What Is a Moneyline Bet? Betting Markets Explained

Patrick Lynch
By Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert
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Updated Jan 11, 2023
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Read time 15 min

If you’re looking for a straightforward way to start your sports betting odyssey, the Moneyline is a great place to start. It involves selecting the winning side or player in an event. While there are often only two markets, you may see the draw as a third option in sports such as boxing or soccer.

In theory, winning on the Moneyline is simple since you only focus on the game’s winner rather than worrying about points spreads or totals. However, crypto sportsbooks make a lot of their profits from this market due to uninformed bettors repeatedly making poor value selections.

This guide provides a high-level overview of the Moneyline and offers insight into why the odds change as the event’s start approaches. It also provides tips to get the best value from a Moneyline selection.

What Is Moneyline in Betting?

Moneyline sports betting is the name of the market where you select the winner of an event. Whether it is a team or individual sport, the aim is to select who you think will win a particular match.

In sports such as tennis, basketball, and American football, it is a binary choice, as you must choose one of two options. In sports such as soccer, a ‘draw’ option is added, which may complicate matters.

Moneyline betting almost always includes a favorite and an underdog. Here is how to tell the favorite from the underdog in a market with only two options, according to the three main odds formats:

  • Decimal Odds: The favorite’s price is below 2.00, while the underdog’s odds are above this figure. However, for markets with three options, the odds for the favored team may also be above 2.00.
  • American Odds: The favorite’s odds have a minus sign before them (-250, for instance), while the underdog’s odds have a plus symbol, such as +200.
  • Fractional Odds: For favorites, the number on the left is lower than the figure on the right, and vice versa for underdogs. So, a Moneyline favorite might be 1/3 while the underdog is 2/1.

Occasionally, the bookmaker may view an event as a near-even matchup and offer the same odds for team A as team B. In this case, the odds for both teams are below 2.00 in decimals in a two-option Moneyline.

If you pick the right option, you make a profit; if you get it wrong, you lose your entire stake. It is important to note that bookmakers don’t always pay out if your team wins in overtime. Please read the site’s terms and conditions before placing your bet.

The Moneyline Is Linked to the Spread

There is a strong link between the Moneyline and the spread bet; the shorter the Moneyline odds, the bigger the handicap.

For instance, if an NFL team is 1.18 on the Moneyline, you won’t see the spread set at -5.5 points. Instead, it is likely closer to -13.5, as the bookmakers aren’t expecting a close game. In contrast, if a team is 1.55 on the Moneyline, the spread could be -4.5 or thereabouts.

Often, punters believe that the odds on a favorite are too short and opt for the handicap line. However, there is, sometimes, value in choosing a short-odds favorite on the Moneyline. If you think a game is a mismatch, odds of 1.20 shouldn’t prove off-putting. After all, it is a 20% return on your investment, and you won’t get that from any savings account!

You also have the option to select two or more favorites at short prices and combine them in a parlay.

How Does Moneyline Betting Work?

Here are three examples of Moneyline markets, one of which is a parlay.

Example 1

In an NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and the New Orleans, the bookmaker sets the odds as follows (American odds in brackets):

  • Cleveland: 1.60 (-167)
  • New Orleans: 2.25 (+125)

If you bet $100 on the Browns to win and they triumph, you earn $160 (100 x 1.6) for a profit of $60. Should you choose the Saints and they win, your $100 bet yields $225 (100 x 2.25) for a profit of $125.

Example 2

The following English Premier League soccer game is an example of a 3-way Moneyline. It features Manchester United against Nottingham Forest with the following odds available:

  • Manchester United: 1.30 (-333)
  • Nottingham Forest: 8.00 (+700)
  • Draw: 5.50 (+450)

Manchester United is strongly favored to win. Here is what you could win if you bet $100 on any of the three outcomes:

  • Manchester United: A return of $130 for a profit of $30
  • Nottingham Forest: A return of $800 for a profit of $700
  • Draw: A return of $550 for a profit of $450

Some bettors may see Manchester United as a ‘safe’ bet, while others might think that a draw or an unexpected Nottingham Forest win are possible outcomes.

Example 3

If you’re unwilling to risk money on short-odds favorites and want a bigger return, there is always the option of a parlay bet. This involves combining two or more wagers so that the odds accumulate. You can select teams or individuals from different sports and join them in a single bet. However, you lose your full stake if one leg fails to win. Here’s an example of a 3-team parlay:

  • Manchester United to win at odds of 1.30
  • Cleveland Browns to win at odds of 1.60
  • Phoenix Suns to win at odds of 1.33

Multiply the three odds, and you get 2.77. Therefore, if you bet $100 and win, your return is $277 for a profit of $177. Yet if one team lets you down, your return is $0.

Moneyline Betting: The Early Bird Catches the Best Odds

Crypto betting sites price events days or even weeks before they begin. They analyze a huge treasure trove of data to decide on the ‘right’ price for the Moneyline. However, because things change in the lead-up to an event, the odds are certain to move as more information becomes known.

Sharp’ bettors who create odds lines often take advantage of early pricing to gain an edge. Their statistical model tells them that a certain team or player is overpriced, and they act quickly to guarantee value odds. Successful professional gamblers are highly adept at this strategy and feel satisfied when the odds on their selection get cut in the build-up to the game.

