Understanding the Moneyline

Moneyline betting is the simplest form of betting on sports. Whether you’re new to gambling or a seasoned bettor, you’ve likely already placed a moneyline bet at some point in your life.

Moneyline bettors don’t care about how many points that games are won by or how many total points are scored. In most sports, one team wins and one team loses. Your job in moneyline betting is to pick the winner of the game, match, race or event. If they win, you win. Pretty simple.

Think of it as the traditional bets you would make with your buddies whether you’re debating team supremacy from the bar, in the office or in the group chat.

For example, an overconfident peer claims their squad is the best in the land. It just so happens that team plays your team this weekend. (If this scenario doesn’t lead to a wager of some sort, you need to find more entertaining people to surround yourself with.) You decide to offer up a bet on the winner of the matchup. Loser has to offer up cash, buy lunch or humiliate themselves in some fashion.

That’s moneyline betting, at its simplest form — picking an outright winner without the point spread involved is moneyline betting.

It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much.

Let’s learn more about it.

How to Identify the Moneyline

Where can you find the moneyline at the sportsbook or online? In most sports, three major categories are listed for you to place a wager on. On the left side, it will typically show the point spread of the game, while the over/under point total resides on the far right.

The moneyline numbers sit in the middle. Usually the team listed with a negative number is the favorite, while the underdog will likely have a positive number. These numbers will likely fluctuate a bit leading up to the start of the event.

Betting the Moneyline Favorite

If you’re new to the growing sports industry, you’re probably thinking this sports betting thing is pretty easy. Just pick a winner and I get paid? Why not bet every favorite, get rich and quit my job?

If only it were that easy.

Put simply, you’re betting a lot to win a little if you decide to go with this strategy. It seems like a sure thing a particular team will win, but upsets happen. That’s why we watch games. It would be boring if the favorites always won.

Is it worth the risk of financial loss when the payout would be so low? That’s the balancing act sports bettors face when considering picking the favorite straight up in a moneyline play.

Betting the Moneyline Underdog

On the other hand, if you decide to bet the underdog, you have a chance to win a lot by betting a little, which makes for a thrilling bet placement.

Is there a big and unexpected outcome you think could shock the sports world? Bet the underdog on the moneyline, win big and brag to your friends.

Or, if you see a slight underdog you feel has a decent shot at not only covering the spread but winning, put some action on the moneyline to increase your payout.

Some bettors will bet the underdog on the moneyline as well as picking the team to cover the spread in an effort to protect themselves in case one bet hits and not the other.

Moneyline Parlays

One sports betting strategy some bettors go with is parlaying moneyline plays. If you are extremely confident in two or more moneyline outcomes, combine them into your wager and cash your ticket with a higher payout if all outcomes go your way. Keep in mind if just one team loses, you lose the bet.

On the flip side, if you start betting multiple underdogs on the moneyline and are successful, the little amount you put on the line could turn into a big-time payday.

Moneyline Examples

Now that you have the basics, let’s dive in to some real-life examples.

How to bet the moneyline in NFL

Example 1

Let’s take the biggest game of last season: Super Bowl 54 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

According to the WestGate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Chiefs came into the game as slight favorites and a -130 listing on the moneyline. As small underdogs, the 49ers entered the game with a +110 moneyline.

You can tell sportsbooks anticipated a close game due to both numbers being very close to 100 either way.

To make this easier to calculate in your head, you can think of it this way. If you bet $130 on the favored Chiefs at -130, you will end up with $100. If you bet $100 on the underdog 49ers at +110, you will wind up with $110.

You already know the Chiefs will have a smaller payout than the 49ers, but by how much? Here are the calculations.

  • $100 on the Chiefs: $76.92 payout
  • $100 on the 49ers: $110 payout

The Chiefs ultimately won the Super Bowl, so their moneyline bettors left the NFL season happy with a decent payout.

Example 2

So we covered the Super Bowl 54, which was expected to be a close game at the end. But what about an expected blowout?

Let’s take a look at week 2 in the 2019 NFL season in a matchup between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. The Patriots had Super Bowl aspirations, while the Dolphins had No. 1 overall draft pick aspirations.

Both plans ultimately fell flat, but the opposing directions of the franchises made for a lopsided expectation from oddsmakers.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Patriots were listed at -2000 on the moneyline with the Dolphins at +1200. See how far away from 100 both these numbers are? A sign that a blowout is highly expected.

This is an extreme example as it’s fairly rare to have these types of numbers in an NFL game, but here’s what the payouts were for bettors:

  • $100 on the Patriots: $5 payout
  • $100 on the Dolphins: $1,200 payout

Yes, if you would’ve bet $100 on the Patriots to beat the Dolphins in this game last season, you’re walking away with five bucks. Is that worth the risk of a potential upset? That’s up to the bettor.

For what it’s worth, the Patriots won this game, 43-0.

How to Bet the Moneyline on College Basketball

Most college basketball betting scenarios would fit in the description above with the NFL, but what about this scenario? Let’s use a fictitious example. We’re getting ready for the national title game between, oh, let’s say Gonzaga and Kansas.

This would be a great game and who knows who would’ve been favored. However, for the purpose of this post, let’s say the two were so evenly matched the oddsmakers had no idea who’s going to win and it could go either way.

Here’s what the moneyline numbers could look like:

  • Gonzaga -110
  • Kansas -110

This doesn’t happen often, but occasionally teams are so close together and evenly matched that both teams feature identical negative moneyline numbers.

Either winner in this scenario would lead to a $90.91 payout on a $100 moneyline bet.

How to Bet the Moneyline on UFC Events

An individual sport like UFC is made for moneyline betting. While traditional team sports will show several categories to potentially bet on with different options, UFC betting is mainly focused on the moneyline.

Who do you think will win the fight? If you are confident about it, bet on that fighter.

UFC betting offers additional betting options, but moneyline wagers are far and away the focal point.

Let’s go to UFC 249 in Jacksonville for our example with a fight between Tony Ferguson, whose moneyline odds were listed at -200 according to DraftKings, and Justin Gaethje and his +168 moneyline odds as the underdog.

Here’s how the payouts would’ve gone had you bet on either fighter.

  • $100 on Tony Ferguson: $50 payout
  • $100 on Justin Gaethje: $168 payout

As the underdog, Gaethje won the fight, so his bettors had a fun start to the return of live sports.

How to Bet the Moneyline on Soccer

The previous sports are easier to understand and fairly straight forward in regards to the moneyline, but soccer is a little bit different.

Most sports list the moneyline with two options. One team wins or the other team wins. However, in soccer there are three options to choose from on the moneyline because of the amount of draws that occur.

For our example, let’s go back to the 2018 World Cup between France and Croatia.

France entered the match as the favorite with a -110 moneyline number, while Croatia entered as the underdog with a +350 moneyline.

Bettors could decide a winner that way, but the third option of a draw at the end of regulation was listed at +230. Instead of picking a team, bettors could opt to bet on a draw if they believed the teams are that evenly matched.

Here’s a calculation of the 2018 World Cup payouts:

  • $100 on France: $90.91 payout
  • $100 on Croatia: $350 payout
  • $100 on a draw: $230 payout

France wound up with a 4-2 victory as the favorite.

Key Takeaways on the Moneyline

So what did we learn today?

  • Moneyline bets consist of picking the team you think will win.
  • Betting the moneyline favorite has a lesser payout.
  • Betting the moneyline underdog has a larger payout.
  • Soccer has three moneyline options to choose from.
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