How Do Betting Odds Work?
Before venturing into sports betting in Illinois, it's important to understand how Illinois sportsbooks and apps operate. Bettors will have countless wagers available, including moneylines, spreads, over/unders, futures and props. Oddsmakers employed by the sportsbooks set betting lines on games and events within games. There are a ton of different kinds of odds, which we will discuss in a bit.
Betting sites, including, but not limited to, DraftKings Illinois, BetMGM, and Unibet Sports IL, set odds to stimulate action on both sides of the bet. If betting action is roughly equal, then the sites profit from the "juice" or "vig." Typical odds on an "even money" bet are -110, which means a bettor must wager $110 to win $100 in return. Sometimes a sportsbook will reduce the juice to -105 to stimulate more action. While that does not seem like much, over the course of the year, that can add up.
So what is that -110 number? Operators will offer American odds, which list what you stand to profit based on either a $100 wager or to win $100, depending on which side of the bet you are on. The favored side will be listed with a negative number, such as -130, while the underdog is listed with a positive number like +120. A negative number shows how much a sports bettor must wager to win $100. We will discuss this in more detail below in our moneyline odds section.
How to Read Betting Odds
Reading betting odds is easy. Let's give an example from an NBA game between the Bulls and the Celtics. Let's say the sportsbook says Bulls +2.5 (-110) at Celtics -2.5 (-110). Additionally, it lists moneyline odds at +130 for Chicago and -120 for Boston. What the operator is saying is that the Bulls are 2.5-point underdogs, and the Celtics are 2.5-favorites. That is confirmed by the moneyline odds. When you see a plus sign, you are "getting points" in a game in exchange for lesser odds. Betting on the Chicago NBA team: the Bulls to win outright would net $130, after all. Those points balance the odds.
For spread wagers and totals, the odds are often listed as -110 on both sides, which means a bettor would need to wager $110 to win $100 profit. The money sports bettors stand to win requires a simple calculation based on the ratios listed in the bets. If bettors wants to wager $25, they could divide the positive odds by four because it's based on a $100 bet. For negative odds, the math is a bit more difficult because of the vig. If a bettor hopes to win a certain amount, use the formula below to determine the amount required for the bet.
Desired profit x (odds/100). To win $25 on a -110 bet, a bettor would need to wager $27.50, which is $25 x 1.1.
Sports Betting Odds Explained
Illinois operators offer various types of bets for different sports. The most common types of bets are moneyline, point spread and over/under, but people can also create parlays, wager on full-season outcomes with futures bets, bet on in-game props or even make live wagers while a game is happening. Each type of bet comes with different odds, and the odds show the risk involved in a wager. The more negative the line, the more it is expected to occur, and the more positive a line, the less likely it is anticipated to happen.
A moneyline bet is a wager in which the bettor gambles on the outright winner of a game. Typically, the favorite will have negative odds and return less than one-to-one profit while the underdog has positive odds and will return more than one-to-one profit. The greater the perceived disparity between the teams, the wider the gap will be in the moneyline odds. For a better to win a moneyline bet, the team on which they wager must win the game, and the margin of victory does not matter. A tie or a loss will result in a lost bet. For example, if you place a bet on an IL NFL sportsbook for the Kansas City Chiefs to win against the Pittsburg Steelers, and your pick is right, you win the moneyline bet.
In sports betting, the moneyline can be a good bet for several reasons. The final margin of victory does not matter. A win is a win. Meanwhile, if a bettor thinks an underdog stands a good chance to win outright, the moneyline will offer better odds than other bets.
Point Spread Betting
A point spread bet considers the expected margin of victory in a game, not just winners and losers. The favored team will be listed with a negative number next to it, which is called laying points. Effectively, the favored team is starting the bet in a deficit and needs to win by more than the number listed. The underdog will have a positive number next to it and thus start with a lead for the wager. To win, a bettor will need an underdog to lose by less than the spread or win outright. Spread wagers can end in a push if the final score matches the sportsbook's spread.
