What is a Moneyline Bet?

by Big Al Staff

What is a moneyline bet?


Sports betting does not have to be complicated.  Yes, there are hundreds of different paths you can take, with different structures and different ways to create your bets.  But sometimes you can stick to the easiest one.  The easiest one is the moneyline bet.  It's straight-up wagering on the team that'll win the game.  With each matchup, two teams are facing each other, whether it’s in the NBA, the NFL, or a different league.  These two teams try their hardest to outscore the other.  At the end of the game, the team with the highest score takes home the win.

The moneyline bet directly connects sports bettors to the game, itself.  Imagine the New York Yankees’ stadium filled with MLB fans who have never placed a bet in their lives.  They're there for the sake of sports, nothing more than that.  Alongside them, you might have sports bettors who have their eyes on the Yankees to win the game.  With every run scored by the Yankees, you'll see both sides emotionally intertwined, unlike with any other bet.

In this article, we'll guide you through moneyline betting.  We will start with what the moneyline means, and then provide some practical tips and tricks to placing your first bet.

How to get started with moneyline betting

You could say, getting started with moneyline betting is getting started with sports betting.  To understand this bet type is to understand the very basics of wagering.  Simply put, moneyline betting is predicting the winner of the match.  In each match, there's a favorite and an underdog.  The bookmaker picks what team is on which side of the coin.  You, as a bettor, can use this information in your decision-making process.

The favored team on the moneyline is shown with the minus sign (-), while the underdog holds the plus sign (+).  These signs are the base of the betting odds that come along with the moneyline bet.  The next step in making a moneyline bet is understanding the betting odds thoroughly.

How to read moneyline betting odds
The moneyline odds are often referred to as American odds and are common across the betting industry.  In the United States, the majority of bettors are familiar with moneyline odds.  But remember, it’s not only moneyline bets, but any sort of bet that can be displayed with moneyline odds.  But, to show you the right way, let's give you an example of a moneyline bet with the corresponding betting lines.  Let's take the biggest game of all football games, the Super Bowl.  In this example, we'll take Super Bowl 53:  New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams.  The corresponding betting odds given by BookMaker sportsbook were:

  • New England Patriots -133
  • Los Angeles Rams +113

In the above example, the Patriots were the favored team.  You can tell so by the minus sign (-) before its odds.  The underdog was Los Angeles, as you can tell by the plus sign (+) before its odds.  The above example shows that the odds for Super Bowl 53 were quite close to each other; there was no heavy favorite in the game -- just a slightly favored team, being the Patriots.  You can use the betting odds as the starting point for your research.  And, as any gambler knows, any game can have any result.

How to calculate your moneyline betting payout
Let's get down to the money side of things.  It's always important to know what your payout will be for each moneyline wager.  You have to know in order to decide the amount of money to place on your bet.  To calculate your payout for a winning bet, let's take another example. We'll illustrate it with another NFL match:  San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs.

  • San Francisco 49ers -135
  • Kansas City Chiefs +115

In the above example, you can tell which team is the favorite and which is the underdog.  The 49ers are the favorite, while the Chiefs are the underdog.  So, to calculate your payout, you should know that the American odds are built up with the assumption that your wager is $100.  That leaves us with the following outcomes for the above example:

  • You pick the favorite, the San Francisco 49ers to win the moneyline bet.  The 49ers win, and you have a winning bet.  Now, you earn $74 if your initial stake is $100.  That would make for a total payout of $174.  When you want to earn $100 with this bet, you need to wager $135 to secure a total payout of $235.
  • You pick the underdog, the Kansas City Chiefs to win the moneyline bet.  The Chiefs win, and you have a winning bet.  You earn $115 if your initial stake is $100.  Your total payout would be $215.

Implied probability
To understand the moneyline odds completely, we want to introduce the concept of implied probability.  This is the probability a team takes the win in terms of percentages based on the given odds.  There are two formulas to use to calculate the implied probability:

  • Negative American odds / (negative American odds + 100) * 100
  • 100 / (positive American odds + 100) * 100

These two formulas might seem a little abstract, so let's fill the two formulas for the NFL match we used before.  The San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs:

  • 135 / (135 + 100) * 100 = 57.44%
  • 100 / (115 + 100) * 100 = 46.51%

As you can tell, the two percentages, when added together, exceed 100%.  On the surface, that doesn’t make sense.  But the reason it exists is that the sportsbook needs to make a profit, and the amount above 100% is its vigorish, or juice.  Think of it this way:  the oddsmakers will overestimate the chances that a team has of winning, and then they pay out slightly less than the “true odds.”  So, to calculate the true odds, just divide each implied probability by the total of all probabilities added together, or 103.95%.  Thus, the 49ers’ true odds would be 57.44/103.95, or 55.26%, while the Chiefs’ true odds would be 46.51/103.95, or 44.74%.  Whether it's an online sportsbook or a brick-and-mortar one, all sportsbooks take a small percentage to cover their operating costs per bet.

