Reading Tennis Odds
The first step in betting on tennis is to learn how to read odds off the BetUS board and what all those numbers mean.
Let’s create a hypothetical dream match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The head-to-head odds for this match would look something like this:
- Novak Djokovic -120
- Rafael Nadal +110
The two things we need to explore are the numbers and the (+) or (-) signs that precede them. The symbols are to denote which player is the favorite and which is the underdog.
In this case, Djokovic is the favorite as indicated by the minus (-) sign while Nadal with the plus (+) sign is the underdog. This does not only applies to tennis, but to all betting odds on BetUS.
As far as the numbers that follow those symbols, they help calculate the payout for a winning wager. When looking at a favorite, the number represents how much you would have to bet to win $100.
In this case, you would have to bet $120 on Djokovic to win $100. But, when looking at an underdog, the number represents how much you will win off a $100 wager. So, a $100 bet on Nadal would win $110.
This example pits well-matched players. We know this because the odds sitting close to +100 on both sides. This is not always the case and odds for favorites can often reach north of -1000.
The closer the odds are to +100, the closer the match should be. Betting on underdogs is risky, but the payouts are higher. Odds in this format are American or Moneyline odds.
While this covers the American odds, there are two more formats we need to explore. There are Fractional odds (aka “British” odds), and decimal odds (aka “European” Odds). Let’s look at what the match from above looks like in these formats.
In fractional odds, it would appear like this:
- Novak Djokovic 5/6
- Rafael Nadal 11/10
At first glance, these odds look like a pain to deal with. But, after a brief introduction, British odds are easy to understand. A player with 5/1 (or 5-1) odds will pay out $5 for every $1 wagered plus the original bet. So, a bet on Djokovic would pay out $5 for every $6 wagered. and a bet on Nadal would pay out $11 for every $10 bet.
Finally, let’s get familiar with decimal odds. The format for these odds is as follows:
- Novak Djokovic 1.83
- Rafael Nadal 2.1
Right off, it is important to take note that there is a major difference when it comes to decimal odds. While fractional and Moneyline odds represent the profit from a winning bet, decimal odds represent the total return. This means that decimal odds take into account your stake, while the others do not.
For example, at 2.1, a bet on Nadal would return $2.10 on a $1 bet. You win $1.10 on the bet and recoup your $1.00 stake.
Many bettors prefer decimal odds because they are easier to read and line moves occur in smaller increments.
Tennis Moneyline Betting
Moneyline (ML) betting is the most popular variation of tennis betting due to its simplicity. Also known as straight-up (SU) or outright betting, the objective is simply to pick the match winner.
The format of the odds will be familiar to you because it is the same as the Moneyline format above. Moneyline bets are the best way for a new bettor to get into Tennis. Moneyline odds for a typical game will look like this:
- Serena Williams +125
- Iga Swiatek -150
In this example, Swiatek is a slight betting favorite over Williams, who is the underdog at +125. We know this because the (-) sign indicating a favorite is next to Swiatek’s name.
These odds indicate that you would need to wager $150 to win $100 on Swiatek. But, to win $100 on Williams, you will need to only risk $80 due to her odds as an underdog.
Tennis Spread Betting
Moneyline betting may be the easiest to understand, but betting against the spread (ATS) is generally more profitable. This is because spread betting is designed to handicap the favorite and bring the odds closer to even.
Spreads accomplish this by assigning a value that represents the number of games a player needs to win over their opponent. Here is an example:
- Serena Williams +3.5 (-105)
- Iga Swiatek -3.5 (-115)
Once again, Swiatek is the favorite, but the odds are now much more palatable at -115. This is the power of spread betting. It allows you to wager long shots at reasonable odds.
In this match, the spread set by the bookmakers is 3.5 games. This means that Swiatek, as the favorite, must win the match by four or more games to cover the spread.
Meanwhile, Williams can win or lose the match. But, she cannot lose by more than three games or she will fail to cover.
This is the first time we see ½ points incorporated into odds. This is by design and aimed at avoiding a tie, or “push” because there are no half points in Tennis.
If we bet on Serena Williams to cover these odds and she loses by 3 games, we still cash our bet.
Tennis Totals Betting
Betting on totals in tennis differs from Moneyline and spread betting because it doesn’t matter who wins or loses the game.
Also known as Over/Under (O/U) betting, this is a wager on the total number of combined games played in a match. This differs from other sports where total bets focus on how many points are scored.
All tennis matches are best-of-three or best-of-five sets. Players have to win six games with a two-game lead to take the set. A tie-breaking game is played if the set is tied at 6-6.
For reference, the fewest possible games that can be played in a tennis match is 18. The record for the fewest games in a tennis match is 20 and was set in 1881.
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut own the record for most games in a match with 183, at the 2010 Wimbledon Championship. A match between evenly matched players will have a game total in the 23.5 to 25.5 range.
Here is what the O/U odds for a tennis match would look like at BetUS:
- Serena Williams vs. Iga Swiatek O/U 25.5 (-105o/-115u)
In the above example, the total for this match has been set at 25.5 games. This means that to win a bet on the Over, the contestants would have to combine for 26 or more games.
On the flipside, Under bettors would win if the match features 25 or fewer games. The odds are juiced to the Under here with -115 compared to the Over at -105.
Tennis Prop Betting
Prop bets, or proposition bets, allow bettors to bet on a slew of different potential outcomes during a match.
Prop bets revolve around occurrences or non-occurrences of specific events during said match. Often, these events do not directly impact the outcome of the game.
A simple example of a prop bet in tennis would be betting on which player will score first. But, the range of props that exist is vast.
Other examples of simple prop bets are who scores the first ace, who wins the first set, and O/U total unforced errors.
The biggest draw of props is the entertainment value that this style of betting provides. Spread and totals are fun, but there is nothing quite like the joy of winning a fringe prop on a big match.
Tennis Futures Betting
Futures bets in tennis function the same way as other sports and allow bettors to wager on outcomes in the near future.
One of the features that attract many to prop betting is the high payouts that come from trying to predict outcomes months in advance.
While these bets are usually placed before the season starts, in tennis, there are futures available at BetUS for all ATP and WTA events.
Some popular futures include Men’s/Women’s Grand Slam Winner and outright Wimbledon champs.
The only real downside of betting on futures is there is no instant gratification and your money is tied up the whole time.