For NFL football betting in IL, if the two teams are considered equal, the home team typically receives a 3-point advantage. Let's say the Chicago Bears are hosting the Detroit Lions, and the Bears are considered to be just slightly better, so they are a 4-point favorite. If Illinois bettors wager on the Chicago -4, they would need the Bears to win by 5 or more points to win the bet. If the Lions win or lose by 3 points or fewer, the bet is a loss. If the Bears win by 4, it's a push.
Over/under wagers give Illinois bettors a chance to wager on the total points, runs or goals scored in a game, as opposed to the winner or loser. Let's stick with the Chicago Bears example. They are visiting the Green Bay Packers, and the total is set at 50 points. Both the over and under have -110 odds, because they are considered equal value bets and factor in the vig. If a bettor chooses the over, he or she needs the teams to combine for 51 points or more to win. A total of 49 points would be a loss, and a total of 50 would be a push.
Over/under bets can fluctuate significantly before a game. If there is inclement weather in the forecast, the total could go down. If a team is missing key players, it could shift again.
Parlay betting involves tying the results of multiple wagers into one bet. Each part of the parlay is called a leg, and bettors need each leg to be correct to win, though a push will allow bettors to win at reduced odds.
Parlays can give Illinois bettors a significant return on investment because the odds multiply with each leg, but it can be tricky to calculate the exact return on these bets, especially if the odds are different for parts of the bet. Thankfully, if you are using an online sportsbook or online sports betting app, you can see the payout before placing the wager. If you are at a retail sportsbook in person, you can use a kiosk or ask someone at the betting window to tell you the odds.
For a basic example, let's use a variety of teams. The Bears, Cubs and White Sox are all playing the same day, and the bettor likes all three teams to win by the spread with odds of -110 for each leg.
Sure, there are bet calculators and our online betslip will also give you the payout. But if you want to see the math, here's how you do it: Convert American odds to decimal odds. Divide 100 by 110 to get a decimal of 0.91 for the profit and then add 1 because a win would also return the initial bet. The decimal odds for each leg are 1.91, so multiply that times three because it's a three-team parlay and the odds are 5.73 to 1. With a $100 wager, the bettor would win $573 if all three legs are correct.
Live (In-Game) Betting
Live betting presents an excellent opportunity for bettors to find value and not something you will find in a retail sports betting location. One of the fastest segments of the sports betting industry, live betting was made for online sportsbooks or sports betting apps.
The odds – primarily moneylines, spreads and over/unders but also props – shift instantaneously during the game based on the score because IL sports betting sites employ computer algorithms to adjust in real time. If a favorite starts a game in a deficit, that team could suddenly be available to bet as the underdog, or a game could have a low-scoring start that shifts the total down.
Bettors traditionally make their wagers before the game, but technological advancements have made it easy for people to use an app to gamble during a game. In some cases, a pre-game line might not provide the value a bettor wants, but the live lines could shift in a manner that offers the desired value.
Why Do Sports Betting Lines Change?
Sports betting lines change for a variety of reasons. A common reason for a change before a game is that an operator has seen an influx of wagers a team and adjusts the odds to remove the value perceived by bettors. Weather, injuries and illnesses can lead oddsmakers to adjust the lines, too. Sharp bettors look to pounce early if they see odds that look favorable, which can cause a shift, too.
When are sports betting lines released?
Odds for each game are released whenever the two competing teams are next up on the schedule, though sometimes for marquee matchups they will be released months in advance.
For the NFL, most odds come out Sunday night after teams have played, though the teams playing Monday Night Football won't have their odds available until later because sportsbooks will use the outcome to help determine the line for the next game. NBA, MLB and NHL betting lines come out the night before each game, unless both teams are idle for a day or two before the matchup.
Why Are Odds Important In Sports Betting?
