Moneyline Betting – Understanding How to Bet the Moneyline

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor Fact Checked by Nick Raffoul

Moneyline betting is one of the most popular forms of betting. It simplifies the game by calculating the odds total for each team based on their probability of winning the event. Odds for the moneyline are set differently for each sport while knowing which sportsbooks offer the best odds remains a relatively big piece of winning. 

This guide delves into the concepts behind moneyline, including its calculator, spread comparisons, which online sportsbooks offer the best moneyline promotions, and several tips and tricks to master the art of betting the moneyline. 

Moneyline Betting Explained 

Moneyline Betting - Understanding How to Bet the Moneyline

To get a better understanding of how a moneyline bet really operates, let’s discuss the basics of making a moneyline wager. The outcome will always be to select the winner by placing a wager on one team or one player before the event begins. The NFL often has games that extend late into overtime, with a few that occasionally result in a tie between teams.

This is a rare outcome in the sport, known as a draw, which means the sportsbook will return the wager placed by the bettor. A draw is also known as a “push”, a term that is much more commonly used when betting the spread of a matchup. If your moneyline bet is placed on the losing team, you don’t get any of your wager returned and it is kept by the sportsbook for profit.

Selecting the winning team via moneyline bet returns the initial wager plus the additional winnings based on the odds taken at the time of the bet. 

It is always easiest to analyze the moneyline in any sporting event by using $100 as the hypothetical wager. Let’s apply a $100 wager towards the New Orleans Saints moneyline at +140 odds. In this scenario, you’d be betting plus-odds on the underdog, which is the team with a lower probability to win the matchup.

Taking plus-odds or plus-money is often the strategy deployed to earn a lot of money in a short amount of time, as a $100 bet would pay out $140 in winnings from the sportsbook, along with the initial $100 stake, ultimately cashing out at $240. However, if the Tennessee Titans at -160 was taken instead, you’d have to wager $160 in order to win $100, which is a notably smaller payout since the Titans are the betting favorite.

This game is relatively even based on the moneyline odds, as the Indianapolis Colts are an overwhelming -510 moneyline favorite to beat Jacksonville in Week 10. Betting the favorite here is ill-advised, as you would need to wager $510 to win $100, while a $100 wager on the Jaguars at +375 would payout $375 in winnings from the sportsbook and return the $100 stake on top of it, making for a significantly better payday.

Of course, odds this high seldom hit for a reason, which is why most bettors invest in winning teams to avoid unnecessary risk while making decent money. If you’re having trouble identifying which team is the favorite, focus on the minus sign next to a team or player’s name. If both teams or players have a minus sign, this represents an even contest that lacks the potential for a high payout.

You will never see an event with two teams or players both possessing a plus sign, as bookmakers always set a favorite, indicated by the minus sign. Make sure that you explore several sportsbooks prior to submitting a stake on a particular team’s moneyline, as you could be missing out on odds that would pay out maybe $20 to $30 higher per bid.

This becomes extremely important if many bets get placed over a period of time, as sportsbooks shift their moneyline odds as each game approaches. Typically, getting in early on the moneyline of a team you like as the outright winner is helpful, as the odds for a big betting favorite continue to plummet after the opening lines are set. However, injuries and coaching decisions can alter these odds at a moment’s notice, so waiting to wager on a team’s moneyline can also be worthwhile. 

Moneyline betting does require a bit more nuance and research than it may initially appear. The numeric formulas and moneyline calculator will be analyzed next, along with strategies for placing successful moneyline bets in various sporting events. Differences between moneyline betting and spread betting will occur, as well as referencing which sportsbooks offer the best moneyline odds to take advantage of.

Always keep in mind that $100 as the best way to project potential payouts, even if you find yourself only wanting to wager $20. It’s a round number that will not deceive when attempting to hunt the best moneyline odds that sportsbooks have to offer during the busy season of sports betting. 

Basic Odds & Payouts

-720 Risk $720 to win $100
+500 Risk $100 to win $500
+105 Risk $100 to win $105
-125 Risk $125 to win $100
+320 Risk $100 to win $320
-425 Risk $425 to win $100

Moneyline Calculator  

Let’s dive deeper into how the moneyline odds should be read and the methods for converting these odds. Calculating the odds set for each team in any matchup always begins with identifying the two different types of moneyline bets. Positive, represented as a plus-sign, is always attached to the underdog, or the team with a lower probability of winning the game.

