It’s one of the first questions beginner NFL bettors have: what is the moneyline? That question then evolves into: how does the moneyline work? There is no shame in being one of these confused individuals.

Even when you take the time to seek out an answer, so many responses tend to be too complicated and detailed. We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. The moneyline is a very simple concept that can be taught in a matter of minutes. So let’s not waste any more time with this intro.

What is a Moneyline Bet?

Very simply, you’re betting on which team will win the game. That’s it.

What do Those “Odd” Numbers Mean?

The numbers next to each team on the moneyline are the odds. The odds tell you:
• Your potential winnings
• Which team is the favorite/underdog

You may see the odds presented in one of three ways: American odds (-110), decimal odds (1.90), or fractional odds (10/11).

In the case of American odds, which are the most common, a negative number indicates the favorite and tells you how much money you have to bet to win $100. A positive number designates the underdog and tells you how much money you can win if you bet $100. If both teams have the same odds, there is no perceived favorite. If both numbers are negative (-105 and -115 for example) the one that is further from zero indicates the favorite. The greater the difference between the two teams’ odds, the bigger favorite.

With decimal odds, the smaller number denotes the favorite, while the larger number denotes the underdog. To calculate your potential winnings, you just multiply your wager by the decimal number.

Fractional odds are a little more difficult to work with, which is why they’re rare to see on a moneyline. Most sportsbooks will allow you to switch the format of the odds on the website. But for all of you who are eager to learn, a fraction where the denominator is larger than the numerator generally signals the favorite. A fraction where the denominator is smaller than the numerator generally indicates the underdog. There are circumstances where both denominators may be slightly greater than their respective numerators (20/23 and 20/21). You can just convert these into decimals by doing the actual math (20 ÷ 23 and 20 ÷ 21), and whichever decimal is smaller will alert you to the favorite.

If you need more detail on reading football odds, read more about the basics of NFL betting.

Why do the Odds Change?

Just like with a point spread, sportsbooks will alter the moneyline odds constantly, depending on where the money is going. If too much money is being placed on one team, the sportsbook will change the moneyline odds to entice other bettors to put their money on the opposite team. Each sportsbook strives to have even money on both sides for every event, as this lessens the chance that they will lose money.