Moneyline bets are by far the most popular type of sports bet that you can make. What’s great about moneyline bets is that they are not only simple enough for beginner sports bettors to understand and utilize properly, but they are also heavily used by professional sports bettors to rake in huge wins every single day in sportsbooks all across the world. In fact, there are many wildly-successful professional sports bettors who exclusively use moneyline bets in their winning strategy.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you literally everything you’ve ever wanted to know about moneyline bets and then a whole lot more. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned bettor, we’ve got something here for you. We’ll walk you through the basics of what a moneyline bet is, why you would want to make one, and how to interpret the different numbers, payouts, and presentation formats you’ll see.
Additionally, we’ll discuss line movement, how the casino profits (important for you to understand), and moneyline betting strategies that can help you crush the books. These strategies will range from basic to advanced, so even the most seasoned of sports bettors should expect to get some value from this. Feel free to skip to a specific section if you came here for specific information. If you’re newer or it’s been a while since you’ve bet, we highly recommend reading this guide from top to bottom, as the sections will build on knowledge from previous sections.
What Is a Moneyline Bet?
We’ve already covered that a moneyline bet is easy to make and is the most popular type of sports bet for beginners and for professional bettors. Now let’s talk about exactly what it is. A moneyline bet is a sports betting wager on which team or person will win a game or sporting contest. Simple as that. When you make a moneyline wager, you are betting on who will win a contest. It doesn’t matter how they win, by how many points, goals, or runs they win, or how long it takes them to win. All that matters to win a moneyline bet is that the team or person you bet on is victorious.
Typically, if you’ve made a bet on sports in the past amongst friends or at the casino, you probably made a moneyline bet, and you didn’t even know it. “I bet you $10 the Broncos are going to win tonight.” That’s a moneyline bet. You may also hear the bet referred to as a to-win bet in some circles, but just know that they are referring to the same type of bet.
Where people seem to get confused with moneyline bets is with how they are presented and how they pay out. While the criteria to win a moneyline bet will never change, the amount you win and how the bet is presented will change. Don’t worry, though. It’s easy to understand if it’s presented to you properly. We are going to cover this thoroughly in the coming sections. You’ll be a moneyline expert ready to crush the books when you get done with this guide.
Benefits of Moneyline Bets
Before we go any further, we want to point out some of the reasons moneyline bets are so popular and are utilized so frequently by professionals worldwide. You should always understand the importance of something before you dedicate your time and effort into learning about it. Let’s take a look at the benefits of moneyline bets in your future winning sports betting strategy.
Something that all of our pro bettors on staff preach is that there is no reason to make anything more complicated than it needs to be. Specifically, they are referring to the awful trend of aspiring sports bettors thinking that you must make more complex bets in order to make a living betting sports. The reason we say it’s an awful trend is because this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The secret to winning sports bets is finding value and picking winners. There is absolutely zero correlation between the complexity of a bet and how likely you are to win. In fact, you could say that there is a negative correlation because a lot of bettors don’t fully understand the complex bets they are making, meaning they are more likely to make mistakes and incorrectly assess value.
Moneyline bets take the gold medal when it comes to simplicity. Pick a winner, decide if the payout you’ll receive is worth the risk, make the bet, and that is it. If your team or player wins, you win. People will try and overcomplicate this, but that is all there is to it.
Easier to Find Value
Piggybacking on the simplicity of moneyline bets is the ease with which you can properly assess value. Now, you’ll notice that it doesn’t say “Easy to Find Value,” and that is because it’s never easy to find value in sports betting. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it for a living. What it says, though, is that it is easier to find value with moneyline bets because of the simplicity.
You don’t have layers of complexity to fight through to see if your prediction is a positive expected value move (one that is going to make you money). With some simple mathematical calculations, you can figure out whether or not there is value in a bet. Even if you don’t like math and would prefer not to use it when assessing value and making your picks, it’s still much easier to “eyeball” value with moneyline bets because of the simplicity.
Great Introduction for Beginners
Got someone that you’re wanting to get excited about sports betting? Too often, people try and introduce new bettors to the sports betting world with an overload of information. They’ll shower them with too much knowledge, too many choices, and they’ll eventually chase them away from the games.
