Key points:

If you win your sports bets, then profits will head your way. How much do you stand to win, though? For bettors, knowing how to gauge the profit potential helps to whittle down the available wagers to those that work the best for you. Here’s everything you need to know.

How payouts work when you win a bet

When you win a bet, you’ll get back the amount of your stake plus a profit for winning. The amount of profit will vary and depend on the odds. To demonstrate, let’s consider the following betting line for an NBA game.

For the three types of bets in the table, there are six possible choices, all of which have odds. If you placed a $100 bet and won, here’s what the payout would be for the various options.

For quick rules of thumb when viewing the odds, you’ll stand to double your money or more when the odds are positive, and the potential profit will be less than your stake for negative numbers. If the odds shift before you place your bet, the amount of your return will go up or down based on the move. Let’s walk through the possibilities for another wager:

For this player prop, you can bet on a player to score 25 points or more in the game. The sportsbook views Luka Doncic as the most likely to make this happen, and his low odds reflect that. The farther you go down the list, the higher the potential return climbs. Here’s how you would do on a winning $20 bet:

For a bet that appears to be safer, such as Doncic, the potential return will be minimal. If you go with a riskier option, at least as far as the odds are concerned, then the profit can be larger. However, it’s important not to base your betting decisions solely on profit potential. Profits are not guaranteed and will only come your way if you win the bet, and bigger potential returns have a lower probability of winning.

How much can you make if you win your bet?

The amount that you get back for a winning sports bet will depend on two factors: the amount of your wager and the odds at the time you placed the wager.

While the numbers may shift after you place it, you’ll be locked in at those odds as soon as the sportsbook accepts the bet. Once the contest is over, the sportsbook will settle wagers and distribute winnings accordingly.

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The math behind calculating payouts on sports bets

To figure out the payout on a winning sports bet, there’s some math involved. The way to calculate it differs by the direction of the betting odds, but there’s a pair of formulas that you can use:

To see the formulas in action, let’s consider the moneyline odds for an MLB game.

The Houston Astros are the moneyline favorites, as the negative odds indicate, while the number is positive on the underdog Texas Rangers. If we wanted to see the potential return on a $50 bet on either side, we simply plug the info into the formulas.

To find the exact amount that would be coming back our way, we take the potential profit and add it to the value of our initial stake.

For those who want a quick answer that doesn’t require a lot of steps, there are other ways to get to the same place.

Quick ways to figure out sportsbook payouts

There are two easy ways to get the answer in a hurry. First, you can do a simple online search for a betting calculator. You’ll find several options to choose from. To get the answer, you simply plug in the odds and amount of your bet.

Next, you can use the betting slip at online sportsbooks. Once you click the odds for your selection, the bet moves over to the slip. From there, just add in the amount you want to bet to see the possibilities.

If you use the slip, just make sure that you don’t accidentally submit the bet before you’re ready to place it. For a final option, you can estimate the potential return by remembering the following.

Are the payouts on winning bets worth it?

The answer really comes down to a personal preference, but there are some standard principles. For massive moneyline favorites, returns will be muted. There’s still some risk that you can lose, and the profit potential may not justify that.

On the other extreme, payouts on a gigantic underdog can be huge. However, that’s because the chances of that underdog actually winning are pretty slim. While it’s nice to dream of a big score, they are quite difficult to achieve.

While you should assess each bet on its own merits, it’s important to also look at the big picture and know what your goals are with sports betting beyond the entertainment aspect.

If you’re content with small, steady and consistent returns, then betting on safer options may be your preference. For those who have designs on bigger profit potential, then you’ll need to ramp up the risk level while still making optimal betting decisions.

How to improve your potential sports betting returns  

To be profitable with sports betting on a long-term basis, you’ll need to win more than you lose, and also at a rate that covers the vig that sportsbooks charge. In general, that is incredibly difficult to do, as you must win 52.4% of your bets simply to break even, factoring in the fee sportsbooks charge to take your wager.

Beyond that, there are also two simple ways to boost your potential returns. First, keep an eye out for bonuses and promotions that the sportsbook may offer.

Second, the steady growth of legal online sports betting options means that bettors can shop around and compare odds before placing bets. Known as line shopping, the idea is to find the most favorable numbers on the bets that you plan to place. While the odds may be the same in many cases, diligent shoppers can still find differences.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees when it comes to betting on sports. While winning and good payouts should always be the goal, be sure to always bet with your head and never over it.