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Beating the Money Line  Value and Volume
by Hollywood Sports  08/22/2012
Betting baseball, soccer or hockey requires successful moneyline wagering. It is important to understand the question a moneyline bet is asking since it is different than the question asked by a point spread. Appreciating this difference is not only fundamental to longterm success, but it should change how and when you make moneyline wagers.
Point spread bets appear straight forward  but it does require at least a 52.4% success rate to overcome the likely 110 moneyline investment (more on that later). If Alabama is installed as a 2.5point favorite to defeat LSU in the BCS Championship, the question basically is: do you think Alabama will win this game by more at least 3 points or do you think LSU will either win this game straightup or lose by less than 3 points? Moneyline propositions ask a different question. If the New York Yankees are a 120 money line favorite to defeat the Boston Red Sox, then what is being asked is: do you think the Yankees would win this game more than 54.5% of the time? This is how that percentage is determined. With a 120 money line, a $120 wager wins $100 which then sees an overall return of $220 (that $100 win plus the original $120 investment). The fraction 120/220 produces that 54.5% profit threshold. To use another example with underdogs: +130 underdogs have a profit threshold of 43.5% since $100 wagers win $130 and return $230  the fraction is 100/230. But here are two caveats to this analysis. First, given that most point spread bets require a $110 wager to return $100, that Alabama bet is really asking this: do you think that the Crimson Tide will win by at least 3 points 52.4% of the time (110/210)? Second, it is not uncommon to see higher moneyline requirements combined with point spread propositions  this often is seen in soccer where a heavy favorite may be a 1 1/2 goal favorite that still requires a 140 moneyline investment. The important lesson from this is that moneyline propositions are often asking something much different than just "will this win at least 50% of the time."
This understanding leads to the problem of betting on heavy moneyline favorites. Justin Verlander pitching at home for the Tigers is very attractive  but that investment typically brings with it a moneyline price in the 175 range. What that proposition then is really asking is whether Detroit with Verlander wll win that game at least 63.4% of the time (175/275)  and that requires a fundamentally different decision calculus than assessing point spread situations. This is precisely why I make it a rule to avoid big favorites that are priced higher than 150 since the requirement to win at least 60.0% of those propositions (150/250) is too steep for my tastes. Put another way: I want a 60.0% win percentage to ensure a profit rather than just breaking even or, even worse, not enough to overcome losses. Granted, a 155 moneyline only needs a 60.8% win percentage (155/255) which is statistically not very significant  but you need to draw the line somewhere. So, while in practice I may not sweat having to pay a 155 price for a heavy favorite if that 150 is just not available to me, I choose to arbitrarily draw my cut off line at the 60% win expectation in general. By the way, baseball offers a nice solution to the heavy favorite problem with RunLine bets where the favorite lays 1.5 runs at a much lower price (and often at underdog prices). If I think that a big favorite is still being undervalued despite being priced at higher than 150, then there is good chance that I like the situation enough to expect that favorite to win by more than one run  making the RunLine wager an attractive alternative.
Beating the moneyline requires appreciating Value and Volume. When taking a +130 underdog, successful bettors need to identify that this underdog will be victorious more than 43.5% of the time given the situation at hand. Taking that 120 favorite requires siding with those favorites that will win that game more than 54.5% of the time. Recognizing these facts is why I often label my baseball recommendations as "UnderValued Favorites" since that is the requirement to generate profits from these wagers. If the baseball favorites I will consider are found in the 105 (51.2%) to 150 price range (60%), then winning at least 60% of those plays ensures profits (since I know that most of my recommendations are priced below 150). That is the value side of the equation  but maximizing profits from that model also requires maximizing volume. For $100 bettors, is it better to finish a weekend a "perfect" 10 or an ambitious 119 for a solid but "unsexy" 55% winning clip? Assuming that all these bets were priced at 110, the perfect 10 weekend brings home $100 while the 119 record sees a $110 profit ($1100 in wins and $990 in losses). Winning in baseball requires a longterm mentality that successful poker players share: maximizing long term value. Successful poker players constantly make riskversusreward assessments regarding the bet requirement versus the expected money return in the pot. Similarly, moneyline baseball investments make similar riskversusreward decisions. If one determines that a 105 favorite will win even just 52% of the time, while that is only marginally above the 51.2% profit threshold, because it is, in fact, a profitable proposition, that bettor is rewarded by making that wager as often as possible.
Most bettors stick to football  and then identify success based off their win percentage. But understanding moneyline wagers exposes the importance of volume in the formula for profits. Appreciating what a point spread and its accompanying moneyline is really proposing allows for a more sophisticated perspective as to when to invest in a wager  and that is the formula for more profits. Best of luck for us  Frank.
