Bet Types - Money Line

Traditionally, sports wagers are based on a point spread. For example, a football game might look like this:

  • Green Bay +14.5
  • New England -14.5

In this example, the Patriots are heavily favored to beat the Packers. To entice action on the Green Bay side of the ledger, the sportsbook is saying that the Packers "won" if the Patriots beat them by 14 points or less, theoretically encouraging more bettors to take the underdog.

This works well for football and basketball, but sports with lower scores don't really lend themselves to it.

For instance, baseball and hockey games sometimes don't exceed 10 points with both teams. How do sportsbooks entice action on the underdog in these sports? As the title might suggest, the answer is the moneyline.

What Is Moneyline Sports Betting

The moneyline seems confusing at first because it's not the point spreads that most bettors are accustomed to, but it's actually pretty simple. A baseball game might look like this:

  • Boston -160
  • Tampa Bay +130

The team with the minus sign is considered the favorite, which would be the Red Sox above.

That means the Rays are the underdog. Unlike point spreads, the Rays actually need to win the game in order for their backers to cash their bet.

Assuming the oddsmakers have done their homework, this ensures that the favorite is always the statistically-superior play.

Moneyline Bet

Why would anyone go with the underdog?

Underdog Betting

The numbers after the plus and minus signs answer that question.

The 160 is the amount of money that a Red Sox supporter would need to risk in order to turn a $100 profit on a winning wager. Put another way, -160 pays out a total of $260 on a winning $100 bet (Principle of $160 + $100 Profit).

This lower payout is intended to make the underdog more attractive.

The Rays are at +130, which means that their supporters turn a $130 profit on a winning $100 wager ($100 Principle + $130 Profit).

A Rays win is far more lucrative than a Red Sox win, which should even up the action between the two sides. The safe play is still Boston, but Tampa pays more.

While the moneyline is constructed around $100 wagers, you can still bet more or less. For instance, if you put $10 on the Rays above, a winning bet would pay out $23 ($10 Principle + $13 Profit). Likewise, you would need to put $16 on the Red Sox to earn a profit of $10.

Astute investors may have noticed that the penalty for picking Boston (160) is greater than the incentive for choosing Tampa (130). This is where sportsbooks make their money.

If the favorite wins, they hope to have taken enough bets on the underdog to cover their losses. If the underdog wins, the juice built into the line allows them to pay out all winners and still make money.

That wasn't so complicated, was it? All sportsbooks also offer moneyline betting for higher-scoring sports such as football or basketball.

Moneyline payouts on the underdog are often better than they are on point spreads because they actually need to win the game, making it an attractive option if you feel an upset is in the works. The moneyline may also be a smart wager when the point spread is small, as the underdog probably needs to win the game anyway in order to meet it.

In conclusion, there is no reason to shy away from the moneyline when picking your wagers. In fact, you may end up preferring it!

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