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Betting on the Moneyline in Sports

Written by: Richard Janvrin
10 min read

Moneyline bets are one of the most common ways to bet on sports. Betting on the money line means you’re betting on one team to win the game. What makes the money line unique is that the casino offers odds on each team based on their chances of winning.

You’ve probably seen betting lines that look something like:

  • New York Mets -130
  • Philadelphia Phillies +150

If that looks confusing, don’t worry. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about how to make money line bets. We’ll clearly show you how the odds and payouts work plus share plenty of tips and strategies to help you win more of your money line wagers.

When you’re done you’ll have no trouble not only reading the betting lines but also understanding how to get the best value from this fundamental bet.

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What Is Moneyline Betting?

To put it simply, a money line wager is betting on who will win the game. Unlike the points spread and totals bets, the money line is in no way concerned with how many points are scored or the margin of victory.

You’ll know you’re looking at a money line when you see a plus (+) sign next to the underdog and a minus (-) next to the favorite.

The best way to understand how these numbers relate to your potential wager is by basing everything on $100. This can be confusing at first but stick with us, we promise it will get easier.

  • With the favorite, you’ll see a negative number, something like -140 for example. A simple way to understand the value it represents is to say, “If I bet exactly that amount, and the team wins, I will make $100 of profit.” So in this example, a $140 wager returns $240 ($100 profit + $140 original wager) to your pockets.
  • With the underdog the positive number represents how much profit you will win on a $100 bet. So if the underdog is paying +180, a winning $100 bet will put $280 into your wallet ($180 profit + $100 original wager).

How Does Moneyline Betting Work?

When you’re betting the moneyline you have two options: a straight-up bet on the favorite or a straight-up bet on the underdog.

The odds for each bet and the amount they payout depends on which side you choose.

Generally speaking, the larger a point spread on a game, the larger the payout for the underdog on the moneyline and the smaller the payout on the favorite. A big point spread indicates a big favorite who will win a large percentage of the time by a big margin.

While the point spread doesn’t directly affect moneyline betting, it still holds valuable information you can use when making your decision on who to bet on and the value you should get for it.

How to Read Moneyline Betting Odds

If you are interested in betting on a game and you’re looking to pick a straight-up winner, you’ll first need to identify which of the listed options is the moneyline. In most cases, you’ll see a line for the point spread, an Over/Under line, and a moneyline. The sportsbook will indicate what kind of bet it is above or beside the lines.

To read moneyline odds just follow these steps:

  • Look for the two teams names and the numbers beside them.
  • One will have a negative value (the favorite) and one will have a positive value (the underdog).
  • The negative number tells you how much you have to bet on the favorite in order to win $100 in profit.
  • The positive number tells you how much profit you will win for a successful $100 bet on the underdog.

As we mentioned before, the point spread doesn’t factor directly into your moneyline bet but it is worth considering when trying to figure out if a moneyline offers good value.

  • The point spread indicates how much the professional bookmakers think the better team will win by.
  • For example, if a favorite is given a -4.5 point spread in football, they could have a moneyline like -190. That means you would need to bet $190 in order to make a $100 profit.
  • The opposite would hold true for an underdog. Consider an NBA team is expected to lose by 7.5, a fairly large margin. This would show as +7.5 for the point spread but something like +220 on the moneyline because they are perceived to be the weaker team. This would pay well if they upset the favorite. A $100 wager would earn you $220 profit.

Sports like basketball and football have more scoring and higher point totals, so logically there is more chance for wide margins of victory. For these sports the point spreads make sense as they make for more intriguing betting lines.

On the flip side, lower-scoring sports like hockey and baseball utilize moneylines more frequently since games are closer in score by nature.

Examples of Moneyline Bets

Now that we’ve gone over what moneyline bets are, let’s take a look at how they work in action. Let’s say you want to put a wager on a baseball game between the Astros and the Cardinals.

  • You see that Houston is favored at home and the moneyline is -175 for them to win or +150 for them to lose.

Note: In baseball sportsbooks usually list each team’s starting pitcher and say they must start. This is important because bets will be voided if there is a change in pitching before the game begins.

  • You are confident that Houston will win and you want to aim for a $100 profit.
  • Since the moneyline on the Astros is -175 it means that in order to make $100 profit you need to wager $175. You are taking on more risk in terms of dollar value but since you’re betting on the favorite you are getting a safer bet in return.
  • Now let’s imagine that at the last minute you hear a positive news story about the Cardinals and decide you want to bet on them instead.
  • If you still want to make $100 profit, how much would you have to bet?
  • Since St. Louis pays +150 we know that a winning $100 bet will reward us $150 in profit. With your aim being $100 profit, which is 2/3 of $150, we can determine that our bet would need to be 2/3 of $100 to win $100.
  • That equates to $66.67 in order to win $100 profit on a St. Louis victory.