Conversely, the negative symbol represented by the minus sign indicates that a team is the favorite to win the game. Understanding this concept is the primary baseline when attempting to read the moneyline. 

With favorite and underdog defined through plus and minus signifiers, we can proceed to the concept of finding the implied probability. Implied probability is found using the implied probability calculator, or moneyline calculator, to convert the moneyline odds for each team into an implied chance of winning percentage.

Converting the odds into the implied probability percentage will reveal whether or not there is value attached to placing the wager. In the following example, American odds (positive and negative) are used due to their frequent occurrence in most Western sports betting markets. 

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -400 on the moneyline, use the following equation to convert these odds into an implied probability percentage. 400 / (400+100) x 100 = 80% implied probability. So there is an 80 percent likelihood of the Bucs winning. The implied probability percentage does not represent the vig mentioned earlier but rather shows how often you need to win in order to break even.

If you recall the terms “vig” or “juice” from earlier, this is where they play a pivotal role, earning the bookmaker a profit no matter which team winds up the winner. How are they able to do this? Think of it as the sportsbook’s way of earning a commission by collecting stakes on various moneyline odds.

It’s a hidden fee embedded within the odds known as the “overround”, which adds together the implied probability total percentages between two teams in a particular game. If the Bucs have an 80 percent win probability, and their opponent at +300 (100 / (300+100) x100 = 25 %) has a 25 percent implied win probability, the sportsbook has an overround of 105 percent.

To calculate the vig as a percentage itself, use the following formula. 1 – (1/105) x 100 = 4.76%. This is near the maximum threshold that sportsbooks typically set for their associated betting line profit, also known as, the juice. One final formula is to run to complete the full moneyline calculator process.

Divide the team implied probability percentage by the total implied probability to get the actual probability that is not tainted by the overround “vig” bookmakers use to turn a profit. So for Tampa Bay, 80 / 105 = 76%, while 25 / 105 = 24%, comprising a full 100 percent.

This shows that while the underdog only has an additional one percent tacked on (24% actual vs. 25% implied), the juice is heavy on Tampa Bay, seen in the additional four percent (76% actual vs. 80% implied) in the -400 odds set by the sportsbook. 

Moneyline Odds and Implied Probability Win Percentage

Moneyline Odds Implied Probability % Vig % Actual Probability %
-500 500 / (500+100) x 100 = 83% Add Implied Probability percentage totals together. The percentage over 100 is the overround/vig/juice that maxes out around 5 percent.  83 / 105 = 79%
-200 200 / (200+100) x 100 = 66% Add Implied Probability percentage totals together. The percentage over 100 is the overround/vig/juice that maxes out around 5 percent.  66 / 103 = 64%
+160 100 / (160+100) x 100 = 38.4% Add Implied Probability percentage totals together. The percentage over 100 is the overround/vig/juice that maxes out around 5 percent.  38 / 101 = 37.6%
+380 100 / (380+100) x 100 = 20.8% Add Implied Probability percentage totals together. The percentage over 100 is the overround/vig/juice that maxes out around 5 percent.  20 / 103 = 19.4%


Moneyline Betting in Sports

Moneyline betting is one of the most popular forms of sports betting because it is consistently applied across a plethora of sporting events. However, a lot of sports have different terms for the moneyline. There is also the possibility of contests ending in a draw or a tie, which offers an alternative payout structure for bettors. Let’s explore the moneyline for the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL in more depth. 

NFL Moneyline 

The NFL is easily the most popular sport to bet the moneyline. Betting moneyline in football is preferred by many because the only outcome needed is for a team to win their game outright. There is no added pressure or constraint such as betting the spread, which requires a team to win by a specific margin. Let’s say that the Arizona Cardinals are -350 on the moneyline against the New York Jets who are given +300 as a heavy underdog.

Bettors would need to stake a $350 bet in order to win $100, while a $100 wager on the Jets’ moneyline at +300 would yield a $300 payout, not including the $100 stake returned to the bettor by the sportsbook. Moneyline odds are much more tempered and even when it comes to betting teams in the Super Bowl.

During Super Bowl LV, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were +140 on the moneyline, while the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs were favored on the moneyline at -165. Betting the Bucs at +140 would have paid out $140 on a $100 wager, treating bettors to a nice pay day. Conversely, Chiefs bettors lost the $165 they staked to win $100, a less than ideal outcome.

