What Does Moneyline Mean in Betting and how to read money lines?

Betting on the moneyline is the simplest wager a player can make. Players who bet on the moneyline are purely betting on which team they think will win the game or the competition. You will take the odds listed on the team and if the team you choose ends up winning then you will make money.

These types of bets show up in everyday life such as betting your friends you can beat them in a game of chess or arm wrestling. In this article we will discuss everything you need to know about moneyline betting including odds, pros/cons and tips for making the best moneyline bet.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

What Does the Moneyline Mean?

In the intro it was stated that a moneyline bet is simply a bet on which team/athlete/racer will win a certain event. The end game for these types of bets is making sure your team wins. Since there is the possibility of overtime in almost every sport, sportsbooks will take this into account.

The way it works is simple, as these bets will almost always be on the main line (along with the spread and over/under. Select the moneyline odds that you want to wager on, choose an amount to stake on the event and click confirm. If your selection wins, your payout will be calculated by the following equations depending on whether the odds were positive or negative.

Positive Odds FormulaNegative Odds Formula
Stake x (Odds/100) = Potential ProfitStake / (Odds/100) = Potential Profit

Since there is the possibility of overtime in almost every sport, sportsbooks will take this into account. It is different at each sports betting site, but one of the more common ways to do this is to make separate lines. Moneyline bets can also be made on competitions such as the Indy 500 just by predicting the winner. 

Moneyline bets will almost 100% of the time be the main market listed for every game. Sometimes listed by itself, but oftentimes accompanied by the main total and handicap markets. The odds for moneyline bets will be standard American odds.

For every $100 you stake on the underdog to win, you will return the odds listed. So in this example you will make $300 for every $100 you wager. For the favorite, the number listed is how much money you have to stake in order to win $100. So here you would have to stake $240 to win $100. 

MoneylineStake Formula Profit
New England Patriots -210$10$10/(-210/100) $4.76
 Atlanta Braves +210$15$15 * (210/100)$31.5
Los Angeles Lakers -140$20$20/(-140/100)$14.29
Minnesota Wild +165$25$25 * (165/100)$41.25

The odds will move reflecting the public and sharp bettors, but most importantly the betting site. It is the sportsbook's job to make sure they return a profit on every game. If every single bettor bet on one team and that team wins, the sportsbook would be paying out all of the bettors and would be keep none of the money.

Therefore, it is the sportsbook’s duty to make sure there is an even amount bet on both sides of the game. The sportsbook will also implement a built-in profit to each market. This is why even though you may have a 50/50 game, the payouts will not be even money. This margin is called the juice or vig, and is usually around 10%. 

How to Better Understand Moneylines

The most important tip for players is to understand the second side of the odds. The odds are not only there to tell you how much you will make, but also signify what your chances of winning the particular bet are. This is very important for the player to know, especially new players.

For beginners though, the experience necessary to do this is not there yet. There are plenty of betting odds calculators available online for players to easily figure out what the implied probability of a specific market winning is. For example, odds of -190 gives the player a 65.6% chance to win the bet if the player chooses that option. 

The reason this is so important is now you can start to look for markets that have a higher probability to win than is stated on the books. This is how professional bettors will make money; by finding odds that are higher than they should be and taking them. You can determine this yourself using a multitude of methods. You can assess all of the different statistics associated with the game.

  • Starting Lineups
  • Injury Reports 
  • Gameday weather
  • Home or away team
  • Current team form and many more.

However, on the opposite side of the fence, stay away from markets with inflated, inaccurate odds for a team or player. If you believe both teams have an even chance at winning the game, but one of the teams is listed with a 74% chance to win, then you should avoid that bet. Always figure out what the implied probability is that the odds are giving, and then make your moves based on real chances. 

MLB moneyline odds at Unibet Sportsbook 

Shopping lines is good for every type of market simply because they allow you to find the best odds. So if you do find some value in a game’s odds, do not be afraid to shop around on other sports betting sites to see if there is more value to be had.

Have an account at two or three sportsbooks so you can easily see where the best odds lie and instantly place a wager. Also, if you are betting on races or tournaments, do not bet afraid to bet on multiple entrants in the competition.

This also applied to futures bets. Most of the time, the odds on each contestant are high enough that you can still make a profit betting on five different entrants and still come away with a profit when only one of them wins. If a specific race has two or three favorites, then assuming that the odds are sufficient it could be sensible bet. 

The Favorite and the Underdog

Betting only on the favorites. Its something that always seems like a sure win. You always have to remember that even the favorite teams lose some of their games. No one is going to be happy if I lost $100 to an outcome that had fewer than a five percent chance to lose, however it happens more than we think.

This leads us to looking at the underdogs more and more. The odds will be better, and some of the time can actually higher than they should be. Underdogs win games more or less often depending on the sport, however even winning bets 30% of the time on underdogs can make a player very profitable.

Underdogs win games more or less often depending on the sport, however even winning bets 30% of the time on underdogs can make a player very profitable. So forget about your win/loss record for now and start to focus on the odds and how much you stand to profit compared with the amount of risk you are taking. Doing these things will eventually mold you into a more profitable bettor. 

The Pros and Cons of Moneyline Bets

Moneyline Pros

Easily the biggest advantage to using moneyline bets are their ease of use. To make a decent moneyline bet the player only needs a limited amount of knowledge about one or both teams. Any bettor, beginner or experienced, has the ability to confidently choose which team will win, assuming they at least have basic knowledge of the sport and teams/league.

There is no need to factor in other variables such as handicaps. Betting on the underdog can actually be very profitable using moneyline bets. Every good team has bad days, meaning that the loss column in the team’s record is not imaginary. Favored teams will lose, and when they do you should be there to profit.

Odds on underdogs will always be higher than the favored team. One strategy I like to apply is find two or three underdog teams who I think have a good chance to win. If the odds line up right, I will bet and make a profit even if only one of the teams wins. 

Moneyline Cons 

One of the cons of this type of bet correlates with the advantage of betting on the underdog. If you decide to instead take the favored team, you will be given low odds. When you factor in the chances of the favored team losing, it can be difficult to make confident and profitable bets.

The player needs to have a high win percentage to break even betting this way, which is difficult to achieve even for professional bettors. There is also no variation with this bet which can make things more difficult. If the player makes a moneyline bet, then they need that team to win no matter. This becomes even more difficult when you factor in the possibility of a draw.

Most sportsbooks will offer separate markets for games with one including overtime and the other without. To avoid the possibility of a draw, you will need to take the bet with overtime included, which means taking lower odds as well.  

Final Thoughts on Moneyline Bets

Moneyline bets are simple wagers that require a more complicated approach when using them. They are easy to win only in theory, because games are influenced by so much more than just the quality of the two teams. In addition to the tips provided in this article, you should be prepared to do as much research necessary on your own in order to find value.

This could mean looking at statistics for multiple games or comparing the odds at different sportsbooks. Including going to multiple sports betting sites to find the best odds. Betting on the moneyline can be profitable if the player knows what they are doing.

However, even beginners can get valuable experience starting with moneyline bets. By learning about how moneyline odds work, you have taken the biggest step towards raising your skill when using them. The most important thing is to have fun while betting, and to enjoy it responsibly. 

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