Definition: A moneyline bet is where you pick the winner of an event or game. The odds adjust based on the expected performance.
The moneyline bet one of the main bets for major team-based sports, and you’ll find variations of it elsewhere on the sports betting menu.
Negative odds indicate favorites, and underdogs have positive odds. The range between the odds can indicate the closeness of the matchup in the eyes of the sportsbook, while the relative pricing may differ when compared with competing sportsbooks.
Sportsbooks will display the potential return on your wagers before you click submit, but you can also easily ballpark it based on the odds.
- Positive odds: For positive odds, the number indicates how much you’ll get back on a $100 wager. If you place a bet at those stakes on the Steelers at odds of +120 and they go on to win the game, your profit will be $120.
- Negative odds: When the odds are negative, the number equals how much you have to bet to get back $100 for a winner, which in this case is $140 at -140.
Here is an example between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers are slight favorites over the Steelers.
The lines will shift
The odds won’t stand still from there. As action comes in and any newsworthy developments happen, the sportsbook might shift the odds. For example, if a lot of betting volume came in on the side of the Packers, a sportsbook could respond by making the odds on that side less favorable, such as down to -150.
If a key injury happened to pop up on the Steelers side, that could lead to their odds being adjusted even further downward, such as from +120 to +130. Moneyline odds won’t always 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.
How the moneyline works
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.
Payouts for big favorites can be on the light side, while returns can be fantastic if the underdog pulls it off. You should never base your decisions solely on the potential return.
Here are some moneyline examples for the major sports:
Example of the moneyline on the NFL
There’s a big span between the numbers on both sides here, indicating that the Titans are a heavy favorite over the Jaguars. At the listed odds, we can expect back the following for winning $100 bets.
Example of the moneyline for the NBA
While payouts on moneyline favorites can be less than what you would get back on a point spread bet, some perspective is needed. At odds of -200 or greater, you still have the chance to win back 50% or more on your stake.
If you want to place a bet on the favored Bulls, you can get them at odds of -175, while the Pistons are priced at +155. Here’s how that translates for winning $100 wagers.
Example of the moneyline for MLB
- Chicago White Sox +110
- Minnesota Twins -130
For this MLB game, the sportsbook has priced it pretty tight. The Twins are only slight favorites over the White Sox, which means that winning $100 bets will bring back the following.
- White Sox +110: Profit of $110.
- Twins -130: Profit of $76.90.
The moneyline bet is perhaps the most popular for baseball, which makes line shopping that much more important. Even the smallest ticks of differences in the odds can have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Example of the moneyline in the NHL
The moneyline bet is also a go-to option for scores of hockey bettors. Line shopping is imperative, while a knack for spotting underdogs who can pull out the upset can prove to be quite fruitful.
Another close game is projected here as the sportsbook has the Avalanche at -140 while the Jets are at +120. If you win a $100 bet on your selection, you can expect back the following.
Example of the moneyline in college football
In the case of a massive moneyline favorite, the chances of an upset are slim. If you’re content with a minimal return while betting on heavy favorites, that’s perfectly fine, but remember that one upset can quickly set your bank roll back.
For college football, there can be a wide range in the moneyline odds when programs of differing strength match up. Here’s what you’d get back for $100 bets on the favorite and underdog.
Example of the moneyline in college basketball
Points spread betting is very popular for college basketball, but it can be challenging to win consistently. Returns can be less on moneyline favorites and great for underdogs, but there are no points to worry about, just winners and losers.
The sportsbook has the Tar Heels as decent-sized favorites for this rivalry game with the Blue Devils. If you take your chances with $100 after making your selection, here’s what the end result looks like.
Understanding moneyline odds and line moves
After sportsbooks release odds for upcoming games, the public gets its chance to weigh in. If a clear preference emerges in terms of which way the money is flowing, 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.
Example of adjusting the line
- 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.
What are the sportsbook rules when it comes to betting 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.