When you visit a legal online sportsbook, you’ll find a host of numbers to dig into. While the CFL is one attraction, the menu of options will go much deeper than that.
From daily moneylines, spreads, and totals, to props and futures, a sportsbook is nothing if not a collection of different sets of odds. With betting expanding in Canada and the number of mobile betting sites in Ontario growing, more and more people will be gaining experience with these apps, whether they are just casual bettors or hardcore sports fans.
Regardless of where you land on the sports betting experience spectrum, a full understanding of the odds board and what it’s telling you is key.
This guide will cover everything that you need to know about betting at Canadian sportsbooks when it comes to reading betting odds, the different bet types available to you, and how to place wagers.
Latest odds at online sportsbooks in Canada
Sports betting odds will appear in one of two ways at Canadian sportsbooks: American or decimal. You can typically toggle between the two formats. For a standard moneyline bet, here’s an example:
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers||-150||1.67|
On the American side, negative numbers indicate favourites, and underdogs usually are positive. When reading decimal odds, the lower of the two values is for the favoured side. While it’s possible to find a discrepancy here or there, the numbers on both sides will generally line up and are easily convertible.
- To convert American odds to decimal:
- Positive: (Odds/100) + 1 = decimal
- Negative: (100/-odds) + 1 = decimal
- To convert decimal odds to American:
- Odds of 2.00 or greater: (Odds – 1) * 100 = American
- Odds from 1.01 to 1.99: -100 / (Odds – 1) = American
Even if you typically stick to one format, it’s still a good idea to have a handle on how to read both styles of odds. While doing research, you may see one form or the other in certain spots. If you don’t understand both formats, you’re setting yourself up for confusion and mistakes.
How to read betting lines
Once you open your application, you’ll be able to view a menu of sports that will display game lines for any sport that is offered by the site. You’ll notice that for the most popular ones, the sportsbook displays three bet types: the moneyline, spread, and total (over/under).
If you’ve ever been anywhere near a sportsbook, you’ve likely seen or heard these terms before. These are the three most basic bet types out there, and this is the place to start if you’re looking to understand how to read odds for any market you see.
There’s no better way to understand than by using an example, so let’s take a look at a set of odds for a Canadian Football League matchup to help describe what each bet type looks like using American odds.
|Saskatchewan Roughriders||+3.5 (-110)||+140||Over 47.5 (-105)|
|Toronto Argonauts||-3.5 (-110)||-160||Under 47.5 (-115)|
Betting moneylines involves simply picking which side you think will win the game. Oddsmakers project favourites to win the game and they will have a negative line, while underdogs will have a positive symbol next to their odds. The moneyline itself can be used to calculate potential wins and losses, based on the number $100.
With favourites, the negative line indicates how much you have to wager to get back $100 on a winning bet. So you’d have to risk $160 on Toronto to win $100 in profit for a total return of $260 counting the initial wager.
When the odds are positive, the number equals how much you’d win if risking $100. So a bet of that size on Saskatchewan at +140 could win $140 in profit and a total return of $240.
Because not all teams are equal, the point spread is the oddsmakers’ way of evening out the game from a gambling perspective. In order to ‘cover’ the spread, favourites must win by more than the spread indicates. Underdogs can lose by a lesser number than the spread and still cover the number and win your bet.
When it comes to calculating wins and losses, use the price that accompanies the spread and calculate as you would a moneyline to determine what your risk and reward will be.
A bet on Toronto at -3.5 (-110) means the Argos need to win by four or more points, and it will require a $110 risk to win $100 in profit. A wager on the Roughriders +3.5 (-110) means needing a victory or a loss by three or fewer points to cover the spread.
While many point spreads will feature matching -110 lines on both sides, the price you pay for a spread (also known as the juice) will vary between -125 and +100 on most occasions before a given spread changes by a half-point in whatever direction it is being pushed. Always shop around to make sure you get the best possible line.
