Moneyline Bet: A Simple Start

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A moneyline is probably the most basic wager you can make – who do you think will win a particular game?

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Brian and Marco in the sportsbook

If you’re just getting started with sports betting, a Moneyline bet is among the easiest to understand. With this bet, you are simply deciding who you think the winner of a given game will be. (In certain cases, such as soccer, a third outcome may be possible to select in that the game ends in a draw.)

The trick is that in many cases matches aren’t thought to be a 50/50 chance that one team will win over another. There’s usually favorites and underdogs, and so the sportsbooks have to factor that into the equation, and they do this via the payouts.

The column labeled total on this BetMGM screenshot shows the Over/Under wager options.
The column labeled Spread shows the spread wager options.

The payouts on a Moneyline bet are therefore based on the odds a win or a loss will happen, with a bit of extra margin built in, so the sports books have a way to make their money.

Moneylines are indicated with American odds in US sportsbooks. The team or player that is the favorite to win is indicated by a “-” symbol, whereas the underdog is indicated by a “+” symbol. The more favorable the payout for the player, the more difficult the bet will be to win, in the estimation of the oddsmakers.

For favorites, the “-” amount indicates how much you need to wager to win $100. For instance, if it shows -200, a $200 wager would be needed to win an extra $100 if that team wins the game. If they lose, you lose the $200; if they win, you get $300 – your $200 wager back, plus the $100 win. Alternatively, you can bet fractions of this number; a $20 bet will win you an extra $10 if your team selection wins.

For underdogs, the process is somewhat reversed. The + number is how much you’ll win having wagered $100 if the underdog is the winning team. So if you wager $100 and the team is listed as +200, you’ll get $200 plus your original $100 back. Losing wagers will lose the $100 wagered. Here, too, you can bet fractions of this number; a $10 bet would win an additional $20 if the underdog was the winning team.

In the case of evenly matched teams, sportsbooks can go one of two directions:

  • They can manage the draw as a push – all bets are refunded.
  • They can offer the ability to bet on a draw – only those who bet on the draw would be paid if the game ends as a draw – bets on either team would be losing bets.

The key to getting to know this bet is understanding how to read and calculate the odds, but from a betting perspective it’s easy because you’re simply selecting who you think the winner of the game will be.

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