As the event draws closer, more information becomes available, enabling the bookmaker to set a more accurate price. Usually, the odds at the beginning of the match accurately reflect the likelihood of each outcome occurring. At this point, it is extremely difficult to get value because of the market’s efficiency. This is especially the case for matches in well-known leagues like the NFL.

Also, if a lot of money comes in for one outcome, it is usually a sign that the ‘sharp’ bettors got involved. Bookmakers know to respect the expertise of pro gamblers and shift their lines to discourage others from following suit and to reduce their risk.

For instance, if a lot of money comes in for the Browns to beat the Saints in our earlier example, the bookie might cut the odds on the Browns from 1.6 to 1.5. It will likely increase the odds on the Saints, perhaps from 2.25 to 2.37. The bookmaker wants to make a wager on the Saints seem more attractive to help it balance its liability. If the public doesn’t respond, the site will move the line again.  

How To Win by Betting the Moneyline

Consistently winning on the Moneyline involves conducting plenty of research. It is worth thinking about specializing in a specific sport to help you focus on a handful of games. For instance, if you love poring through stats, MLB is a fantastic option, especially given the volume of games.

Apart from specialization, here are a few ways to make the most out of Moneyline betting.

Line Shop

Winning your Moneyline wagers consistently isn’t enough. You must also understand implied probability and whether you’re getting good value. You can win 60% of your wagers, but you’ll lose money overall if the average odds are relatively low.

There are so many bookmaker options that finding better value is easier than ever. After all, why would you accept 2.40 on a bet when odds of 2.80 are available on the same outcome? Of course, the process does involve opening several accounts.

Crypto betting sites are increasingly offering better value on certain outcomes than popular fiat bookies. Of course, this also depends on the wager you make.

Let’s take this English Premier League game between Southampton and Brighton as an example. The screenshots show that Stake.com offers better odds on the draw and a Brighton win than Bet365. However, the fiat-accepting site provides higher odds of a Southampton win.

If you risk $100 on Brighton with Stake and win, you make a profit of $111. The same wager on Bet365 only earns a profit of $100. The profit from Stake is 11% higher than on Bet365 for the same bet! This is a common theme; it is easy to see how much money you miss out on by not line shopping.

Know the Bookmaker’s Edge

It is also worth investigating the bookie edge when making Moneyline bets. You can calculate it by dividing the decimal odds of each market by 100 and adding the totals. Everything over 100 represents the bookie edge.

Using our Southampton versus Brighton example, we can calculate Stake’s edge as follows:

  • 100 / 3.5 = 28.57
  • 100 / 3.55 = 28.17
  • 100 / 2.11 = 47.39

Add those three figures for a total of 104.13, which means Stake has an edge of 4.13%.

Now, let’s compare it to Bet365’s edge:

  • 100 / 3.6 = 27.78
  • 100 / 3.5 = 28.57
  • 100 / 2 = 50

When you add the above three figures, you get 106.35. Bet365 has an advantage of 6.35% in this market, well above Stake’s figure. This shows that bettors can expect better value from the crypto betting site on this particular Moneyline.

You must also bear the house edge in mind when making parlay bets. The more wagers you include, the bigger the bookmaker’s edge.

Focus On Low-Scoring Sports

Moneyline bets can prove a better option than the over/under line in low-scoring matches. It is usually much harder for a sizable underdog to win in basketball than in soccer, for instance. Plenty of soccer games end 0-0 or with a single goal scored, whereas professional basketball games often have close to or over 200 points.

As there are fewer scoring plays in soccer, games are usually decided by a handful of moments. Of course, it only takes a single moment to go against you!

Investigate Head-to-Head Results

It is a mistake to dismiss head-to-head results. Certain sports teams or individuals can have unusually good records against opponents generally deemed superior. Perhaps the underdog is a bad style match, or the favorite has a psychological block against certain opponents.

Sometimes, you’ll find that the bookie overprices a team or individual that has a strong H2H record against an opponent if they are in poor form or if their rival is on a winning streak. Remember, both winning and losing streaks end at some point!

Can Moneyline Sports Betting Help You Make Money?

As a starting point, Moneyline bets are potentially ideal. In many sports, the only thing you must do is select option A or B. In sports like soccer, a draw enters the fray as option C.

However, don’t allow the seeming simplicity of this wager to fool you. Bookmakers put a lot of time and effort into ensuring the odds for Moneyline betting are correct. They move the line as more information filters through, so by the event’s start, it is probably the most efficient betting market of all.

From a bettor’s perspective, this is bad news because it greatly reduces the possibility of finding value wagers. Even so, if you’re somewhat new to sports gambling, the Moneyline is a worthy introduction.

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Patrick Lynch
Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert

Patrick has been a professional writer since 2009. He knows the issues players face when trying to find reputable casinos and performs forensic analysis on every site he reviews. Since joining in 2021, Patrick has had his eyes opened by the potential of the cryptocurrency market. With a background in sports betting, he realizes the possibilities afforded to successful bettors when using digital currency.