How to Bet on the Moneyline

Learn how to bet on the moneyline.

Key Points

– Learning how to bet on the moneyline is a betting staple.

– Betting the moneyline has its advantages if you know what you’re doing.

How to Bet the Moneyline

Sports betting is a popular way to add excitement to your favorite sporting events. There are many different ways to bet, but one of the simplest is the moneyline. 

When you bet on the moneyline, you are choosing one team or side to win outright. The odds will be expressed as either a positive or negative number. We’ll explain how that works and much more as we examine moneyline betting in this post. 

Moneyline bets can be placed in any sport and they take on some different forms, such as props bets. We will look at those as well. First, we define the moneyline and give examples of how a moneyline bet works.

Moneyline Bets

As mentioned, a moneyline bet is one in which a bettor wagers on a team or individual to win. The moneyline bet could be on a sporting event or it could even be on a political race. There are typically moneyline odds available for the presidential race, for example.

Moneyline odds, also called American odds, are expressed in terms of a $100 bet. A favorite is identified by a negative number. For example, Alabama is a -200 favorite against Auburn. In order to win $100 on the Crimson Tide, a bettor must wager $200.

On the other side of the bet is the underdog. In this case, that is Auburn, which we’ll say is a +150 underdog. The odds indicate that a bettor must wager $100 to win $150 on Auburn.

As stated, moneyline bets can be placed in any sport as well as the race for president. In a boxing match, for example, the favored boxer might be listed at -400 while the underdog is given +300 odds. The idea is still the same. A $400 bet on the favorite wins $100 and a $100 bet on the underdog wins $300 if the underdog pulls the upset.

Bettors will occasionally see moneyline odds of “even” or “pick ‘em.” This represents a game or event where the two sides are evenly matched. The “pick ‘em” may also be written as +100. It simply means that a bettor will win even money – the amount that is wagered – on a successful bet. If a bettor wagers $100 at moneyline odds of +100, he wins $100. 

History of Moneyline Wagers

Moneyline betting essentially follows the entire history of betting in the world. It all began in ancient times with chariot races. Bettors could wager on a certain chariot to win.

In Europe, horse racing became big among the upper class. Betting on horse races was a well-known pastime of the elite. The love of horse racing and betting on horses traveled to America in the 1800s.

As professional sports began to gain in popularity in the U.S., so did sports betting, though it was mostly illegal. Betting on baseball became popular. Most bettors wagered on pool cards where they could bet on a number of games. This was encouraged by bookies as the odds greatly favored the house.

Prior to the rise of point spread betting in the 1940s and ‘50s, most straight bets were moneyline bets. Bettors picked a winner given certain odds. Bookies stayed away from games that were heavily unmatched. They didn’t want to lose on a huge underdog that pulled an upset. Bookies stuck with games that were more evenly matched.

How Moneyline Odds Are Set – How to Bet on the Moneyline

The head oddsmaker is the most significant individual at a sportsbook. This individual sets the odds and lines for every particular game or event that the sportsbook is taking bets on. His actions are commonly referred to as “setting the lines.”

The head (or lead) oddsmaker has unmatched expertise in the betting world. Oddsmakers are mathematicians at heart with decades of experience in sports betting. They understand numbers and they understand the betting industry.

Oddsmakers employ a sophisticated collection of mathematical models, formulas, and computer algorithms to calculate the odds on a certain game or matchup. Additionally, they create power rankings using important statistical metrics like strength of schedule and margin of victory. 

These power rankings are used throughout the course of a season. The power rankings themselves can adjust through the course of a season too. By comparing teams against one another, oddsmakers can decide which team should be favored and by how much.

How to Bet on the Moneyline – Calculating Odds

Win totals and futures odds are also taken into consideration by oddsmakers when calculating the odds. An NFL win total bet, for example, is a totals, or Over/Under, bet that is given moneyline odds. 

For example, the Green Bay Packers may have a win total set at 10.5 at a given sportsbook. The odds on the Over are -115 and the odds on the Under are -105. This is another example of how moneyline odds are used.

Every NFL team has a predetermined win total that can be wagered on during the offseason and throughout the regular season. The market is extremely nimble and will adjust as a season progresses and as betting action comes in.

Futures odds fluctuate over the course of the season depending on how well or how poorly teams are doing. They offer a current snapshot of each team’s strength (or lack thereof). Oddsmakers set these odds too.