Sports betting odds tell people how much they stand to win on a wager and reflect what the sportsbook and betting public expects to happen. If a team is heavily favored and has bad odds, it's because the oddsmaker expects bettors to favor that team significantly, so the sportsbooks try to remove the value that would invite more bets. If a team is a considerable underdog, sportsbooks will offer good odds to invite more bets, knowing that a win is unlikely.
The best way to find good odds when sports betting in Illinois is to look beyond the records. Amount of rest between games, one-on-one matchups, travel time and other factors that impact that game are frequently overlooked, but these things can level the playing field in an otherwise lopsided game.
Look at college sports like men's basketball. Every year the NCAA Tournament features several upsets based on seeding even though the teams are evenly matched. The best way to find good probability is when a clear favorite has negative but good odds, or when an underdog with a realistic chance to win has positive odds.
How To Calculate Sports Betting Payouts
Before venturing into online betting, people should know what they stand to win or lose. Unless a sports bet has EVEN or +100 written next to it, the wager will either return more or less than the amount of the bet. Remember, most bets will be based on a $100 bet, and while it will take some practice to calculate these things, eventually the number-crunching will become an old hat for bettors.
Negative Odds Payouts
Negative odds exist when one team is favored in a matchup or if the wager is considered by the sportsbook to be an even proposition. The most common negative payout is -110 for point spreads and over/unders because the sportsbook views this as an even wager and factors in the vig, the money received by the house.
The higher the negative odds, the more heavily favored the side of the bet. A -2000 favorite should win almost every time. When betting on negative odds, a bettor would need to bet the listed number to win $100, so -110 would need a $110 bet to win $100. People can bet more or less, but the ratio will remain the same. An $11 bet would profit $10. An $1100 bet would profit $1000. Meanwhile, a -2000 favorite would require a $2000 bet just to win $100.
Positive Odds Payouts
Sportsbooks list positive odds for the underdog, giving bettors a chance to make extra money if the more unlikely outcome occurs. The higher the positive odds, the more profit a bettor stands to win. In a close matchup, the underdog might have odds of +125, so a $100 bet would profit $125.
If the game is considered more lopsided, it might be +800, so a $100 bet would profit $800. To calculate positive odds payouts of bets other than $100, add a decimal before the final two numbers and then multiply that times the betting amount. At +125, a bettor could profit 1.25 the wager, and at +800, the bet could win eight times the wager. Most prop bets and futures have positive odds because there are many different outcomes. Prop bets can be found on all top sites. Be sure to review PointsBet Illinois or William Hill IL to name just a few great options.
Sportsbooks and Betting Odds
Sportsbooks will have varied odds because they employ different oddsmakers who view the games or the public perception differently. When the lines open each day, the lines could be significantly different at various Illinois online sports betting sites. The oddsmakers will adjust them based on how people bet or activity related to the game, but the varied odds give bettors a chance to snag some value by shopping around. This is a good reason to check multiple online operators before placing bets. We recommend signing up for several sportsbooks to collect multiple welcome offers, which could be a deposit match or risk-free bet.
Comparing Illinois Betting Odds With Vegas Betting Odds
Bettors have many options to compare odds. Par a Dice Casino, Hawthorne Race Course, Grand Victoria Casino and Rivers Casino Des Plaines are among the options for in-person retail sportsbooks. There are also online betting sites available, such as FanDuel Sports IL, which offer daily fantasy sports in addition to online betting and mobile sports betting.
Bettors can visit the different Illinois casinos or try multiple legal online sports betting sites to take advantage of different offers. When looking into online betting, check for welcome bonuses such as a risk-free bet among other promotions. Many sites give these free bets to entice new bettors, and an online operator can offer something appealing at first to attract bets in the future. That is not something Vegas sportsbooks or even retail shops do.
The odds at our recommended sites could differ from those in other states as sportsbooks shift odds based on who is betting. Many people bet their favorite teams, so Illinois sports fans could shift the odds locally, creating less favorable odds for the Bears. However, online sportsbooks including Illinois PointsBet and FOX Bet IL app and online are known to "boost" the odds of local teams, meaning a potential better payout in Illinois than in Las Vegas.
