A moneyline bet is the simplest bet in sports betting: it’s a bet on the winner of an event.
Along with the Point Spread and a Totals bet, it makes up the trifecta of mainline American sports bets.
Before you start betting, it’s important that you know how all three of these bets work.
Let The AllStar walk you through it.
How to bet the Moneyline
What is a Moneyline?
As soon as a bookmaker releases a market on an event, the moneyline – often just called the line – is out.
A moneyline bet is a bet on the winner of an event.
The line itself automatically designates the favorite and the underdog.
- The favorite always carries minus odds.
- The underdog always carries plus odds.
The odds make up the moneyline.
How to Read Moneyline Odds
Moneyline odds, when expressed as American odds, always relate back to a value of $100. Understanding that should help you get your head around the numbers.
In the example used in the video above we have an NBA moneyline bet:
- LA Lakers at -155
- Minnesota Timberwolves at +135
Minus for Favorites, Plus for Underdogs
First of all, remembers the signs:
The Lakers have the minus sign, which makes them… the favorite.
The Timberwolves have the plus sign, which makes them… the underdog.
Because the favorite is more likely to win, you have to risk more than $100 to win $100. On the flip side, you risk less than $100 to win $100 on the underdog.
Backing Los Angeles at -155 means you have to bet $155 to win $100.
Your payout would be $255, consisting of your $155 stake and $100 in winnings.
A $25 bet would return you $41.25, with winnings of $16.25 on top of your original wager.
Backing Minnesota at +135 means a $100 bet would win you $135.
Your payout would be $235, consisting of your $100 stake and $135 in winnings.
A $25 bet would return you $58.75, with winnings of $33.75 on your original wager.
Moneyline Bet Calculator
You can use our odds calculator to plug in your stake and the odds to find out how much any given bet would return to you.
Remember, a moneyline bet is a bet on the winner of an event. If your team loses, your bet loses.
How a Moneyline Works
Odds Size Matters
The odds also indicate the extent to which one side is the favorite.
In the example above there is really not much in it as LA, at -155, are only slight favorites, and Minnesota, at +135, are only slight underdogs.
But if a team is heavily favoured to win, they may carry odds of -1500, requiring a $1,500 wager for a mere $100 return.
Similarly, a massive underdog at +1500 would return your $100 bet with a whopping profit of $1,500.
When the odds are this wide, there seems little reason to risk so much for such a small return if you want to back the favourite, and in turn the likelihood of such a heavy underdog winning means it might feel like you were throwing money after bad.
For situations like this, sportsbooks created points spreads, to level the betting field and allow people to still back a clear underdog. Read all about point s
Balancing the Market
A bookmaker’s opening line is never set in stone – and usually changes dependent mainly on the action (though it can be affected by other factors such as news, player updates, or maybe even changes in the weather).
For now though, let’s keep the focus on the action.
Bookmakers will always try to balance both sides of a market because that means they limit their potential liabilities to whichever side wins. If there’s more action on one side of a market, there is a greater liability if the other side wins.
In an ideal world, from their point of view, money taken is equally split so that whatever is paid out is covered by the bets on the losing side of the market.
And because a sportsbook charges vig on all its bets, it will always make money.
Let’s say the opening line prices the favourite at -550 and the underdog at +450.
A bet on the favorite requires a $550 stake to win $100, while $100 on the dog wins $450.
When a line is released, sharp bettors usually bet first. Sharp bettors are professional, or expert sports bettors who over time have proven to be able to maintain winning track records. As such, the sportsbook also values their opinion, and watching where they bet is often a good sign of where the line can be tightened.
Lop-sided action suggests that the initial line is mis-priced – and that there’s value on offer.
Assume that at -550 / +450 a lot more action comes in on the underdog. The sharps, and perhaps some of the wider betting public, see value in backing the underdog.
The belief is that odds of +450 are generous – so the sportsbook adjusts the line to -450 / +350.
Now you need to stake $100 less ($450 vs $550) to win your $100 on the favorite, and backing the underdog no will win you $100 less ($350 vs $450).
