The menu at legal sportsbooks is vast and filled with choices. There are lots of sports to choose from and various bets to consider. For the latter, the choices can range from simple to grasp to more complex.
On the simple side of the ledger is the moneyline bet, where you simply choose which side you think will win. While the concept is easy to understand, there are other moving pieces to consider. Here’s what you need to know about legally betting on the moneyline in the US.
Betting the moneyline at legal US sportsbooks
The odds boards at legal US sportsbooks are always moving. From the initial release up until the game time, there’s a good chance you’ll see movement in the numbers for the games you’re interested in wagering on.
The live odds feed below lets you view the latest real-time odds from the industry’s top legal sportsbooks, and also customize it by sport to find what you’re looking for quicker.
What is a moneyline bet?
The moneyline bet is a simple and straightforward one in which you pick the winner from two possible choices. It’s one of the main bets for major team-based sports, and you’ll find variations of it elsewhere on the sports betting menu.
For the average slate of games in a top sport, online sportsbooks will have a listing for each contest. The main listing will have the odds and lines for three wagers: moneylines, spreads and totals. For the moneyline, it will look something like this:
|Green Bay Packers||-140|
Negative odds indicate favorites, and underdogs have positive odds. For this example, the Packers are slight favorites over the Steelers. The range between the odds can indicate the closeness of the matchup in the eyes of the oddsmakers, as well as the relative pricing offered by competing sportsbooks.
As bets come in, the sportsbook might shift the odds in a bid to level out the action. The Packers could move from -140 to -150, while the Steelers could shift from +120 to +130, for example. Also, keep in mind that the odds won’t be exactly the same at each sportsbook. You can always line shop at various books to find the best odds for the bet you want to place.
The odds for moneyline bets dictate your potential return. Sportsbooks will display the potential return on your wagers before you click submit, but you can also easily ballpark it. For negative odds such as -140, you would have to bet that amount for a chance to win $100 — i.e., $140. If the odds are positive, that’s how much you’d get back on a successful $100 bet — i.e., $120.
Which sports allow for moneyline bets?
As one of the main types of wagers, the moneyline will be available for all major sports. If you’re viewing listings for the following sports, moneyline odds should be one of the top options.
The moneyline bet is also the standard choice for UFC and boxing matches. In tennis, each head-to-head pairing as tournaments play out will have moneyline odds, while sportsbooks often provide pairings of golfers with moneyline odds on each to finish better than the other for PGA Tour events.
Understanding moneyline odds and line moves
After sportsbooks release odds for upcoming games, the betting public gets its chance to weigh in. If a clear preference emerges in terms of which way the money is flowing from bettors, then sportsbooks can respond by adjusting the numbers. This also happens in response to wagers from professional bettors sometimes called “sharps.”
The basic goal of doing this is to level out the action. If a sportsbook winds up too lopsided on an event, it could be in line to take a big loss if the public proves to be correct. Since sportsbooks would rather not have that happen, line moves are standard practice across the industry. When adjusting, the book will make the side not getting as many bets more attractive and the other side less attractive.
NBA moneyline bet
- Denver Nuggets+170
- Los Angeles Lakers -200
- Early public money favors the Nuggets.
- Sportsbook responds by adjusting Lakers to -190 and Nuggets to +160.
If the initial move doesn’t have the desired impact, the book might adjust again. Line moves can continue right up until the start of the game, so remember to always take the time to shop around for the best odds. Even the slightest ticks of difference can add up over the long run.
Implied probability and the vig on the moneyline
Sportsbooks are trying to make money in every market. One of their biggest sources of revenue is the vig they charge for taking and settling bets. Short for vigorish and often referred to as juice, the vig will vary depending on the odds. For moneyline wagers, it may appear as if the vig is applying only to the negative odds, but it’s built-in everywhere.
To help visualize the vig in relation to the moneyline, it’s useful to translate the odds into their implied probability. There are two formulas you can use to do so.
- Negative odds (use absolute value): Odds/(Odds + 100) * 100 = implied probability
- Positive odds: 100/(Odds + 100) * 100 = implied probability
Armed with those formulas, we can figure out what the odds say about the likelihood of an outcome. Let’s say it’s betting on an NFL game in which the Philadelphia Eagles are -130 moneyline favorites over the Washington Football Team at +110.
- 130/(130+100) * 100 = 56.5%
- 100/(110+100) * 100 = 47.6%
If we add the two implied probabilities together, the sum is 104.1%. Given that there is a 100% chance one of those teams will win the game, the extra 4.1% is the built-in advantage for the sportsbook in this scenario.
