Moneyline Betting In Sports

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
6 minute read

While many new bettors seem to pick up point spread wagering rather quickly, some still seem to have some confusion when it comes to moneylines. Moneylines are certainly a big part of sports betting, especially in American betting markets. There are moneyline betting markets, which is the primary focus of this article, but just about all forms of wagering at US-facing sportsbooks use moneyline odds in almost all forms of wagering. Just about every point spread these days have attached moneyline odds that change regularly. No matter what sport or bet type you’re wagering, an understanding of moneylines is vital.

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Moneyline Betting Basics

The oddsmaker’s standard vigorous or commission charged on each bet is 10%. Some bettors may be wagering with reduced juice, something we highly recommend, but for the most part, the vast majority of sports bettors are paying the standard vig.

The standard moneyline odds help us to determine a breakeven percentage for winning at sports. At -110 odds, the breakeven percentage is 52.38%. That means we need to win more than this percentage to profit at sports betting, assuming we get -110 on each bet. If you have bet sports for a while, you may be familiar with the 52.38% number. How is the breakeven percentage determined for each bet? The math is simple. All moneyline odds are based on the amount needed to win $100. For instance, if we’re looking to win $100 on our bet, we need to bet $110 to win $100 if the odds are -110.

Moneyline Formula

To convert our moneyline odds into decimal odds and then to our implied probability percentage, we can utilize this formula. It can become a bit complicated, but just use the moneyline odds from the bookie.

  • (- moneyline odds) / (- moneyline odds + 100) = decimal = implied probability

For the -110 example, our math would look like this:

  • ( -110) / ( – 110 + 100) = 110/210 = 0.5238 = 52.38%

You’re welcome to use the above formula, but essentially what we’re doing here is dividing our stake by our expected return if we win our bet. If we’re wagering $110 and if we win our bet, the sportsbook would return our $110 original stake and our profit of $100.

Example Of Moneyline Betting In Sports

Moneyline Odds BetOnline

This is an example of the baseball betting market at Notice how there are attached moneyline odds to the run line and totals markets. It’s another way for the sportsbooks to adjust the odds without coming off a number they don’t want to change. Moneyline wagers, not attached moneyline odds to other markets, such as point spread and totals (as seen above), are always bets on the outright winner of the contest or game.

For instance, if we place a bet on the Cubs, they only need to win the game for us to cash in on our wager. It doesn’t matter if they win by three runs or by 10, any victory gives us a winning ticket. Let’s say we did decide to bet on the Cubs, who are a huge favorite in the minds of the sportsbooks at -233. Since the odds are listed at -233, we would need to risk $233 to win $100.

The math to figure out our breakeven percentage:

  • 233/333 = 0.6996 = 69.96%

So, for our wager on the Cubs to be a long term profitable +EV bet, we need it to win nearly 70% of the time. Let’s calculate it for the underdog Phillies.

At +214, they are considerable underdogs. If we wager $100 on the Phillies, our potential return would be $314, our $100 stake and $214 in profits.

We can calculate the breakeven percentage:

  • 100/314 = 31.84%

That means, we only need to win our bet about 32% of the time to break even when betting on the Phillies. Figuring out the implied probability odds when betting moneyline lines is something that few do before deciding to place a wager. It’s not necessary to calculate it for every wager, but it’s an excellent way to view the actual winning percentage needed to earn a profit on each bet.

It’s also a way to decide if you’re going to place a wager. For instance, we shouldn’t bet the Cubs if we don’t like they have a better than 70% chance to win the game. Likewise, the Phillies aren’t worth a gamble if we don’t think they can win at least 32% of the time. Below is a table of the most common moneyline odds up to -200 and +200 and their corresponding breakeven percentages.

MoneylineBreakeven %MoneylineBreakeven %

Moneyline Betting Strategy

Moneyline wagering needs to be looked at differently compared to point spread wagering. Line shopping is still paramount, but, depending on the sport you’re betting, there are times where taking the moneyline over the point spread is a +EV proposition. MLB and NHL odds are traditionally offered in moneyline format. Bookmakers have added modified point spread odds to both these sports in MLB run lines and NHL puck lines, respectively, but the majority of the betting action is still being wagered on moneylines.

Betting Moneylines – Be Careful With Large Favorites

There are plenty of times that a big favorite is worth wagering on, but this isn’t something that bettors want to do too often. If you take a look at the above table, it’s easy to see why. As we approach -200, the breakeven percentage goes up quite a bit. It’s nearly 67% at that price and is at 80% at -400. Although these bets may seem like “safe” wagers, the reality is that they are far riskier than they look.

moneyline betting warning, be careful with large favorites

The betting public, on the whole, are long-term losers at betting sports. They are particularly fond of betting on favorites and overs. In general, you should be betting more underdogs than favorites as a sports bettor. The principle certainly applies to moneyline markets as well. Another issue is how easily you can quantify your edge. If you can line shop and beat the market by finding an inefficiency, then by all means, fire away on the -200 or more favorite. However, if you’re not sure what your edge is on the wager, it’s tough to lay a huge price when your breakeven percentage is going to 65% or higher.

It’s much easier to get behind an underdog at that price, particularly in a game like baseball, where there is a lot of short-term luck. Underdogs are just more attractive when we get into the +200 and above range due to low breakeven percentages. On a +200 bet, you only need to win your bet one out of every three times to make your money back. This doesn’t mean you should write off all big favorites altogether. There are some betting markets that the heavy favorite is sharp play, and the underdog is getting the square action. If you have calculated that a market should be -250 instead of -225, go ahead and place your bet.

Point Spread Sports Bet

Even if you get an excellent price on the point spread, a moneyline wager may still be worth considering if you feel that the team may pull the upset or is extremely unlikely to lose the game outright. Again, in this spot, we’re looking to target underdogs, but taking a favorite on the point spread and moneyline isn’t necessarily a poor decision. As with mostly everything in sports, it’s about finding value and exploiting it.

bankroll Management considerations

As far as bankroll considerations, splitting your unit size between the point spread and moneyline is one route, but placing two full units on both is likely a better strategy if you’re confident with both wagers. For instance, say your largest unit size is 2% of your bankroll or your unit size is 1% of your bankroll, but you will never bet more than two units on a game. You could bet two units on point spread and a single unit on the moneyline. This gives you a net win if you’re correct on your point spread wager, while also giving you upside on a moneyline bet. Betting the moneyline is also another way to get more money down a game (albeit, if the price is right) if you have bet the maximum allowed by the sportsbook on the point spread.

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Moneyline Betting – Further Reading

If you’re betting MLB baseball and NHL hockey extensively, understanding money lines is especially vital because the lion’s share of the betting action is done using these odds. Our article on NFL moneylines is a must-read, particularly because some sportsbooks still spd rice these inefficiently compared to the true odds.

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About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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