Even if you are not an avid or occasional sports bettor, you have almost certainly heard of moneyline odds. Along with the point spread and the over/under, it is one of the most common wagers placed by those who like to gamble on sports. In this article, we are going to explain to you what is the moneyline.
At first mention, you might have questions. What is the moneyline? What are you actually betting on? How do you interpret these odds? Are there any good strategies worth exploring? If you need a more complete how-to on the sports gambling world, please visit our ultra-comprehensive betting guide. But right here, right now, we are all about the moneyline.
How Moneyline Bets Work
The term "moneyline bet" can throw some people off. It doesn't really hint at what you're wagering on. Like, the "point spread" is a little more suggestive than the moneyline.
This isn't really a big deal, because these bets are so straightforward. You're merely trying to pick the winner of a competition or future outcome. That's honestly it. Point spreads and the over/under get into specific totals. The moneyline is more binary: Pick your winner. And you're done.
Reading the moneyline odds is where things can get a little hazy. Their presentation, yet again, isn't self-explanatory.
If you're going over the latest NFL betting odds you might see a game with the following moneyline: New England Patriots (-100) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (+100). While you can always turn to a betting calculator to break down your potential payout, you don't actually need one in many instances.
Negative moneylines—so, in our hypothetical, the Patriots' line—belong to the favorite. Whatever their number is, you add $100 to it, and that's how much you need to wager in order to make a potential profit of $100. A -100 line, then, means that you need to lay down $200 if you want to win a total return of $300, which makes for a $100 profit.
Positive moneylines—the Chiefs' in this instance—are assigned to the underdogs. They tell you how much you must put on the line in order to win $100. A +100 line for the Chiefs means that for every $100 you risk, you stand to turn a $100 profit; betting $100 on Kansas City in this example would give you a shot of clearing a total payout worth $200.
Pretty easy, right? It can get a little more complicated when you're dealing with weird moneylines, such as -165 or +115, but that's where betting calculators come into play.
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Moneyline vs. Point Spread Odds
We cover this comparison more in-depth within our moneyline vs. point spread guide, but the following hypothetical gives you the overall lowdown.
Let’s say you are a Miami Heat fan and are extremely confident they will beat the New York Knicks in an upcoming NBA playoff game, but you aren’t so sure that the Heat will cover the spread as nine-point favorites (this means Heat have to win by more than nine points in order for the spread to be met and your bet to be paid out.) There’s little doubt the Heat will win the game at home, but it's certainly possible that a big night from New York's players could keep the Knicks close and within nine points at the end of the fourth quarter. NBA tilts are notorious for big underdogs covering at the end of a game thanks to points given up easily when the leading squad lets their foot off the gas.
The best betting option here on Miami wouldn’t be the spread but instead on the moneyline. The biggest positive for this wager is that it doesn’t matter at all how much the Heat would win the game by. However, the bigger a favorite a team is on the spread, the more you would have to spend on the moneyline to win your $100. So in this example, the Heat could be -285 favorites. That would mean spending $285 to win $100 back.
Just so we're clear: You do not have to wager in increments of $100 to bet on the moneyline. This amount is used to help make it easier to understand the odds at a glance. Using the above scenario, if you wanted to make a $10 profit betting on the Heat, you would have to wager $28.50 to do so. If you bet $10 at -285 and your bet won, you would make a $3.51 profit and receive your original stake back.
This also gets at another benefit of the moneyline compared to point spreads: a range of potential payouts.
When you're betting on a point spread, no matter how small or large, you're usually up against odds of -110. Moneylines give you more options from game to game. You can go with the heavy favorite, which will yield smaller payouts, or the flat-out underdog, which typically pays better than two-to-one.
Yes, by betting the moneyline, you'd be guaranteeing a victory from an underdog, lest your wager fail. Still, it's nice to have the option.
Moneyline Futures Betting
Moneyline odds are used heavily in futures betting, which makes sense. You're attempting to pick a winner of a distant event—be it a league division, conference, or outright championship—and moneyline odds are the format used for selecting outright victors.
And yet, even those who swear more by point spreads are drawn to futures, because they tend to be more lucrative. That makes sense, too. You're usually making these picks before the start of a season, so your selection is more open to curveballs like injuries, the competitive landscape and just general flips.
In exchange for this bit of uncertainty—and waiting—sportsbooks reward the difficulty with glitzier payouts. If you're wagering on the next Super Bowl winner, even the outright favorite will often lay better than 2-to-1—and even sometimes 4-to-1—returns.
Moneyline Betting Strategies
Just like every other odds type, the moneyline is home to a bunch of different approaches. Please note that none of these betting strategies are foolproof. They are imperfect and, in some cases, incredibly misguided.
With all of that in mind, we break down the two approaches that intrigue us most.
Parlaying Moneyline Favorites
Moneyline betting can be immensely unattractive to anyone who wants to gamble on a heavy favorite. There's little value in taking the Patriots at -500 against the New York Jets. Who wants to risk $500 just to make a $100 profit?
Parlaying these types of moneylines together is a way around that. The potential payouts still won't be as mammoth as they would be point-spread or underdog parlays, but things get really interesting if you can spot a handful of monster favorites.
Take the following bet slip:
- New England Patriots (-500)
- Kansas City Chiefs (-450)
- New Orleans Saints (-300)
- Buffalo Bills (-250)
- San Francisco 49ers (-400)
Investing in these lines separately isn't too appealing if you don't have an unlimited bankroll. However, if you parlay them, you stand to get almost a 2.5-to-1 payout. That's pretty darn good.
Indeed, the sheer number of winners you're trying to pick makes it risky. But because they're heavy favorites, the potential to miss isn't astronomically high, otherwise, the prospective payout would be much larger. This is a great strategy for someone looking to drive up the stakes without subjecting themselves oversized investments or ridiculously unlikely scenarios.
Small Investments in Mega Moneyline Underdogs
Look, let's be real with one another. Taking the New York Giants to beat the Dallas Cowboys at +600 isn't necessarily the wisest decision. It's one thing if you believe the Giants are being absurdly underestimated, but failing that, the idea behind throwing money on them doesn't much track.
Then again, some people believe it does when pairing one huge underdog with a couple of others.
To be sure, we're not talking about another parlay. Rather, working heavy moneyline underdogs entails sussing out three to five drastic moneylines and funneling small investments into each one. The odds of a +600 Giants bet hitting is quite low, but combine that with a wager on, say, the Miami Dolphins at +400; the Las Vegas Raiders at +650; the Cleveland Browns at +450; and the Denver Broncos at +700, and you might be working with something. Your goal is for one or two of those options to pan out, which is how you still come ahead while losing on another two or three wagers.
The downside to this method is it can take a significant bankroll. Spreading $100 across a five-bet board won't yield much. But if you're the type of gambler who's going to pony up $500 in a given NFL weekend anyway, it could be worth divvying that money up against multiple heavy underdogs and seeing where that takes you.