How Do Sports Betting Payouts Work?

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New York Yankees' Isiah Kiner-Falefa follows through on a swing during the sixth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Baltimore. The Yankees won 8-3.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Jan 30, 2024, 12:46 PM

In online sports betting, payouts are directly tied to the odds of a given bet. A bettor places a wager, and one of three things can happen:

  • If it’s a winning bet, the bettor is returned his initial wager, plus winnings.
  • If it’s a losing bet, the sportsbook keeps the wager.
  • If it’s a push (tie), or the bet is voided for any kind of technical reason, the original wager is returned to the bettor.    

Payouts are relevant for the first scenario. 

In U.S. sports betting, most bettors are accustomed to American odds, where winnings are calculated using either a minus number, like -115, or a plus number, like +135. 

When winning bets are resolved at an online sportsbook, the bettors’ account balance is updated to reflect the addition of their winnings. The bettor can then decide whether they want to keep placing bets with the bigger account balance or withdraw some (or all) winnings. 

For those bettors who wish to withdraw, there are a number of methods available. 

How To Calculate Betting Payouts

For minus numbers, bettors must bet the number after the minus to win $100. So a $400 bet on a -400 favorite would return exactly $100 of winnings. (A $100 bet on that same -400 favorite would return $25 of winnings.)

For plus numbers, bettors win the number after the plus for every $100 wagered. So a $400 bet on a +400 underdog would return $1,600 of winnings. (A $20 bet on that same +400 underdog would return $80 of winnings.)

Parlay payouts become more complex since parlays use multiplicative odds to account for multiple stages of a bet. (You can check out this parlay calculator explanation for a little more info on that.)

Outside of the United States, sportsbooks will often use a different odds language to describe the same mathematical returns. Abroad, the style is distinctly not American – Decimal & Fractional odds are most common.

Visit the online sportsbook for updated odds, sportsbook promos — including BetMGM’s welcome offer — and more.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.