In addition to implied probability, you should be considering the amount of potential payouts for moneyline bets. For a short version, wagering on big favorites doesn’t always translate into payouts that justify the risk, while blindly betting on underdogs at positive odds and hoping for the best can be a recipe for disaster.
Examples of betting the moneyline
After you have a good handle on how moneyline odds translate into the likelihood of winning for both sides, you’ll be able to scan the odds board more efficiently. From there, you can factor in potential payouts for winning bets to further whittle down the field. Here are some moneyline examples for the major sports:
NFL moneyline betting
- Jacksonville Jaguars +280
- Tennessee Titans -360
- Profit of $280 on a winning $100 bet on the Jaguars.
- Profit of $27.78 on a winning $100 bet on the Titans.
NBA moneyline betting
- Detroit Pistons +155
- Chicago Bulls -175
- Profit of $155 on a winning $100 bet on the Pistons.
- Profit of $57.14 on a winning $100 bet on the Bulls.
MLB moneyline betting
- Chicago White Sox +110
- Minnesota Twins -130
- Profit of $110 on a winning $100 bet on the White Sox.
- Profit of $76.92 on a winning $100 bet on the Twins.
NHL moneyline betting
- Winnipeg Jets +120
- Colorado Avalanche -140
- Profit of $120 on a winning $100 bet on the Jets.
- Profit of $71.43 on a winning $100 bet on the Avalanche
NCAAF moneyline betting
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights +325
- Michigan Wolverines -450
- Profit of $325 on a winning $100 bet on the Scarlet Knights.
- Profit of $22.22 on a winning $100 bet on the Wolverines.
NCAAB moneyline betting
- Duke Blue Devils +135
- North Carolina Tar Heels -155
- Profit of $135 on a winning $100 bet on the Blue Devils.
- Profit of $64.52 on a winning $100 bet on the Tar Heels.
State rules and regulations for moneyline betting
While states can set their own rules and regulations for sports betting, you’ll find lots in common in the various jurisdictions, such as prohibiting those with close associations to a sport from betting on that sport. However, there are differences as well, such as the legal age being 18 in a few spots and 21 everywhere else.
When betting moneyline, there’s nothing out of the ordinary to be aware of. You’ll find it available for a lot of sports, ranging from major ones down to those in the niche category. One area to keep an eye on is college sports. Some states, including New Jersey, prohibit betting on in-state college teams, while others like Pennsylvania don’t have such restrictions in place.
Also, legal states will limit sports betting to actual athletic competitions. You can’t wager on things such as elections, reality television, or weather events, for example. Bets like that might be available on illegal offshore sites, so treat them as a big red flag if you come across them.
House rules for the moneyline
Individual sportsbooks also have their own rules in place. Known as house rules in industry parlance, they cover all of the ins and outs of wagering and explain how the sportsbook will handle unexpected circumstances. There also are sport-specific house rules to be aware of. For the moneyline, here are a few points to remember.
- Sportsbooks consider bets to be action once a game or event gets underway. They’ll remain live for slight delays, but a complete cancellation will lead to the sportsbook voiding and refunding wagers.
- The settlement of all wagers is based on official league data and statistics. At placement, you’ll be locked in at the listed odds at the time you placed the wager.
- In the event of a tie or a game that fails to reach the required threshold for completion, sportsbooks will treat bets as pushes and refund them.
Whenever you sign up to play with a new online sportsbook, it’s a good idea to take some time to review the house rules. If there’s not a dedicated section for the rules, you can usually find them in the help or FAQ sections. This will tell you what to expect if any unexpected situations come up with your wagers.
Legal vs. illegal moneyline betting
Legal US sports betting options are now available in a number of states with more on the way. Despite that, there still remains a market for illegal sports betting, including via offshore books that set up shop outside of US jurisdiction.
These sites claim to be operating under what they see as a legal gray area, but the bottom line is this: If they’re not approved and regulated by a state, then they’re in the black market. There are no protections in place for consumers, and your funds could be at risk as a result.
Offshore sites can look like legal sites, and they may even offer markets on things you can’t bet on in the US. There’s little justification, however, for putting your funds at risk unnecessarily.
Moneyline betting handle at US sportsbooks
Each month, legal sports betting states release handle and revenue reports. We report the latest findings here. One of the key takeaways from the first few years of legal sports betting is this: it is growing rapidly in each new state.
While states don’t break out the amount of action by bet type, they do so for individual sports. Unsurprisingly, the biggest drivers of action are the top North American team-based sports: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Since the moneyline is one of the top ways to bet on those four sports, we can safely say that it brings in plenty of handle each month.
Moneyline bets are among the most popular offerings on the sports betting menu. They’re simple and straightforward and make for a great starting point for those new to wagering as a result.