Another thing to note is that if a point spread is a whole number and the winning margin of the favourite lands exactly on it (i.e. Argos are favoured by three and win by a field goal), the bet is graded as a push and all wagers are void. Whatever you risk will be returned to your account.
Totals, also known as over/under, involve betting whether the combined score of a sporting event will go over or under the predetermined total set by oddsmakers. The total will be the same for both the over and the under, but similar to the point spread, there’s a chance the juice could swing toward one side or another.
A bet on the Argonauts-Roughriders Over 47.5 (-105) needs 48 or more points to cash your ticket, and you’ll have to risk $105 for every $100 in profit. Betting on the Under 47.5 (-115) requires a $115 risk to win $100 and 47 or fewer combined points in the game.
Similar to spreads, there are two components to consider: the number itself and the actual odds for placing the bet. One site could have the same total and slightly different juice or the number could be different along with the prices, and you need to choose between your options.
A futures bet is a long-term wager that isn’t settled until sometime, well, in the future. Not only are these wagers popular because they have the potential to be lucrative, but they also provide a rooting interest for more than just one game or day.
The most common examples are futures bets on league championships, but that extends to tournaments for individual sports and even individual awards in team sports.
You can place futures bets on a league’s championship such as the winner of the Super Bowl or Grey Cup, individual tournaments such as the Masters or Wimbledon, or even on player accomplishments like who will win the next NBA MVP.
When discussing team sports, odds for futures usually come out in the offseason. If we use the winner of the next Grey Cup as an example, you can expect to see futures odds soon after the current edition is in the books. Lines will remain active throughout the season, adjusting based on the results each week.
Line shopping is always important, but perhaps never more so than when you’re betting futures. Because these bets are such a long way from settling, there’s much less certainty in how it will turn out, both for bettors and oddsmakers. That means there’s tons of variance in these lines from book to book, and having multiple accounts will help ensure you get the best line.
How live sports betting odds work
Once upon a time, all bets had to be placed before the game began. That’s no longer the case, thanks to the innovation of live betting. You can wager in real-time as the action plays out on the field.
It’s a very fast-moving market in which the odds and offerings will change frequently, and there are even bonuses and promotions that can be offered around live betting.
Moneylines, spreads, and totals are the most commonly-bet live lines, but there are also certain props available with updated odds, depending on the sport. When betting on the NFL or MLB, there could even be what is referred to as ‘flash bets’ or ‘micro bets’ which focus on the very next play, drive, inning, or at-bat.
There are multiple ways to use live betting to your advantage. Some bettors just weren’t able to get a wager in before the game began, while others strategically want to see how the game plays out and potentially pounce on one side or the other if the line gets to a certain value.
Maybe a big favourite falls behind early and all of a sudden, the price isn’t so bad. Or a game gets off to a ton of scoring and you’re sure it will slow down, so you take the under at an inflated price. There are plenty of ways to gain value on the live line compared to the pregame line.
Live betting is also a tool for those who want to hedge previous bets. If you’re down to the last leg of a parlay, you may bet a small amount on the other side to guarantee some kind of profit for yourself. It can also be used as a way to ‘middle’ a previous bet, which involves betting both sides of a game with some middle ground to land you a win on both.
Live betting can make the games that you’re watching more entertaining, but a note of caution applies: It can be easy to get caught up in the action. Always remember to bet with your head and never over it.
Proposition bets, known as props, are virtually any single-game wager that isn’t the moneyline, spread, or total. Props could include the final score or total in some way, but it usually involves other elements.
Props are usually broken down into player, game, and team props, with the former being the most popular. This would include over/under for player passing, receiving, and rushing yards in a CFL or NFL game, and would extend to team totals for each of the two halves, and beyond.
For NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games, the number of props is seemingly endless. They provide alternative ways to wager on the game and find value on lines that aren’t being looked at quite as closely.
If you’re someone who is interested in fantasy sports and player stats, or any part of the game aside from who wins and the final score, props are worth checking out and are widely available at online sportsbooks in Canada.
