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How To Bet The Moneyline

A good part of the enormous appeal of sports is that it is a results-oriented business. Heading into a game, there’s plenty of time to research in a bid to figure out what may happen.

Once the game plays out and the final whistle blows, the result is in the books and there’s a winner and a loser. That’s when it’s time to analyze what happened and why.

All of that translates over quite nicely to sports betting too. That’s a bottom-line business as well, and a moneyline bet is the most cut and dried of them all.

The only thing you need to worry about is picking the winner of the game. If you manage to do so, you’ll earn a profit on your wager.

Afterward, you can rinse and repeat and try again. Moneyline is a great entry point for those new to betting, and a staple in the playbook for many seasoned handicappers. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the moneyline in sports betting?

A moneyline bet is among the simplest sports wagers you’ll find. The only requirement is to pick the winner of the game and that’s it.

There are no additional points to worry about or any other extraneous circumstances. Betting on the moneyline is simply about winners and losers.

It’s a standard offering at sportsbooks and generally among the featured listings in the main betting lobby for online and mobile platforms.

For an example, let’s take a look at a standard listing for an Indianapolis Colts game.

We can see that the Jaguars are set to take on the Colts, who are pretty hefty 9.5-point favorites. To the right of the spread we see the moneyline odds, which also reflect the fact that Indianapolis is a big favorite.

To bet on either side in this game, you simply click on the box for your choice. If you click on the Colts at moneyline odds of -390, that choice will automatically be added to the betting ticket.

From there, it’s just a matter of typing in the amount of your bet and clicking submit. For your reference, a standard $100 bet at moneyline odds of -390 would return $125.60 — the original stake plus winnings of $25.60.

Moneyline betting odds explained

The odds listings for moneyline are generally very straightforward as well. The favorite for a game will be designated with negative odds, while the odds will be positive on the underdog side.

  • Cleveland Cavaliers +155
  • Indiana Pacers -175

In the above example, the odds tell us that the Pacers are a clear favorite over the Cavaliers. We can dig into the game further from this point and then make our choice.

To understand what the potential return would be, we can plug in a bet on the slip and make sure we don’t hit submit. Here’s what the math looks like.

  • A $100 winning bet on the Cavaliers at odds of +155 would return a total of $255 — the stake plus a profit of $155.
  • A $100 winning bet on the Pacers at odds of -175 returns a total of $157.10 — the amount of the initial bet plus winnings of $57.10.

As you can see, betting on underdogs can be potentially more lucrative, but don’t let that be the driving force behind your decision-making.

The idea is to win more often than you lose when it comes to betting and to make a profit along the way. As such, your choices should be determined by which side you feel most confident about.

Many sets of moneyline odds will have clear favorites and underdogs, but there are times when the game sets up as closer than that. Here’s an example.

  • Columbus Blue Jackets -105
  • Pittsburgh Penguins -115

As the oddsmakers see this NHL game, it’s close to being a toss-up. Both sides have negative odds to reflect that, and they may fluctuate as the game approaches based on market action. Here’s the potential return on both sides of the equation.

  • A $100 winning bet on the Blue Jackets at odds of -105 would return a total of $195.20 — the stake plus a profit of $95.20.
  • A $100 winning bet on the Penguins at odds of -115 returns a total of $187.00 — the amount of the initial bet plus winnings of $87.00.

Moneyline odds can help you quickly get a handle on a slate of games. You’ll know which side is expected to win, and after a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to figure out what type of returns you might see on winning bets.

The straightforward nature of the bet makes it an excellent place to begin for new bettors. At the same time, bettors with more experience can also lean on it for somewhat more predictable returns in comparison to other bet types.

How to bet on the moneyline

As with all of the bet types on the wagering menu, practice, patience and persistence can help cut down on the learning curve relatively quickly. To that end, let’s take a look at some examples of how to bet on the moneyline for several major sports.

