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Moneyline Bets

Moneyline Bets
Moneyline sports bets are hands-down the most popular type of bet that you can make. Chances are that even if you don’t know what a moneyline bet is, you’ve probably made one before without even knowing it. Have you ever bet your friend $5 that your team would win the game? You’ve made a moneyline bet.

Now, we want to make sure something is very clear before we go any further. Just because moneyline bets are popular and rather simple to understand doesn’t mean that they can’t be wildly profitable. Many professional sports bettors across all sports use moneyline bets as a huge part of their betting strategy. Some of them even exclusively use moneyline bets and nothing else. We just want to make sure that after you learn about moneyline bets, you don’t think they’re some sort of “amateur” bet just because they’re simple to understand.

In this guide, we’re going to break down all things moneyline bets. We’re going to start by explaining what a moneyline bet is and how they pay out. Then we’re going to point out some of the important benefits of moneyline bets and finally some tips to help you succeed with this type of wager. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all of the knowledge you need to make a moneyline bet confidently.

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What is a Moneyline Bet?

So, before we can talk strategy or getting paid, we need to talk about what exactly a moneyline bet is. Sometimes moneyline bets are referred to as to-win bets which actually goes a long way in helping to define what these bets are. A moneyline bet is a bet on a team, player, or entrant to win a particular contest. That’s it. All you have to do in order to win a moneyline bet is pick out who is going to win. It does not matter how they win, how quickly or slowly they win, or by how many points they win by. All that matters for a moneyline bet is picking out the winner.

For example, let’s say that you wanted to make a bet on an upcoming NFL game between the Cowboys and the Redskins. If you think that the Cowboys are going to win, you’d make a moneyline bet on the Cowboys. All that needs to happen now for you to win your bet is that the Cowboys defeat the Redskins. If they beat them by 40, you win your bet. If they beat them by 1 point, you win your bet. If they beat them with one second left in overtime, you win your bet.

Moneyline bets are extremely easy to understand because the parameter to win is so simple. Pick the winner and your moneyline bet is a winner. You can also make moneyline bets on sports with more than two contestants competing. For example, if you wanted to make a moneyline bet on a NASCAR race, you’d be able to place one on any of the drivers competing. It would be a little more challenging to win as there are 42 other drivers to beat, but that will be accounted for when we get to the next section and discuss moneyline payouts.

The Takeaway

So, let’s recap. A moneyline bet also known as a to-win bet is a pick for a team or player to win a game or contest. Final score, method of victory, and anything else does not matter. If the team or player you picked gets the W, you’re a winner.

How do Moneyline Bets Pay Out?

If there is one area of moneyline bets that does confuse people, it’s how they pay out. You see, not every single moneyline bet is going to pay out the exact same amount of money. Before we get into that, let’s talk briefly about why.

Sportsbooks don’t like to gamble. While they love to be the facilitators of the gambling and betting, they would prefer to have no risk in a game. The way they achieve this is by trying to get the right amount of money bet on both sides of a game so that they can pay the winners with the losers money and take just a little bit off the top for their profit. When they successfully do this, they can’t lose.

For example, let’s say that they have two evenly matched teams competing in an upcoming game. If they get $500 bet on Team A and $0 bet on Team B, then the sports book is really going to be rooting for Team B to win. If Team B wins, they make a lot of money, but if Team A loses, they lose a bunch of money. This is not ideal for them.

So, what they do instead is try and get the same amount of money bet on each side of the contest. If they’re able to get $500 bet on Team B and $500 on Team A, then it doesn’t matter who wins. If Team A wins, they can use the $500 they made on Team B to pay those winners. If team B wins, they can use the $500 they made on Team A to pay those winners.

How do they make money? Well, they’re going to take a little percentage off the top when they pay out the winners. So, in our above example, instead of paying out $500 to all the winners, they would usually pay out just over $450. The 10% off the top is the house juice that they keep as their profit for facilitating all the action.

So, what does this have to do with moneyline bets? Well, in our above example both teams were perfectly matched, and the sportsbook was magically able to get the same amount of money bet on both sides of the game without doing anything. But, this is not reality. In most games, there is going to be a favorite and an underdog. If the book paid out the exact same amount of money for a favorite and an underdog win, then everyone would just bet the favorite and the sportsbook would never be able to get the right amount of action they need on each side of the contest.