Moneyline Betting Strategy

There is a basic principle used in gambling that extends beyond just sports gambling and should be used when we plan to make a bet of any kind. It is called Implied Odds or Implied Probability.

The formula is

  • Implied Probability = Risk/Reward

To calculate implied odds with standard American Odds from a sportsbook, take the amount you will wager (risk) and divide it by the amount a winning ticket will pay back (reward) which is the initial bet plus the profit. It is easiest to do this based off of standard $100 units.

Let’s see an example for a favorite and for an underdog.

  • A favorite laying -180 means that in order to win $100 you must wager $180. If they win your payout is $180 back from your initial investment plus the $100 profit which is $280 in total.
  • Therefore the implied probability is 180/280 = 0.6428.
  • Multiplying this result by 100 gives us a percentage value of 64.28%. This means that if you think the team has more than 65% chance of winning, then you are getting good value.
  • Conversely, if the underdog is paying +220 then our risk is $100 to win $220 profit + our initial $100.
  • Plugging that into the formula gives us 100/320 * 100 = 31.25%.
  • If you think the underdog has a higher than 31.25% chance to win, this is a good spot to put a bet on the moneyline.

Strategies for Using Sports Betting Bonuses

Another thing to consider when placing moneyline bets online is how much a sportsbook is willing to offer you as a bonus and what format the bonus comes in.

Many sites will give you a free bet to use how you wish. If you make a successful pick you will be paid the profit but not the initial investment (since it was a free play token amount).

In these situations it can be possible to lock in guaranteed profits if you already have an account on another site and wish to make a hedged bet.

For instance, if we take the above example and bet on the underdog with your $100 free-play and bet $135 on the favorite on another sportsbook, the results would be as follows:

  • If the $135 bet on the -180 favorite wins, your payout will be $210 ($135 initial bet plus profit of $75) while the free-bet loses and goes to $0. An overall $75 increase.
  • If the +220 underdog wins, your free $100 bonus bet will pay you a total of $220 (you get the profit amount but not the initial amount) while your cash bet on the other site will lose $135. An overall $85 increase.

In short there are many ways to take advantage of the moneyline if you are aware of the implied odds and the offers available to you. Check out our sportsbook bonus guide for more info on betting with bonuses.

Do Moneyline Bets Include Overtime?

If you ever come across the terms 2-way moneyline and 3-way moneyline, don’t panic. They’re actually really simple once you learn the basics.

  • 2-way moneylines are the type we’ve been discussing already. That’s where you have a winner and a loser with no possible draws. These are guaranteed in sports like baseball or tennis. Basketball is often is this category as well, even though games do have their fair share of extra-time outcomes.

Referring to 2-way bets as regular moneyline bets is the standard terminology for North American bettors.

Keep in mind that it will always be specified whether the outcome includes extra time or not. For example, when hockey instituted the shootout after OT it resulted in each game always having a decided winner. Sportsbooks that offer a 2-way moneyline on hockey will list the games as something like “NHL Regular Season – OT included”

  • 3-way moneylines are bets where you can select a winner on either side OR place a bet predicting a tie game after regulation time. Anything that occurs after regulation time is irrelevant to your bet in that case.

You can easily see 3-way moneyline bets because they will list an extra (third) line of betting choices. You will see an option to bet on either side and then below it an option to wager on a draw.

When Do Moneyline Bets Come Out?

Experienced punters can tell you that point spreads come out much sooner than the moneyline is offered. The reason for this is because the sportsbooks want to sharpen the line and see where the public consensus is.

Remember, it is in the book’s best interest to set lines that get 50/50 volume of bets on either side so that they guarantee their own profits regardless of the game’s outcome.

As well, in regards to all outdoor events, oddsmakers want to wait as close to game time as possible in case weather expectations drastically change and in alter the way the game might play out.

Moneyline Betting in Football

NFL Football betting is unique compared to the other major pro sports because of the nature of the scheduling. The majority of games are played on one day, Sunday, with a few (usually just one) games played on Thursday and Monday evenings.

