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The Moneyline Explained

Patrick Cwiklinski

by Patrick Cwiklinski

Updated Nov 14, 2023 · 3:01 PM PST

When you think about sports betting, the first wager type that comes to mind is probably the moneyline. The moneyline bet is a straight-up wager on who wins a game, fight, or any other matchup.

The term ‘moneyline’ might sound like a sort of foreign language. That’s okay! We were all rookie bettors who had to ask questions at some point.

We’ll break down moneyline bets and walk you through everything you need to know about them.

The Moneyline Made Easy

You’ve already learned how to read and interpret the three types of odds you’ll encounter, so let’s move onto the elements of sporting events you can bet on.

When making a moneyline bet, you’re simply selecting the outright winner of a single game.

When making a fundamental moneyline bet, you’re simply selecting the outright winner of a single game. This is the most straightforward bet you can make. There are no other contingencies.

Here’s an example of the moneyline bet in action:

To place your bet, all you need to do is click on the moneyline number attached to the team you believe is going to win the game. If you think Anaheim will win, click on the +135. If you like Nashville, click on the -135.

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From here, your pick will be added to a bet slip where you be asked to enter the amount you wish to risk on your moneyline wager. So, how can you tell how to calculate your payout on the moneyline?

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Breaking Down the Moneyline

The numbers next to each team on the moneyline are American odds which:

  • indicate each team’s implied probability
  • determine how much money you would win, based on your wager.

The team that has a “+” sign on next to their odds is the underdog, while the team with “-” next to their odds number is seen by your sportsbook as the favorite.

In some cases, both teams will have “-” signs next to them. In this case, the team with the number farther from zero should be regarded as the favorite (eg. -120 would be the favorite over -105).

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Because the bet will be harder to win, you will always receive a higher payout when you bet the underdog on the moneyline. Of course, the risk of losing such a bet is also substantially higher.

Winning Moneyline Bets

At this stage, you might be wondering how you can win moneyline bets. Let’s revisit the Anaheim (+135) vs. Nashville (-135) moneyline example.

If you bet $100 on Anaheim at +135 moneyline odds and they win the game, you win $135 for a total payout of $235. On the flip side, you need to successfully wager $135 on Nashville to win $100 for a potential payout of $235.

When it comes to moneyline betting, the lines with a plus symbol tell you the amount of money you’d win on a $100 wager, while odds with the minus sign indicate the amount you need to bet to win $100.

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Moneyline wagering is a relatively easy concept to understand once you get the hang of it.

Popular Sports with Moneyline Odds

You can find moneyline line odds for virtually any sport, including some of the following leagues:

  • NFL
  • NBA
  • MLB
  • NHL
  • UFC

Moneyline odds will look similar across the board. The negative number indicates the betting favorite, and the positive number is assigned to the underdog.

Handicapping your Bet

Handicapping is an important part of strategizing your moneyline bets. If you see moneyline odds for a team, and you believe they have a good chance of winning, then you’re already familiar with the concept of handicapping.

Using analytical research, key betting trends, or any other knowledge that might eliminate any guessing in a bet is called handicapping. Handicapping assigns an advantage to a team based on available evidence and statistics rather than a gut instinct.

Beating the oddsmakers is a tough task, but the more research and handicapping you do on betting lines, the better chance you have at padding your bankroll.

Opening/Closing Odds and Line Movement

Online sportsbooks will adjust their moneyline odds as one side gets more of the action from the betting public. This changes the value of your potential return, so it’s important to pay attention to line movement and the opening/closing odds.

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Let’s use the Super Bowl as an example. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs could start as -125 favorites, but as more people bet on them leading up to the Super Bowl, the odds might move to -150 or more. This could have a big impact on your winnings, which is why it’s important to find early betting lines that have better value for NFL games.

Experienced sports bettors track the odds very closely, and watching the moneyline is an effective way to gauge what the oddsmakers are thinking. If you find a team you’re confident in, and the oddsmakers are moving the lines the other way, then you’ll have the edge over the sportsbook if your team wins.

Why Are There Fractions or Decimals on the Moneyline?

This depends on the audience your sportsbook targets. The + and – signs you see are referred to as “American” odds. As such, American-facing books will almost always represent the moneyline in this format.

Sportsbooks outside of North America sometimes display the moneyline in either a decimal or fractional format. Even so, the moneyline always refers to betting on the winner of the game, regardless of odds format.

If you need a refresher on calculating all types of odds, be sure to check out our guide. This skill is essential to understanding the moneyline and giving you a return on wagers!

Why Is There No Moneyline for My Game? 

Sportsbooks don’t always offer a moneyline option for a game. Sometimes, they will simply offer totals and spread bets.

For example, many sportsbooks only offer an option to bet on the NFL moneyline if the spread is between 3 and 10 points. If one team is a heavy favorite (and the spread is listed at 14 points or more), many sportsbooks will choose to offer only spread and totals bets. This is an industry-standard, in most cases. However, there are exceptions to this rule at select online sports betting sites.

Other Factors to Consider

Here’s a few other things to keep in mind when you’re looking at moneyline odds at online betting sites:

  • Shop for the best lines – moneyline odds aren’t the same at every sportsbook
  • Point spread betting – look at other options like betting the point spread if you’re on the fence about a moneyline wager
  • Watch the vig – sportsbooks include a fee right in the betting lines, and bookmakers create odds that attract wagers on both sides

Get Closer to the Action

Sports betting is the best way to get more involved with your favorite games, and we have all the knowledge you need to wager with confidence. Check out Betting 101 for more guides that can help you drill the fundamentals.

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