Betting Percentages

How to understand betting percentages and why they make a big difference to your betting success.

Understanding how much profit your bookmaker is making from his operation is an important part of calculating whether you are likely to win when you bet with him. And that's the reason why you need to understand percentages. Betting with a bookmaker who only operates at a 3% margin is going to be much better for you in the long run than betting with a bookmaker who bets at a 5% margin.

Sometimes it isn't that easy to spot which bookmaker is offering the best percentage. Take this example:

Arsenal 2.35
Manchester United 2.85
Draw 3.20

Is this a better match to bet on (in percentage terms) than this match?

Chelsea 1.62
Fulham 6.00
Draw 3.60

At first glance, it's difficult to tell. Unless you are a mathematical genius, it's certainly not immediately obvious.

But the answer is that you have a better chance of beating the bookie on the Chelsea vs Fulham game. That's because the bookie is betting to a total percentage of 106.18% on that game, while the bookie is betting to a total percentage of 108.89% in the Arsenal vs Manchester United game.

How does this work?

The answer is that odds are just a way of showing the percentage chance of an event happening. So, when you see Arsenal on offer at 2.35 it means the bookie thinks there is a 42.55% chance of Arsenal winning the game. Here's the odds and percentages on the two games:

Arsenal 2.35 (42.55%)
Manchester United 2.85 (35.09%)
Draw 3.20 (31.25%)

Total percentage: 108.89%

Chelsea 1.62 (61.73%)
Fulham 6.00 (16.67%)
Draw 3.60 (27.78%)

Total percentage: 106.18%

If the bookmaker wasn't trying to make a profit, the odds should add up to 100%. But they are trying to make a profit and the higher the percentage on a game, the less chance you have of beating the bookie.

If you can find a game where the percentages add up to less than 100%, it means that you can bet on all options on offer and guarantee to make a profit, as long as you stake your bets in proportion. This doesn't happen very often but if you shop around among all the bookies online (and are prepared to risk your money with some fairly dubious operators) then you can make a guaranteed profit on a few games each week.

The odds offered by a bookmaker are always just a way of showing what they think the chances of an event happening are. Odds of 2.00 means they think there is a 50% chance of it happening; odds of 3.00 means they think there is a 33.33% chance of it happening; odds of 5.00 means they think there is a 20% chance. Click here to see our full conversion table for betting odds and percentages.

With Asian betting lines, it's even easier to work out the percentages for each game, as the odds only tend to vary between 1.70 and 2.30 before they move the game prices by a ΒΌ ball. Asian bookies also tend to offer very competitive lines, so you can often find a way of betting where the bookie's total percentage is less than 102%. Click here to view our conversion table for Asian odds betting.