Additionally, oddsmakers rely on a group of dependable consultants who offer insight on what they believe the odds should be based on their extensive industry knowledge. In order to determine what the odds should be, oddsmakers will examine their computer models and power rankings and combine all of that information into their decisions.

Watch Crucial Factors – How to Bet on the Moneyline

Once set, the line is then modified based on a variety of crucial factors. This includes things like home-field advantage, which is usually worth three points in the NFL, injuries, bad weather, unusual travel arrangements, and certain head-to-head matchups.

The odds take into account a strong passing attack playing against a weak defensive secondary. It is also taken into consideration if a team was playing on the second night of a back-to-back and arrived after three in the morning. This happens frequently in the NBA.

Once the odds have been determined, they are made public as the “opening line” or “opener.” After that, bettors can choose which side they want to back.

When a line opens, the betting limits are lowered. Oddsmakers call this the “feeling out” phase. Sharp bettors will place bets on the game at low betting limits as the oddsmakers see how precise their betting line is. Once they have a good feel for the number, the betting restrictions are lifted. 

At that point, the market then takes control. Prior to the start of the game, oddsmakers will modify the odds based on the amount of action each team is receiving. Ultimately, the goal of a sportsbook is to take an equal amount of action on both sides of a bet. That way, sportsbooks can guarantee a profit.

How to Bet on the Moneyline – Baseball

Some sports, like baseball, lend themselves to moneyline betting. Because scoring is scarce in baseball, betting the point spread is a bit different than in basketball and football. Baseball point spread bettors wager on the run line, which is baseball’s equivalent of the point spread. However, that point spread is almost always 1.5. 

Where baseball bettors can find more value is betting on the moneyline. There are a number of factors that influence a MLB game, but probably the most significant is the pitching matchup. When a Cy Young caliber pitcher like Houston’s Justin Verlander goes up against a mediocre opposing pitcher, there may be value in backing the moneyline favorite.

Let’s look at an example. The Astros are -200 favorites against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are putting an average pitcher on the mound, which is the reason for the -200 odds. 

If you like Houston to win, you have to bet $200 to win $100 (or $2 to win $1). On the other end, The Rangers are a +150 underdog and a $100 bet would win $150 if Texas pulled the upset. 

There are some key concepts that bettors should understand when betting baseball. It often doesn’t make sense to bet the run line. Favorites have to win by at least two. Underdogs have to lose by one or win. Underdogs are underdogs for a reason, but there are some instances when backing the underdog in MLB betting is wise.

Favorites vs. Underdogs – How to Bet on the Moneyline

In the example given, there’s nothing wrong with betting on Verlander and the Astros. The problem arises when you bet on big MLB favorites over and over. In a typical MLB season, underdogs actually win four out of every nine games. That’s pretty substantial and enough for baseball bettors to consider getting better odds from the moneyline.

When you bet favorites in baseball, you win small and lose big. When you bet underdogs, you lose small and win big. 

One particular MLB moneyline betting strategy involves taking division road underdogs, particularly in games with totals of 8 or higher. Division opponents play each other 19 times per season. That creates a lot of familiarity and benefits an underdog.

In games with higher totals, oddsmakers are expecting more runs. That means they are likely expecting runs to come from the visiting underdog. Depending upon the pitching matchup, betting the road divisional underdog in an MLB game can pay off. 

Imagine betting on the Rangers in our example and winning. That’s a $100 bet that wins $150. When you do that consistently, you don’t even have to win half the time in order to come out ahead. That’s why baseball is a moneyline sport.

Why Moneylines Move

We mentioned that moneylines will move after they have been set. One reason has to do with the betting action taking place on both sides of a bet. The action comes from both sharps, or professional bettors, and the betting public, the more recreational bettors. The impact of both groups of bettors influence moneylines.

Sharps can play a major role in a moneyline shift. We mentioned at some point that the ultimate goal of the sportsbook is to take in an equal amount of action on both sides of a bet. Let’s look at an example of how sharp bettors can influence the moneyline.

A sportsbook takes 100 bets on Team A at $10 each prior to its game against Team B. One bettor lays down $10,000 on Team B. The result is that the line is going to shift to encourage more money to come in on Team. 

That single bet by a sharp bettor brought in more money on Team B even though more bettors wagered on Team A. The odds will adjust in an effort to bring in an equal amount of money on Team A. 