Moneyline bets are a great way for you to teach your friend, family member, or significant other about sports betting. They’ll have a much easier time grasping what is going on and will most likely be more excited to continue learning and/or supporting you in your endeavor.
Understanding Favorites and Underdogs
Sportsbooks would go completely broke overnight if they paid out the same amount on every single moneyline bet. Imagine this scenario for a second. The Atlanta Falcons schedule a football game against a Pee-Wee football team, the Brownsville Bear Cubs, that’s made up of 10-year-olds, and the sportsbooks are allowing you to bet on it.
If they were paying out the same amount if the Falcons or the Bear Cubs won, what would happen? Well, 100% of people would bet on the Falcons, and the sportsbook would lose all of their money when Matt Ryan and his Falcons stomped the youth football team. In order to counteract this, the sportsbook must alter the amount that they pay out.
Let’s take a quick step back and talk about what the sportsbook’s goal is with any game they are offering action on. Ideally, the sportsbook wants to take the perfect amount of action (money bet) on each side of a game so that regardless of who wins, they make money. Their profit comes from taking a small percentage off of the top as a house fee for facilitating the action.
In our earlier example, the sportsbook would be devastated if 100% of the action came in on the Falcons. The book is not looking to gamble; they are looking for a sure thing. So, to try and entice more people to bet on the Bear Cubs and discourage people from betting on the Falcons, they will alter the payouts. They will make the amount you win for correctly selecting the Bear Cubs much larger and the amount that you win for correctly selecting the Falcons much smaller.
What this means is that in each contest, there is going to be a favorite and an underdog. It’s important to point out that when you look at a moneyline bet, and you see that a team is a favorite or an underdog, this is only in relation to the money that is being bet. While these numbers will usually be in line with which team is the actual favorite and underdog, it could be different. Remember, the betting lines are tweaked so that the sportsbook can get the right amount bet on each side of the contest.
Let’s take a look at a moneyline bet and talk about identifying who is the favorite and who is the underdog.
- 055 — Eagles -300
- 056 — Falcons +240
There are four elements to the moneyline bet that you can see here. The first column is just an identifier of which bet is which for the sportsbook. When you place your bets, you can tell the sportsbook you want to bet on the Eagles to win or that you want to take bet 055. This number has nothing to do with the actual game and is just a code for the sportsbook to keep their bets organized.
The second column identifies who you are betting on. The first line is a bet on the Eagles to win, and the second line is a bet on the Falcons to win. Next, you will see a column that has a plus or minus sign and a number. The minus sign will always indicate the favorite, and the plus sign will always indicate the underdog.
The number that follows the plus or minus sign will indicate how big of a favorite or an underdog the team is. The larger the number is, the bigger the favorite or the underdog the team is. For example, a team that is -300 is a bigger favorite than a team that is -150. A team that is +240 is a bigger underdog than a team that is +130. Remember, this is not the sportsbook’s actual prediction on who they think will win; it’s in relation to the money that has been bet on the game. It is more depictive of who the betting public thinks is going to win the game.
This number will also help you to know how much you will profit for a correct pick. In one of the next sections of this guide, we will walk you through how to calculate those potential payouts. If you hate math, don’t worry. Most online betting sites will give you tools to help you calculate this without having to do any math yourself.
If you are betting on a sport where there are multiple entrants, like in a race or tournament, you may find that every entrant is paying out at favorite odds. This is because it’s much more challenging to pick a winner from a large field, and the sportsbook will be rewarding you for that. Just know that when you see the plus sign, you will be getting paid better than even money for a correct pick.
American Odds, Decimal Odds, and Fractional Odds
Before we discuss how moneyline bets pay out and how to calculate your potential winnings, we need to discuss the different formats that the bet may be presented to you in. Depending on where you are in the world, you might see moneyline bets presented in one of three formats – American, decimal, or fractional.