NFL moneyline betting

In terms of overall betting volume, the NFL is the most popular offering at sportsbooks. While point spreads and totals attract plenty of attention, there’s also the opportunity to keep it simple and focus on the moneyline.

For a point spread, bettors need to factor in what’s basically an estimated margin of victory and choose the favorite or the underdog to “cover.” There’s no need to do that with the moneyline as it’s simply about which side will win.

  • Houston Texans +120
  • Indianapolis Colts -140

In the above example, the Colts are slight favorites over the Texans. A winning $100 bet on Houston would lead to a profit of $120, while a correct $100 bet on the Indianapolis side translates into winnings of $71.40.

NBA moneyline betting

The NBA is another of the most popular choices on the betting menu, and also a sport in which the spread and totals attract numerous bets. Moneyline is also offered, so bettors therefore have the option to bottom-line the contest and merely worry about which side will win.

  • Detroit Pistons +110
  • Indiana Pacers -130

A glance at the odds board tells us that the Pacers are the favorites, but the tight range also lets us know that the game is expected to be pretty close.

If we place a $100 bet on the Pistons side and they go on to win, we’ll be rewarded with winnings of $110. For a correct $100 bet on Indiana, the return would be $76.90.

MLB moneyline betting

Moneyline is the most popular bet type for MLB. There’s a run line option as well, but the standard is set at 1.5, meaning that the winning side needs to win by more than that while the underdog can cover by keeping it closer than that margin.

The starting pitching matchup is the biggest driver for the odds you’ll see displayed each day. When a big mismatch looks like it’s on tap, that’ll be reflected in the odds you’ll see.

  • Seattle Mariners +190
  • New York Yankees -240

The odds are telling us that the Yankees are really big favorites, so it’ll be quite the upset if the Mariners are able to pull this one out.

Naturally, your research may tell you different, so be sure to take the time to break down the games as opposed to just randomly picking huge favorites and calling it a day.

A $100 winning bet on Seattle at odds of +190 would deliver a profit of $190, while a winning $100 bet on the New York side would net $41.70.

NHL moneyline betting

Betting on the NHL is similar to MLB. There’s a puck line that’s typically set at 1.5 for each game, but moneyline is the biggest driver for betting action.

The regular season is a grind for all sports, and upsets happen on every slate of games as a result. It’s important to remember that the odds are pointing you toward the most likely outcome based on the information at hand.

  • Ottawa Senators +135
  • Toronto Maple Leafs -155

According to the odds, the Maple Leafs should win this game. However, closer examination could tell you a different story. In short, don’t be shy about digging in to spot potential upsets, as hitting on some of them can make a big difference for your bankroll.

For this example game, a winning $100 bet on the Senators returns $135, while a correct $100 bet on Toronto would result in a return of $64.50.

College basketball moneyline betting

For experienced handicappers, college basketball is an incredibly popular sport. The point spread attracts tons of attention, but there are also returns to be found on the moneyline.

Moneyline is also a great way to break in for those who are looking to get in on the action with a new sport. As opposed to worrying about what the final margin of the game will be, moneyline bettors only need to focus on which side is going to win.

  • Wisconsin +120
  • Indiana -140

After getting a good handle on the moneyline and breaking down games, branching out into other wager types such as spreads and totals will be less challenging.

For this example, a winning $100 bet on the Wisconsin side returns $120, while a correct $100 wager on Indiana leads to a profit of $71.40.

College football moneyline betting

Saturdays in the fall and winter are the most wonderful time of the year for many sports fans, and numerous bettors share that sentiment. There are plenty of seasoned bettors who have made college football their top sport to key in on.

The weekly schedules are chock full of choices. While there are a number of marquee matchups each week, there are also lots of mismatches between powerhouse programs and smaller schools.

  • The Citadel +325
  • Alabama -450

Alabama is a huge favorite for this contest and expected to have its way with The Citadel. While there are no sure things in sports betting, this could be a proverbial layup for moneyline bettors.

