Moneyline Wagering Explained
Published June 30, 2020
In the sports betting universe, the moneyline wager is one of the most popular ways to bet on any sport (individual or team).
This popular way to bet on sports is used by every sports bettor regardless of their experience level.
Why is it so popular? Because unlike point spread betting, all moneyline wagering requires you do is simply pick the side you believe will win their event outright.
When you’re first sticking your toes into the water when it comes to betting on sports, there may be a slight learning curve with moneyline wagering. However, once you get all the in’s and out’s of moneyline betting down, you will find this methodology of betting on sports is one of the easiest to learn and consistently produces profitable days and weeks.
ByTheHook’s Moneyline Betting Guide will dive into all the different moneyline bets that can be made across all sports, why sportsbooks display the odds in the manner they do, and how the moneyline will differ from the other betting options at your disposal (most notable spread betting and totals betting). Let’s begin.
What is a Moneyline Wager?
As we’ve touched upon previously, a moneyline wager is simply a bet that involves you picking a certain side to win their respective event.
If you’re brand new to sports betting, we’re willing to “bet” (no pun intended) that you’ve already placed a bet with a friend or family member that derives from the same methodology as moneyline betting.
If you have ever told a buddy of yours, “I’ll bet you $20 that (x-team) wins this game,” then guess what? You’ve made a moneyline wager and you didn’t even know it.
Now, there are definitely caveats to this form of wagering, of which we will go into detail on in the following paragraphs, but that’s the gist of moneyline betting right there.
You will find that in any matchup, oddsmakers will give a separate numerical value for bettors to wager on. This numerical value as set by oddsmakers is more commonly known as the “odds” on that respective event.
Here’s an example of what a standard moneyline from the NFL may look like on any given Sunday in the fall.
It’s at this point that moneyline wagering becomes slightly less cut and dry. While the same principles will apply universally across the board, you will find the odds fluctuate based on the matchup you are wagering on.
In the NFL and other pro sports for example, you will find moneyline wagers that hover in between the (+/-) 100-200 range for most of their matchups.
However, in collegiate sports where the talent discrepancies between schools can be as wide as the Grand Canyon, you will see heavy favorites without any moneyline listed and gaudy numbers provided for long-shot underdogs.
With all of that said, regardless of how heavy a favorite a team/athlete is, or how big of an underdog they are, the same idea applies – moneyline wagering is when you bet on one side to simply win.
What is the Difference Between Minus (-) and Plus (+) Odds?
Now that you understand the core idea between moneyline wagering, it’s time to peel a few more layers back from this onion.
One of the most important parts of sports betting comes in reading the odds as set forth by oddsmakers at your sportsbook of choice.
At ByTheHook.com, we will almost always have odds presented on this website utilizing the American odds system, especially when it comes to moneyline wagering.
With the American odds system, you will constantly see a numeric value set with a minus sign (-) or plus sign (+) preceding that number.
The signs aren’t a flashback to elementary school arithmetic, but rather an indicator of who oddsmakers believe is the “favorite” in that matchup and who is the “underdog”.
The number with the minus sign (-) signifies the team who is favored to win that matchup, along with the price it would cost a bettor to win $100.
The number with the plus sign (+) signifies the opposite. The team with the plus number is seen in oddsmakers eyes as the underdog for that matchup, and the numeric value attached to this is the dollar amount a would-be bettor would win on a $100 wager.
Take this hypothetical matchup from the NBA for example.
In the above example, we see that oddsmakers believe the Los Angeles Lakers are small favorites over the Los Angeles Clippers as indicated by their -135 moneyline number. Thus, if you wanted to win $100 on the Lakers, you would need to risk $135 to do so.
Conversely, if you believed the Clippers would come out on top in this matchup, you would be rewarded $125 on a $100 wager if the Clippers won the game straight up.
Do I Have to Wager in $100 Increments with Moneyline Wagering?
Simply put. No.