This implies that the big-money bettors will cause a significant shift in the line. A moneyline will frequently be released, followed by a swift move. Typically, this is a savvy big bettor taking advantage of what they perceive to be a favorable situation. In an ideal world, you’ll want to place bets right away, before the sharp bettors do.

Moneylines that move early are usually the result of big-money bettors. Line adjustments closer to game time are often the result of the betting public getting active.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

The news media is another of the major factors that will affect how moneyline odds are adjusted. The media does a great job of sensationalizing events and covering developments that might or might not have an impact on a game.

News stories, especially those that touch the heart, may cause recreational bettors to overreact. You may be presented with some truly fantastic betting options as a result. Most smart bettors know that betting against the public wins more often than it loses. The house wins a lot. That’s why sportsbooks are still in business.

Moneylines will also be impacted by lineup changes. When it’s announced that a starting quarterback will sit out an NFL game, lines will adjust as a result. Injuries, trades, and any other personnel activity will always play a role in moneyline odds.

The other thing that will impact changes in moneyline odds are the game conditions. Weather plays a role. Windy conditions affect both baseball and football games. Heavy rains or snow in cold-weather climates will have an affect on moneyline odds.

How to Bet on the Moneyline – Betting Strategies

Understanding moneyline bets is important, but if you don’t grasp the tactics required to win more often, it’s all for naught. The first thing in learning how to bet on the moneyline is to recognize how to find value.

Understanding what value is and knowing when and how to take advantage of it are the most important factors in making a betting decision. Finding sports bets that pay you more than you expect them to is what value is all about. You will achieve long-term success if you make enough of these wagers to balance out variation.

Too often bettors focus on their win-loss ratio, which has little to no bearing on their bottom line. You might win more bets, but you may still be in the red. On the other hand, you can bet on sports and make a ton of money even when you lose more than you win. It all boils down to being able to recognize value and seize it when you see it.

Line Movements

Learning why moneylines shift will help you become more successful as a bettor. In certain circumstances, you can wait to place a bet and secure a better opportunity. That is part of recognizing betting value.

Prior to a game, match, or fight, moneylines frequently fluctuate significantly in both directions. If you want to find value and push your edges to the limit, you must learn this delicate dance. Small margins are the key to making sports betting profitable. Long-term success depends on being able to identify and profit from these tiny edges.

Start observing line motions. Find out what drives the betting public. Increase the profitability of the wagers you already intend to place. Find wagers you hadn’t planned to place. To get the most out of moneylines, take advantage of market movements.

One thing bettors should do is avoid big favorites. That’s not to say that you always avoid favorites, but betting heavy favorites frequently is a recipe for disaster. We have mentioned this previously, but betting favorites means you lose big and win small.

Take the following example. Betting on a favorite at -3500 is not a wise decision most of the time. A $100 wager on that favorite would pay just $2.86. Now, at -3500, the favorite appears to be a lock. However, if the underdog pulls the upset, you lose big. You would have to wager $3500 just to win $100.

Implied Probability – How to Bet on the Moneyline

Bettors should also be able to recognize implied probability. We know that when we look at the odds number associated with a moneyline bet, it allows us to calculate the amount we will win if we are correct. It also enables us to figure out what percentage of the time the wager needs to win in order for us to break even. 

You can determine if there is value fairly fast if you are able to determine the percentage chance you must win in order to break even and the percentage chance you believe you will win the bet.

There is value in the bet if the implied probability states that you must win a wager 40% of the time to break even and you believe you will most likely succeed 45% of the time. Keep in mind that the less likely something is to happen, the more the sportsbook will pay you. This means that if you are correct, you will receive payment in accordance with the assumption that the bet will win just 40% of the time. That equates to a higher payout.

How to Calculate

You might wonder how you can calculate the probability that a team will win. You can do it mathematically or you can “eyeball” it. If you eyeball it, you are essentially guessing how many times a team might beat another if they played ten times. Maybe you think that number is six. You believe that a team has a 60 percent chance of winning.

You can compare that to the implied probability provided by the bookies. Go back to the example with the favorite at -3500. To calculate the implied probability of a favorite using American odds, the formula is as follows:

3500/(3500 + 100) X 100 = 97.2%

The implied probability that this favorite will win is 97.2 percent. This could be a case like Alabama playing a school like UConn. If you like Alabama to win 100 percent of the time, it might be a bet worth making. If you believe Alabama would only win nine out of ten times, then the value isn’t there. Depending on your own preferences, you may not find it desirable to put up that much in order to make such a small profit.