As you might guess, you’re mainly going to see American odds in American sportsbooks. The other two formats are much more prominent in Europe and Asia. If you’re betting online, most sportsbooks give you the ability to change all of the odds on the site into the format that you prefer. No format is different regarding payouts; it’s just a different way of presenting the information.
Let’s take a look at the same bet we looked at earlier presented in each of the three different formats.
While these may look like completely different bets, they are exactly the same. You will get paid the exact same amount regardless of which team wins. The likelihood of each team winning is exactly the same. All you are seeing are the different ways that the sportsbook might choose to represent the numbers.
Regarding the favorites and underdogs, we already know how to figure that out with American odds, but what about with decimal and fractional odds? Here are the rules you need to know for those.
With decimal odds, if the number is greater than 2.0, the team is an underdog according to the sportsbook. If the number is less than 2.0, the team is a favorite according to the sportsbook.
With fractional odds, if the number on the top of the fraction (the numerator) is smaller than the number on the bottom of the fraction (the denominator), then the team is a favorite. If the numerator is bigger than the denominator, the team is an underdog.
Calculating Your Potential Payout
Now that we’ve covered a lot of the basics concerning moneyline bets, let’s talk about the fun stuff – how much you’re going to make on your next correct moneyline bet. Remember, most online sportsbooks will automatically calculate the amount you are going to make on a moneyline bet before you even make the bet. You’re able to put in the amount you want to bet, and they will tell you immediately how much you would win from a correct pick.
If you’re betting in a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, though, you’re going to have to figure this information out yourself. The book will print on your ticket how much you stand to win, but they aren’t going to let you come up and ask a million times what the payout is going to be. You’ll need to calculate it yourself (or head online to place your bets).
Let’s take a look at how to calculate these payouts for each of the three odds formats you could see.
We will use our previous example of the Eagles and the Falcons game. Here are those odds again in American odds format.
- 055 — Eagles -300
- 056 — Falcons +240
You should already know that the Eagles are the favorite to win and that you should expect less than even money on a correct pick here. You should also know that the Falcons are the favorite, and you should expect better than even money on a correct pick here. Having this in mind every time before you start your calculations will protect you from making a mistake and calculating the completely wrong direction.
Let’s imagine that you are going to make a $100 bet on this game. If you are calculating your profit using American odds, you need to do things slightly different for the favorite and the underdog.
For the favorite, you are going to divide 100 by the American odds number and multiply the number you get by the size of your bet. In other words, (100/odds) * Bet Size = Profit
- (100/300) * $100 = Profit
- (.333) * $100 = Profit
- $33.33 = Profit
Your profit on a $100 bet if the Eagles win would be $33.33. Notice that we didn’t use (-300) in our formula; we just used 300. Disregard the minus sign when plugging the number into this equation.
For the underdog, you are going to divide the American odds number by 100 and multiply the number you get by the size of your bet. In other words, (odds/100) * Bet Size = Profit.
- (240/100) * $100 = Profit
- (2.4) * 100 = Profit
- $240 = Profit
Your profit on a $100 bet if the Falcons win would be $240.
Remember, these calculations are for your profit. Profit is different than the total money returned that you will get from the sportsbook. If you correctly bet the Falcons to win, the sportsbook will return you $340. This will be your $240 in profit as well as your $100 bet that you made. Make sure that you pay attention to this when working with these numbers because we see people get confused all the time as different sportsbooks will give you different numbers.
In our opinion, decimal odds are much easier to work with, especially when it comes to converting your potential payouts. The reason is that you don’t have to memorize two different formulas depending on who the favorite or the underdog is. In fact, the formula for calculating this is crazy-simple.
Whether the team is a favorite or an underdog, all you have to do is multiply the decimal odds by the size of your bet, and you will get your total money returned. In other words, Decimal Odds * Bet Size = Total Money Returned.
We do want to make sure to point out that this is total money returned and not your profit. We went over the difference above when discussing the American odds. Let’s take a look at the same bet again, but this time with decimal odds. We should be expecting to see a profit of $33.33 for an Eagles bet and $240 for a Falcons bet since we know that the bets are the exact same and are just presented in a different format.
