A Complete Guide to Betting on Moneylines

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How to make Moneyline bets

Sports betting legalization is rapidly spreading across the United States, causing a wave of new bettors who may not be familiar with the various bet types and odds that come with sports betting. Don’t sweat it if you’re not sure what a moneyline bet means because this page breaks down exactly what a moneyline bet is and how to place one.

What is a moneyline bet?

A moneyline bet is one of the most basic bets you can place with an online sportsbook. When you’re wagering on a team’s moneyline odds, you just need that team to win the game for your bet to cash. Consider these odds in a game between the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies:

TeamMoneyline
Colorado Rockies+170
Chicago Cubs-205

The odds listed above are the moneyline odds. Moneyline odds are relative to $100 wagers, meaning that if you place a $100 bet on the Rockies, you’ll get $170 if they win (plus your $100 wager back). The Cubs are the favorites here, and the “-205” means you would need to wager $205 on the Cubs just to win $100 in profit.

Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run against the
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While this example dissects the moneyline odds for a baseball game, the relativity of the odds to $100 wagers is transferable to any sport. However, you don’t need to wager $100 every time you bet a moneyline or gamble enough to get $100 back if you win. It simply helps calculate what your return will be, no matter the amount of your wager.

Moneyline betting is popular among bettors, especially those who like getting great returns on their wagers. For example, if you want to bet on Colorado to win the game, then instead of getting close to even odds on them to cover the +1.5 spread, you can take the +170 odds for a Rockies outright victory.

The same goes for bettors looking for seemingly winnable wagers. While a Cubs backer won’t get much of a return on Chicago’s -205 moneyline odds, oddsmakers are telling you that is the safer bet based on the odds. Wagering on a favorite’s moneyline odds offers a lower potential return on your wager but a higher probability of winning the bet. However, there is no such thing as a guaranteed winning bet, so always remember to gamble responsibly.

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How do you read moneyline odds?

Even if you’re not wagering on a game you’re watching but are curious about which team is favored to win, reviewing the moneyline odds is an excellent resource. 

The team with the “+” symbol next to their odds is usually the underdog, while the team with the “-” symbol is often (though not always) favorite. A larger number next to a “+” means the underdog team is less likely to win outright, while a smaller number next to the underdog means oddsmakers see the game as closer to even. The opposite is true for favorites, as a favored team with a smaller number next to the “-” symbol shows oddsmakers expect a more tightly contested matchup, and a large number means they’re heavy favorites. The closer the number is to 100 on either side, the closer the matchup is expected to be. The odds generally work the same for any bet type you want, with subtle differences. To learn more about other bet types, check out our betting guides page.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards forward Tristan Vukcevic (00) at Capital One Arena.
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For example, if the Los Angeles Lakers are -900 on the moneyline against the Washington Wizards +610, this means oddsmakers have little doubt that the Lakers will win. They are considered massive favorites.

Conversely, oddsmakers view the Portland Trail Blazers (-105) vs. Charlotte Hornets (-115) game as a mostly even matchup. Therefore, neither team has plus-money odds to win the game.

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Moneyline betting across the major sports

A determinant of the size of moneyline odds is usually related to the parity of a given league or competition. In the NBA, while the talent gap between the best and worst teams in the league can feel quite big, the bottom line is that they are all professional basketball players and even a last-place team can beat a top team on a given night. The same can be said for most other professional sports in the U.S.

When it comes to many European soccer leagues, you may see massive moneyline odds when a top Premier League team plays in the FA Cup against a team from a lower division.

The same might be said of college sports, especially college basketball. Even within Division I there are more than 360 college basketball teams, with huge talent discrepancy between the top teams and the low-majors. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see huge moneyline odds to reflect such gaps.

Here’s how moneyline betting works in the popular U.S. sports leagues:

NFL and college football

Football betting, specifically the NFL, is the most popular league for Americans to wager on. This means NFL moneyline betting is prevalent, as the week between games gives bettors time to research and plot out which moneyline odds they’re going to back.

Moneyline betting in the NFL and college football works the same as every other sport. If, in a hypothetical matchup, the Georgia Bulldogs are -200 favorites when they travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face the Alabama Crimson Tide (+175), the Dawgs are the favorites and the Tide are underdogs.

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NBA and college basketball

NBA and college hoops teams play multiple games a week, so moneyline betting can sometimes be less volatile in these leagues. Like other sports, NBA and NCAA basketball moneyline odds will always fluctuate based on the matchup, which team has home-court advantage, which players are out with injuries, etc.

MLB

Moneyline odds in MLB are typically lower for favorites and underdogs because each individual game is less predictable when considering that every team plays six or seven games per week and MLB teams almost always win between 30% and 70% of their games over the course of a season. The daily grind that MLB players endure leads to a superior team having a down night occasionally. This makes it more common for inferior teams to earn wins over superior teams, and oddsmakers handle it by setting moneyline odds that are closer to even in comparison to other sports.

NHL

It’s important to note that moneyline betting and puck-line betting in the NHL aren’t the same. Similar to other sports, a moneyline bet in the NHL is simply betting on which team will win. The puck line in hockey is equivalent to the spread in other sports. The puck line in Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning could be Maple Leafs -1.5 (+190 odds), and Toronto backers would need the Leafs to win by at least two goals to cash their bets.

