A Guide on How to Use Moneyline Bets

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A moneyline bet is one of the simplest and most common types of sports bets that you’ll see in the industry. What is a moneyline bet? A moneyline bet is a wager on who will win a game or a contest. That’s it. Think a team is going to win a game? Bet on them, and if they win, you win your bet. Most people who have placed any sort of bet before (even with friends) have made a moneyline bet.

Moneyline bets have absolutely nothing to do with how a team or person wins or by how many points, runs, or goals, they win by. The only criterion that must be met for a winning ticket is that the team or person you chose wins. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it doesn’t have to be ugly; all that matters is the checkmark in the W column.

Breaking Down a Moneyline Bet

Let’s take a look at a sample moneyline bet and break things down. We’d like to point out some important details that you need to be aware of for this type of bet.

  • New England Patriots -180
  • Philadelphia Eagles +155

In the above example, you see three different elements on each line. You see a team name, a plus or minus sign, and then a number after that sign. This will be what you see for every moneyline bet that you’re ever going to make. If you happen to see a number before the team name, that is just a number to identify the bet.

For ExampleIf it said 503 before the Patriots and 504 before the Eagles, those would be the “labels” for that bet. If you wanted to bet the Patriots, you could tell the sportsbook agent that you want to bet on the Patriots or that you wanted to take the moneyline on 503.

If you’re betting online, you won’t usually see those numbers at all because you won’t have to give your bet to an agent.

Let’s talk about what each portion of data is on each line. First, you have the team name. This signifies who you would be betting on. The bet on the top line would be a bet on the Patriots while the bet on the bottom line would be a bet on the Eagles. The next thing you see is a plus or minus sign. The plus sign signifies that a team is the odds underdog and you will be getting paid even money or better if you bet that team. The minus sign means that the team is the odds favorite and that you will be getting paid worse than even money for a correct pick on that team.

So, in our example above, the Patriots are the favorites, and the Eagles are the underdogs. The number that follows the plus or minus sign tells us how big of a favorite or underdog a team is. It also tells us how much we will be paid out for a correct bet on that team. With underdogs (minus signs), the bigger the number is, the bigger the underdog the team is. A bigger number also means that you will be receiving a bigger payout for a correct bet.

For ExampleIf a team is +200 and another team is +400, the team that is +400 is a bigger underdog, and you will also receive a much better payout than you would with a correct bet on the team that is +200.

With the favorites (plus signs), the bigger the number is, the bigger the favorite the team is. This is the same as with underdogs. The difference, though, is that the bigger the number is, the worse the payout is that you are going to receive for a correct pick on this team.

For ExampleIf one team is -250 and one team is -500, the team that is -500 is a much bigger favorite, but you would receive a much smaller payout than you would if you bet correctly on the team that is -250.

A question that is frequently asked at this point is why you would want to bet on favorites if the payouts are so much better on underdogs. The reason is that the favorites are much more likely to win the game. This means that even though you are not going to win as much money, you are going to win more often, and that should make up for it.

Moneyline Payouts Will Vary Greatly

Even though the criteria to win a moneyline bet is always the same, the payouts are not always going to be the same. If a sportsbook paid out the same amount for every team, the sportsbook would go broke. Everyone would bet on the big favorites, and no one would ever bet on the underdogs. This means that unless there were some major upsets, the sportsbook would go broke overnight.

To deal with this, the sportsbook has to encourage more people to bet on the underdogs while discouraging people from betting on the favorites. The way that they do this with moneyline bets is by altering the amount you are paid for a correct pick. If a team is a favorite to win a game, the sportsbook will offer to pay you less money for a correct pick. This is going to make you less enticed to make that bet. If a team is an underdog to win a game, the sportsbook will offer to pay you more money for a correct pick. This is going to make you more enticed to make that bet.

The idea is that the differing payouts will allow the sportsbook to get the same amount of money bet on both sides of the game. Then, regardless of who wins, the sportsbook will pay out the same amount of money and will make a profit from the small percentage they take off the top of the winning bets. You see, the sportsbooks love to facilitate gambling, but they don’t like to gamble themselves. They want to do everything within their power to guarantee profit regardless of which team wins the game.

Benefits of Moneyline Bets


The biggest benefit of moneyline bets is that they are simple. If you’re brand new to sports betting, it’s a great place for you to start. You don’t have to worry about checking off a bunch of criteria to win your bet. Pick a team, and if they win the game, you win your bet. As you start to get more comfortable with moneyline bets, you can start looking into the different payouts and what that means in terms of implied probabilities and the search for value.