So, to fix this, they adjust the payouts as needed to try and encourage or discourage action on each side of a contest. If they need more money bet on a particular team, they’ll increase how much they’ll pay out on that team and decrease what they’ll pay out on the other team. This should increase the bets on one side and slow them down on the other side of the contest.

When the sportsbooks release the initial moneyline bets, they’ll set the payouts at what they think would get even money bet on both sides of the contest. As bets come in, they will adjust those payouts back and forth all the way up until action closes (they stop taking bets). The idea is to get things as close as possible so they can win no matter who wins the game by taking their small percentage off the top.

Let’s take a look at an example of a real moneyline bet and what this would look like. We’ll also talk about how you figure out exactly what the payouts are.

This is what a game would look like that was dead even. The first part of the moneyline bet tells you who you are betting on. The second part of the bet (-110) tells you how much you will get paid out. If you were to bet $100 at (-110), you get a profit of $90.91.

How do you figure this out? Well, the easiest way when you’re betting online is just to select the bet and put in the amount you want to bet. They will automatically show you your potential profit without you having to make your bet. If you bet brick and mortar (in-person), though, you’re going to have to calculate this yourself. There are also plenty of payout calculators online that you can use as well that will do this for you.

Odds Converter and Payout Calculator
American Odds:
Decimal Odds:
Fractional Odds:
Implied Odds:
Bet Amount ($):
To Win ($):
Payout ($):

If you want to have a general idea of what each payout will be, here are a few things you should know. First, you should look at the plus or minus sign in front of the payout number. If there is a plus sign, that signifies the team is a betting underdog which means you should expect to get paid out at least even money or better. If there is a minus sign, that signifies that the team is a betting favorite which means you should expect to get paid out worse than even money.

In other words, if you bet $10 on a team with a minus sign, you should expect to get a profit of less than $10 on a correct moneyline bet. If you bet $10 on a team with a plus sign, you should expect to get at least $10 or more on a correct moneyline bet. Now, the amount that the payout will move over or under $10 will depend on how big the number is that follows. Let’s look at a few different payout numbers to show you what we mean.

Odds Bet Size    Potential Profit
(-500) $10 $2.00
(-300) $10 $3.33
(-110) $10 $9.09
+110 $10 $11.00
+300 $10 $30.00
+500 $10 $50.00

As you can see, all of the minus moneyline bets pay out worse than even money and all of the plus sign moneyline bets payout better than even money. The idea of this is to try and reward people with more money for taking the underdog and pay people less for taking the favorite because they are much more likely to win.

Let’s take a look at a real-world example of this. Here is what the opening line was for an NFL game between the Redskins and the Cowboys.

By looking at this, you can pretty quickly tell that the sportsbook thinks the Cowboys are favorites to win and pretty big favorites. If they had set the lines as equal, everyone would bet on the Cowboys, and nobody would take the Redskins. But, to try and entice more action on the Redskins and discourage action on the Cowboys, they have adjusted the payout odds on these moneyline bets. If you were to bet $100 on the Redskins, you’d be looking at a potential profit of $260 on a win! But, if you were to bet on the Cowboys, you’d only be looking at a profit of $31.25.

Now, let’s say that everyone still thinks that’s way too friendly of a payout on the Cowboys and the money piles in on the Cowboys to win. In order to try and get the correct amount of money on the Redskins side of the bet, they would adjust the odds. This is what they might look like in that scenario.

Now, a $100 bet on the Redskins would pay out $280 in profit instead of just $260. A $100 bet on the Cowboys would now only pay $28.57 instead of $31.25. If this works and slows the action, then they might leave the line like that. If the money still keeps pouring in on the Cowboys, they will continue to shift it further. If too much action starts to come in on the Redskins, they will shift it back in the other direction. This would continue back and forth until they got the amount they were looking for on each side of the game.

The Takeaway

So, here’s the takeaway. Not all moneyline bets are going to pay out the same amount of money. The bigger the favorite a team is, the less you should expect to get on a correct pick. The bigger the underdog a team is, the more you should expect to get on a correct pick. You can look into how to calculate these payouts manually, or you can just use a payout calculator or have them calculated for you on your online betting site.