Soccer

The most common bet in soccer is the three-way moneyline. The three components in this type of bet include an option for each side to win, as well as an option to bet on a draw. For example, if Manchester United is playing against Arsenal, Manchester United might have +550 moneyline odds, Arsenal -245 odds, with “Draw” odds set at +450.

Hockey has as similar bet type, known as “60 minute line”, where you essentially can bet on the game ending regulation with a tied score.

What strategies should you use when betting the moneyline?

Parlaying moneyline odds

One common moneyline betting strategy that involves a higher potential payout is parlaying multiple favorites with heavy moneyline odds. For example, if you were to parlay the Dallas Mavericks (-700), Los Angeles Kings (-305), and Purdue Boilermakers (-440), you’d get -116 odds.

By parlaying each favorite, you can feel confident backing teams that oddsmakers predict to win but get more reasonable odds on your wager. Plus, sportsbooks typically offer odds boosts on parlay betting, which can further enhance the odds of your bet. However, we don’t recommend parlay betting regularly because parlays are the biggest moneymakers for sportsbooks.

Sportsbooks constantly run betting promotions for parlays because they typically lose, but with proper research into matchups, you can occasionally make a parlay that hits.

Shop for the best moneyline odds

While the same can be said for any bet, make sure you are getting the best possible odds before placing a moneyline bet. If you want to bet on the Denver Nuggets to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves and one sportsbook has the Nuggets at +114, it’s possible another one has +120 odds for the same bet. Wouldn’t you want to make the extra change? Especially in the long run, it could make a big difference. With minimal added effort, shopping around for the best lines is always a sound strategy.

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Is there value to be found in moneyline bets?

There could be value found in moneyline betting if you go about it wisely and methodically.

Put simply, each moneyline is correlated with the chance a side has to win a game. A bet with +100 odds implies that side has a 50% chance to win. If your analysis concludes that a side has better chance to win the game than the odds imply, that side would have value.

Let’s take this a step further. If a team has -300 odds, that implies they have a 75% chance of winning. If your research and knowledge leads you to believe the chances of that team winning are even higher, betting them -300 is a valuable bet.

This is the case even if the payout is relatively small. If your assessments are more accurate and sharper than those of oddsmakers, you can make more profit in the long-term.

Can you parlay moneyline bets?

As we mentioned above, bettors do have the ability to parlay moneyline odds. Parlay betting involves selecting two or more individual wagers and combining them into one bet. For the wager to cash, each leg of the parlay must win.

Many bettors prefer parlay betting over other bet types because of the favorable odds you can earn by parlaying multiple markets. Each leg added to a parlay results in a higher potential payout, especially when the odds of each leg are near -110 or plus money.

The more legs a bettor adds to a parlay, the lower the chances are of winning. If a single leg of your parlay fails to hit, the whole bet is a loss.

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Moneyline betting facts to know

How are the odds determined?

Oddsmakers set moneyline odds by determining the likelihood of each team winning the game. Things like which team is playing at home, what players are out with injuries and how each team has been performing throughout the season are a few examples of the factors used to set moneyline odds. There is always a correlation between the size of the point spread and the moneyline odds in any given matchup.

How and when do moneyline odds move?

There are a multitude of factors that contribute to the adjusting of moneyline odds. One such factor is how much action is being garnered on each side from professional bettors. If one side of an NBA game is getting a lot more action, sportsbooks might move the moneyline odds in the opposite direction. This is just one factor, among several others, that contribute to the movement of moneyline odds.

How do sportsbooks make money on moneyline bets?

Sportsbooks earn money every time a losing bet settles, and the same is true for moneyline betting. Sportsbooks are extremely detailed when setting moneyline odds and have very sharp oddsmakers who set those odds.

FAQ

What is a pick ‘em?

If you ever see ‘PK’ or ‘pick ‘em’ listed on a game’s point spread, that means neither team is being awarded spread points because oddsmakers consider the teams to be evenly matched. Betting a pick ‘em is essentially the same as betting the moneyline because your team must win outright for your bet to be successful. Pick ‘em odds are usually set around -110.

How are moneyline bets handled if a game ends in a tie?

The NFL is the only major American sports league game that can end in a tie. If two teams are knotted up after an overtime period during the regular season, the game ends in a tie. Any bets placed on the team’s moneyline odds would be considered a push and bettors will get the amount they wagered sent back to their account balance. 

Can moneyline bets be canceled?

An NFL game ending in a tie and all wagers being refunded to bettors can also be considered a canceled wager. This is the most common scenario for a moneyline wager to be canceled, though ties rarely happen in the NFL. Additionally, sportsbooks may cancel bets for reasons such as a game being postponed or changing venues. Be sure to check each individual sportsbook’s rules to learn how they address bets on games involving mitigating circumstances.

What’s the difference between the moneyline and point spread?

If the Dallas Cowboys are facing the Philadelphia Eagles, and Philly is a 2.5-point underdog, Eagles bettors will cash out if Philadelphia wins outright or loses by two points or less. But if you wager on the Eagles moneyline odds at +110, they must win outright to receive your winnings.

Can you combine moneylines and other bet types in a parlay?

Yes, moneyline bets can be combined with any other bet type. However, sportsbooks may sometimes limit which markets you attempt to combine in a same game parlay.