The jargon and terminology of sports betting can be intimidating for a novice bettor. Teasers, parlays, and round robins are just some of the many different ways one can bet on sporting events. However, there is one term that breaks sports betting down to its most simple form: the moneyline.
What is a Moneyline Bet?
A moneyline bet is as simple as it gets. The bettor has to do just one thing: pick the winning side. Whether it’s a game, a match between two teams, or a competition between two individuals, moneylines are always offered. If you place a moneyline wager on a team or individual that goes on to victory, you’ll have won your moneyline bet.
Understanding the Math of a Moneyline Bet
Though the premise of a moneyline bet is rather simple, the math involved in such a bet is where it can get rather complicated. There are always competitions where one team is vastly superior to the other. However, oddsmakers will likely set very steep odds on a big favorite, thus minimizing the potential profit on a winning wager. Here is an example from the 2019 NFL season:
Week 2: New England Patriots (-2500) vs. Miami Dolphins (+950)
In Week 2, the New England Patriots were one of the biggest moneyline favorites of the entire season over the Miami Dolphins. After the Baltimore Ravens beat the Dolphins 59-10 in Week 1, many fans were sure there was no way that the Dolphins could beat the Patriots.
Well, here is what those moneyline numbers next to each team means. Bettors would have needed to bet $2500 on the Patriots to profit just $100. Based on the same ratio, if bettors bet $100 on the Patriots to win, they would have won just a $4 profit. To many, that would not seem like a worthwhile investment.
Despite the unlikelihood that the Dolphins would win, their +950 moneyline would certainly appeal to more bettors. That’s because +950 means for every $100 a bettor wagered on the Dolphins to win, they would profit $950. Thus, a bettor would make 9.5 times whatever their original wager was in profits.
How to Place a Moneyline Wager
Once you are familiar with the concept, and, more importantly, the math behind a moneyline wager, placing such a bet is rather simple. Here are the steps:
Placing a Moneyline Wager in Person at a Sportsbook
- Approach the betting window and tell the cashier the team name and name of the sports league (if necessary).
- Say you want to bet that team on the moneyline.
- Tell the cashier the dollar amount you are wagering.
- Check that the odds and potential payout are agreeable to you when they appear on the screen.
- Hand the cashier your money and take your betting ticket.
Wagering on the moneyline online is just as easy. On a sportsbook’s website or app, the moneyline bets will appear in the same area as the game spread or over/under. Find the moneyline column and click on the moneyline for the favorite or underdog. Then, type in your wager and check the payouts before clicking “confirm bet.”
The Best Teams are Not Always the Most Profitable
Based on the adjustments oddsmakers make to moneylines throughout the season, the best teams are not always the most profitable. Let’s go back to the Patriots and Dolphins for another example.
Week 17: Patriots (-1000) vs. Dolphins (+700)
By now, you know that a bettor would profit just $100 for every $1000 bet on the Patriots, or they would profit $700 for every $100 wagered on the Dolphins to win the game outright.
With a win in that final home game, the Patriots would have clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. However, the Dolphins went into Foxborough and stunned the Patriots 27-24. Thus, there were likely to be some bettors who bet heavily on the Patriots moneyline thinking they were a sure thing. Ten moneyline bets on the Patriots at $100 profit each were negated by this one stunning upset.
In baseball, the results on which teams are most profitable to bet on via the moneyline always varies. In 2019, the Oakland Athletics finished with the fourth-best record in the American League. However, they also finished the season as the most profitable MLB team to wager on.
What Lessons Can You Learn From These Examples?
It’s very unlikely that one would have the time or the discipline to wager on a team like the Athletics for every game of the season. Thus, you have to be disciplined and pick and choose the best spots for your moneyline wagers.
When it comes to the Patriots-Dolphins examples, one must also be wary of the chance of a big upset. While there was nothing wrong with thinking the Patriots would have beaten the Dolphins in Week 17, you must justify if the steep odds are worth the potential reward. If not, perhaps wagering on the moneyline is not the smartest bet.