What is a Moneyline Bet?
What is a Moneyline Bet?
A moneyline wager on a sportsbook involves answering a very simple question:
Who do we think will win the game or match?
There are various other forms of bets we can make on a sportsbook (against-the-spread betting, over/under betting) that involve betting against point spreads and totals. These bets will appear with lines from the sportsbook that we are asked to bet against, while a moneyline total will appear with only the win/loss odds.
The reason a moneyline bet appears with only odds is simple: in a moneyline, there are no other contingencies to consider. No totals or spreads to bet against. In a straight moneyline bet, all we are attempting to do is pick the winner.
In a lot of ways, this makes the moneyline bet the simplest wager you can make on an online sportsbook. Unlike against-the-spread or over/under bets, the main concern with a moneyline bet is determining the winner – and if you can pick the winner with regularity, you can often beat the moneyline odds long-term.
So while understanding concepts like line movement, implied probability and line shopping is important on the road to becoming a savvy moneyline bettor, the simpleness of the moneyline bet does make it a sports betting favorite for newer bettors.
How Do Moneyline Bets Work?
Most moneyline bets involve exactly two sides and, in most cases, a favorite and an underdog. Identifying the underdog or favorite in a matchup is typically quite simple. The underdog will always have a line that is represented by “positive odds” (with +100 being the lowest positive odds possible). Meanwhile, the favorite’s line has “negative odds.” You can see the difference via the 2023 odds below regarding how the sides are presented.
With positive odds on the Chiefs (+105), they were underdogs and deemed as the side less likely to win the game. Conversely, the Eagles’ -125 odds made them the favorite and viewed as more likely to emerge victorious.
Knowing how to read the odds is important when betting moneylines, as the odds can tell us how the bookmakers think a game will proceed. Specifically, looking at the spread of the odds between the two teams can tell us how competitive the game or matchup is likely to be.
Sticking with the Super Bowl example, the Chiefs were barely on the positive side of the odds at +105. So, at +105, the oddsmakers considered Kansas City a small underdog and expected a close game.
However, if the Chiefs were at +300, the oddsmakers would be telling us KC was a far bigger underdog and saw the game as a potential mismatch. Additionally, at +300, the Chiefs would have paid out substantially more than they did at +105.
How Do Moneyline Bets Pay Out?
When attempting to determine your total payout on an underdog moneyline bet, you can view the American betting odds as indicative of how much money you would win on a $100.00 wager. And, underdogs in moneyline bets typically pay out more than the wagered amount. Let’s walk through a few examples.
For the Super Bowl, you could calculate a total payout on a $100.00 wager on the (+105) Kansas City Chiefs by doing the following:
- $100.00 (wager) at +105 (odds) = $105.00 (winnings)
- $100.00 (wager) + $105.00 (winnings) = $205.00 (Total Payout)
But what if the odds were to change to +300? Well, our winnings skyrocket!
- $100.00 (wager) at +300 (odds) = $300.00 (winnings)
- $100.00 (wager) + $300.00 (winnings) = $400.00 (Total Payout)
The odds for a favorite in a moneyline bet work in a similar fashion but require a little more thought. Again, let’s use the Super Bowl example.
The negative moneyline odds on Philadelphia don’t indicate total payout but instead how much you need to wager to earn $100 in winnings. So, with the Eagles at -125, you would need to wager exactly $125.00 to receive back a $100.00 payout.
- $125.00 (wager) at -125 odds = $100.00 (winnings)
- $125.00 (wager) + $100 (winnings) = $225.00 (Total Payout)
From a sports betting standpoint, since the Eagles were favorites (or more likely to win), it makes sense that they would require a larger investment compared to the underdogs to get back a similar return.
“Even” or “Pick’em” moneyline odds
Moneyline bets don’t always have a favorite and an underdog. Sometimes, the odds on both teams will be the same if the oddsmakers expect the game to be extremely close and both sides are equally as likely to win.
When the moneyline odds are equal, this is generally referred to as odds being at even (EV) or pick’em (PK) status. In this scenario, sports bettors would receive the same payout regardless of which side they bet. Let’s look at a different example.
Even or pick’em moneyline odds will often be set at -110 (invest $110.00 for a $100.00 payout). However, different online sportsbooks can have different odds available in pick’em situations. Some books may even choose to give more generous odds of -105 (invest $105.00 for a $100.00 payout).
Ensuring you have access to multiple sportsbooks and can shop for the best available price and value is an important part of being a successful moneyline bettor.
Three-way Moneyline Bets
Three-way moneylines are rarer than traditional moneyline bets. The three-way moneyline introduces the draw or tie element into the moneyline wager giving sports bettors another option to consider.
These kinds of moneyline bets are only available in sports where matchups can end in a draw after regulation. Soccer is the most popular sport for three-way moneylines, but hockey is also an option at most sportsbooks.
Jul 29, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham (5) controls the ball during the first half against FC Barcelona at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Many books will also have three-way lines available for MLB, NBA, college football and the NFL, but they are not nearly as popular or prominent as the straight-up two-way moneylines in those sports. Here’s an example of a typical, three-way moneyline offering in a soccer match.
|Side or Result
|Draw or Tie
When betting on sports that can end in a draw after regulation, it’s important to know which kind of moneyline bet you’re backing. For example, if you placed a three-way moneyline bet on a side to win the game in regulation, and the regulation period ends in a tie, you lose – even if your team goes on to win in overtime or a shootout.