While there are no opportunities for a tie in the postseason, what happens for an NFL moneyline tie? Regular season games often go to overtime, with 10 minutes of extra time allotted. If teams are unable to score, or both convert field goals on their opening possession, the game ends in a draw. This is known as a “push”, which results in bettors getting their original wager amount back. 

NBA Moneyline

An example of a money line bet

A lot of the same strategy from betting NFL moneylines applies to betting NBA moneylines. For example, betting the Memphis Grizzlies at +105 against the Phoenix Suns, who are -125 on the moneyline, possesses a higher probability of hitting than betting on a heavier favorite. The moneyline odds for the Grizzlies and Suns game reflect an evenly matched contest, versus the Brooklyn Nets (-400) at the New Orleans Pelicans (+310).

While it’s nearly a lock that the Nets will cruise to a win, wagering $400 to win $100 is a risky bet to place due to the minimal payout gained. Betting an underdog like the Chicago Bulls (+175) against the Golden State Warriors (-220) is a good wager, as the Bulls are 8-3 and riding a two-game win streak with a plus-7.2 PPG differential.

Don’t take the first moneyline odds you see without consulting other sportsbooks to explore whether or not there is better value or implied probability to seize on for a particular team. 


MLB Moneyline

MLB moneyline betting odds

Baseball offers the exact same moneyline betting opportunities, in addition to betting what’s called the runline. Major League Baseball (MLB) has the most regular season games (162) of any professional sport and as a result, many underdogs win games with plus-odds on the moneyline. Now, let’s get into the runline.

The runline is similar to betting a point spread in the NFL or NBA, but it is a fixed margin of +1.5 and -1.5 for either team. If the Los Angeles Dodgers are -1.5 and are +180 on the runline, they are considered the favorite, but the implied probability has plus-odds. Betting the Dodgers runline (-1.5) at +180 means a bettor will get paid out $180 if they are able to win by two or more runs.

Betting the San Diego Padres at +1.5 with -200 odds means that a bettor will have to stake a $200 wager on the Padres losing by one run or winning outright, which would pay $100 and return the initial $200 bet. Runlines are tempting to bet on due to the plus-odds for a team considered the favorite, however, there are quite a few MLB games that end with a one-run lead.

Betting the moneyline on underdogs during the regular MLB season is a great strategy but as the postseason tightens up, betting the moneyline favorite during the World Series is a better investment, as the underdog odds are much less lucrative after a long season of pitching rotations and batting orders being analyzed by opposing managers. 

NHL Moneyline

NHL moneyline betting

Just like the MLB, the NHL also has a fixed point spread called the puckline, which stays at -1.5 or +1.5 with tailored odds offered by sportsbooks. The classic moneyline odds discussed for NFL, NBA, and MLB also apply here, as placing a $100 wager on the Columbus Blue Jackets with +200 moneyline odds will reward the bettor with a $200 payout if they win as an underdog.

Betting on the Washington Capitals at -170 moneyline odds will pay out $100 on a $170 wager. However, some sportsbooks offer the three-way moneyline, which adds odds that the game ends in a draw at the end of regulation. This bet obviously ignores the overtime results that follow a tie in regulation.

It’s an appealing moneyline to bet, as it often appears with plus-odds and a few NHL games require overtime to decide a winner during the 82-game regular season.  Similar to researching baseball batting lineups and pitching rotations, understanding which players skate on the first or third lines, along with who earns additional minutes on the powerplay units, goes a long way to determining which team stands the best chance to win.

Make sure to look around at other sportsbooks before settling on a particular moneyline, just like when researching the moneyline for every other professional sporting event. 

Moneyline vs. Betting Spread

Moneyline betting versus betting the spread requires two different approaches to making a successful wager. Spread betting references the odds a sportsbook gives to a team based on their ability to cover the spread, which is a term that means the favorite has to win by a certain point total. Conversely, the underdog is spotted the same point total but they can lose the game by as much as the favorite has to win by.

For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favored to win by -9.5 points over the Washington Football Team, with -110 odds to cover the spread. This means that the Bucs will only cover the spread by winning by 10 or more points, while Washington covers the spread by either winning outright or losing by less than ten since they are given +9.5 points with -110 odds.

A bettor can stake $110 for Tampa Bay to win by ten to earn a $100 payout, or they can stake a $110 bet for Washington to lose by less than 10 to earn a $100 payout. Betting the moneyline eliminates the risk of betting on a team that wins but fails to cover the spread as a favorite, which happens quite often.