Just make sure that you are looking at how much you are getting paid out on each moneyline bet that you want to make. If you’re happy with the amount, then go for it. If you’re not, don’t place the bet at least right away. We’ll discuss in the tips section below some different options that you have if you’re not a fan of the payouts being offered.

Benefits of Moneyline Bets

While most of you probably already understand why moneyline bets are an awesome part of a winning sports betting strategy, we wanted to make sure that we still covered them. Some of you out there might be on the fence on whether or not you want to start making moneyline bets, so this section is for you.

Easy to Understand

They’re easy to understand! If you’re brand new to betting on sports and you’re looking for a way to dip your toe into the water, moneyline bets are perfect. While some people can get a little confused when it comes to the payouts, the premise of how to win and what you need to happen is simple. For that reason, we think these are fantastic bets for beginners as well as seasoned pros. There’s no added benefit for overcomplicating things.

Additionally, if you’re still a little confused on how the payouts work, just use a betting calculator or use the betting slip at your online betting site. You can select your bet, put in the amount you want to wager, and it will tell you exactly how much you stand to win with a correct pick. Once you play around with this for a while, you’ll get a pretty good handle on how things work. We assure you that even the payout portion of moneyline bets is not that challenging to understand.

Big Payoffs on Big Upsets

One of the coolest things about moneyline bets is they give you an opportunity to make a lot of money when you predict a big upset. If you’re only betting spread bets, you’re usually only going to get paid out close to even money when you pick a winner. But, when you toss the points to the wind and make the bold prediction on the upset, you’ll get paid for it. If you’re looking for a way to get paid big when you predict a big upset, moneyline bets are exactly what you’re looking for.

Tips for Betting Moneylines

While moneyline bets are super simple to understand how they work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are super simple to beat. Remember the cliché phrase, if sports betting were easy, everyone would be doing it (for a living). The good news, though, is that if you’re sharp in the sport you like to bet, you can make a lot of money betting moneyline bets.

What we’d like to do before we send you out to the books is give you the top tips for betting on moneyline bets. Now, it’s important for us to point out that a lot of the strategy that goes into moneyline betting is going to be dependent on what sport you are betting. But, there are some tips that are universal across the board, and that’s what we’re going to share with you today. If you are looking for specific tips on a specific sport, make sure you check out our main sports betting guide sections.

Always Look for Value

Moneyline bets are all about picking winners, right? Technically, yes. But, if you are out only looking for wins, you’re going to most likely end up losing money. You see, even if you have a winning record with more wins than losses, you could be losing money. On the contrary, you could also have more losses than wins and be making a lot of money.

The reason for this all comes down to value. You want to be betting moneyline wagers that are paying you out better than they really should be. If you can master this, you can easily be one of the most successful sports bettors out there.

How do you master this? Well, it’s a lot more complex of a topic than we have room to get into here. But, if you check out our Understanding Value and How Betting Lines Work guide, we break this down step by step. It will take you some time to get through everything if the concept is new to you (or you hate math), but this is hands-down the most important thing you can and need to learn if you want to be a successful sports bettor. Spoiler, this is important for every type of sports bet, not just moneyline bets.

Bet Multiple Entrants When Possible to Lower Variance

If you’re betting moneyline bets on games with only two teams or entrants, this is not going to matter to you. But, if you’re taking moneyline bets on things like races where there are multiple entrants in the same contest, you have some options. If you want to lower your variance, you can always bet more than one person to win.

Before we look at an example, let’s make sure we are all on the same page, and everyone understands what variance is. Variance in sports betting in simple terms is basically the fact that no matter how good you are at picking winners, you may go through extended periods of time where you’re losing until you’re able to realize your winnings. For example, if you’re good enough to win 60% of your bets at even money, you might come out and lose the first 10 bets. The short-term results are not indicative of what your long-term results are going to be. After 100 bets, you’re probably going to be closer to 70 wins. After 1,000 bets, you’re definitely going to be closer to 700 wins. This is variance.

