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What is Moneyline Betting and How to Better Understand Your Odds

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts after scoring a touchdown.
Photo Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Moneyline betting is the easiest type of wager to understand, as it is far less complicated to grasp than other betting markets. However, it comes with unique challenges of its own that make it more difficult than the other main betting markets at sportsbooks. For bettors who can balance the advantages and challenges of moneyline betting, there is the potential for major profits.

In this guide to moneyline betting, we will break down how moneyline betting works and what bettors should know before getting started with it. This includes how the odds work and what approaches should be taken to maximize the chances of turning a profit using the odds that are available.

What is moneyline betting?

Moneyline betting is a form of betting where the goal for bettors is to accurately predict which side will win a sporting event.

A game must fall within a specific margin to meet the requirements of the point spread or must see a specific amount of scoring to meet the requirements of the over/under. But in moneyline betting, all that matters is whether a bettor predicts which team or player will win each matchup.

Moneyline betting is available for various segments of a game, with the option to bet on the entire game, a half, or even specific quarters. For example, bettors can wager on the moneyline for a full game, with the winner determined by who wins at the completion of the game. For just one half of a game, as well as individual quarters, bettors are able to back teams that tend to perform well in specific segments of games.

Favorites vs. underdogs: what is the difference in moneyline betting?

In moneyline betting, the difference between the favorites and underdogs is reflected in the betting odds for each side.

Favorites in moneyline betting

Favorites typically have their odds presented with a minus sign at the beginning, with the number that follows denoting the amount a bettor must risk to win $100.

Underdogs in moneyline betting

Underdogs are most commonly shown with odds that begin with a plus sign, with their number signifying the amount that a bettor would win if they risked $100 on that side.

There are exceptions to the above, as cases where both teams are deemed to be in for a tight game could see both sides enter with a price beginning in a minus sign. In that case, the team with the larger number in its betting odds is considered the favorite, while the team with the smaller number is the underdog. This is not all that common in sports like basketball and football, but it is something to look out for when looking at moneyline betting odds.

What determines the moneyline betting odds?

Moneyline betting odds are determined using several factors that all converge to construct the prices bettors see at their preferred sportsbooks.

The starting point for moneyline betting odds is the perceived gap in talent between both teams. For example, a team with a vastly better record than its opponent is likely to be a heavier favorite than a team with a similar record to its opponent.

The betting lines are then adjusted by sportsbooks based on several situational factors that apply to each individual game. These situational factors can include injuries, the amount of rest that each team has had heading into the game, which team is at home, and how each team has performed with those situational factors in mind. While the overall matchups in each game are important, these situational spots can greatly impact which side is more likely to win a game.

Moneyline betting odds: how much can I win?

The amount that can be won when betting on the moneyline can vary greatly depending on the odds on each team to win. This is a huge departure from point spread and totals betting, where the odds are largely similar, and payouts are largely similar as a result.

In moneyline betting, the amount you are willing to risk and the odds for the selection you are making combine to determine how much you can win on each bet.

For example, there may be two games where the favorites are at prices of -1000 and -120, respectively. At -1000 odds, backing the favorite would require a bet of $1,000 to turn a $100 profit, while a bet of just $120 would be needed to win $100 on the other favorite at -120. While the -1000 favorite is considered much more likely to win than the side at -120, the amount of risk needed to back the heavier favorite is considerably higher.

When backing underdogs, things work a little differently, as there is a higher risk to backing bigger underdogs but a higher reward as well. For example, a +150 underdog is considered more likely to win a matchup than a +500 underdog. But a $100 bet on the +150 underdog would yield a payout of $150, while a $100 bet on the +500 side would produce a profit of $500. It is up to bettors to balance the risk and reward when betting on this market more than any other.

An example of a moneyline bet

As an example of a moneyline bet, let’s say that a football game is taking place between Team A and Team B. Team A comes into the game as a -200 favorite, while Team B is an underdog at +150 on the other side. In this scenario, a $200 bet on Team A would produce $100 in profit if Team A was to win, while a $100 bet on Team B to win would produce a $150 profit if Team B came out on top.

It is worth noting that bettors are not required to place wagers with the $100 mark as their baseline in moneyline betting or any other betting market. If a bettor wishes to seek a higher return, they can risk more money to win a higher amount. They can also risk less to win a smaller amount, with the risk and win amounts for each moneyline bet being adjusted in proportion to one another.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball against Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams (12) during the fourth quarter in game five of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center.
Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Does overtime count in moneyline betting?