- 055 — Eagles 1.33
- 056 — Falcons 3.40
- Decimal Odds * Bet Size = Total Money Returned
- 1.33 * $100 = Total Money Returned
- $133.33 = Total Money Returned
If you want to see what your profit is, all you have to do is subtract out your initial bet of $100. This shows us that we should get a profit of $33.33 on a correct Eagles bet.
Let’s look at the Falcons now.
- Decimal Odds * Bet Size = Total Money Returned
- 3.40 * $100 = Total Money Returned
- $340 = Total Money Returned
To get our profit, we subtract out our initial $100 bet because this formula is getting us the total money returned to us by the sportsbook. This gives us a profit of $240 on a correct Falcons bet.
As you can see, decimal odds are extremely easy to work with and probably the reason that a lot of the world still uses them. Just make sure you remember that the number you are calculating includes your initial bet. We’ve seen people think they were getting better odds or a better payout because they forgot to subtract out the initial bet.
The last format we want to look at is fractional odds. Personally, we aren’t a huge fan of fractional odds because they’re the most challenging to work with. The formula is almost the same as with decimal odds, but it gives your profit instead of total money returned. It also requires you to solve a fraction, which may be a nightmare for a lot of people. Regardless, we are going to walk you through how to do it with the same bet we’ve been working with.
For those of you that don’t remember how to solve a fraction, you take the top number and divide it by the bottom number. So, to solve the fraction for the Eagles bet, you would take 1 and divide it by 3. Yes, you may want to get a calculator out if you aren’t a math whiz.
- 055 — Eagles 1/3
- 056 — Falcons 2.4/1
Line Movement and the Casino’s Profit
At this point, you know most of the basics surrounding moneyline bets. You know what they are, the different formats they could be presented in, and how to calculate what your profit is going to be with each format. What we want to do now is transition into some of the more advanced concepts surrounding moneyline bets.
In order to do that, we need to talk more in-depth about line movement and how the casino makes their profit. Understanding how all of this works will not only make you more of an expert on the topic, but it will also prime you to better understand the betting strategies and how to find value.
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the sportsbook’s goal is to get the correct amount of money bet on each side of a game so that they have zero risks. While they aren’t always able to do this perfectly, the closer they get, the less risk they have, and the surer profit they can lock up.
- Magic +100
- Mavericks -100
If you bet $100 on the Magic, you would get $100 in return. If you bet $100 on the Mavericks, you would get $100 in return. So, as long as the sportsbook takes in the same amount of money on both sides of the bet, they will break even and not lose or gain any money.
But these aren’t the odds you would see on an even bet. They would look more like this.
- Magic +105
- Mavericks -110
If you bet $100 on the Magic, you would get $105 in return. If you bet $100 on the Mavericks, you would get $90.91 in return. You might be asking yourself why they aren’t paying out the same amount on both sides of the game. The reason is that the difference is the house rake. Sometimes referred to as the vig or the juice, this is the small percentage that the sportsbook takes off the top for facilitating the action. The percentage that the house takes will vary, and different sides of the bet will pay for it.
Moneyline bets will move the line based on the amount of money coming in on each side of the bet. It has nothing to do with who the sportsbook really thinks is going to win the game and everything to do with that delicate dance of getting the right money on both sides. For example, let’s say that the line for the Magic and Mavericks game is the following:
- Magic +105
- Mavericks -110
Let’s say that people think the Mavericks are going to crush the Magic, and the money starts to pour in on the Mavs. Obviously, the sportsbook likes seeing a lot of bets come in, but they need them to come in evenly. So, to slow down the money coming in on the Mavericks and entice people to bet on the Magic, they will shift both lines. The new line might look something like this:
- Magic +125
- Mavericks -130
Had you initially bet $100 on the Mavericks, you would walk away with a profit of $90.91. Now, if you bet on the Mavericks, you will see a profit of only $76.92. On the other side of the bet, an earlier bet on the Magic would have paid you $105. Now that same $100 bet will get you $125 if the Magic win the game. Ideally, this will entice more people to bet on the Magic and the action on the Mavericks to slow down.
