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What is a Bet? What are Odds? What is a Stake?


The only one of these terms which is obviously straightforward is ‘Bet’, and I am sure all of you understand what a bet is.

Even the term ‘Stake’, at least so long as it is money related, is easily understandable.

Whatever level your stake is, there are only two options: you either lose the bet and your stake, or you win the bet, retrieving your stake and adding to it your winnings.

However, the term ‘Odds’ is far more difficult for most bettors, especially as odds are connected to market prices, fluctuations, probabilities, expectations, etc.

Hand on heart, can YOU reliably define the terms “bet”, “odds”, and “stake”?

What is a BET?

Definition of ‘Bet’: Technically speaking, a ‘bet’ is an agreement between two parties that the one who makes an incorrect prediction about an uncertain outcome will forfeit something stipulated to the other – a wager.

Betting is all about risking something, usually a sum of money, against the money of someone else based on the outcome of a future event, such as the result of a race or other competitive event.

What are ODDS?

The term, ‘odds’, is somewhat ambiguous.

Here are two definitions from well-known dictionaries:

Macmillan Dictionary: The chances that are used for calculating how much money you will get if the person or thing you bet on wins a race or competition.

Oxford Dictionary: The ratio between the amounts staked by the parties to a bet, based on the expected probability either way.

The problem with the above definitions (and many other definitions found in dictionaries) is that odds are not necessarily connected to the real chances of something happening, not even to ‘expected’ probabilities.

Just think of British odds, European odds, and US Moneyline odds.

British odds show the net return of a bet, European odds display the net return of a bet plus the original stake, and US Moneyline odds exhibit the money wagered either to win 100 units, or the money which will be won from a 100 unit stake.

Another deviant example is that bookmakers adjust their odds to public opinion in order to balance their books.

Therefore, it is simply incorrect to say that ‘odds’ display the chances of something happening. Odds are not even necessarily based on expected probabilities.

Soccerwidow’s definition: Betting Odds are the Price for a Bet

Learning Point: There is NO connection between the market odds of a bet and the real probabilities of the event occurring.

What does the term STAKE mean?

Definition of ‘Stake’: Money or property risked on the result of a horse race, card game, match outcome, etc.

Stake (or ‘wager’ in America), is straightforward terminology.

You bet with your friend on a game of pool, and stake £5 each. Whoever wins the game gets £5 from the other party, and whoever loses is £5 poorer.

In betting, the stake (or ‘wager’) usually means money, which is countable.

The concept of stake becomes much more complicated if property is wagered, such as houses, cars, or in some countries even wives! If you gamble property then you not only have to calculate the true probabilities of a bet to compute the odds, but also convert the staked property into a monetary value.

In these cases bets are very often lopsided and unfair, with a huge advantage to the person who is better in maths than the other. (Read an example: Arsenal fan staked his house on a bet with a Manchester United fan, who offered his wife and Toyota car in return )

Bet, Odds, and Stake – Conclusion

The only honest advice I can give – Do not bet if you do not understand odds!

Unless money is no object, few people will go shopping and load their basket with goods without checking and comparing the prices of different brands. Most of us need to ensure we have enough money available to pay for the purchases, and some of us like to ensure we are getting the best value for the money we pay.

Understanding Odds is CRITICAL! If you constantly go shopping without paying attention to the prices (ignoring the significance of odds), or do not bother comparing brands before buying them (failing to shop around for the best odds), you will certainly end up paying more than others (failing to capitalise on your betting investments), and in the long run be able to buy fewer products for your money (losing more money than you win).

Always remember: Odds are the price for a bet, they very rarely stand for the real probabilities, or chances.

Of course, odds available in the market can be converted into their ‘implied’ probabilities, which can then be compared to your own calculations of the ‘real’ expected probabilities, and vice versa.

If you want to become a winner you MUST understand odds and be able to compare and distinguish between the implied probabilities suggested by the odds offered in the market and the real (or true) probabilities suggested by historical statistics. There is no alternative – a lucky gambler is never lucky all the time.

If you wish to learn odds calculation, please check out:

Fundamentals of Sports Betting Course: Betting on Over / Under ‘X’ Goals

Soccerwidow’s Value Betting Store


learn to think like a bookmaker!
deciphering bookmaker mathematics

Last Update: 5 January 2014

Categories:Betting Guidance Betting Terminology



2 Responses to “What is a Bet? What are Odds? What is a Stake?”

  1. Joe
    22 May 2016 at 3:56 am #

    I have recently been working on statistical analysis spreadsheet to help identify potential bets. I am new to this type of application but not the math. I am unfortunately a lot like your husband when it comes to football betting and as such find it difficult to follow my data, I have calculated that in the euro fixture between France and Romania the most likely outcome will be DNB Romania which seems, to my heart, impossible have I made a analytical error or am I on the right path???
    Please help

    • Soccerwidow
      23 May 2016 at 7:33 am #

      Hi Joe, we have not calculated any games in the Euro, too many unknown variables, too many teams new in the competition this year.

      However, generally speaking, if your calculations come to this result, and you say that you are good in maths, then you probably have calculated correctly, even if the heart questions the result.

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