Typically, overtime does count in moneyline betting, but the answer to that question depends on the sport being wagered on.

Moneyline betting for football, basketball and baseball

In the case of football, basketball, and baseball, overtime or extra innings are used to determine the winner on the moneyline. However, there are some sports that do not utilize overtime for grading purposes in the moneyline betting market.

Moneyline betting for hockey

Hockey, for example, gives bettors the option to wager on the moneyline including overtime or without overtime. In a wager where the bettor does not wish to include overtime in their hockey moneyline bet, the team they back has to win in regulation, or the bet is graded as a loss. There is also a tie option that can be selected in the regulation moneyline market in hockey.

Moneyline betting for soccer

Soccer is another sport where extra time and penalties are not used when grading the moneyline market. Instead, the original 90 minutes and injury time are used to grade the moneyline, with a draw at the end of regulation time being a third option in those moneyline wagers as well.

For sports where overtime does count toward the outcome of the moneyline, depth is a factor that must be considered. In football for example, where pass rushers and defensive backs can tire late in games, the team that can bring in fresh legs to get stops in an overtime period can set itself up in advantageous positions.

Which side is better to bet on?

More than any other betting market, there is no definitive answer as to whether it is better to back favorites or underdogs on the moneyline. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, as each game should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The reason this is so important in moneyline betting is that different moneyline odds require different win percentages to break even in sports betting.

At -110 odds, bettors need to win 52.38% of their bets in order to break even. At +200 odds, that win percentage drops all the way to 33.33%, as bettors only need to get a third of their picks right to break even at that price.

Moneyline betting is one of the few betting markets that allows for such a wide range of odds, allowing for vastly different break-even percentages depending on who a bettor takes and at what price.

Changes in the moneyline odds

Bettors may notice that the moneyline odds for each side of a wager they are considering will fluctuate in the time leading up to that game. This is perfectly normal and the product of a number of factors that must be considered before placing any moneyline bet. Among the factors that can cause changes in moneyline prices are injuries, changes in weather in outdoor sports, and the amount being wagered on each side of that game.

Above all else, it is important for bettors to use as much information as possible to determine why moneyline odds are shifting. A key injury causing a team to go from a -120 favorite to a +120 underdog, for example, has a tangible impact on how a team will perform in a game. Line movement based on money being wagered on one side or the other does not have the same impact on the teams participating in a matchup. However, it can be insightful to see where the money is on a game relative to the public perception of each team.

Sports fans watch the board to view the odds for Super Bowl bets at William Hill Sports Book at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2019.
Photo Credit: Tanya Breen

The importance of line shopping

Line shopping is one of the most underrated skills that a sports bettor can develop, and it may be most valuable in the moneyline market. Line shopping is the act of comparing the betting odds for a game across multiple sportsbooks, with the goal of finding the most favorable odds possible. This can be the key to profitable sports betting if done effectively.

As an example of how impactful line shopping can be, let’s say that three sportsbooks are all offering moneyline betting on a team to win an upcoming game in the NFL. One sportsbook is offering -125 odds on that team to win, one is offering the team at -105, and the other is offering it at +105. In this scenario, bettors would have to risk $125 to win $100 at the first sportsbook, $105 to win $100 at the second, and $100 to win $105 at the third sportsbook.

In this example, the third sportsbook allows bettors to risk less money than the other two bookmakers, with a higher potential win amount on the same bet. As a result, it would be a no-brainer to bet at sportsbook number three if a bettor deemed that team worth betting on in that game. And over the course of hundreds or thousands of sports wagers, small differences like this can add up in a big way.

How Elias Insights can help with moneyline betting

Users of the Elias Game Plan app can place their moneyline bets with the power of Elias Insights to help them do so. Elias Insights use the vast quantity of data and research at Elias’ disposal to identify trends that are much more useful than the trends bettors may find elsewhere.

Elias Insights cover every game on the NFL, NBA, and MLB schedules, from the regular season until a champion is crowned. Bettors will find actionable data pertaining to the teams taking part in each matchup, as well as situational trends as they apply to upcoming games in major sports. These can be used to exceed the win probability needed to break even at the various moneyline price points when possible, putting bettors in position to make smarter sports wagers that have the potential to yield a profit.

Download the free Elias Game Plan app, and start betting with the help of Elias Insights today.