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What Is a Moneyline Bet?

Joey Shadeck

Jul 13, 2021

If you’ve ever bet with a friend on which team would win a game, you’ve made a moneyline bet. A moneyline bet is one of the most popular bet types in sports. And while the concept isn’t complex (just pick the team you think will be victorious!), there are some essential strategies to successfully betting on the moneyline.

Here’s what you need to know about the moneyline — key definitions, examples, strategies and more.

What is a moneyline bet

When you bet on the moneyline — often referred to on sportsbooks as “ML” or “Money Line” — you’re simply betting on which team you think will win the game. Will it be Team A or Team B? That’s it. It doesn’t matter if the team you bet on wins by one point or 50 points; as long as they win the game, you win your bet.

Moneyline bets are almost always presented alongside two other popular bet types: spread and total bets (over/under). Here’s a screenshot of bet types for an NBA game:

moneyline bet example

Sometimes the bet types aren’t explicitly labeled. In that case you can identify the moneyline bet as the option that displays only one number. Spread bets always have a plus (+) or minus (-) sign preceding each of the two numbers in the box, and total bets always include an O (for “over”) or a U (“under”).

If you're new to sports betting we recommend reading our guides on how to read odds, where sports betting is legal as well as sports betting for beginners.

Understanding moneyline odds: negative vs. positive

When reading moneyline odds — or any odds — you’ll notice that:

  • Odds have either a plus or minus in front of them.
  • Odds are expressed in terms of 100.

Moneyline odds are always written in terms of + or - with +100 as the baseline. If you see “+100,” it means that for every $1 you bet, you win $1 if your bet wins. (It’s also referred to as “even money.”) If a plus sign precedes a number higher than 100 (e.g., +105, +210 +350), you’ll receive more than a $100 payout on a $100 bet if you win. A minus sign (-105, -210, -350) means you’ll have to bet more than $100 to win a $100 payout.

The favorite, or team expected to win the game, will always be listed at negative odds. The underdog, or the team expected to lose the game, will always be listed at positive odds.

Some pointers about reading the odds:

  • If the odds of the two teams are close (e.g., -110 and +110, -120 and +120) that means the favorite doesn’t have a huge advantage over the underdog and the game is expected to be close.
  • The farther apart the two teams are in odds (such as -400 and +320, -250 and +200), the more likely it is that the favorite will win and the underdog will lose.
  • If oddsmakers think the teams are so close that it truly is a coin flip, you might see odds of +100 or -105 for each team.

What are the different outcomes of a moneyline bet?

There are three outcomes of a standard moneyline bet: win, lose or push.

  • Win: You bet on the Cowboys to beat the Giants on Sunday Night Football (where it feels like they play each other every week) and the Cowboys win 24-21. You win your bet.
  • Lose: You bet on the Giants to beat the Cowboys and the Cowboys win 24-21. You lose your bet.
  • Push, or tie: You bet on the Cowboys to beat the Giants, and after four quarters and one overtime period of listening to Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels, somehow the Giants and Cowboys tie 24-24. In this case you push with the sportsbook. You receive your initial bet back, but do not win or lose any additional money.

Moneyline vs. spread: explaining the difference

Spread bets build on the moneyline by adding another element to the bet — specifically the number of points a team is expected to win or lose by. In other words, the moneyline bet is your answer to “Who is going to win the game?” while the spread bet addresses the follow-up question, “By how many points?”

We’ve circled the spread in the screenshot below. The Suns are favored to win by 5.5 points, while the Clippers are expected to lose by 5.5 points.

spread bet example

Is it better to bet the spread or the moneyline?

Moneyline bets are great for games between two teams that are close to evenly matched. And if you think the underdog team will win, you can get a lot of bang for your betting bucks with a moneyline bet. However, if you have a lopsided matchup, the betting odds on the team expected to win often don’t pay out enough to justify betting the moneyline.

In the example below, there’s no value to betting on the Baltimore Ravens with the moneyline.

Moneyline bet examples

Team Moneyline odds Bet To win Payout
Jacksonville Jaguars +550 $10 $55 $65 = $10 bet + $55 payout
Baltimore Ravens -800 $10 $1.25 $11.25 = $10 bet + $1.25 payout
Jacksonville Jaguars +550 $100 $550 $650 = $100 bet + $550 payout
Baltimore Ravens -800 $100 $12.50 $112.50 = $100 bet + $12.50 payout

When betting the moneyline doesn’t make sense, it’s time to consider the spread. Remember, the spread assigns each team a numerical value representing the number of points a team is expected to win or lose by.

In the game shown above between Jacksonville and Baltimore, the point spread is 12.5, +12.5 for Jacksonville, and -12.5 for Baltimore. This means that instead of betting on which team will win the game, you are betting on which team will cover the spread.

Here’s how the same game plays out with the spread. Notice how the payouts are identical no matter what team you bet on:

Spread bet examples

Team Spread odds Bet To win Payout How the bet works
Jacksonville Jaguars +12.5 (-110) $10 $9.09 $19.09 = $10 bet + $9.09 payout Jaguars must win or lose by less than 12.5 points.
Baltimore Ravens -12.5 (-110) $10 $9.09 $19.09 = $10 bet + $9.09 payout Ravens must win by more than 12.5 points.
Jacksonville Jaguars +12.5 (-110) $100 $90.01 $190.01 = $100 bet + $90.01 payout Jaguars must win or lose by less than 12.5 points.
Baltimore Ravens -12.5 (-110) $100 $90.01 $190.01 = $100 bet + $90.01 payout Ravens must win by more than 12.5 points.

Moneyline vs. spread: When should you bet the moneyline?