How to use moneyline betting in your sports betting strategy

With the guidelines above, you know everything there is to know about the moneyline bet.  You might still have some questions unanswered.  You might wonder:  'I'm more of a UFC bettor, or I prefer betting the NHL, can I use moneyline bets as well?’  Frankly, whenever there are two combatants that compete for the win, you're able to place a moneyline wager. It could be a match between soccer giants in the Champions League, or a Prop bet between two golfers at The Masters, and moneyline bets will always be there for you.

We want to finish this article with some tips and tricks you can utilize to make sure you don't waste a single wager.

Be aware of the alternatives
Ironically, since we're writing an article regarding the moneyline bet, we do want to point out the alternatives.  Not every single match is right for a moneyline wager.  You can have a match where you expect both teams to give everything they’ve got to secure the win, but it's unclear which team will be victorious.  Then, you might be better off picking either a point spread bet, or totals bet.  These bet types are focused more on the precise score instead of the more binary result of Winner and Loser.  Point spread betting focuses on the point differential between two teams, while the totals bet revolves around the aggregate score of the two teams in the match.

Besides that, there's the option to create a parlay bet.  When you're confident about a moneyline wager, you might search for an additional match to add to your betting slip.  The odds will add up, and your potential payout will grow.  With the payout growing, your risks increase accordingly.  But, it can get really interesting when doing proper research.

Pick the right sportsbook
The sports betting industry is very competitive.  Similar to the regular sports industry, there are hundreds of sportsbooks that work hard to attract and retain loyal clients.  That means you -- as the bettor -- are in a good position because the sportsbooks will compete for your business.  You shouldn't settle for the first sportsbook you come across -- do some proper research first.  We created a quick checklist that you can use when selecting whether a sportsbook matches your needs:

  • Does the sportsbook offer a nice welcome bonus?
  • Can the sportsbook handle your wagering limits?
  • Does the sportsbook offer your preferred deposit and withdrawal methods?
  • Does the sportsbook offer competitive betting odds on parlays, teasers, and straight bets?

Besides that, you should make sure that the sportsbook gives you a welcoming feeling.  When it concerns a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, you simply step inside, look around and check for yourself whether it feels right.  For an online sportsbook, you can look at the overall user interface of the website, the way the pages are designed, and (especially for in-game betting) speed.

It's good to be loyal to a sportsbook, and many online sportsbooks will give you bonuses when you re-load.  But you shouldn't get stuck with a bookmaker for too long.  New competitors might enter the market with more appealing odds, and lucrative bonuses and promotions.  Then, switching can be a wise decision.  If you’re looking for another sportsbook, then here are several to take a look at.  If a sign-up bonus is your most important criterion, then BetNow, BetUS and MyBookie are your best options.  But if reduced juice is what you’re after, then our current #1-rated sportsbook -- BetAnySports -- should be your sportsbook.  For bettors who want to bet up to $50,000 on an NFL game, BookMaker is the top option.  And if you’re less concerned with high wagering limits, but instead want the most modern, easy-to-use website, then Bovada is great.

Stats are your friend
The final tip we want to give each bettor, and we can't say it enough, is to do proper research.  A lot of money is lost by bettors who go rogue and place bets without spending adequate time to complete their research.  All you're doing at that point is handing over your money to the bookie.  That's not wise in terms of bankroll management, and your mindset as a bettor will not be very good.  So, to extend your sports betting career as long as possible, you should embrace statistics.

With each matchup, there are two teams that have an extensive record in the league.  That means they both have a track record with offensive stats, defensive stats, individual player stats, and hundreds of other statistics.  Depending on what you’re betting, the stats you would want to consider will vary.  However, it never hurts to do a little extra digging.  With proper research, nothing will stop you from securing your profits!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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