It’s the same for significant underdogs. Consider an opponent given moneyline odds of +3500. The implied probability of the underdog winning is  2.8 percent. In order to break even, the squad would have to win 2.8% of the time. Should a bettor make that bet?

It depends. Is there value? If you think the underdog has more than a 2.8 percent chance of winning, then there is value there. Remember, even a small bet on a big moneyline underdog can pay off. If you put $50 on a +3500 underdog to win and they pull the upset, the payout is $1,750.

Keep in mind that big underdogs are big underdogs for a reason. According to the odds in this case, the underdog is only projected to beat the favorite three out of every hundred times they play. There may be value there, but placing a wager really will depend upon your betting strategy.

Advantages to Moneyline Betting – How to Bet on the Moneyline

Anyone who’s ever placed a bet on a sporting event knows that there’s more to it than simply picking a winner. There are all sorts of different ways to bet, and each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One of the most popular types of bets is the moneyline, which offers some distinct advantages for smarter bettors.

One of the biggest benefits of betting on the moneyline is that it’s relatively simple to understand. Unlike other types of bets, you’re not dealing with point spreads or complex odds calculations. All you need to do is pick a winner, and your payout will be based on the odds of that team winning. That means that, even if you don’t know a lot about sports betting, you can still place a moneyline bet with a reasonable chance of success.

Another advantage of moneyline betting is that it tends to be less risky than other types of bets. Because you’re simply picking a winner, there’s no need to worry about point spreads or other factors that can influence the outcome of the bet. That doesn’t mean that moneyline betting is always safe – after all, anything can happen in sports – but it does minimize your risk.

Know Your Risk

Moneyline bets can be placed on any sport, but they are most commonly used in baseball and hockey. As mentioned previously, the lack of scoring in both baseball and hockey have an effect on betting point spreads. Both are more moneyline sports as a result. Learning how to bet on the moneyline starts here.

There are also numerous other bets – player props and futures, for example – that utilize moneyline odds. Again, these bets are pretty easy for even the novice bettor to understand. Josh Allen is given +350 odds to win the NFL MVP. If you like Allen to win the award at the end of the season, you can place a moneyline bet on him. If he wins, you will win $3.50 for every $1.00 you wager. 

Another advantage is that bettors will usually get better odds than some other types of bets. For example, when you bet an underdog on the point spread, you will typically get -110 odds. If it’s a short underdog – i.e. 1 to 2.5 points – and you like them to win, you can get the underdog at plus-money.

Even a short underdog, which on a point spread bet would get odds of -110, might be given odds of -105 to win on the moneyline. There are a number of situations where bettors can get better odds on the moneyline.

Disadvantages to Moneyline Betting – How to Bet on the Moneyline

Of course, no betting strategy is perfect, and moneyline betting has its own set of disadvantages. One downside is that it is extremely hard to consistently pick winners. When moneyline betting, you are simply picking winners and losers and that gets difficult. 

If you’re consistently betting on favorites, you are losing big and winning small. It’s hard to maintain your bankroll when you’re betting on mostly favorites. Knowing this and how to bet on the moneyline is sportsbetting 101.

It’s also difficult to identify those moneyline underdogs that help advance your bankroll. In MLB games, the underdog wins 44.4 percent of the time, but it’s hard to identify which ones will win on a consistent basis. 

The average bettor will have a hard time identifying value in a bet. A strong understanding of implied probability and the actual sport being wagered on are necessary for a bettor to have success. The recreational bettor may have neither and that makes it difficult to have any type of long-term success.

Despite its drawbacks, betting on the moneyline can be a great way to make some quick cash if you know what you’re doing. With its simple premise and low risk level, it’s perfect for beginners who want to get their feet wet in sports betting. And even experienced bettors can find value in moneyline wagers if they know how to exploit the odds.

About the Author
Joe Berra
Joe Berra
Sports Writer
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Joe takes care of the bits and pieces that sometimes slip through the cracks of the sports world. Efficiency and consistency is what makes different. JB helps keep Sports Hub’s content fresh and exciting, managing its many authors. From the New York area, Joe knew he had a knack for sports betting when his uncle was always asking him which side he was on as a young boy. His meticulous approach to the numbers formed his career path as a professional handicapper. Joe is sometimes called Jimmy Bagpipes, JB or Mr. B.