If the action keeps pouring in on the Mavericks, you might see the line move further. If the action starts coming in too heavily on the Magic, you’ll probably see the line shift back. Basically, it’s a dance that the sportsbook will do all the way up until action closes on that event.
In the coming strategy sections, we’re going to hammer home why this is important to you. If you can get a better payout on a bet you were already going to make, you are certainly going to want to do that. Additionally, you might not like a moneyline bet based on the initial payouts, but you might like it later if the line moves in your favor.
Factors That Cause the Moneyline to Move
We already know that the only thing that causes the moneyline to shift are the bets that are coming in. However, we should talk about what factors will cause the betting patterns of the public to change, and in turn, cause the moneylines to move. This will go hand in hand with the following betting strategy section. If you can master predicting when and how lines are going to move, you will crush sports betting and moneyline betting.
The Big Hitters
You may have noticed that we said earlier that it’s the amount of money bet on each side that is important to the sportsbook and not the number of bets. This is an important distinction to understand. If 100 people bet $10 on Team A, and then one person bets $10,000 on Team B, the line is going to shift to attract action onto Team A. Even though more people bet on Team A, more actual money came in on Team B.
This means that the people betting the big bucks are going to end up shifting the line considerably. A lot of times, you will see a moneyline released, and then it will quickly shift. Usually, this is a skilled big bettor taking advantage of what they think is an opportunity. Ideally, you’ll want to jump on bets before these skilled bettors get ahold of it.
Usually, a big move in the line early in the week (well before a game happens) is the big bettors. A big line move closer to the start of the actual game is usually a large chunk of recreational bettors betting one way or the other. This is not an absolute rule, but it does tend to ring true from what we’ve been told by sportsbook executives.
Reactions to News Media
One of the biggest factors you will see change the moneyline odds is the news media. The news does a great job of sensationalizing stories as well as reporting changes that may or may not have an effect on an upcoming game. Recreational bettors have a tendency to overreact to news stories, especially ones that pull on the heartstrings. This can create some really awesome betting opportunities for you to jump on. Expert bettors and sportsbook executives always say that if you can be on the opposite side of the general public on a bet, you’re probably in a good spot.
Injuries and Suspensions
Changes to the lineup for a game will have a big effect on the moneyline as well as any other bets you’re looking to place on that game. If a superstar is suddenly out, it’s going to have a big change on where the money is coming in, which will inevitably cause a big shift in the line. Sometimes the sportsbook will even adjust the line preemptively if they anticipate a large change in where the money is going to be coming in on a particular game.
Changes in Conditions
You can never rule out the weather in sports. If there is a team or contestant who does better in certain conditions but worse in others, you’re going to see a line movement if the conditions change. For example, a football team that has a strong passing attack might become less of a favorite if rain pops up in the forecast. Often, the line does not shift as quickly as it should in response to changing weather conditions, which can create some good opportunities to find value.
Moneyline Betting Strategies
While understanding moneyline bets is great, it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t know the strategies needed to maximize your profits and minimize your losses. If you’re ready to take your bankroll to the next level utilizing moneyline bets, please get ready to pay attention because class is in session.
Understand How to Find Value
The number-one key to success here (as it is with any type of sports bet) is understanding what value is and knowing when and how to take advantage of it. Value, in a nutshell, is finding sports bets that are paying you at a better rate than you think they should. If you place enough of these bets to overcome variance, you’re going to be a long-term winner.
You see, people too frequently get caught up on their win-loss rate, which actually has no real effect on their bottom line. You can win more bets than you lose and still be losing money. On the other side of things, you can lose more bets than you win and be wildly profitable at sports betting. It all comes down to successfully finding value and pouncing on it when you see it.
If you are serious about taking your game to the next level, we highly recommend you read this advanced guide on understanding value. It will walk you through everything you need to know to start picking winners that will increase your bottom line.
Stop chasing wins and start chasing profit.
Predict and React to Line Movements
We went into detail earlier about what causes moneylines to move. The better you can get about predicting when these movements will occur and in what direction, the more profitable you’re going to be as a sports bettor. If you find a bet that you like, but you predict it’s going to move more in your favor, you can intelligently wait to bet and lock up a potentially much more profitable opportunity.
