Decimal odds are one of three main methods employed by bookmakers to express the price of a fixed odds wager. They are widely used by bookmakers in Australia, Canada and Europe, and provide a simple method for quickly comparing the relative odds of different potential bets, and for understanding how much a winning bet will pay out.

**Decimal odds** for a market are represented, unsurprisingly, by a decimal number generally written to two, or at most three, decimal places. Decimal odds can commonly be found at prices such as 1.75, 2.00, or 3.80. Less common, though still available, are decimal odds at prices such as 1.333 or 2.625. These are more likely to be found on prices for match bets – a bet on the result of a single game between two teams for example. In a market with several options – such as the leading wicket taker at the one-day World Cup – the prices will generally be whole numbers, maybe ranging from around 3.00 for the favourite, and going up to 151.00 or even higher for an outside chance.

Decimal odds listed by online bookmakers are, in essence, displaying the projected total return against a stake of one unit. For a bet of €1 placed on decimal odds of 1.5 the total payout on a winning bet will therefore be €1.50. It is important to bear in mind that this return includes the initial stake, and so the actually winnings in this example are €0.50.

As the majority of punters generally don’t place only €1 bets, for other stakes the decimal odds amounts simply act as a multiplier. For example, for a bet of €5 on decimal odds of 2.25, the total amount paid out will be 5 x 2.25 = €11.25. Remember, this comprises €6.25 of profit and €5 of original stake.

It is straightforward to calculate the potential profit, as opposed to the total return, for any given decimal odds by simply deducting one from the price on offer. The resulting number is then multiplied by the stake to give the profit. For example, you place €10 on Team A to beat Team B at decimal odds of 3.80. The pure decimal odds are therefore 2.80 – and the potential profit on a €10 bet is €28.

Standard decimal odds used in Europe, Australia and Canada almost always show a price that includes the return of the original stake, but it is important to confirm this. The Hong Kong odds system is very similar and also uses decimal odds – the difference being that the odds show the winnings against a stake of one unit, as opposed to the total return. It is easy to identify a bookmaker using Hong Kong odds, as there will be prices listed at less than one (such as 0.5) whereas in standard decimal odds the minimum listed price is 1.01.

Whilst fractional odds are still popular in the UK and Ireland and American odds are used in the USA, the decimal odds system is widely considered to be clearer and easier to understand, and it does certainly have several obvious advantages over other types of fixed odds methods.

First of all, it is possible for bookmakers to provide a more accurate and far more precise price for any given market. For many prices that can be regularly found using decimal odds there are simply no equivalent fractional odds. For example, although decimal odds of 3.5 can be found as 5/2 in fractional odds, there is simply no fractional odds in regular use that are a equivalent to a decimal odds price of 2.85 or 3.15.

Second, it is simple to calculate the total value of bets laid as accumulators. A series of three bets laid at decimal odds of 1.6, 2.85 and 4.00 are multiplied together to give total odds should all three bets win – in this case, 18.24.

Finally, it is very easy to compare prices within a market using decimal odds. There is no need to be a maths expert or have a calculator to hand in order to realise that a team priced at 2.45 is the slight favourite against a team with odds of 2.70.

Decimal odds represent a fantastic way for both beginners and experienced gamblers to understand relative fixed odd prices when deciding to place a bet. Anyone wanting to lay bets with the largest range of prices and with very little chance of making a calculation error would do well to become familiar with the decimal odds system.