What is a Moneyline Bet?
A moneyline bet is simply a straight wager on who will win the game, with odds on each side. Moneylines are available on essentially every sport. In lower scoring games like baseball, soccer and hockey, moneylines are the most popular type of wager. You can find moneyline bets at sites like BetMGM Missouri, and others.
St. Louis Cardinals (-140) vs. the Chicago Cubs (+120) is a good example. Negative odds express how much a bettor needs to risk to win $100, whereas positive odds show the winnings when risking $100. A Cardinals bettor needs to risk $140 to win $100, while the Cubs backer wins $120 for every $100 at risk.
How Does Moneyline Work in Sports Betting?
Moneyline bets are a perfect and simple way to just wager on a game. Pick the winner, that is it. If the team is the favorite and expected to win, they carry negative odds and thus the bettor needs to risk more money than the wager stands to win. Conversely, underdogs carry positive odds, thus depending on the specifics it allows the bettor to turn a relatively small sum into a larger one.
Players choose to bet on the moneyline in lieu of point spreads for a variety of reasons. In a Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets game, a bettor might believe that the Heat do well winning close games but are also prone to getting blown out by stronger teams. Thus a moneyline wager on the Heat with nice positive odds makes more sense than a point spread bet. An MLB fan that wants to wager on the St. Louis Cardinals does not have much choice as the only options are moneylines and run lines with standard -1.5 spreads.
Understanding Moneyline Betting
The biggest components of a moneyline bet are identifying the favorite and underdog and quantifying the odds placed on each teams’ chance to win the game.
A standard two-team moneyline will have a favorite and an underdog in all but even odds (or pick ‘em) games. The team with the negative odds is the favorite, or in the case of a very close matchup, the team with the higher negative odds is the favorite. For example, Kansas City Royals (-115) vs. Detroit Tigers (-105) is a line that might pop up. Both teams carry negative odds thanks to the sportsbook “vig,” but the Royals are the modest favorite. A bettor needs to risk $115 to win $100 if the Royals win.
Underdogs generally carry positive odds, or in the case just above, longer negative odds. Big underdogs can occasionally carry very large positive odds. They may turn into good plays at times, but do not confuse big odds on an underdog for value. The Missouri Tigers' college football team (+3000) vs. Georgia Bulldogs might sound interesting but research might suggest otherwise.
Even, EV, or Pick ‘Em
Even odds or “pick ‘em” odds always pop up. The sportsbook, including Caesars Sportsbook Missouri, will always price in the vig, so even odds games usually price as -110 on both sides. Betting either team will require risking $110 to win $100.
How to Read Moneyline Odds
All U.S. sportsbooks default to American odds. These express the odds in terms of either the amount needed to risk to win $100 in the case of a favorite or the amount risking $100 would win in the case of an underdog.
Positive Odds (+)
Underdogs in two-way moneyline bets almost always carry positive odds. The number expresses the amount won per $100 risked. St. Louis Blues (+180) vs. the Boston Bruins means a Blues bettor stands to win $180 per $100 wagered should St. Louis triumph.
Negative Odds (-)
Favorites in two-way moneylines always carry negative odds, as occasionally do underdogs in very close matchups. In the above game, say the Bruins are priced at -160 vs. the Blues. A Bruins bettor needs to risk $160 to win $100.
Every so often, game odds are exactly even. Missouri sports betting apps profit on their “vig” and generally default to -110 pricing on both sides of even matchup. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills at -110 each is an example.
Understanding Implied Probability of Moneyline Odds
Moneyline odds express the implied probability of each team winning the game. To calculate the implied probability, first take the midpoint of the moneyline odds on each team. Let us say it is Kansas City Chiefs (-150) vs. Dallas Cowboys (+130). The vig-free price is 140. To convert that to decimal odds use the formula 100/(100+vig-free price). In this game that comes out to 100/240 or .417, or 41.7%. The moneyline odds thus suggest the Cowboys have a 41.7% chance to win, vs. a 58.3% chance that the Chiefs triumph.
Potential Outcomes of a Moneyline Bet
Perhaps the biggest attraction of moneyline betting is the sheer simplicity. Only three results can happen, and depending on the sport or the specific wager, there may only actually be two possibilities.