In a spread market the line is altered by moving the spread.
How to Make a Moneyline Bet
Go to your online sportsbook of choice, select the game you want to bet on and find the Moneyline odds – which will be front and center. Remember, the favourite will carry the minus sign, the underdog the plus sign. If one side is a heavy favorite, the difference between the odds will be much wider than if a close game is expected.
“Shop the Line”
A top tip for all sports bettors may seem obvious, but it’s important to state: Shop the line. That’s just slang for go find the best odds available.
While lines on a game are fairly even across the board, the small differences can all add up to a lot in the end. Importantly, some books charge more vig than others, which over time can hurt your bankroll.
At a time when you have a selection of online sportsbooks available to choose from, it would seem foolish not to check them all to find which book is offering the best odds for your money.
And doing so may not be as time consuming as you may initially think. There are a number of sites and tools available to you to do this.
For example, check out The Allstar’s MMA Odds Comparison tool.
It’s hard enough to maintain a winning record while sports betting – so make sure you take the extra time to find the best payout possible.
What is a Pick’em in Sports Betting?
When a sportsbook is unable to decide which of the two teams should be the favorite, they release a line that fails to designate one.
These are called pick’ems or picks (written as “PK”) because, well… just pick one to win. The moneyline for each side will be the same (and the spread will be zero).
Picks, however, do still include vig, or juice, so you’d still be placing odds of -110 ($110 wins $100) on the team you choose to win.
It’s important to realise that a PK does not mean that the sportsbook views each team equally, but only that it sees both teams as having an equal chance to win that game.
What Happens if My Moneyline Game Ties?
Until now we have only talked about a moneyline bet as a binary event with only two possible outcomes – Win / Loss.
Many of the popular sports that attract betting do tend to end in a result – a win or a loss – so most sportsbooks only offer odds on a team’s chances of winning. For the most part, NFL moneylines or NBA moneylines do not include a third line.
However, there is of course the not-so-common, yet still entirely possible, tie – although most leagues will continue in some form of overtime to reach a result.
If you place an NFL or NBA moneyline bet on a game that ties after regulation time, it’s important you check your sportsbook’s rules, but it’s likely your bet grades as a push.
A push means your stake is returned to you and, from a betting perspective, it’s as if the game never happened. But you should always check your sportsbook rules.
But what happens in sports where ties are more common? Sports like soccer, for example?
Soccer, infamously, has a habit of ending with a tied match on a fairly regular basis.
This being the case, moneyline bets on soccer are three-way lines, and betting on a tie – or a draw – is a third equally justifiable option.
In soccer, you will often see this referred to as a “1×2” market meaning: 1 (Team A) x (Draw) 2 (Team B).
The effect of introducing a third line means the odds on the extreme – i.e., on each of the two teams to win, are, logically, brought closer together.
Is Betting the Moneyline or Spread Better?
There’s no all-in answer to this as it will depend on the sport in question and the game in particular. Not to mention what you want from your betting experience.
What we do know is that moneyline bets are more popular in sports that are low scoring, such as baseball, hockey and soccer.
In higher-scoring sports like football and basketball, the point spread is more popular as it levels the betting field by setting a minus points handicap on the favorite.
Generally speaking though, a moneyline bet tends to look good if:
- You think the underdog can win
- Or you think the favorite will win, but not cover the spread
Our Moneyline Spread Odds Converter can help compare the two markets and aid the search for value.
And that’s all you need to know about the Moneyline bet.
We covered a fair bit of ground though, so to recap in conclusion:
- Moneyline odds relate back to a value of $100
- A minus sign signals the favorite
- A plus sign signals the underdog
- You always have to risk more than $100 on the favorite to win $100
- You have to wager less than $100 on the underdog to win $100
- The line will move as action comes in – betting early can lock value in to opening odds
- Shop around for the best line
- Read your sportsbook’s rules because they do differ from book to book.
Before you start betting, be sure to read up on the other two most popular sports bets: the Points Spread and the Totals (Over/Under) bet.