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What is the Moneyline? What is the Moneyline?
When you’ve got the New England Patriots playing the winless Cleveland Browns, most gamblers will bet the farm on the Patriots — if it’s... What is the Moneyline?

When you’ve got the New England Patriots playing the winless Cleveland Browns, most gamblers will bet the farm on the Patriots — if it’s a straight-up bet. 

Well, sportsbooks aren’t stupid.

Meet the moneyline, which places certain odds on competing teams (or individuals if it’s boxing) and lets gamblers choose which team makes the best betting opportunity.

How does it work? 

The moneyline wager is the most straightforward type of bet available. Simply put, you’re picking a team to win a game — be it by 1 point or 50 points. Since the Patriots would be heavily favored to beat the Browns, the bookmakers need to balance out the playing field to make it competitve when wagering on either team. Sportsbooks won’t give gamblers even odds on games where one team is a clear favorite. 

So this is where handicapping comes into play. There will be odds attached to both teams, which represent their chance of winning the game. Since it’s highly likely New England’s will win this game, regardless of the score, your payout on a winning bet won’t be that much.

On the other hand, the chances of Cleveland pulling off an upset might be akin to the odds of it snowing in the Sahara Desert. Remember it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means it’s unlikely. Don’t forget, Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990 as a huge underdog, so you can never count out anything. But if you do back the Browns (or any other huge underdog), you’ll be rewarded with a bigger payout — when compared to wagering on the Patriots. To sum up, the bigger the underdog, the bigger the payout will be when taking the moneyline.

Example of Moneyline wagering

Moneyline betting is available for just about every type of sports event you can imagine and is more common in lower-scoring affairs such as soccer, baseball and hockey. But let’s stay with the Patriots vs Browns as our example here. You may see the moneyline odds listed as New England Patriots -800 and the Cleveland Browns +500.

The negative sign (-) in front of the number is always associated with the betting favorite while the plus (+) sign is attached to the underdog. In this case, you’d need to wager $800 on the Patriots to receive a $100 payout — plus get your original $800 back.

However, if you wager on the Browns, you’d rake in $500 on a $100 bet — as well as the original $100 bet. Therefore, if you take the $800 used for betting New England but back Cleveland instead your winnings would be $4,000 compared to $100 (if the Browns pull off a miracle). This is because the Patriots are 8 to 1 favorites to win the game, while the Browns are 1 to 5 to win. Of course, you don’t have to bet in increments of $100. We’re using round numbers, just for an easy example.

In some cases, you’ll find a sporting event won’t have a moneyline betting option. However, it will still offer point spread-betting and the over/under wagering. For example, this may happen for certain NFL games where one team is too heavily favored to win the game.

How do I know what I bet on?

When checking out your favorite sportsbook, the visiting team will be listed first or on the top of the betting slip with the home team coming next. For most sportsbooks, you should have the option of seeing American, decimal, and fractional odds. This can be a big help if you’re getting a bit confused with all the – and + signs in front of the numbers.

Basically, when there’s a + sign in front of the odds it means that’s how much your winnings will be on a $100 wager. Therefore, +260 odds means you’ll win $260 and get your original $100 back on a $100 bet. If there’s a – sign in front of the number that represents how much you’ll need to wager to win $100 plus get your betting money back.

In the case of -240 odds, you’d have to wager $240 to win $100. When betting on football, the odds for the spread, over/under and moneyline will typically all be shown side by side with the over/under often being listed as “total.”

How does overtime work?

The rules may vary for different sports and sportsbooks so it’s highly recommended that you get a definitive answer from the sportsbook before making a wager. As far as tied games, ice hockey (NHL), baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA) and football (NFL) all use a form of overtime to settle the game, but ties are still possible in regular season NFL football (albeit rare). If a game ends in a tie, but there is no option of betting on a tie, then the wagers will be returned as the event will be ruled a “push.” However, in the draw-happy world of soccer, you have the option of choosing either team to win the game — as well as picking a draw/tie. Therefore, if you bet on one of the teams to win and the game ends in a tie you have lost the bet. 

So how does a gambler choose the moneyline?

It’s a good idea to shop around for the best odds when betting on the moneyline. You may be able to risk less cash on the favorites and rake in a bigger windfall on the underdogs by comparing odds and prices. Betting on the moneyline is ideal for those who aren’t into wagering against the spread or the over/under etc. You’re simply wagering on who’ll win the contest instead of who will lose or win by a specific amount of points. Moneyline wagering is often seen as a low-risk option for those who like to back the favorites. But you need to remember you have to lay out more money and will need to win a high percentage of your bets to break even or come out ahead.

Many bettors like the appeal of backing the underdogs since you can win a decent amount of money without risking too much. Some bettors can hit it big even when losing more than half of their wagers. Of course, this all depends on what the odds were on the winning bets. Be aware that the moneyline odds may change before a sporting event begins depending on the betting trend. However, your wager is based on the odds published when making the bet and will be represented on the betting slip.  


There are also common terms bettors use when laying out their cash on point spreads. These include:

ATS: Against the spread

Hook: This means a half point. For example, if the Patriots are listed as – 4.5 it’s known as laying four and a hook.

Juice: Unfortunately, bettors need to pay a fee to bookmakers and this is also known as vigorish or vig and is typically 10 per cent.

Favorites: This refers to the team or competitor that’s expected to win the contest straight up.

Underdog: The team or athlete that is expected to lose the event straight up.

7 point dogs: The word dogs is just a short form for underdogs. Therefore 7-point dogs would mean they’d be listed as +7 on the betting slip.

Cover the spread: This means the underdogs have won the bet for you since they lost by fewer points than the point spread or they won the game outright. It can also refer to favorites if they won by more points than the spread.

Beat the spread: If the favorites end up winning the contest, but don’t do so by the specified point spread, then the underdogs have beaten the spread even though they lost the game.

Even money: If there are no favorites and underdogs for an event then the odds are 50-50 and you’d win a dollar for each dollar wagered.

Take the points: Taking the points means you’re betting on the underdogs to lose by less than the point spread or to win outright.

Give the points: Giving the points means you’re backing the favorite and need to win the event by more than the specified spread.

Over/Under: Betting on the final number of something scored — or produced — during one game. It’s typically the total number of combined points by both teams, but it can be one individual’s rushing yards or passing yards. Bettors decide if they think something will go over the number given or under the number given.

Mike McNulty


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