To win on a moneyline, the bettor just needs the team to triumph. Sportsbooks, like FanDuel Missouri, offer moneylines on final scores as well as halftimes, quarters, ends of periods in hockey and the end of five innings of play in baseball. The bettor wins when based on the score at the end of the time determined by the wager.
Unfortunately losses happen. It is the same as the win, but in reverse. Whatever the time period described in the wager, a loss results if the side of the bet trails when time runs out.
Push or Draw
A draw or “push” on a moneyline bet is not common in moneyline bets based on the final score. Only soccer among major sports can finish in a draw. There are moneyline bets that stipulate that they grade at the end of regulation time or nine innings, so a push can happen on a full game moneyline wager. Halftime, quarter and five-inning bets commonly do see ties. If that happens, the wager just cancels.
What is a 3 Way Moneyline?
A 3-way moneyline includes a wager of tie or draw alongside moneyline odds for each team to win. Soccer games always list three-way moneylines, even when they will go to extra time and penalty kicks. Here is the line on the UEFA Champions League finals:
- Man City (-235), Draw (+380), Inter Milan (+550)
Man City is the clear favorite, but in more evenly matched contests, both teams carry positive odds.
Other sports have three-way moneylines available even when the contest can not end in a tie. The third possibility is a regulation tie.
Moneyline vs. 3-Way Moneyline
The big difference between regular moneylines and 3-way moneylines is of course the ability to wager on a draw or tie in regulation. Here is a two-way line on the Florida Panthers vs. the Vegas Golden Knight:
- Panthers (+110), Golden Knights (-130)
Online sportsbooks also offer 60-minute lines on NHL games, which turns them into 3-way moneylines. Here is the 3-way on the above example:
- Panthers (+170), Draw (+310), Golden Knights (+120)
The matchup is very close and both teams actually have positive odds to win in regulation.
How Moneylines Connect to Other Bet Types
A two-way moneyline bet is the simplest wager around as it just involves picking game winners. That being said, they are deeply connected to other types of wagers. In fact it may highlight opportunities or at least generate interest when a moneylines and a point spread bet seem out of line with each other.
Moneyline vs. Point Spread
Quite obviously when comparing betting lines, the higher the point spread, the higher the implied odds that the favorite wins the game. Consider the NFL for example. If the Kansas City Chiefs are 1.5-point favorites over the Los Angeles Chargers, that translates to the Chiefs having a roughly 52.5% chance to win the game. When we convert spread betting to a vig-free moneyline that comes out to about 110. Thus a Chiefs-Chargers moneyline would likely look something like Chiefs (-120), Chargers (+100).
The moneyline odds in the NFL climb pretty quickly at the lower numbers. Move the Chiefs up just two to 3.5-point favorites and they are now considered to have a 64% chance to win, which converts to a vig-free moneyline of -178. Add two more points however and the Chiefs go up to 69% implied odds, or -223.
Formula to Convert Point Spread to Moneyline
While there is a strong relationship between moneyline odds and point spreads, there is not a fixed formula that converts one to the other in any sport. NFL bettors generally rely on tables that are based on past history as well as expected scoring levels.
The most important concept is that each marginal point in a spread is not created equally. NFL games have “key” numbers at common final score point differentials. 3 is the biggest number of all, followed by 7. Here are the odds of the favorite winning with following point spreads:
- 1.5: 52.5%
- 2.5: 54.5%
- 3.5: 64.3%
- 4.5: 67.3%
- 5.5: 69%
- 6.5: 72.4%
- 7.5: 78%
Thus one point moves on spreads through these numbers has outsized effects on implied moneyline odds.
The level of overall scoring matters too, more on that when we look at how totals relate to a money line bet.
Moneyline Parlay Odds Explained
A moneyline parlay is certainly fun. Instead of placing multiple moneyline bets, package them together and potentially win a higher payout if it hits. It intuitively feels like the online sportsbooks are giving out great deals. Build a parlay among moneyline underdogs and the payout will seem massive. Build one among favorites and it feels like a great odds when all are expected to win.
Consider a three-team favorites parlay where each team has about a 2/3 implied probability to win, translated to -200 in American odds. There is actually only about a 29.6% chance that each team wins. In a vig-free world, the online sportsbooks would price it at about +238. In the actual betting world, the favorites would price at about -220 each and the parlay would price at about +208. It will still intuitively seem like a good price, but in reality it is a difficult wager.