However, if The Citadel pulls out an upset for the ages, then $100 bettors on that side are looking at a stellar return of $325. For Alabama bettors, a winning $100 bet means a profit of $22.20.

While that may not sound terribly exciting, the opportunity to make a profit of 22.2% is nothing to sneeze at. Some bettors may dismiss smaller returns as not being worthy of their time, but they can absolutely add up over the course of a season.

Finding the best moneyline odds

All sportsbooks offer moneyline betting, but not all of the odds are created equal. While most of the major operators are in range in terms of what they offer to the public, there are ticks of difference to be found.

After bets start getting placed following the initial release of lines, oddsmakers may tweak the odds in a bid to even out the action. As a result, the moneyline odds can be a bit different at one operator in comparison to another.

You can easily spot these discrepancies if you engage in a practice that has come to be known as line shopping. This means that you are checking out the odds at multiple books while hunting for the best price.

For an example, let’s consider an NFL game in which the Kansas City Chiefs are a consensus favorite over the Las Vegas Raiders. Here’s what the odds look like at one operator.

  • Las Vegas Raiders +135
  • Kansas City Chiefs -155

You do some shopping and notice that another book is offering this game at a different price.

  • Las Vegas Raiders +125
  • Kansas City Chiefs -145

While this may not seem like a huge difference, it can absolutely add up. Let’s consider the differences for a winning $100 bet on the Chiefs side at both sets of odds.

  • At odds of -155, the profit is $64.50.
  • At odds of -145, the profit is $69.00.

By shopping around a bit, you have put yourself in line to earn an extra $4.50. While that doesn’t move the needle all on its own, turning that trick a few times over the course of an NFL season can be a boon to the bottom line.

In today’s connected world in which numerous operators are easily accessible online and via mobile, line shopping is really simple. It’s worth taking the time to do it to make sure you are putting yourself in position to earn the best returns possible.

Handicapping the moneyline

Overall, the moneyline is a great simple bet to focus on for sports betting. However, that doesn’t mean you can just wing it and hope to come out ahead in the long run.

There’s some legwork to be done with moneyline betting, but there are also different approaches you can take. That’s one of the many great things about sports betting: there’s no one size fits all approach, and many different paths can lead you to success.

For some bettors, the answer is to lean on some trusted resources and then to form their own opinion from there. Some will pay for picks and advice, while others will dive in and handicap themselves.

The approach you choose is ultimately up to you, but it’s a good idea to have a good handle on the basics of handicapping regardless. Beyond just teaching you how to break down the games, this can also help you to spot opinions that may be way off the mark.

Here’s a quick and simple process you can use to form the basis of your own research.

  • Study the odds: You need to know what the odds board is telling you and respect it. The big favorites are where they are for a reason, as are the long shots. Don’t overthink it, but also don’t let that discourage you from digging deeper. After all, you may uncover something that others are missing as you conduct your own research.
  • Realistically assess the teams: It’s important to clear the head of preconceived notions and any rooting interests before breaking down a game. If you can’t do that, just pass and move on to another game. Take a detailed look at the teams involved and consider their strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, the side that is stronger overall should become apparent.
  • Pay attention to recent form: Momentum is a big factor on the field of play, and that’s also true for stretches during lengthy regular seasons. Top squads can go on downswings, while also-rans can get it together as the year moves along. Pay close attention to how teams have performed over their most recent games for clues on what may be to come in the near future.
  • News and notes: For each game that you plan on betting on, it’s imperative to take the time to review the news and notes surrounding the game. The news cycle moves fast in the world of sports, and there are often many useful nuggets to be found. Pay particularly close attention to player injuries, playing time issues and comments from coaches.

Taking the time to go through these four simple steps can help put you ahead of the curve. Once you get a handle on the process, you can expand your routine and dig in even deeper with advanced stats and metrics.