A money line, used in baseball and hockey, takes the place of a point spread. Money line betting is simply wagering on the contest based on a given price rather than a point spread. The team wagered on has to win the game outright, regardless of the score. The minus sign (e.g.-130) always indicates the favorite and the amount you must bet to win $100. The plus sign (e.g.+120) always indicates the underdog and the amount you win for every $100 bet. Using this example, therefore, you would bet $130 to win $100 on the favorite, while for the underdog you would bet $100 to win $120.
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If your sports betting experience consists mostly of office pools during March Madness or a casual wager between you and a friend while you watch the Super Bowl, the transition to serious sports betting means learning how to read betting lines. The biggest difference between making the kind of casual bets mentioned above and placing wagers with online sportsbooks or at brick-and-mortar bookshops is the use of sports betting lines. Casual wagers usually involve each person in the bet picking one team to win, then wagering an equal amount, say $20 or $30. Professional bookmakers, online sports betting exchanges, and sports betting facilities in casinos have a more complex system for offering wagers on sporting events, in part to ensure profit on the part of the book, and in part to present a standardized representation of odds.
In football the money line is often a popular choice for bettors who have been burned by last-second scoring that actually had no actual affect on the outcome of the game. With the money line you just have to hope your team wins rather than cover a point spread. Of course, the one downside is having to risk more money to return the same amount that a point spread bet would net you.
That was all before Charles McNeil, a math teacher from Chicago, invented the concept of the point spread. An avid gambler, McNeil created what he called “wholesaling odds” and started his own bookmaking operation in the 1940s. He started out offering this new style of betting on football, but his business model grew to include basketball. McNeil changed the way sports betting was done, and his legacy lives on today in what we now call the point spread.