Moneyline vs. Over/Unders
Even though totals have an ostensibly small relationship to moneylines, it is very important to understand how they relate to one another. The higher the overall expected scoring level, the less significant the value of each marginal point. And if each marginal point means less, than the “tighter” the implied moneylines.
Consider an NFL game vs. an NBA game as an extreme example. NFL games typically see totals in the high 40s while NBA games see them in the 210-220 range. In the above example, a 3.5-point favorite in the NFL has a 64.3% chance to win, while as per publicly available tables, and a 3.5 favorite in the NBA has a 58% chance to win.
Of course these are different sports, so a better comp for the NFL is higher-scoring college football. There, too, the same spread translates to modestly lower implied victory probabilities for the favorites.
Tips for New Moneyline Bettors
When placing moneyline bets, it is always important to incorporate as much information as possible.
Understand Home-Field Advantage
The home field advantage has diminished over the course of time thanks to easier travel and video review in essentially every team sport. It still exists though and should be an important consideration when handicapping a moneyline. In the NFL and NBA, the home field advantage is about 1.5-2 points which translates to a small but measurable bump in moneyline odds in all but the most one-sided matchups. Specific venues in college football may carry a greater homefield advantage. The structure of MLB is a bit more impervious to modern technology as the home team still always gets the last at-bat.
Consider the Spread & Total
As covered above, both point spreads and totals impact moneylines. Marginal points at lower levels have huge impacts in implied moneylines in NFL games, most notably around key numbers. The overall scoring level has a more muted but measurable impact on moneylines. Higher totals imply more variance, and more variance means a wider range of outcomes and that tightens implied probabilities.
Perhaps the single most important spread betting concept is to always get the best odds. Sign up for as many online sportsbooks as possible to maximize betting options. Spreads do not vary much, but there are differences. Plus moneyline odds change and not always at exactly the same time. Consider simply finding a price of -105 on the original wager vs. -110. That translates to saving about $1.25 per $100 bet. That sounds like very little, but it really really adds up over time and could become the difference between winning and losing in the long haul. Sports wagering is about grinding out profits over time.
Take Advantage of Sportsbook Promotions
Take advantage of as many Missouri sports betting promos as possible. This is just money in the pocket of the bettor that the sportsbooks hand out in order to generate business. A typical promo might bump the payout by 20% on a limited dollar bet for moneyline wagers. This will almost certainly move the vig from the sportsbook side to the bettor side and result in expected profits over time on virtually any wager.
Get Started Betting the Moneyline
Moneylines are simple and fun ways to wager on sports. Even bettors that typically place point spread bets will dabble in moneylines when the pricing suggests that as the best play. Use some easy math or even online calculators to compare moneylines to the game odds they imply and get started!
Sports wagering is not yet legal in Missouri, but it is allowed in almost every bordering state including Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa. There, and hopefully in the Show-Me State in 2024, bettors can find all the major sportsbooks, including DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars and PointsBet.
Missouri Moneyline Betting FAQs
A negative moneyline is one where the bettor needs to risk more than the potential winnings. Chiefs at -120 is an example. The bettor needs to risk $120 to win $100.
A +200 moneyline means that the wager will win $200 for every $100 at risk.
If you bet $100 on a +150 moneyline, it means that on winning bets, you collect $150.
A -150 moneyline means that you must risk $150 in order to win $100.
Moneyline bets are just wagers on who will win the game. Negative odds are associated with moneyline favorites or underdogs in very close matchups. In two-way moneylines, one side has the winning bet, the other loses, plain and simple.
A negative moneyline means you need to risk more than the potential profit. For example, odds of -130 means that you need to risk $130 in order to take home $100 on a winning bet. Moneyline favorites always carry negative odds on two way money lines.
In a two-way moneyline, a tie is a push and funds are simply returned. Three-way moneyline bets have a tie or draw option and thus is not a push.
This varies as to the specifics of the moneyline. NHL games for example have 60-minute moneylines and full game moneylines. NBA and NFL games can too, though it is not as common to see.
Adam Warner is an expert reviewer for BetMissouri.com. The author of "Options Volatility Trading: Strategies for Profiting from Market Swings," former financial writer for Schaeffers Research, and freelance writer for Minyanville.com and StreetInsight.com. Previously Adam was a Market Maker on the American Stock Exchange and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.