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Betting Margins

ShapeBetting margins are a critical factor when deciding which sports bets to make. Since they affect the amount of money we stand to either win or lose, every bettor needs to understand the betting margin in sports wagering.


Let's examine the most basic question: what is a betting margin, and how does it work?

What are betting margins?

Betting margins are the difference between the odds on a wager and the actual probability of each outcome. In betting, finding a low margin is considered optimal. This is a margin where the true odds of an event occurring in a sporting event and the odds the sportsbook offers are closer to equal.

Why are betting margins important?

Betting margins are essential to understand as a bettor as they are a key determining factor of a bet's potential value. Considering that sportsbooks are generally very close to accurate in setting their odds, a high betting margin means the bettor is very likely to lose over a long sample size. To win, you must not only attempt to ascertain which odds may be skewed in your favor, but also seek out the best betting margin.

Betting margins for teams

This is a reference to wagers on team sports like hockey, basketball, baseball, football, and soccer. These are applicable to moneyline and spread betting on popular sports like NHL, NBA, CFL, NFL, and MLB.

Betting margins for players

Player betting margins could involve odds on sports like tennis, golf, or MMA - sports that are often played with players, not teams, or the margin on player prop bets for team sports.


When considering player betting margins, don't confuse two crucial concepts: betting on margin or margin of victory betting is not the same as betting margins. The latter pertains to the house's means of profiting.

How to calculate betting margins

Now that we understand what betting margins are, let's take a look at how to calculate them. Remember that you can also use these concepts to make a winning margin bet on in-game events. The ability to quickly calculate margins is a great skill to put into play when live betting.

Calculating three-way betting margins

It may be helpful to have a betting odds margin calculator. Betting sites often offer these to make this process easier, but you can do it manually in a pinch. The math is not particularly complicated.


On a three-way market such as soccer, the formula is:


  • (1/home odds) *100 + (1/draw odds) *100 + (1/away odd) *100 = Betting margin


As an example, consider these soccer odds in decimal form:


  • Team A 2.15 (home) | 3.20 (draw) | Team B 3.50 (away)
  • (1/2.15) *100 + (1/3.20) *100 + (1/3.50) *100 = 46.5 + 31.7 + 28.57 = 106.7% = 6.7% betting margin


The same principle can be applied to Hockey, another sport where you may see a three-way betting option. You must first convert the odds to decimal form to use this formula.

Calculating two-way betting margins

There is a similar formula but excluding the draw odds for two-way markets like Basketball and Baseball.


  • (1/decimal odds) *100 + (1/decimal odds) *100 = Betting margin


Consider this baseball example using decimal form odds:


  • Team A (1.60) vs  Team B(2.30)
  • (1/1.60) *100 + (1/2.30) *100 = 62.5 + 43.4 = 105.9% = 5.9% betting margin


Regardless of whether you are dealing with hockey (two-way is common in NHL although three-way can be offered), basketball, baseball, or any other common two-way market, this same principle can be applied by converting the odds to decimal.


Adjustable margins in betting mean that you will find varying odds between sportsbooks, enabling you to take advantage of the opportunity to odds shop. You may see surprisingly significant discrepancies between odds, even on the same wager, depending on the sportsbook.

When is the betting margin high?

When looking to place a bet, you should understand when there is a high betting margin. Margins above around 5% are generally considered on the higher side.


When the margin is low, it means that the house has less of an advantage, or "edge".

When is the betting margin low?

A margin below 2%, is considered low. Even if it is below 5%, you are heading in the right direction for a low-margin bet.


Using a betting margin calculator, you can quickly ascertain the margin for any wager you may consider. You want to look for low-margin spread betting and moneyline betting options to give yourself the best chance of profitability.

How to use betting margins in your strategy

No strategy is guaranteed, but it is easy to implement betting margins when you're considering a range of bets.


Calculate the margin for any wager you may place and consider the differences between sportsbooks to find the margin at each. Even if betting with only one sportsbook, you will be able to establish the margin of each bet in order to make a more informed choice.

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Betting margins FAQs

How do betting margins work?

Betting margins represent the difference between the odds of an event occurring in a sporting event and the odds that a sportsbook sets. By introducing a margin, the sportsbook is able to ensure a profit over the long term as long as an even amount of money in bets is placed on both sides of sporting events.

What does winning margin mean in betting?

This is a wager placed on the exact difference in goals between a winning team and a losing team. A "winning margin bet" is unrelated to the concept of margin in sports betting.

What is a winning margin bet?

A winning margin bet is a type of wager that is common in soccer. It involves choosing the exact number of goals by which a team will win. This would mean that if a club wins 3-1, you would win if you bet a +2 winning margin bet on that team.

What is a high-margin bet?

A high-margin bet is a wager that you place where the margins are high, generally over 5%. It is best to seek out the lowest margins you can when betting as they favour the bettor.

What is a low-margin bet?

A low-margin bet refers to a wager where the margins are low; under 2% is definitely low although many consider below 5% to be low. Even a low-margin bet would result in long-term losses assuming the odds are entirely close to the true probability of events occurring. Still, if you are making informed wagers with low margins, you have a reasonable opportunity for profitability, assuming slight market inefficiencies.

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