If you’re playing the long game, variance isn’t really a big deal. Sure, it’s not ideal, but if you really have a winning strategy and good bankroll management, you’re still going to come out ahead in the long run. But, for some people, it’s their personal preference to try and lower some of this variance when possible. One of the ways that you can do this with moneyline bets is by betting multiple entrants in a contest.

For example, let’s say that you’re looking to place a moneyline bet on an upcoming NASCAR race. Every single driver in the race is going to pay better than even money. Here are the odds on the six biggest favorites for a recent NASCAR race. These are not cherry-picked; these are the six most likely to win the race.


So, let’s say you had a feeling that Denny Hamlin was going to win the race and you wanted to bet $100 on it. You could place that bet, and if you’re right, you’d be walking away with $1000 in profit. But, if anyone else won the race, you would lose your bet. If you wanted to lower your variance, you could place a bet on another driver or a couple other drivers. It would bring down the potential amount you would win, but you’d get additional opportunities to win.

For example, let’s say that you really thought Denny was going to win, but you also thought that Harvick and Truex Jr. could possibly win. Here’s what would happen if you placed $100 on each of these three drivers.

If Hamlin won (you’re original pick), you would win $1000 on that bet. But, you would lose your other two bets for $100 each, which would give you an overall profit of $800.

If Harvick won, you would win $300 on that bet. But, you would lose your other two bets for $100 each, which would give you an overall profit of $100.

If Truex Jr. won, you would win $500 on that bet. But, you would lose your other two bets for $100 each, which would give you an overall profit of $300.

So, on all three of these bets, you would still turn a profit even though you would lose two of the three bets. There are a couple things that are important to point out, though. First, you would win less money on Denny Hamlin if he won than you would if you only bet on him. But, instead of only having one driver that would make a profit for you, you had three. This means that your likelihood of winning is going to be much higher, even though you are giving up a little profit on your main pick.

Something else you need to realize as well is that you have to decide how much you want to bet if you’re going to go this route. In the first example where you only bet on Hamlin, you bet $100. But, in our second example, you bet $300 which is three times as much money. For a lot of people, this is not ideally what they want to do. What they’ll usually do is go ahead and split their $100 bet up and bet about $33 on each of the drivers. This is obviously going to bring down the amount you’d win on each driver significantly, but having three ways to win instead of one should mean that you’re going to win more often.

What’s the best course of action with a moneyline bet when you have multiple entrants? It’s 100% up to you and your personal preference. If you’re really confident in your pick and you don’t mind the extra variance, then bet all your money you have set aside for that contest on one person. But, if you’re not completely sure, you want some lower variance, or you can’t decide between a couple of entrants, then bet multiple entrants. Just make sure that you do the math with each possibility to ensure you don’t bet too many entrants where you’ll end up losing money even if one of your picks wins.

Account For and Predict Line Shifts

If you read our first tip of this section, you know that picking winners is not enough to be a profitable sports bettor. You have to be picking bets that you’re not only going to win but are going to have value for you. Sometimes a bet might not initially have value based on the payout, but as you know lines move which means that it may eventually have value and be a moneyline that you’re interested in. Also, there may be moneyline bets that have value that may get more value as the lines move which is obviously something that you’ll want to take advantage of.

Now, it’s important that we make sure you know that whatever odds you make your moneyline bet at are the odds that you’re going to have. So, if the line moves out of your favor, you still get the better odds. Or, if the line moves in your favor, you’re still stuck with the initial odds that you bet at. But, there is nothing that says you have to make your wager right away. A lot of sharp sports bettors will try and predict how they think the lines are going to move and then choose the best time to make their bets.

For example, let’s say that you’re looking to make a moneyline bet on an upcoming game and the odds are +145. You have already decided that this bet has a lot of value and you’re interested in taking it. But, you also think that the betting public is going to love the other team in this game, and you think that most of them are going to place their bets late like they usually do. What you would want to do then is wait to make this bet until closer to game time.

Why? Well, if you’re right and the betting public comes in with a lot of money on the other team close to game time, the sportsbook is going to have to react. They’re going to try and entice more action on the side of the bet you want to take so they might move the line to something like +155 or even more. This means that if you wait to make your bet in this situation, you’re going to get paid out more money on the exact same wager.