However, in a traditional two-way moneyline wager in any sport that can end in a tie game – any result where neither team was declared the winner (through OT or a shootout) would result in a push or voiding of your bet. This scenario would see your initial wager returned to you with no profit.
Three-way moneylines can be advantageous when trying to get bigger payouts on a favorite in sports like soccer, hockey or football. However, understanding the extra risk they involve is important before choosing to use them over two-way moneyline bets.
Why Do Moneyline Odds Change?
Pre-game moneyline odds can, and often do, shift. Whatever odds a team opens up at on the moneyline for a certain match or opponent aren’t necessarily the same as the closing odds. In the 2023 Super Bowl, the Chiefs actually opened as -135 favorites on the moneyline and were initially seen as far more likely to win than when they closed at +105 two weeks later.
While dramatic news can certainly cause lines to move, the main reason for a sportsbook to move or change their moneyline odds is due to them reaching a risk threshold with wagers taken. As a result, they’ll attempt to balance things out by adjusting the moneyline odds, enticing bettors to give more action on one side versus another.
In the Super Bowl, it’s clear by the line movement on the Chiefs (whose moneyline odds dropped from -135 to +105) that the oddsmakers were trying to induce more action on Kansas City while simultaneously stymying wagers on the Eagles as their odds became less appealing. If the sportsbooks didn’t make this move, they might have been left with too much action on the Chiefs and could have exposed themselves to a big loss.
Hence, instead of leaving a line static, sportsbooks will move the odds and make the side with less action more attractive – while also shrinking the odds on the popular team (thereby making them less attractive). This is because sportsbooks, despite their love for gambling, are actually savvy investors who would rather be guaranteed a profit by having equal action on both sides and using the vig (or the juice) that is built into their odds to gain their edge.
Implied Probability and How It Works
Implied probability is a statistical term referring to the likelihood of a betting outcome. It can be determined using an odds calculator through the given moneyline odds on any game or match available on a sportsbook. As I mentioned, we can also use these implied probabilities to help us calculate the vig (juice) that the sportsbooks are charging us by adding up the implied probabilities of both teams and seeing the edge that the sportsbooks are adding.
Knowing both the implied probabilities and the vig is an important part of moneyline sports betting. Implied probabilities allow us to see what betting win rate we need to be profitable. If the probability of a team winning is set at 25%, then we would theoretically need to be winning any bet placed on them (at those specific odds) at a 30% rate or greater to win in the long term and beat the vig.
Getting to see the amount of vig added to the lines is also hugely important. Not every sportsbook has the same betting lines available, and many will charge more or less vig than the industry standard. As such, avoid high vig bets and line shop for better odds whenever possible.
How to Calculate Implied Probability for American Odds
Converting Amercian betting odds into percentages begins with using either the odds of either the favorite or underdog.
Using the underdog’s odds, you can calculate the implied probability by taking 100 and dividing it by the sum of the odds plus 100. Let’s reuse our Super Bowl example (Chiefs +105) to see this process in action.
- 100/(105 +100) = 100/205 = 0.487 or approximately 48%
For the favorites, the implied probability can be found by taking their odds and dividing it by the sum of the odds plus 100. Again, let’s go back to the Super Bowl (Eagles -125).
- 125/(125+100) = 125/225 = 0.555 or approximately 55%
So now, we can see the implied probabilities before the Super Bowl started.
- Chiefs: 48%
- Eagles: 55%
If you add up the implied probabilities, the total is more than 100%. Since the Super Bowl can’t end in a tie, the extra percentage we see is the amount of vig or advantage that the sportsbook has built into the odds and is essentially charging us for making the bet.
Hence, implied probabilities not only give us a way to view what kind of win rate or win expectations we’ll need to be up on a bet in the long-term but also give us a view into what kind of vig or juice a sportsbook is charging us for making the bet.
Moneyline vs. Spread Betting
On a sportsbook, nearly every moneyline bet will be accompanied by another popular bet, most commonly referred to as an “against the spread” (ATS) bet. ATS bets are similar to moneyline bets in that they still ask us to pick one side of the game or match. Where they differ is how the books grade the result.
In a moneyline bet, all a bettor needs is their team to win the game or match. However, whether or not the team wins the game is mostly irrelevant in an ATS bet. They’re graded based on the point spread provided by the sportsbook.
Going back to the Super Bowl from 2023, we can see that making an against-the-spread bet on the Chiefs provides us with a +1.5 point spread and also a different set of odds with which to bet (-110 vs. +105)
If we were to bet the Chiefs on the point spread instead of the moneyline, two things would happen.
First, we would no longer be betting on the result of the game but instead betting against the spread (in this case, Chiefs +1.5/Eagles -1.5). Since the Chiefs were underdogs, they would inherit a +1.5 cushion, as indicated by the current point spread. If they were to lose the game by one point, all Kansas City moneyline bets would lose, but our against-the-spread bet would still be graded a winner.
Conversely, if we were to bet the Eagles on the point spread at -1.5, then we would not only need the Eagles to win but also to win by 2.0 or more points to cover the point spread. So, if Philadelphia were to win by just one point, all Eagles' moneyline bets would be graded winners, but Eagles’ ATS bets would not.