Here are three reasons to bet on the moneyline instead of the spread:

  • You’re betting on an underdog that you think has a really good chance of winning. If you think the underdog will win the game, mathematically the moneyline will pay out more than the spread. I use this strategy a lot when looking at home teams that are considered the underdog.
  • You’re betting on a favorite that you think will win, but aren’t sure if they will cover the spread. Even though moneyline bets on favorites pay out a lot less than underdogs, there’s no sense in betting on the spread if you aren’t sure your team has a good chance to cover. This is one of my go-to strategies whenever I think a game will come down to the last play or drive, but I still expect the favorite to win.
  • You’re placing a parlay bet with multiple moneyline bets on favorites. While parlays are inherently hard to win, regardless of whether you bet moneylines or spreads, sometimes it’s worth taking the smaller moneyline payout in exchange for the peace of mind of not having to worry about the spread.

Moneyline vs. spread: When should you bet the spread?

Three reasons to bet on the moneyline instead of the spread:

  • You’re betting on a favorite that you think will pummel the underdog. There’s nothing more gratifying than correctly predicting a butt-kicking — and backing it up by betting on the favorite to cover the spread. You get to tell all your friends how you knew the Buccaneers would beat the Lions by at least 15 and that taking the Bucs minus 7 points was a lock. Besides bragging rights, betting the spread in this instance earns a lot more than the moneyline.
  • You think an underdog will keep a game close but might not pull out a win. There’s a lot to be said for teams that habitually keep games close but have a hard time securing the dub (think Los Angeles Chargers). Betting the spread is a more thoughtful way to go for these types of teams than the moneyline.
  • You’re placing a parlay with multiple underdogs. Although the payout will be less than the moneyline, I feel more comfortable having some points in my back pocket if I’m betting on underdogs.

What sportsbook has the best moneyline odds?

Based on Moneyline.com’s comparative odds rankings, Caesars offer the best odds on moneyline bets.

  1. Caesars
  2. theScore Bet
  3. William Hill
  4. BetRivers
  5. bet365

For Moneyline’s 2021 annual review we reviewed data from more than 1,700 bets (including moneyline, spread, and total bets) placed at 20 sportsbooks in order to rank them in a variety of categories. Leagues and bet types collected include NCAA football moneyline bets, NCAA basketball moneyline bets, NFL moneyline, spread, and total bets, NBA spread, moneyline and total bets, NHL moneyline, puckline and total bets, and soccer 3-way result (moneyline) bets.

What does a +200 moneyline mean?

A +200 moneyline means that you are getting two-to-one odds. If you bet on a team with a +200 moneyline and the team wins, you win $2 for every $1 you bet. So, if you bet $10 on the Tigers to beat the Yankees at +200 odds, you will win $20 for a total payout of $30 (the $10 you bet + the $20 you won).

Here’s how much money you would win placing bets at +200 odds at different amounts:

+200 moneyline example

Odds Bet Win Payout
+200 $1 $2 $3 (your $1 bet + $2 in winnings)
+200 $25 $50 $75 (your $25 bet + $50 in winnings)
+200 $100 $200 $300 (your $100 bet + $200 in winnings)

Does the moneyline include overtime?

Moneyline bets almost always apply to the overtime score, but it also depends on the sport. Football, basketball and baseball moneyline bets always include overtime or extra innings. Soccer bets are typically offered as three-way odds, meaning you can bet each team to win in regulation time or a draw in regulation time. Sportsbooks do offer two-way moneyline bets that include overtime for soccer, but the odds are different. Hockey almost always defaults to 2-way moneylines, but you can also find 3-way lines that include draws in regulation.

Can you include moneyline bets in parlays?

Yes, moneyline bets can be included in parlays. (Quick refresher: A parlay bet combines multiple bets into a single bet to increase the overall payout. In order to win the parlay, all bets must win.). You can parlay moneyline bets with almost every type of bet, including spreads, totals, props, and futures. Parlaying multiple moneyline bets can help increase the total payout if you are betting on heavy favorites.

In the screenshot below parlaying the Suns and 76ers to both win pays out over twice as much compared to betting the same amount for either individual team.

parlay bet example

Methodology

For Moneyline.com’s annual best online sportsbooks review, we collected more than 36,000 data points over five months from 20 sportsbooks that serve 11 states where full-scale mobile betting is legalized. Hundreds of hours were spent testing and scoring each sportsbook (mobile and online/desktop) in seven core categories: sports and bets offered, odds, live betting, mobile betting, education, ease of use, and bonuses and promotions. The results determined each sportsbook’s overall rating.

Data from more than 1,700 bets (including moneyline, spread and total bets) was used to generate each sportsbook’s comparative odds ranking. Leagues and bet types collected include NCAA football moneyline bets, NCAA basketball moneyline bets, NFL moneyline, spread and total bets, NBA spread, moneyline and total bets, NHL moneyline, puckline and total bets, and soccer 3-way result (moneyline) bets. When collecting odds, we made sure to collect the same games at the same time for each sportsbook, ensuring data accuracy.

About Moneyline.com’s chief sportsbook researcher, Joey Shadeck: I’ve been a hobby sports bettor for more than six years, placing hundreds of bets on my favorite sports (football, basketball, MMA) and teams (Packers, Spartans, and whoever is playing the Lions). Beyond sports betting, I’m known for saying “Wanna bet on it?” in almost any situation and that is how I found out I can eat 42 chicken nuggets in less than 20 minutes.

As of February 2021, 22 different states have legalized sports betting to some capacity. Of those 22 states, the following 11 have legalized full-scale mobile betting: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada (must register in-person), New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.




About the Author

Joey Shadeck

Joey Shadeck is the lead writer for Moneyline.com and content strategist for Reink Media Group. He has closely tracked sports betting in the United States for the last two years, compiling hundreds of data points across dozens of sportsbooks. He has 6 years of online betting experience with hundreds of bets placed during that time.





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