Now, bets are not always going to move, and they’re certainly not always going to move in your favor. You’re going to have to try and start figuring out how you think the public will be betting and what that is going to do to the odds. Here’s the good news. If you take a bet that you think have value and the line moves where you would have gotten a better payout, your bet is still a good bet as long as you were right about the value. Just because a better line came out does not automatically make your bet bad, so don’t beat yourself up if you fire on a bet and then the odds move in your favor.

On the other side of things, if you decide to wait and the odds move against you where there is no longer value, you don’t lose any money. All you have to do at this point is just not make the bet. Sure, you might be missing out on a good bet if you were right, but you don’t lose any money on bets you don’t make.

Shop Lines

Whether you decide to try and predict line movement or not, you still need to be shopping your lines. Shopping lines is where you check multiple sportsbooks to see who is offering the best payout odds. You’ll often find opportunities where you can get more potential money on the exact same bet just by betting with a different sportsbook.

Remember, sportsbooks don’t care what is going on at other sportsbooks when it comes to moving their lines. They will move them as they need to in order to balance their own action. For this reason, you’re going to see a lot of varying lines at different sportsbooks.

You have to take advantage of these opportunities. Shop all of your moneyline bets separately and place them where you need to in order to give yourself the best chance to make the most money. How many sportsbooks do you need to check when you’re line shopping? 40-50. Kidding. 2-3 sportsbooks is plenty to take advantage of line shopping. Any more than that isn’t bad, but at some point it just becomes overkill.

Remember, as we stated earlier, don’t make a bet with a shady sportsbook just to get a better line. Select a couple of sportsbooks that are your “go to’s” and use those as the ones that you shop your lines at. Once you identify the books you want to use, make sure you go ahead and create an account at each so that you’re ready when it’s time to bet. You can have one site that is your home site where you place all the bets that have the same line but be ready to pounce on good lines elsewhere if and when you find them.

Be Wary of Huge Favorites

This tip, much like many on this list, goes back to the first tip about finding value. If you’re just looking to get wins, you’re going to most likely run into problems with your profitability. This seems to be a huge problem especially for newer bettors when it comes to betting huge favorites. They’ll see the opportunity to get an easy win and not even take time to see if the bet actually has value.

We’re not saying that you can’t bet huge favorites. But, what we are saying is that you need to be wary when you are betting them. There will be a temptation to take a lot of huge favorites because you want to get wins. But, if those favorites don’t have value, you’re going to slowly bleed money away in the long run.

Don’t avoid big favorites, but make sure that you’re betting them for the right reason. Chase value, not the win.

Switch to Spreads if You Need To

Something you’re always going to want to check on when you are betting on moneylines is what the game spread is. Spread bets are bets where you pick a game winner, but a team will either be spotted points or “starting from behind” in an attempt to even the playing field. For example, if Team A is favored to win, you’ll see better payout odds on Team B with a moneyline bet. But, what the sportsbook is going to do is they are going to also try and predict how many points Team A is going to win by.

Let’s say they think Team A is going to win by 6 points. If you were to bet Team A on the moneyline, you’re not going to get that great of a payout. But, if you bet the point spread, you’ll get paid out close to even money, but they are going to have to win by more than 6 points. If you’d like to learn more about spread bets, make sure you check out our spread bet guide.

The takeaway here is that a moneyline bet may not be your best bet when you think a particular team is going to win. If you think they’re going to win decisively and they are the favorite, you might make a lot more money betting on a spread bet. Also, if you think that a team is going to outperform their expectations but not win the game, a moneyline bet is pointless. But, if you bet them with the spread, as long as they cover the spread, they can still lose the game, and you still win your bet.

Neither bet type is better than the other. But, there is going to be one that is better depending on your prediction and the situation. We just wanted to make sure that you were aware that you had other options in case the moneyline bet wasn’t the perfect fit for a particular game.

In Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot today about moneyline bets. Hopefully, you now know what they are, how they pay out, why they’re great, and what you can do to give yourself a better chance of walking away a winner. While these bets are simple, they are still going to take some hard work out of you to beat profitably. But, we have confidence in you! Good luck out there, and definitely come back if you ever get confused.