Moneyline Betting Explained
A moneyline bet is a wager made on which side you expect to win. It’s as simple as that. Heck, even if you’re new to sports betting, you’ve probably made a moneyline bet before without even knowing it. In this guide, we’ll cover what a moneyline bet is and how it works.
What is a moneyline bet?
Moneyline bets are the simplest form of wagers in sports betting. All you have to do is pick the side you want to win straight up, with no point spread involved. If it’s a team sport you’re wagering on, then a moneyline bet is a bet on which team will win the game. If it’s an individual sport, you’re wagering on which person will win the game.
With a moneyline wager, you don’t need to have the side you’re betting on win by a certain amount. The amount the side wins by doesn’t matter. With a moneyline bet, it only matters that the team or individual win.
It is common to see moneyline listed as “money line” or simply as “ML,” but they are all the same things.
How does a money bet work?
Moneyline bets often have one side listed as the favorite and the other side listed as the underdog. How to know which side is the favorite and which is the underdog comes down to the odds that are listed. The moneyline odds are the price for each side of the bet.
In moneyline betting, the favorite is displayed using a minus (-) sign next to the team or individual name. This is known as negative odds. With the favorite, the odds are handicapped as such that you’re going to need to lay money when betting on this side.
An underdog in moneyline betting is displayed using a plus (+) sign next to the team or individual name. This is known as positive odds. When betting an underdog on the moneyline, you’ll stand to win more than what you wagered.
The price of the odds on a moneyline bet is determined by sportsbooks and oddsmakers. The odds are what are used to handicap the match, instead of using a point spread. Most of the time, there will be a favorite and an underdog, but sometimes the odds will be even.
What if the two sides aren’t equal?
When two teams, or two individuals, aren’t viewed are equal in a match, the sportsbook or oddsmaker will adjust the odds to bet on each side. The odds are the price bettors receive on wagers.
As you can imagine, there is bigger risk when betting on the underdog and that’s why you’re often getting positive odds.
Moneyline betting examples
To help further illustrate moneyline betting, let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
For the first example, we’ll take a look at a sample NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, using the odds below.
- Pittsburgh Steelers +225
- Kansas City Chiefs -285
In this example, the Chiefs are the home team, which is commonly the case as the Chiefs are displayed on the bottom of the two teams. Kansas City is the favorite at a moneyline price of -285. The Steelers are on the road and underdogs at a price of +225. That’s a fairly large gap in the prices and should signify how big of a favorite Kansas City is.
Using this example, a bettor would need to place a $285 wager on the Chiefs moneyline to win $100. Conversely, a $100 moneyline bet on the Steelers would return $225 if won.
For a second example, let’s take a look at a sample game between the rival Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
- Boston Red Sox -125
- New York Yankees +105
In this MLB example of a moneyline bet, the Red Sox are road favorites over the Yankees, but the odds are much closer than the example between the Steelers and Chiefs.
Using this MLB example, a bettor would need to bet $125 on Boston to get a return of $100. A $100 moneyline bet on the Yankees to win would return $105.
In a third example, we’ll explore how the moneyline odds are commonly displayed when the two sides are viewed as equal. We’ll use a sample NBA matchup for this one.
- Los Angeles Lakers -110
- Boston Celtics -110
In this example between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the two sides are viewed as even in the matchup and the price is the same on each side of the moneyline. A $110 bet on either side will return $100.
Can moneyline odds change?
Yes, moneyline odds can change and it’s fairly common to see. Various news items can cause a sportsbook or bookmaker to adjust the odds of a moneyline bet. Injuries can play a big role in how the betting lines move for moneyline wagers, too.
The changes in odds for a moneyline bet can be commonly referred to as “line moves,” but the odds won’t change for a bet that has already been placed. The line moves are only in effect for the current betting price.
For example, let’s say you placed a moneyline bet on the Steelers to beat the Chiefs at a price of +225 (using the example we gave above). You made this bet when the lines came out on Monday and the game isn’t until Sunday, six days later. On Wednesday, you check the odds and see that the Steelers are now +200 to win. This doesn’t mean you’re now getting a worse price. Your bet would still be locked in at +225 if you confirmed the wager. In fact, it should make a bettor feel good to see this sort of line move because the bettor would be getting a better priced than the market. But, if you wanted to place another bet on the Steelers, you would need to do so at the new market price of +200.
Using line moves to make better moneyline bets
In betting, line moves and changes to the odds can be your friend. One way they can be your friend is by helping you to determine where the public is betting. If you’re someone who likes to fade all of the more recreational sports bettors out there in an attempt to be on the sharp side, line moves can help you do that.
Line moves can also help you to get better odds or determine if you got a very good price. Let’s say you take a side that is +200 to win. In order to break even, this side would need to win one out of three times. You figure the side should win one of out every two times and you place the bet. Now, let’s say the line moves to +300. With a new wager, you’d be getting an even better price. If you figure that the real odds of the team winning haven’t changed, you can place another bet you deem as a valuable one.
What if the odds go the other way? In this example, the team you bet on was +200 but you check back and they’re now the favorite at -200 due to a big injury on the other side. Look how much you’re beating the market by, as the market is telling you that this team should now win two out of three times and you’re holding a ticket at a much, much better price.
Tips for making winning moneyline bets
When it comes to betting on the moneyline, both favorites and underdogs can have their temptations. It can be tempting to just pick the favorite because that’s the better team or individual. It can be equally tempting to just bet on the underdog because you are going to win more money than if you bet on the favorite. It’s important to not just pick one side of the other without doing your homework – do your homework.
When it comes to picking moneyline favorites, make sure you’re not laying an extreme price that simply isn’t worth the risk. You won’t see as extreme of prices in professional sports, but you will see them quite often in the college ranks. In this cases, do you really want to risk $2,500 to win $100 on a -2500 favorite? If you didn’t have $2,500 to bet and had $250 to bet, odds of -2500 would return a $10 win. Is that really worth the risk?
For underdogs, remember that sportsbooks and oddsmakers know that teams are underdogs for a reason and they’ll bake this notion into the prices. If a team is +900 to win, that sounds like a great return of $900 on a $100 wager, but in reality the team may be +1500 to win so you’re not getting a good price.
Whether it’s the favorite or the underdog you’re betting on, it’s important to do your research. Pay attention to things such as who is playing at home and who is traveling, injuries, strength of the two sides, and recent outings. All of these things can help bettors to handicap games and make better moneyline bets.
Sharp bettors commonly refer to “fading the public.” There are various tools out there to help bettors determine where the public money is coming in on a game and this is the side sharp bettors often want to fade. For more on fading the public, check out our write-up on the topic.
Line shopping is an important tool that needs to be in any sports bettor’s notebook. Line shopping is the practice of looking around the industry at different legal sportsbooks to find the best price. Whether it’s a moneyline, a point spread, or a prop bet you’re wagering on, it’s very important to line shop. You’d be surprised how much better of a price you can get simply by looking at a couple of other sportsbooks offering the same bet.