How to calculate betting wins and losses
As long as you win enough bets, the odds don’t matter all that much, right? Wrong. What you need to be thinking about is: how can I tell how much my odds will payout?
The amount you receive back on your winning bets depends on the odds at which you placed those bets. In short, every tick of difference adds up. Let’s consider the profit on a successful $100 bet at a few different price points in a narrow range for both American and decimal odds:
- -105/1.95 = $95.20
- -108/1.93 = $92.60
- -110/1.91 = $90.90
- -112/1.89 = $89.30
- -115/1.87 = $87.00
For a single wager, the difference may not seem all that dramatic. However, if you add it up over the course of many bets, there’s a marked difference to your bottom line. Whenever you plan to wager, always take the time to compare the odds to make sure that you’re getting the best possible price.
Once you add a wager to the slip and plug in the amount of your stake, the sportsbook will display the potential return. After you place the bet, it moves over to the open bets section, where you can track the progress throughout the contest. Many sportsbooks offer early cash-out options, so it’s always good practice to keep an eye out for offers you like.
As contests go final, sportsbooks will settle bets soon after. You can expect to see any winnings hit your account quickly. In the event of a push, there’s no winner or loser, so the sportsbook will credit the amount of your stake back to your account.
For single wagers, calculating the potential payout based on the odds is simple with a little bit of practice. That’s not the case with parlays, which combine multiple sets of odds, and the prices will vary based on the number of selections and the line for each. For example, take the following three-leg CFL parlay:
- Ottawa Redblacks -275 or 1.36 over Hamilton Tiger-Cats
- Toronto Argonauts +205 or 3.05 over Montreal Alouettes
- Winnipeg Blue Bombers -260 or 1.38 over BC Lions
- Total parlay odds: +475 or 5.75
The returns on winning parlay bets can be great, but that comes with a big caveat: You have to be right on all of your selections to win. If you’re wrong on just a single pick, the entire bet is a loss. At odds of +475 or 5.75, a winning $100 bet would cash $475. For a smaller amount, a $20 bet would bring back $95 in profit.
When it comes to calculating odds for you, especially with parlays and other exotic bets, the sportsbook will be able to do it for you. That’s one of the beauties of wagering online, you can easily shuffle selections in and out of a bet slip with instant calculations of what you could win.
Who sets or calculates sports betting odds?
For the uninitiated, the odds at an online sportsbook may seem like a random assortment of numbers. The reality is vastly different. A great deal of care goes into setting the lines for public consumption.
Sportsbooks set their own numbers in-house, but they may have some assistance from an outside provider. As you would expect, computers and algorithms do a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes.
Every factor that you can think of that could possibly impact the proceedings is part of the consideration. This can include simple matchup statistics, historical betting trends, weather concerns and much more.
Taking all of the data into account, the sportsbook will set the market and thoroughly review it before releasing it to the public. After the odds go live, the betting public has its chance to weigh in. Sportsbooks may then adjust the odds in response to where the money is going.
As you gain experience with sports betting, your understanding of the odds board will only increase. By extension, you’ll be able to more easily spot instances in which oddsmakers may be on or off the mark — at least in your own personal opinion.
How to find the best odds
As mentioned earlier, you should always take the time to make sure that you’re getting the best odds prior to placing your bets. How exactly do you do that?
Engaging in what’s known as line shopping, simply means that you are comparing the odds for a specific bet at multiple sportsbooks. Our live odds feed is a fantastic tool to use for that.
As a quick example, let’s say that you’re ready to place a moneyline bet on the Toronto Raptors over the Boston Celtics. When you check the odds at DraftKings, you can get Toronto at odds of -130 or 1.77. As you check other books, you notice that BetMGM and Caesars are at the same price point, but FanDuel is offering the Raptors at -125 or 1.80.
On its own, the small difference isn’t a game-changer, but it can directly impact your bottom line. Since one of the goals of sports betting is to be profitable on a long-term basis, each edge in your favour adds up. When considering the above scenario, the only place you would want to be placing your Raptors moneyline bet is at FanDuel.