Due to this consistency, there are many factors that play into a wager that not only include that specific game but other events as well. You see this most often near the end of the season when playoff implications and divisional rivals must plan their strategies and adjust their rosters in accordance with other games’ outcomes.

Moneyline Betting in Basketball

As with most betting strategies, the best advice is to do your homework. More than just reading statistics and articles on the game at hand, you should also make a habit of checking odds across different sportsbooks. They will usually be close but if you look far and wide enough you can come across places where lines might be more advantageous to the bettor.

In basketball, especially at the professional level (as opposed to NCAA), the star players tend to have more influence on the outcome as compared to other sports. You should familiarize yourself with the averages of these star players and what the prospective matchups look like for the games you want to bet.

As a general rule, visiting team underdogs with a small point spread of +6 or less are good value for moneyline bets. Statistics have shown oddsmakers tend to undervalue them on the moneyline.

Moneyline Betting in Baseball

Baseball bets are unique for a few different reasons which we’ll go over in detail below. By taking all of these factors into consideration you can actually gain an edge on moneyline odds and become a long-term.

Important points include:

  • How a team fares against right or left-handed pitching.
  • Each team’s home/road winning percentages over the current and previous season.
  • The unique idiosyncrasies of the stadium and whether or not the weather will play a role.
  • Is the game at the start/middle/end of a new series with the opponent and is the opponent a divisional rival?

The last point is unique to baseball as seasons consist of mini three or four game series all year long over a lengthy 162-game schedule. That’s a lot of travel. In the latter half of a season fatigue can play a big role. This is crucial information and it’s most valuable in the first game of a new series as the traveling team is short on rest whereas the home team may have had a day off and spent time at home.

Spotting a home underdog on the moneyline is an area punters always look for added value. Even if the home team is facing the visiting team’s ace pitcher, there are advantages to playing at home that can overcome this.

  • Home team batters know where to hit, outfield walls, wind patterns. The same holds true defensively in the outfield.
  • Home team always bats last. It’s a big edge.
  • Pitchers tend to pitch better at home than on the road so even if they are considered less talented than their opposing hurler they do stand a chance of pulling off the upset.

Like every sport, it is imperative to do your homework in order to win in the long run. Check out our guide to betting on MLB baseball for more information.

Look for teams that have the top and middle of their line ups on a hot streak yet have an unfavorable pitching matchup and are considered underdogs – especially at home and near the start of a series. This requires a bit of diligent studying but can pay off with good value moneyline wagers. Alternatively, head to our best MLB bets today page and let our experts do all the hard work!

Moneyline Betting in Soccer

Before you dive into soccer moneyline betting, it is important to note how it differs from other traditional North American sports betting.

The way soccer moneyline wagers are offered depends on whether or not the game is for regular league play or if the game is played in tournament format. For normal regular season matches, the wagers are most often given as 3-way moneyline odds meaning you can choose from one of three options:

  • Home team to win (after 90 minutes plus stoppage time)
  • Visiting team to win (after 90 minutes plus stoppage time)
  • Bet on a draw (after 90 minutes plus stoppage time)

If the match is part of tournament play the sportsbook may offer a 2-way moneyline where all that matters is which team wins including extra time and shootout.

Another point that’s unique to soccer is how important it is to take into account how each team’s coaches approach the game. Teams can employ a more offensive or defensive strategy depending on how they line up their attackers, midfielders, and defenders. As well, the basic team tactics can be cautious or aggressive.

As a gambler your job is to compare these details and determine what a likely outcome could be in this match, then relate your hypothesis to the odds posted by the sportsbooks.

Let’s say you think an underdog playing at home, who utilizes a defensive strategy to counterattack against overly aggressive teams, is well suited to take advantage of their opponents. If the odds line up, a moneyline bet on the dog is solid value.

Moneyline Betting in Hockey

In the 2005-2006 season, the NHL added penalty shootouts to games following scoreless overtimes. It had a big impact on moneyline betting for hockey. Punters can now choose if they wish to wager on games with OT included or without it. The latter offers 3-way betting since a game can be tied after 60 minutes.

A lot of hockey games, even when one team is a big favorite, are decided by one goal. This plays a massive role in hockey moneyline betting and makes any game winnable for either side, especially with a hot goalie.

Much like a pitcher in baseball, a goalie in hockey can single-handedly win a game.It is imperative to do your goalie homework before betting on a game. Check the starting roster for the evening. Is either team starting a backup goalie? How does that team normally fare with their back up?