In the next section, we’re going to talk about the importance of looking for value over winners. You’ll find that calculating value in relation to moneyline bets is much easier than with spread bets or other types of bets. This is a big benefit for those bettors who like to take a mathematical approach to their wagers.

Moneyline Betting Strategies

The Search for Value over Winners

The secret to moneyline bets is looking for instances where the payouts are much better than they should be for the likelihood of the outcome. This is called value. If a sportsbook is paying way too much for a favorite that you think is sure to win the game, you’ve found value. On the other side, if the sportsbook is paying way too much on an underdog that you don’t really think is that big of an underdog (or even an underdog at all), you’ve found value. If you consistently bet moneyline bets that have value, you’re going to make money in the long run.

Remember that you can find value in underdogs. This means that often it is a wise move to bet on a team that you think will most likely lose the game, just because there is a lot of value in the bet. Remember, sports betting is a long-term endeavor that sometimes will take a larger sample size of bets to start realizing your profits.

Basically, this comes down to analyzing risk versus reward. Is the amount you will be paid out for your pick going to be worth the money that you have to risk to win it? If the answer is no, then that’s a moneyline bet you want to avoid. If the answer is yes, then that’s a bet you’re going to want to make.

Avoid Overwhelming Favorites

We may get some pushback on this tip from big-money sports bettors, and that’s okay. We’ll explain our point, then explain where we anticipate the pushback coming from, and then allow you to decide for yourself. Let’s say that a huge dinosaur is going to fight a small child in an upcoming MMA match. While the kid may be crafty and elusive, he or she really stands no chance of winning. The odds on the dinosaur winning might be something like -10000. Since you believe that the kid has zero shot of winning, should you make this bet?

Well, technically it is probably a smart bet if you really believe that the kid has a 0% shot at winning. However, if you were to wager $100, your profit on the fight would be $1. Honestly, that’s a ton of money to risk for such a negligible payout. That being said, it may still technically be a good bet, and that’s where we expect to get some pushback from some bigger money bettors. If you’re betting a huge amount of money on this fight, the returns could start to be noticeable.

It’s really going to be up to you whether or not you want to bet on overwhelming favorites. Personally, we like to stay away from them when they become too big of favorites, but if there is value, it is a good bet in theory. This will all come down to your personal preference.

Understand What the Moneyline Represents

The moneyline odds don’t just tell you the amount you’ll get paid out on a correct bet. They also tell you the percentage chance that the sportsbook thinks each team has to win. This is called the implied probability. While we could walk you through the complex math, your best bet is to find an implied probability calculator online to do the conversions for you.

What you’ll do is put in the moneyline odds you’re given and then click convert. It will spit out a percentage number. This is the percentage chance that the sportsbook thinks the team has to win.

For ExampleLet’s say that a team is +250 on the moneyline. As they are the underdog, we would expect them to have less than a 50% chance of winning the game. When we put this into the converter, it tells us that the team has a 28.6% chance of winning based on the payout odds. If you think that the team is more than 28.6% likely to win the game, then it’s probably a bet you’re going to want to take. You’ll be paid out as if it is less likely to happen (more money), but you’ll end up winning more often than you should.

What you can also do is figure out the likelihood (percentage chance) that you think a team will win a game first, and then convert that into moneyline odds. You can then take those odds and start shopping around different sportsbooks for one paying out better odds than you think you deserve.

Moneyline as a Predictor

There is one additional thing that we would like to make clear before we conclude the strategy section of this guide. If you notice, we’ve been saying that the moneyline odds tell you the likelihood that a team will win or lose a game. This is mostly true, but we need to clarify something. The sportsbook will put out a starting line that indicates what they think is going to happen in the game. If you look at that starting point, you could realistically say that’s what the sportsbook thinks is going to happen.

However, you have to remember that the sportsbook is going to move the line based on the bets that come in. This means that the line will start to reflect the bets that have come in and not so much what the sportsbook thinks is going to happen. It will be reflecting more of what the betting public thinks is going to happen.

This really shouldn’t change much of your bets, but it is something you should be aware of. If you can start to predict how you think the betting public is going to bet, you may be able to figure out the optimal time to bet to get the best moneyline payout.


Don’t let the simplicity of moneyline bets fool you. The sharpest and most successful of sports bettors use these bets day in and day out to crush the books and bring home massive profits. While the bet type itself is simple, it does not mean that making correct moneyline bets is easy.

It still requires a lot of effort, research, and drive on your behalf to get yourself over that profitability finish line. It’s safe to say that if you stick around in the sports betting world for a long time, the moneyline bet will most likely play a huge role in your success.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at LegitGamblingSites.com since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.