Understanding Moneyline Bets in Sports Betting

how to bet on sports

Moneyline wagers in sports are the basic, traditional way of making a wager. The bettor simply picks a team/player to win the game. If their chosen team/player wins the game, they win the bet- and if they lose the match, they lose the bet.

Unlike in a total or a point spread bet, there are no additional conditions. 

How does a money line bet work?

Moneyline bets are simple winner-loser wagers. The bettor backs the team/player they think is most likely to win an encounter and wagers on them against odds set by the sportsbook.  

Moneyline odds

Moneyline odds are perhaps the easiest to read. This is especially the case in the United States, where they are based on $100. The odds show the bettor how much money they stand to win from a $100 wager or how much money they need to bet to win $100.

Take an NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. The moneyline odds will look like this; 

Golden States Warriors


Boston Celtics


Favorites vs. underdogs

Nearly every sports encounter has a favorite and an underdog. With moneyline odds, the favorite has negative odds while the underdog has positive ones. In the above example, the Golden State Warriors are the favorites. Their odds show how much you need to wager to win $100 from a bet. So, in this case, you’ll need to wager $150 to win $100. 

On the other hand, the Bolton Celtics are the underdog. Underdogs typically have bigger payouts; their odds show how much wagering $100 will win you. In this case, a $100 wager on the Bolton Celtics wins you $130. 

Three-way line

Draws are pretty common in some sports at the end of regular time. Traditionally, a draw meant the sportsbook had to return the stake to the bettor. Today however, three-way moneylines account for the possibility of a tie. Thus, bettors can wager on either team winning or the match ending in a draw. 

Take a soccer match, for instance. Draws often occur in soccer, especially during league games. Thus, most sportsbooks prepare a three-way moneyline for soccer games. 

LA Galaxy






Betting the Moneyline: Implied probability

Sportsbooks prepare moneyline odds based on the implied probability of either team winning the game. This probability represents the market’s expectation of the sports event. Generally, the fewer the chances the team has, the more favorable the odds they’ll get. 

How does the sportsbook earn money booking moneyline bets?

Sportsbooks have to make money in some way. For one, they’ll take the money for all lost sports wagers. But this is not enough. So, online sports betting sites typically include some vig when calculating the odds. This represents the charges for accepting the bettor’s wager and allows them to make money, even from the winning side. 

Generally, moneyline odds have a relatively lower vig than other types of bets. It’s usually at around 4-5% of the bet amount.   

How and why do moneyline odds change?

Sportsbooks typically open a line some days to the game. The market setter, the book which accepts high-limit wagers from sharps (winning players), sets the line. Other sportsbooks then copy this line. 

As the game approaches, you’ll notice the odds changing. Why is that? 

When the market first opens, the sportsbook typically has limited information about the game. But as the match draws nearer, more data pours into the market. They’ll receive news on injuries, expected weather, rumors, and other variables. The sportsbook will use this information to adjust their odds to better reflect the state of the gane. 

Odds will also change depending on where the betting action is occurring. For instance, if today the moneyline odds for the Oilers are +250 and many sports bettors are wagering on them, you might log in tomorrow to find the odds at +220. This move is meant to discourage more bettors from betting on this side of the line. 

Overall, line movement is why many sharps bet as soon as the markets open. By betting early, they capitalize on any lack of information on the side of the sportsbook, allowing them to enjoy fantastic odds. 

Line shopping moneyline bets

Line shopping is another technique you can use to make more money in moneyline betting. This technique is quite simple; rather than bet with the first odds you get, you should compare the odds of different sportsbooks and wager using the one with the best odds. This ensures that you always get the biggest winnings possible.   

Moneyline Bet FAQs

Why was my moneyline bet canceled?

The sportsbook can cancel your moneyline bet for several reasons. For instance, bets are typically canceled if the game is postponed or canceled. It might also happen in case of accidental odds or suspicious activity with the match (common in amateur leagues).  

Should I bet the moneyline?

Yes, especially if you’re a beginner. The moneyline is the easiest bet to understand and win. And if you want bigger winnings, you can always combine multiple moneylines to make a parlay bet. Once you’re more comfortable with betting, you can graduate into more complex lines, like point spreads.

What does a +200 money line mean?

The plus (+) sign shows that these odds are for the underdog. Thus, if you back them with $100, you stand to win $200 if they are victorious. 


Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.

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