Actually.. hell no is the most appropriate way to respond to that question.
Anytime you see this scale in action, understand that this does not mean you can only bet in increments of $100 when you begin to bet on sports. Quite the opposite actually, as many bettors bet in much smaller increments than this.
If you want to work with increments of $10 for example, you would simply adjust this to work with that dollar figure. Instead of risking $135 to win $100 on the Lakers, to win $10 you would only need to risk $13.50. If you wanted to win $5 on the Lakers, you would risk $6.75 and so forth.
This also works the same way for any other bet. The only minimum threshold you have to worry about in terms of what you risk on any given bet is the minimum amount as laid out by your sportsbook of choice.
The amount you bet is completely and entirely up to you. If you’re looking to do this over a longer haul than the occasional spot weekend wager, bankroll management is absolutely pivotal to any long-term success.
Situational Moneyline Wagering
As you become more adept with sports betting and understanding the in’s and out’s of moneyline wagering, you may encounter a variety of less-common scenarios that will surface throughout the calendar year. Some of the scenarios you may encounter include:
Matchups With No Obvious Favorite
When one side is clearly favored in a matchup, it’s easy to spot at first glance of a line. But what about the instances where each side will be technically marked as a favorite?
We see this occurrence pop-up regularly in matchups that involve individuals facing off against one another (i.e. golf, tennis, MMA/boxing, etc.), and even on occasion with matchups of two evenly matched teams going against each other. For this example, we’ll tap into the world of golf betting.
Sports With Lower-Scoring
Unlike sports like football and basketball, where scoring happens freely and regularly, sports like baseball, hockey and soccer are typically much lower scoring sports by nature.
This means that more often than not, bettors will look to bet on the moneyline in these sports as opposed to dealing with spread betting or totals betting.
This isn’t to say you cannot use those methods of betting on these sports, but rather that moneyline wagering is actually the more standardized form of betting on these sports.
In hockey and soccer (or football for our non-U.S. readers), a standard final score along the lines of 2-1 or 3-2 are quite common. In baseball, most totals are set in the 9.5 run range, because the typical final score in this sport hovers in that area.
This is why you will often find it easier to just bet on a side to win, and where knowing moneyline wagering comes in handy.
Here’s an example of what a moneyline may look like in college or professional baseball:
Here is an example of a moneyline wager with English Premier League football:
And lastly, a moneyline wagering example from the NHL.
As you may notice with each sport, the totals are significantly lower than they would be in football or basketball, and the point spreads on each respective sport will actually have the underdog covering 1.5 runs/goals with the higher price than the favorite winning the outcome by 1.5 runs/goals.
This is because a differential of one run/goal is much more common than a differential of two or more, it doesn’t mean teams don’t win by two or more in any of these sports, it just means the risk involving that is higher than it is for a team to simply keep the margin close.
However, many people don’t want to bother crunching a hundred different scenarios involving a total or spread, and thus the moneyline bet was born.
Handicapping Moneyline Bets
Prior to placing any moneyline wagers, the most experienced and successful sports bettors will put extensive research into the games they are looking to bet on.
Breaking down the matchups, odds and any specific team advantages are all a part of the sports betting process, but like with everything else pertaining to gambling, there is never an exact science to nailing your handicapping and finding a foolproof system that will produce more winners than not.
Because of this, here are some of the more common things a sharper bettor will consider when handicapping any given matchup.
What Are the Opening Odds?
A major clue to where the money on a given matchup is going is to simply pay attention to any movement of the line from the original number it was posted at.
For example, if you’re monitoring the line movement of the Super Bowl and see that the Patriots opened up as a -120 moneyline favorite and are now sitting at a -150 moneyline favorite, one could surmise that more money has poured in on the Patriots moneyline than on their opponents.
This is often a key indicator that one side is getting more love from the general betting public than the other.
How Do They Fare Home vs. Away?
