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Odds and Ends

How to bet moneylines

by Covers.com
Updated On: March 28, 2020, 10:15 am ET

One of the most popular forms of sports betting is one of the most simple: moneylines.

Moneylines are most commonly bet when it comes to MLB odds, NHL odds, boxing and MMA, soccer, and tennis. Sportsbooks also have moneylines available for more pointspread-based betting markets like NFL, NBA, and NCAA football and basketball, allowing bettors to wager on the outright winner rather than bet against the spread.

 

WHAT IS A MONEYLINE?

A moneyline is variation of sports betting odds designated to a side/team/player to win the game or event outright. Unlike pointspread betting, which is based on the difference between the two sides in the final score, moneyline odds are graded simply by which side wins and which one loses. While the grading of moneyline betting odds is straight forward, how and why oddsmakers set these odds to win is bit more complex.

 

HOW MONEYLINES ARE SET

Because not all teams are at the same skill level, the moneyline is an assigned set of values to both sides of a contest based on implied probability of winning. For example:

TEAM A is at home hosting TEAM B. TEAM A is the stronger of the two sides and playing at home, so it has a higher implied probability of victory. TEAM B isn’t as good as TEAM A and is the visitor, so it has a lower implied probability of winning the game. 

Since TEAM A has a better chance of winning the game, its moneyline odds will have a lower payout due to the lower risk. For this game, oddsmakers believe TEAM A is the favorite to win and sets its moneyline at -150.

On the other side, TEAM B has a smaller chance of taking a win from TEAM A on the road. Due to that, TEAM B’s moneyline odds will have a larger payout because of the higher risk. Oddsmakers have set TEAM B as a +130 underdog.

Oddsmakers will use many factors to determine and approximate implied probability and formulate a moneyline value for each team. For sports such as baseball and hockey, venue, schedule, current form, past meetings, lineups and injuries, as well as coaching plans can be worked into each team’s moneyline odds.

HOW TO READ MONEYLINES

The individual moneyline odds for each team are set in hundreds and are preceded by a negative or positive value (- or +). 

The negative value – also known as “minus money” - indicates a higher implied probability, therefor, bettors must wager more to win less. A positive value before the moneyline – also known as “plus money” – indicates a lower implied probability and because of that bettors can win as much or more than their original bet amount.

A $100 wager placed on TEAM A’s moneyline at -150 would payout $66.67 in profit if that pick won, while a $100 bet on TEAM B at +130 would payout $130 in profit if the underdog was victorious. 

Another way to look at moneyline odds is to treat them like a currency exchange. In order to get $100 back from betting on TEAM A -150 you must wager $150 – or risk $1.50 for every $1 you want to win. A $100 bet on TEAM B +130 could turn a profit of $130 – or $1.30 for every $1 wagered.

 

MONEYLINE PAYOUTS AND PROBABILITY

MONEYLINE ODDS

PROFIT ($100 BET)

IMPLIED PROBABILITY

-300

$33.33

75%

-275

$36.36

73.33%

-250

$40.00

71.43%

-225

$44.44

69.23%

-200

$50.00

66.67%

-175

$57.14

63.64%

-150

$66.67

60%

-125

$80.00

55.56%

EVEN (-100/+100)

$100

50%

+125

$125

44.44%

+150

$150

40%

+175

$175

36.36%

+200

$200

33.33%

+225

$225

30.77%

+250

$250

28.57%

+275

$275

26.67%

+300

$300

25%

 

20-CENT MONEYLINES

Most moneylines will be established as “20-cent lines” by the sportsbook operator (this can vary book to book and sport to sport). That means that there’s a 20-cent difference between the two moneyline values. 

As displayed in the example above, with TEAM A a -150 favorite and TEAM B a +130 underdog, if we view these odds in terms of dollars and cents, TEAM A is -$1.50 and TEAM B is +$1.30 with a 20-cent difference in the two moneylines (1.50 - 1.30 = .20).

 

MONEYLINE MOVEMENT

Like all sports betting odds moneylines aren’t static or the same across all sportsbooks, and bookmakers will constantly adjust each team’s moneyline odds in order to balance the handle (total amount of money bet on a game) on either side to limit the books’ liability. If a sportsbook has even handle on both teams, it guarantees a profit regardless of the final result.

For example, if TEAM A’s moneyline opens at -150 and takes most of the money being bet on the game, bookmakers could increase the TEAM A moneyline (perhaps to -160) while also adjusting TEAM B’s odds as well (moving to +140), in order to entice bettors to wager on the side with the smaller percentage of handle – hence spreading the overall game handle between the two teams.

Whatever moneyline odds you place your bet at are the odds you bet is graded on, regardless of where the moneylines may move before the game starts. If you bet $100 on TEAM A at -150 earlier in the day and the moneyline moves all the way to -165 in the hours before start time, your wager will be graded and paid out at the -150 moneyline that was available at the time of your bet. 

 

DIFFERENT WAYS TO BET MONEYLINES

Beside just betting on which side will win the contest outright, there are different variations of moneyline betting available at sportsbooks. 

The most popular variation of wagering on moneylines is make a moneyline parlay (or parley), which allows you tie together two or more moneyline bets and risk a single amount for a larger possible payout. The more moneyline picks you add to your parlay, the more you could potentially win. 

However, in order for your moneyline parlay to be graded as a winner, all of the picks involved in the parlay must be correct. The more picks added, the higher the risk and therefor the higher the payout. But even if four of your five parlay picks are correct and only one is wrong, the entire moneyline parlay is graded as a loss.

Moneyline betting is also available for select portions of a game, also known as derivative moneylines. Rather than picking a team to win the entire game outright, you can bet on their first-quarter, first-half or five-inning moneyline and if that team is leading after those segments, your moneyline bet is graded a winner – even if the team doesn’t win the full game outright.

Soccer odds present a variation of moneyline betting known as three-way lines or 90-minute odds. Due to the lower-scoring nature of soccer and the abundance of tie games, sportsbooks offer moneyline odds on each team to win as well as a draw game through 90 minutes of regulation time. For example, TEAM A is set as a -200 favorite to win while TEAM B is a +550 underdog and the DRAW is set at +320. 

 

MONEYLINE BETTING STRATEGY

As mentioned above, moneyline odds are constantly being adjusted as bookmakers react to bets coming in as well as other influences such as injuries, lineups and trades. Bettors trying to get the most from their moneyline betting picks should be aware of the opening odds and where those moneylines are moving before game time. 

Depending on which side of an event you want to bet on, you may want to place your moneyline wagers early or wait until closer to the start time to make your bet. If you like a moneyline underdog and see the favorite moneyline getting bigger, you could be patient with your wager and get a better price on the underdog later in the day. You can use Covers’ odds and line history to monitor various betting markets and plan the best time to place your moneyline picks. 

Another strategy to keep in mind when betting moneylines is to be cautious picking too many big moneyline favorites. As explained above, moneyline favorites or “minus money” odds payout less than the original amount bet and while those team do have a higher implied probability of winning, there’s no guarantee that they will do so.

A $100 bet placed on a -250 moneyline favorite will return a profit of just $40. If you were to bet on five moneyline favorites at -250 odds each and won three of those five betting picks, you would lose $80 overall – despite going three for five with your wagers. Even winning four of those five big moneyline favorite bets would only turn a profit of $60 from the initial $500 risked.