Moneylines have a tendency to move quite a bit in both directions leading up to a game, match, or fight. It’s a delicate dance that you’re going to have to master if you want to find value and push your edges to the max. Sports betting is a profit source that is all about small edges. Finding and being able to capitalize on these small edges is the key to being profitable long-term.
Start studying line movements. Figure out what makes the public tick. Make the bets you’re already going to make more profitable. Find bets you originally weren’t going to make. Utilize the trends of the market to maximize what moneylines can do for you.
Be Wary of Huge Favorites
Let us be clear before we go any further with this strategy tip. If there is value in a bet, go ahead and make it. What we want to talk about, though, are bets where you are risking an abnormally high amount of money to win a very small amount of money. While this is still technically profitable, you might not get enough opportunities to push through the variance and realize your value.
For example, let’s say you’re thinking about betting on something that is -3500. You are almost 100% sure that you’re going to win this bet. If you bet $100 on this bet, you’re going to see a profit of $2.86. Again, this might be worth it to you. An almost 3% return on a sure thing might be something that you’re interested in. However, if you’re looking to make any meaningful profit, you’re going to have to risk a lot of money. To win $100, you’re going to have to risk $3500.
Whether or not this is worth it is up to you. What you may want to look at to help you decide is our next strategy tip – implied probabilities. We’ll revisit this bet there.
Understand Implied Probability
When we look at the odds number attached to a moneyline bet, we know that it gives us the ability to figure out the amount we will win if we’re correct. What it also gives us is the ability to calculate the percentage chance that the bet needs to win for us to break even. This is known as the implied probability.
We go in depth on this in the advanced guide on understanding value that we referenced earlier, but we will give you a brief intro on it here. If you’re able to calculate the percentage chance that you have to win in order to break even, and you can figure out the percentage chance that you think you’re going to win the bet, you can figure out very quickly if there is value.
If the implied probability says that you have to win a bet 40% of the time to break even, and you think you’re likely to win the bet 45% of the time, then there is value in the bet. Remember, the sportsbook pays you more the less likely something is to happen. This means you’ll be getting paid as if the bet is only going to hit 40% of the time (more money), but the bet actually hits 45% of the time if you are right.
You might be thinking, “How on Earth am I going to figure out the percentage chance a team is going to win?” Well, we cover this in depth in the referenced guide, but there are really two ways. The first is utilizing a mathematical formula that takes into account the factors that you think are important (covered in the guide).
We mentioned we would touch on the -3500 bet in this section. If you calculate the implied probability of -3500, you see that it is 97.2%. This means that the bet will have to hit 97.2% of the time for you to break even. Now, if you think that the bet is actually 100%, then it might be a smart bet to make. You’re still going to have to put up a lot of money to see any real sort of profit, which might not be desirable based on your personal preferences.
The same is important for huge underdogs. Imagine that you are looking at a team that is +3500. The implied probability is 2.8%. This means that the team would need to win 2.8% of the time for you to break even. Let’s say you think they do have a better than 2.8% chance of winning. Should you bet it? Well, it depends.
Is there value there? Yes. Are you going to make money off that bet? Well, it depends. If you’re only able to make a bet like this once, then you’re most likely going to lose. In order to realize that value, you’ll need to be in a lot of similar opportunities. If you have a very long-term betting strategy, then you can probably get away with making this bet. But if you’re looking for some more regular profit, you might want to steer clear of this. The odds say that the team is only going to win the game a little under 3 times for every 100 times they play. There is value there, but it depends on your betting strategy if you want to make that bet.
If you’re new to sports betting or are a seasoned bettor looking to make some tweaks to your strategy, including moneyline bets could be a great move. They’re simple to learn and provide a fantastic way to add serious profit to your betting strategy. Don’t let their simplicity fool you. It still takes quite a bit of skill to beat them. But if you take the information we gave you here and really search for value opportunities, you’re hopefully going to be able to come out on top. Remember, sports betting is a marathon and not a sprint, so make sure to think long-term.