One of the most common theories in sports is that teams will fare better at home than they do when they have to head to the road. However, every season there are teams that fare much worse at home than the norm, and that fare much better on the road than their counterparts.
As seasons go on, you will see oddsmakers adjust to this information as well. However, using the home/away line of thinking can also help unearth hidden value on the board, and you may find a strong road team (or vice versa) getting a better price on the moneyline than they maybe otherwise should, giving you an extra edge on your bet.
Identifying Matchup Edges
Handicapping matchups will often help you discover an edge in the game that may not be factored into the price of the moneyline.
As an example, when handicapping a college basketball game, you may discover that the road team in this matchup shoots the lights out from deep when they go on the road and their opponent happens to not defend the three exceptionally well on their home floor.
If the road team in this hypothetical matchup were priced as an underdog, you could very well have stumbled upon a betting gem.
Maybe an NFL team is really good defending the run and is playing a team that is more run-oriented than pass-oriented. Maybe an MLB team feasts off left-handed pitching and is set to face a clubs 5th starter who also happens to be a left, maybe an NBA team is playing in back-to-back nights and tends to stink up the joint in such scenarios.
All of these things are nuggets you should factor into your betting, and all of these nuggets can be used to find great value on the board.
Studying Recent Performance
Every team in sports will have their share of ups and downs in a season.
Monitoring recent performance is often a good indicator for a team hitting their stride at the right time, or slumping at the worst time.
While recent performances are never a guarantee as to what can happen in the future, you should still pay attention to them as sometimes this is the only indicator you’ll really need with your bet.
If a team suffered an injury a few weeks ago and hasn’t looked the same since, that might be an indicator to bet the other way. If a team has underperformed to their expectations early out of the gate, that may be a window of opportunity to bank on them “figuring it out” and playing more like they were expected to play.
Again, there’s a wide range of ways you can apply this to your handicapping and betting, and often times it will be this simple.
Moneyline Betting Strategies
Now that you’ve navigated through everything there is to know about moneyline wagering, you’re probably hoping to come away from this tutorial with a few “hot tips” to carry with you.
While we don’t have a foolproof, 100% lock system (and let’s face it if we did we would probably be on a tropical beach somewhere right now instead of writing this), there are a number of strategies one can use to ensure you’re setting yourself up for a profitable experience.
Favorites vs. Underdogs
One strategy that many professional bettors deploy is waiting for the opportune time to bet on an underdog.
Not all underdogs are created equal, and some are longer shots to win for a reason, but when you’re able to consistently find value on the board, even if you lose more often than you win, you can still come out ahead by sticking to betting on underdogs.
We see this methodology used often when one bets on baseball. When a team with a dominant pitcher on the mound faces a team that’s not very competitive more often than not, the favored team will be heavily favored.
For example, let’s say the Yankees are facing the Orioles in a mid-week regular-season game and the Yankees have Gerrit Cole on the mound against one of the Orioles end-of-the rotation guys. The very likely situation will be that the Yankees are heavy favorites, and you would need to risk anywhere between 2.5-3x the end payout just to bet on the Yankees to win.
But what if the Orioles pulled the upset at +300? If you bet $100 consistently on all 162 Orioles games, because they’re likely going to be the underdog for the majority of the season, you would probably stand to make more than you would consistently backing heavier favorites.
Why is this the case? Unlike a loss on an underdog where you are out whatever amount of money is your typical bet, you would be out the amount of the money you need to risk in order to win your desired payout.
So in again using the above example, if the Yankees were to somehow lose as a nearly 3:1 favorite, you would be out $290 instead of losing $100 if you were to take a flyer on the Orioles.
You can apply this same line of thinking to any sport though, as every sport will have underdogs that bring the same value you can find betting a sport like baseball.
Live Moneyline Betting
With the rollout of legalized sports betting across the country, one major benefit to consumers is the wonders of live betting.
Live betting allows for a bettor to bet on a game at any point during the contest, and many bettors have used live betting to maximize their profits to the fullest.
