For beginning sports gamblers, moneylines (sometimes called money lines or American odds) can be confusing. Unlike point spreads, which are concerned with who wins and by how much, a moneyline is solely dependent upon who wins. Moneylines are used most commonly in low-scoring games like baseball or hockey, but they may also be used in boxing and other sports.
Placing a point spread bet means gambling on how much a team will win or lose by. In our above example, the Cowboys are the favorite. How do we know that? The minus symbol in front of the point spread indicates that the bookmaker thinks the final score will have Dallas winning by 7.5 points or more. The underdog, in our example that’s the New York Giants, will always be indicated with a plus sign. If you wager on the Cowboys on the point spread, America’s Team will have to win by at least 8 points for your wager to pay off. Should the Cowboys win by less than 8 points, your bet is lost.
Linemakers who work for the sportsbooks must put out lines that will entice the "favorite" bettors to lay the points and take the favorite or entice the underdog bettors to take the points with the underdog. Because each sportsbook is operated under their own rules, guidelines and stipulations, they are free to put out whatever line they feel is competitive and charge whatever vig they want to based on how much action that specific line is taking.
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.
Above, you can see several numbers to the right of both teams. These all represent the different lines that are available on the San Francisco vs. Los Angeles game. The first set of numbers for both teams is the point spread, the second set is the moneyline, and the third set is the over/under (a.k.a. totals). We'll explain each of these lines more in-depth below.
As we did with the underdogs, we need to figure out how much we will profit for each $1 that we wager. For underdogs, we divided the moneyline number by 100. For favorites, it is the exact opposite. We will take 100 and divide it by the money line number. So, for this example, we will take 100 and divide by 155 and get about $0.645 or about $0.65 in profit for every dollar that we bet.
It’s common knowledge among bettors that the online gambling industry pays close attention to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a private company that handles the odds for casinos and newspapers. But the totals I set have to reflect our customers’ preferences for betting the over or under on certain teams in certain situations. Also, because LVSC lines are published early, I have to keep on top of injuries and potential changes in coaching strategy leading up to the game in question before I release any totals. This is doubly important in basketball, where pace determines how many shots will be taken in 48 minutes.
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.
Absolutely. When the lines go up for the NFL, or for the first game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, there are several days in between the open and the game itself where movement can take place. You’ll find that the betting public tends to pile in on their favorite teams once they get home from work on Friday. You can anticipate these line movements and time your bet accordingly to take advantage.
It is a very good idea to shop around to find the best line when you are betting on sports. Books may offer slightly different lines, and you might be able to gain a point or half a point in your favor on certain markets. Consider an NBA game between the Heat and the Lakers – one firm has the Heat 9.5 point favorites and another have the Heat as 8.5 point favorites. You back the Heat with the second firm and they win by exactly nine points. Here you’ve gone from a loss to a win simply by shopping around, and in the long run this will make a big difference to your bottom line.
The last types of bets that you should be aware of when betting on the NBA are proposition bets. A prop bet is a wager in which you bet on whether or not something is going to happen in a particular game. For example, will a certain player make more than four 3-pointers in a game? Which team will score first? Which team will win the opening tip-off? Will a certain team shoot over X % from the field? All of these are examples of prop bets that you can make on a particular NBA game.
Oddsmakers do more than pick the winners and losers of each game. They weigh myriad factors to determine which team is favored by how many points. They set an early point spread on each game, then adjust it up or down based on betting patterns. If the Dallas Cowboys are 6-point favorites over the New York Giants, they must win by seven or more points to pay off winning bets. If you wagered on the Giants, you win your bet if New York either beats Dallas outright or loses by five points or fewer.
Since draws are more common in soccer, most soccer markets offer 3-way spreads. When making a Soccer Spread wager, the team you wager on must cover/beat the goal spread. This means that the favored team must win by more than the outlined number of goals or the underdog will receive that number of goals as a head start. If you wager on the spread draw, you are wagering that the game will end in a draw when the spread value is applied to home team. (The team displayed first)
The "Total Points", also known as Goals or Runs, is a 2 selection odds based on the total number of points scored in a game or event by the competitors. The "Total" is set at a specific line with outcomes listed as either Over or Under the listed amount. As with Point Spread/Handicap betting, in those circumstances where the result of the game or event Total point scored is exactly equal to the betting line, then all bets on this offer will be declared void. “Totals” can also be set on any number of predefined occurrences (e.g. goals, points, corners, rebounds, penalty minutes, etc.).
Money line bets are on offer on all major sports. In the NFL, baseball, the NBA and the NHL, the money line traditionally goes alongside the point spread bets – in many cases being the least popular, especially in football and basketball. In many sports there is no point spread, motor sport being a good example, so in a sport like this, the money line is the only way to bet on the outright winner. Sports with small margins of victory are also popular money line wagers – soccer being an example, where point spreads are possible, but because of the lack of goals, the money line wager is preferable (the same can apply to baseball and hockey – although puck lines and run lines are a way for the gambler to enjoy point spread betting in these).
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.