However, betting spreads typically see more underdogs win since they don’t have to win the game outright. Moneyline betting is lucrative when the underdog with plus-odds pulls off the upset, however, this is a much less frequent occurrence. Betting a favorite with minus-odds on the moneyline requires a lot of money to be staked, which can be less appealing when trying to rack up money at a quicker pace.  

Betting the Moneyline at an Online Sportsbook

Some bookmakers offer betting bonuses, or promotions when placing bets on their moneylines. It’s common to see sites offer risk-free bets up to $1,000 for newly registered users, allowing bettors to take advantage and attempt hitting a massive payday on any variety of wagers. Moneyline parlays are a popular form of betting the moneyline.

One can opt to mix and match legs of a parlay, or individual bets grouped under the same wager, by selecting certain moneylines and spreads across different games. These parlays don’t have to be restricted to the same sport but many wagers often wind up focused on the same sport or even multiple bets made within one specific game.

The latter is what is known as a same-game parlay bet, which contains multiple legs that often include a team’s moneyline, along with a couple of propositional bets and a team’s point spread. While parlay betting is extremely fun, the boosted odds are lucrative for a reason. Finding online sportsbooks that offer parlay insurance is a fantastic way to ensure you won’t lose your wager if one particular leg fails to hit.

This sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch? Most online sportsbooks only offer parlay insurance a certain number of times to a user, typically ranging from once a day to once a week. Sometimes its only offered on same-game parlays or traditional parlays, while requiring at least three to four legs.

Lastly, the refund that a bettor with parlay insurance receives is pretty much always going to be in the form of site credits, not USD or other forms of currency. These credits then require the bettor to convert them back into currency via a turnover requirement. A turnover requirement is a predefined condition set by the bookmaker that doesn’t measure the amount of money won, rather, the amount of money wagered on its book.

A 1x requirement is the standard rate associated with fulfilling a turnover requirement. So if you wager $100 on your first bet using a new user promo code, you’ll need to risk another $100 before the refunded site credits can be converted into cash assets, allowing bettors to transfer the money into their personal accounts.

Moneyline Betting Tips

Here are a few tips to succeed with betting the moneyline. Being patient enough to sift through three to five sportsbooks will pay dividends in the long term. Finding better odds, even if it’s only -150 instead of -160, saves you $10 on the wagered stake. If you submit multiple moneyline bets and play consistently, over time, you’ll be risking and potentially losing more money than necessary.

It’s worth spending the extra time comparing lines from multiple books, even if you really like the odds on the first book. Another good tip is betting favorites, particularly those with -150 to -250 odds on the moneyline, as this is fairly low-risk and will yield a $100 payout on top of returning the $150-$250 staked if the favorite wins.

If you have three to four moneyline favorites, the payout becomes much more lucrative with plus-odds. While this is a very popular strategy among moneyline bettors, it can backfire with just one underdog pulling off an upset. Upsets occur in every professional sporting event, as several massive NFL underdogs have been victorious in the last few weeks.

Underdogs are particularly successful in leagues that have dozens of regular-season games like the NBA, NHL, and MLB. To avoid tanking your multi-leg moneyline parlays, bidding on separate moneyline favorites is a strategy that mitigates a lot of risk.

Don’t neglect the moneyline calculator and its implied probability win percentage discussed earlier. It’s the pivotal tool to use for discovering hidden value, both good and bad when exploring which moneylines to pursue in a rapidly expanding market. 

Moneyline Betting Terms

Underdog The team/player with a lower implied win probability. Signified by a plus-sign (+) on the moneyline. 
Favorite The team/player with a higher implied win probability. Signified by a minus-sign (-) on the moneyline. 
Parlay Two or more bets grouped under one staked wager that yield a plus-odds payout. All legs of the parlay must hit in order to win the bet, unless insured with parlay insurance. 
Payouts The amount of money paid by a sportsbook to a winning bettor. 
Push  The term used when a game ends in a tie or a draw. The bettor gets their stake returned.  
Odds A fraction, decimal, or American Odds-based  value that a sportsbook sets for a team or player’s probability of winning. 
Implied Probability Implied probability is the total amount risked divided by the total payout on a particular moneyline. 
Pick ‘Em Sportsbooks assign both teams/players an equal chance of winning the event. 


Moneyline FAQs

What happens if you bet $100 on a +100 moneyline?

Which is better; spread or moneyline?

What is the moneyline?

Why do moneyline odds change?

What does a +200 moneyline mean?

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.