Other than paying attention to the keepers, here are some more key factors to look at every night in the NHL:

Focus on Special Team Match-Ups and Percentages

If a team with a top power play is up against a lower end penalty-killing team, the game might be decided by how disciplined each team plays. If it is a divisional rivalry the chances are higher the game will be more physical and more time will be spent with the man advantage.

Identify Hot Streaks and Ride Them

NHL teams tend to look at their season schedules in chunks. You’ll see long home stands or teams heading out on the road to the opposite conference. These are often team-building opportunities and if you catch a team on a winning streak you can ride the wave with them.

How Do They Perform on Road or at Home?

Certain teams get hot at home and stay hot all year. They build a certain confidence that can help them find that important late goal or a big save to keep them in it. Conversely other teams struggle on the road. Know the numbers and bet accordingly.

Check out lines from different sportsbooks as NHL moneylines can have subtle disparities in different places. You want that extra value over the course of a season. It goes a long way to making you a successful bettor.

Moneyline vs Point Spread Betting

The fundamental difference between moneyline and point spread is that with moneyline you don’t care how much either team wins by. With point spread the score is crucial to your bet.

Take, for example, an early round tennis match where the top seed is playing a young player who only qualified via a satellite tournament. The two players are separated by a large margin in talent so a moneyline wager on the favorite would pay out a very small profit while the underdog’s astronomical payout is rarely going to win.

Instead, with a point spread that requires the favorite to win by a margin of a certain amount of games, the match can have intriguing lines that make it interesting to bet on even though there’s a big skill difference.

The benefits of moneyline gambling are that they offer the big payday when there is an upset. The types of returns you see for this scenario far surpass any payout you’ll find on point spreads.

As well, with money line odds, a sharp eye can identify spots where the lines don’t seem to match up with your expectation. The added value is big in those moments.

What Does It Mean When Lines Are Close?

From a mathematical viewpoint, the way to conceptualize if a game is expected to be close is by seeing the favorite have a number close to -100 and the underdog close to +100. Bookmakers are comfortable setting close lines in these games since they are confident there will be a fairly even amount of action on both sides.

In practical terms an even match has lines of -110/+110 with the 10% representing the casino’s commission. This is known as a dime line.

In games where the underdog is expected to have no chance to win you will see a very large negative number for the favorite and a really big positive number for the underdog.

Runline vs Moneyline Betting in Baseball

A runline is a point spread used in baseball that essentially forces the favorite to win by at least two runs or the underdog to lose by just one run.

You’ll see the favorite listed at -1.5 and a +1.5 next to the underdog.

Statistically speaking, roughly two-thirds of all baseball games are decided by 2 runs or more. That means that the runline pays off quite often AND it pays better. It may seem like the obvious thing to do but a lot of baseball punters have polar viewpoints on which is a better bet; moneyline or runline.

Here are the tops considerations when making your choice:

  • Road teams are more likely to cover the run line. A big reason for this is because if a home team takes a one-run lead into the 9th and shuts down the opponent in the top half of the inning then they don’t even need to bat and the game is over. That eliminates 3 outs of baseball and prevents any further scoring in the game.
  • A second reason is that if the game goes into the bottom of the 9th with the game tied or the home team trailing, the batting home team only needs to get a one-run lead for the walk-off victory. In both cases, the home team is not covering the -1.5 run line.
  • Make note of the Over/Under total. If oddsmakers foresee a high scoring game then it is more probable that the favorite will cover the -1.5 run line since they are the more likely team to score a lot. The theory holds true in the other direction when a lower point total for the game is projected by the books.
  • Starting pitching match-ups will help determine a favorite but equally important for a bettor is how soon or late a manager will opt to use their bullpen in relief. Pay attention to who they use, whether they use that pitcher more or less at home or on the road, and how the side you are betting on has hit against those relief pitchers in the past.

Make Moneyline Bets a Profitable Part of Your Strategy

Moneyline bets, while common, can also be some of the most lucrative wagers in all of sports betting.

Not only can you get long odds on underdogs or favorable lines on expected winners, but you can also find lines that don’t match up with your expectations. When you find those opportunities, you need to pounce. To make sure you don’t miss any of those opportunities, wager on the go with the best sports betting apps.

No matter what sport you prefer and what form of betting you are most drawn to, the end goal is to make good decisions and to make a profit. In order to do so you need to study the tendencies of the players, learn the statistical averages of the teams, and factor in all outside elements for each outcome.

All that is doubly true for betting the money line and if you put in the work it will show in your results.

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Richard Janvrin

550 Articles

After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.

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