itself plus 100. Then you multiply that quotient by 100 and the result is a percentage representing the likelihood of the outcome.
If the line is positive, divide 100 by the number plus 100. Then multiply that quotient by 100. The result represents the same percentage.
To demonstrate how to do this, let’s use a current line on a hypothetical NHL game:
The line on Pittsburgh is negative and the number is 180. So our formula is 180 / (180+100) x 100. The result is 64.2%.
The line on Montreal is positive and the number is 155. So our formula is 100 / (155+100) x 100. The result is 39.2%.
Therefore, FanDuel believes Pittsburgh is more likely to win this game than Montreal. It isn’t a really strong conviction, however, as strong probability usually begins in the 80th percentile.
Now that you know how to infer meaning from American odds, it’s important to know that all bets have a clear winner. Sometimes wagers end in what’s called a push.
The simplest definition is when a game ends right on a predicted margin or ends in a tie. To illustrate this, let’s use the current point spread odds on an upcoming XFL game at PointsBet Sportsbook.
|St. Louis Battlehawks||+7.5 (-110)|
|Houston Roughnecks||-7.5 (-110)|
The point spread is 7.5 in this example. That means in order for the bet to win, the difference in the final score must be greater or less than that number. The -110 is the payout on the wager.
The negative and positive elements come into play here again. The outcome with the positive element is the underdog while the other is the favorite.
If you want to bet on Houston in this example, the Roughnecks would have to win by at least eight points for your bet to win. In the betting industry, that’s called “covering.”
If you want to bet on St. Louis, on the other hand, you would need Houston’s margin of victory to be no more than seven points. If the BattleHawks win the game by any margin, you would also win this bet in that instance.
Most sportsbooks use half-points, called a “hook,” in their game spreads to avoid pushes. For the sake of this example, imagine it was possible to score just half a point in the XFL. If the Roughnecks won this game by exactly 7.5 points, the bet would be a push.
In almost all cases, the sportsbooks simply return your wager in the event of a push. You have to win your bet in order to receive winnings, so while you don’t lose anything, you won’t make any profit either.
A point spread is just one common type of bet. There are also moneyline and point totals on games in addition to futures.
Two other common types of bets that sportsbooks place on most games are a moneyline and a point total. Those odds are commonly listed with the point spread.
A great example is a current set of odds on a hypothetical NCAA men’s basketball game:
|Buffalo Bulls||+2.5 (-110)||+125||Over 154 (-110)|
|Toledo Rockets||-2.5 (-110)||-145||Under 154 (110)|
The spread is listed first here but not all sportsbooks will do so. Others may list the moneyline or total first.
A moneyline bet is simply determined by which team wins the game. The margin of victory and how many points both teams combine for are completely irrelevant.
A point total bet is decided based upon how many points both teams combine for during the contest. Which team wins the game or by what margin doesn’t matter.
You must bet either the over or the under on the total. Just like for the point spread, the -110 indicates the payout.
Most sportsbooks usually won’t allow you to bet on both possible outcomes of a market. That means you can’t bet on both the over and the under of the same game, for example. Even if you did, with both at -110, you actually would lose money. If you bet $11 on both the over and the under, you would win $10 on one bet, but lose $11 on the other. That is a net loss of $1.
If you’re really confident that Toledo will win and by at least three points, however, you could put money down on both the moneyline and the spread. Sportsbooks take action on more than just the results of games too.
There are numerous events that take place within a game, like who scores the first point in a basketball game. Sportsbooks also set wagers on these events as well. These bets are typically referred to as prop bets.
Continuing on the example above, a sportsbook could post a market for how many points Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant will score in the game. Such a bet would work just like a wager on the point total for the entire game.
These odds can change very rapidly as the game progresses because with each action, the likelihood of the wagers paying off changes. That’s why they’re called live bets.
For example, suppose the market for Morant’s points was set at 17.5. With each point Morant scores, the sportsbook will shorten the odds on the bet.
By the same token, if the game gets to halftime and Jackson is scoreless, the sportsbook may lengthen the odds. Many sportsbooks will offer bettors an option to cash out their bets as the game goes along.
These bets are available on more than just player props though. In fact, there are live wagering odds for everything from full-game point totals to moneylines to point totals by quarter to the spread.
Just like with any other wager, doing so includes risk.
Futures odds are exactly what the name implies. They are based on future events. It can sometimes take months for the wagers to become settled. These bets are usually presented as moneyline wagers on the likelihood the event will happen.
A good example of futures bets right now is action on who will win the 2020 World Series. For example, at BetRivers you can place a wager on any and all of MLB’s 30 teams to win it all next season.
The current favorite, the team with the smallest odds, at that sportsbook is the New York Yankees. The line on that bet is +350.
In order to take advantage of that line, you have to put up your money now. The sportsbook will then hold your wager until after the event is decided.
If you win, the bet will pay out at the odds the market sat on when you placed the wager. That’s the risk you take on futures bets.
Such lines can move many times during the lead up to the deciding event. There are many factors that can influence odds of all kinds. As such, an important part of futures betting is weighing the benefits of betting early and getting favorable odds over the chance circumstances change, as will the odds.
In terms of futures odds, sportsbooks will lengthen and shorten those based on coaching changes, free-agent acquisitions/losses, and how a team performs from one game to the next during a season.
For live wagers, there are many possible factors. These include a change in weather, how tightly a game is being called by the officials, how much time in the game a particular player is seeing, and so much more.
Just like in almost everything else, knowledge is key. It’s difficult to maximize the value of a wager if you are unfamiliar with the elements affecting it. That’s why betting on sports is a game of skill.
A final thing to understand is that while sportsbooks may be owned by parent companies in other countries, they operate locally. That’s not only because laws vary from state to state but also because the action on the same markets varies as well.
Sportsbooks know their customers well. They are also in the business to make money, so they tweak their products to take advantage of local allegiances and interests.
This determines not only odds but what wagers sportsbooks make available as well. For example, bettors in Tennessee should expect more options for betting on Volunteers football this fall than betting on a UNLV game. You may also pay a different price for those wagers than someone in Las Vegas does. With many supporters of local teams like the Vols, the odds may be more favorable for these teams than they are in a more neutral market like Nevada.
Because they expect to see more action on those games, the odds will reflect that. The more action a sportsbook takes on a market, the more it stands to lose.
That’s why having multiple operators in Tennessee is so crucial. The pressure of competition acts as a check on sportsbooks skewing odds heavily in their own favor.
Working those odds in your favor largely depends on understanding the market. Now that you know how to read odds and what types of bets are available, you can start making informed decisions on how to maximize the upside of your risk.