One thing to remember when betting in Illinois: In-state college teams and college games that occur in the state are unavailable as they are not legal.
Other Betting Odds
A futures bet allows people to wager on the outcome of the entire season, and these odds are often listed in a different way. Bettors can pick a team to win a division, conference or league title, or players to win postseason awards. Because these are long-term bets, the odds can be enticing, but oddsmakers work to make these difficult bets. Futures bets are normally overwhelming positive and thus listed as +1200 or +1500 and can go much higher with teams or players considered unlikely to win.
The odds are a combination of expectations for a team as well as how sportsbooks expect people to bet. Teams with expansive fan bases like the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys normally have worse odds than anticipated because sportsbooks expect people to bet these teams to win year in and year out.
Props, short for propositions, are sports bets in which people wager on specific statistics or event to occur in a game. These can apply to individual players, one team or a combination of teams. For large events like the Super Bowl, there are props for things unrelated to the actual game, like the coin toss, length of the national anthem or the outfits worn by halftime performers. The vig on prop bets is often higher than the traditional bets, but bettors can find some value if they know the matchup.
Teasers and pleasers are exotic forms of parlays for spread and total bets that give bettors a chance to improve their likelihood of winning or increase the profitability. With a teaser, bettors can shift the lines in a manner that shifts the spread in a more likely fashion while also reducing the potential payout otherwise available in a traditional parlay.
An NFL bettor might like the Chicago Bears -3, New York Jets +6 and New Orleans Saints -7 on a given Sunday, but to remove some risk, the bettor could tease up to 6 points and adjust the lines to Bears +3, Jets +12 and Saints -1. A pleaser has the opposite effect and is an option when a bettor is confident in multiple teams exceeding expectations. A 3-point pleaser would adjust those lines to Bears -6, Jets +3 and Saints -10, and the odds would increase to create a more profitable bet.
Many sports betting sites will offer teaser and pleaser cards that show how much bettors could win by teasing or pleasing a certain number of games.
Betting Odds FAQ
Betting odds are set based on multiple factors. Sportsbooks consider the likelihood of each bet to happen as well as the expectations of the betting market. On their face, odds indicate the implied probability of an outcome, but the odds could be different than expected if the sportsbook sees reasons for bettors to favor one side of a bet.
Oddsmakers at each sportsbook set the odds for the various matchups. Some sites will have identical odds because they use the same oddsmaker, but the difference between sportsbooks allows bettors to find value by shopping around.
Line shifts are often a response to the betting market. If heavy money comes in on one side, oddsmakers could change the odds to diminish the perceived value of the betting public, either changing the spread or raising the vig on different bets. Injuries, weather and other factors that might impact the outcome could lead betting lines to shift, too.
Negative odds indicate which side of the bet is the favorite, unless both sides are at -110. It's not better to seek negative or positive odds, but don't fear negative odds if you like the bet.
It's hard to say any sport offers better odds than another. Oddsmakers work to make the bets fair across all sports, but there are some reasons to favor different sports. Horse racing often offers the best chance for a big payday with bets like Pick 3, 4 or 5. NFL betting in IL gives people a week to make bets, and the odds could change drastically during that time, allowing sports bettors to find perceived value if the line starts too high or shifts significantly. NHL betting and NBA betting, with games every day, gives bettors a chance to ride a hot team. MLB betting can have good odds if there's a clear disparity between the pitchers on a given day. Niche sports, such as rugby and cricket, offer an opportunity for those in the know to take advantage.
No. Many of Illinois' sportsbooks will offer the same odds that bettors will see in Las Vegas or even better. There might even be times where bettors find better value in locally because the Illinois sports betting market could shift odds in a way that illustrates how sports fans perceive an upcoming matchup.
Josh Katzenstein is a former NFL beat writer. He spent the past three years covering the New Orleans Saints for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, and he previously covered the Detroit Lions for four years for The Detroit News. His work can also be found at Bleacher Report. He currently resides in New Orleans.