Bookmaker Odds

Understanding odds is the key to becoming a skilled sports punter. If you don’t know the difference between long and shorts odds, how will you know if you’re getting good value from the bookmakers?

The bookies represent risk and reward using odds (10/1 for example). The shorter the odds (1/5), the higher the risk to the bookmakers. The longer the odds, the larger the reward for the customer. Below we take a detailed look at short and long odds.


Short odds is a phrase used to describe a range of bookmaker prices. Typically these odds will be ‘evens’ (1-1) or less. ‘Even money’ means you’ll be risking £10 to win £10. If a bookmaker took bets on the flip of a coin, it would be an even-money bet. The outcome is fifty-fifty, as the coin has an equal chance of landing on heads or tails.

Horse racing is a sport where you often see odds quoted less than even-money. A big Cheltenham race will usually have a favourite priced lower than even money. Very short odds could include prices like 2/5, for every £10 you bet, you’ll get back £14 if you win (£10 Stake returned plus £4 profit).

Short Odds

Short odds are seen when an outcome is highly likely to happen. You won’t get long odds on Liverpool to beat Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup third round. Examples of short odds include 3/5, 1/2, EVS, 1/5, 7/10, 11/8. Remember, the odds are short when the outcome of the event is more likely to happen. Now you know a little more about short odds, let’s take a look at the opposite end of the odds table.


The term ‘Long Odds’ is used to signify a bet where you could win more than you risk. Often you’ll see underdogs in a sporting event priced up at big odds. Famously, the racehorse Foinavon won the 1967 Grand National at odds of 100/1. Bookmakers and punters didn’t give him a chance of winning. Fortunately for Foinavon, the other horses in the race fell, which allowed him to romp home unopposed.

In 2016 Leicester City won the English Premier League. The rank outsiders had been a 5000/1 shot with the bookmakers before the first game of the season. The success of Leicester proves that anything can happen in sport. However, long shots should be treated with caution. Statistically, short-priced favourites win more often. For instance, on the flat turf in racing, odds on favourites who were 1/4 or shorted won 86% of the time.

Long Odds

What exactly is considered ‘long odds’? Well, that’s up for debate. Some would say anything over ‘even money’ is long odds. However, I would suggest that once you get over 5/1 you can safely say you’re in the long odds territory. If I landed a 5/1 or 20/1 bet, I’d be delighted! In the example image above, you can see odds of 50/1 represented on a betting slip. A £10 winning bet at 50/1 would net you £500.

You can read more betting guides here. We have articles on Fantasy Football, Last Man Standing and Young Player Of The Year.

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