Maybe you liked a heavy favorite before the game started and bet on them to cover the spread or win outright, and that favorite proceeded to come out flatter than a picture of Earth in Kyrie Irving’s man cave.
Your bet is dead right?
Not so fast my friend!
With live betting, you can bet on the game as it is in that very moment. So that heavy favorite is likely not such a heavy favorite anymore, and in some instances maybe they’re even listed as the underdog now.
Any sports fan can tell you that any sport will have games with high’s and low’s. Live betting allows you to jump in at the right time on either side to bend the odds more to your liking. If you have any experience with trading stocks, live betting is in many ways similar to that, only with sports betting.
Shopping for the Best Moneyline Odds
The final trick of the trade when it comes to moneyline wagering is to treat odds shopping in the same manner you might treat house shopping.
Just like when buying a house, you’re likely not going to want to immediately commit to the first house and first number you see. You’re going to want to look at other homes, get a better feel for what you want that house to be, where you want that house to be, how much you want that house to be, and so forth.
Well, shopping for odds is no different. Before committing to a bet with a sportsbook, you should look around to see if your state offers legalized sports betting through more than one sportsbook.
If you’re in a state like Colorado or New Jersey with a wide variety of sportsbooks to choose from, we highly recommend having memberships with multiple sportsbooks just in case that moneyline you want to bet on has a slightly better price at one sportsbook than the other.
On the surface, saving $10 and $20 here and there doesn’t seem like a great deal of money until you work out the math over the long haul. Then you will see that shopping for the best odds is something that every sports bettor should be doing, regardless of your experience level when it comes to betting on sports.
Moneyline Wagering FAQ
Assuming you have already set up a sportsbook account and made your first deposit, upon betting on any given matchup, look under the column that reads “moneyline” and simply select the side you wish to bet on, with the amount of money you wish to risk on said side you are betting on.
For the most part, yes you can. This really depends on the sportsbook you have registered at.
However, the vast majority of legalized sportsbooks in the United States will allow you to parlay underdogs on the moneyline. If you are able to successfully hit on an underdog parlay, the payout for this will always be noticeably higher than parlaying straight favorites would be.
But beware — parlays are difficult enough to hit when you’re taking low risk bets, they get that much harder to hit when you introduce underdogs into the equation.
When betting on a point spread (or run-line, puck-line or goal-line), you are essentially betting on a handicap.
You will need the side you pick to either win the game outright by a certain point total, or keep the game within the margin of points (spread) in a loss.
Moneyline wagering is much simpler to understand, and only requires you successfully picking the outright winner of a respective matchup with no point handicap to deal with.
If you see a team listed at +250 on the moneyline, you can immediately infer these things about that particular matchup.
- The individual/team listed at +250 is considered to be a pretty sizable underdog in the matchup.
- On a $100 wager on this underdog to win their matchup straight-up, you would profit $250 for a total payout of $350 ($100 risked + $250 won).
Betting on heavy favorites definitely is not as easy as it may seem to be on the surface.
As sports fans, we’ve all assumed Team A would obliterate Team B in a hypothetical matchup, and we’ve all felt that some games are nearly as much of a certainty as death and taxes.
However, that’s not always the case, and upsets happen all the time in the world of sports. Because of this, you may be asking yourself, “What the heck is the point of betting a heavy favorite when more things can go wrong for me than right?”
And it’s a fair critique to be sure.
The allure for many bettors is to parlay a number of heavy favorites into one bet to lower the amount of money you need to risk in order to get a desired payout. The allure for many bettors to just ride underdogs whenever they go to the moneyline also exists.
To answer this question, we believe you should just go with your gut. If you feel like risking $40 to win $10 on a -400 favorite is a smart bet, then by all means go with that.
Just prepare for the few occurrences when an upset deals you a punch to the gut if you’re planning to ride heavy favorites for the majority of your moneyline wagers.