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.
In addition to the spread bet, a very common "side bet" on an event is the total (commonly called the over/under or O/U) bet. This is a bet on the total number of points scored by both teams. Suppose team A is playing team B and the total is set at 44.5 points. If the final score is team A 24, team B 17, the total is 41 and bettors who took the under will win. If the final score is team A 30, team B 31, the total is 61 and bettors who took the over will win. The total is popular because it allows gamblers to bet on their overall perception of the game (e.g., a high-scoring offensive show or a defensive battle) without needing to pick the actual winner.
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.
Understanding how a moneyline wager pays isn’t simple but it’s not very complicated. That said, it might take running through a few examples before fully grasping the payouts. Moneylines for football and basketball games are often tied to the point spread. When a game has a large point spread it usually has a large moneyline. Both are separate bets but are shown together in a sports wagering app screen and in a brick and mortar sportsbook.
A common mistake that new bettors will do is to bet every single game. Unfortunately, this is not a winning strategy no matter how sharp you are. Stick to betting the games where you actually see value. Here's what we mean by value. Let's say in our earlier example that you agree with the sportsbook that the Florida Gators should win the game by seven. You should not bet this game then no matter what if the line is -7. If you're right, the best you can do is tie on your bet. When you pick a side, you're basically going to be guessing and flipping a coin. Theoretically, you'll win as many times as you lose, but you'll be paying the house percentage every single bet and slowly bleeding your money and profits away.
For each NFL game the oddsmakers set a number of points in which the favored team is favored by. Bettors can then either choose for the favored team to win by more than the number of points set, or bet on the underdogs to lose by less than the number of points they are underdogs by or win the game straight up. For example, the spread could be set on the favored team at 6.5 points. This would mean in order for a bet on the favored team on the spread to win they would need to win by more than 6.5 points (7 or more) in order to win the bet. It also means that a bet on the underdog team would win if the underdogs lost by less than 6.5 points (6 or less) or won the game outright.
The term moneyline is actually somewhat misused in sports betting as it really just means a type of odds format. Technically, it is a way to represent the odds/payouts for a win bet, but we’re not going to split hairs. What we’d like to point out is that the odds on each participant in a sporting contest can be listed in one of three different formats.
A quick word on that annoying half point in the point spread – most lines you’ll come across will use half points, but it’s not standard practice across the board. When you see a line with a full number instead of a number with a half point, your wager could end up as a push. In our example, if the line were 7 instead of 7.5 and the final difference in points was exactly 7, your wager is returned to you, and neither you nor the book makes money.
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.
Sportsbooks will use a variety of methods to set their line on a game. Some firms will use computer simulations, some will use a form of power ratings, some will use an experienced team to set the line – some may even use a combination of all three. Other books may even wait to see where their rivals set their lines before dipping their toe in the water themselves.
Although the examples from above are in $100 increments, you don’t actually have to bet those exact amounts. That’s just how the odds are set up so that everyone is on the same page. With a quick glance at the numbers, you can tell who is the favorite, who is the underdog and what type of payout you can expect on each. You’re free to bet $5, $500 or whatever amount fits your budget. If you want to find out the specific betting limits for each option, browse through the betting sites rating guide in order to find the sportsbook that better fits your minimum and maximum limits.
This is the format that terrifies people the most. We can promise you that fractions aren’t as scary as they seem if they’re explained properly. Here is the easiest way to calculate your profits and payouts with fractional odds. Solve the fraction and then multiply that number by your bet size to get your potential profit. If you can’t remember how to solve fractions, it’s ok. Don’t look at it as a “fraction” but more as a division problem. 13/20 is the same as 13 divided by 20. 29/20 is the same as 29 divided by 20.
In cases when there is a point spread and moneyline offered on an event, such as an NFL football game, many bettors will place a wager on the moneyline and point spread of an underdog they feel has a chance to pull the upset. They will safely bet the point spread because they feel the game will be close, but will also put themselves in line for a nice payday if the underdog wins straight-up.
As an example, let’s consider a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals. In our scenario, the Bengals are the home team, which means they will be listed last and the Colts, as the visitors, will be on the odds slip first. If Indy’s rotation number is 101, then Cincy’s rotation mark would be 102. When you place a bet live at a Vegas sportsbook or over the phone, you would say the number of the team on which you want to wager and not the name.
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:
We’ll start by posting a question. If you think that one team will beat another team and you are almost certain of it, should you make that bet every single time? If you answered yes, then you really need to start learning this concept. What we neglected to tell you was that the team you wanted to bet on have odds of -2000. This means that for a $100 bet, you will get a profit of $5.
Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push. Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.