Moneylines are one of the most common types of bets in sports betting. Few, if any, sportsbooks do not offer moneyline wagers to their customers.
Since sports betting is new in Colorado, it’s important that Coloradans understand this common betting type. So, here is a handy guide on moneylines, complete with numerous examples to show how they work.
How the moneyline works
First and foremost, let’s define what a moneyline bet is. Simply put, a moneyline bet is a wager on which team will win the game or match.
Unlike other types of wagers, it does not matter what the margin of victory is or how many points the teams score. All that matters is which team or competitors emerge as victorious.
Moneyline bets are denoted on a sportsbook’s display by three-digit numbers that are next to each team’s name. In each contest, one of these numbers will be positive, and the other one will be negative.
One advantage of betting on the moneyline is that the sportsbook’s profit is baked into the line itself. So, unlike point spreads or totals bets, there is no need to pay any vig on top of your wager.
What the numbers mean
The team with the positive number next to it is the underdog, or the team expected to lose. The team with the negative number is the favorite, and is most likely to prevail.
The numbers let bettors know the payouts associated with betting each side of the game. The positive number is the payout amount that a winning bet will receive on a $100 wager. The negative number is the amount that a bettor must wager in order to win $100.
Of course, these payouts are not hard-and-fast amounts. Rather, they are expressions of the proportions that the sportsbook is using for that particular game.
In fact, positive moneylines are convertible into straight odds for those who wish to do a few calculations. One rule of thumb is that every 100 that the positive moneyline increases corresponds with another whole number of odds.
So, for instance, a +100 moneyline is a 1:1 odds bet, while a +200 moneyline is a 2:1 odds bet. A +300 moneyline is 3:1, and so on.
If that’s confusing, don’t worry. It’s a lot easier to understand with some practical examples.
Moneyline betting examples
The following examples should help illustrate how moneyline bets work. All of these entries are actual bets that were featured on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Bear in mind that a payout is simply the profit you can expect to realize on the bet. So, if you win, you will receive the payout plus your original bet back.
NFL: Super Bowl LIV
Explanation: So, in this scenario, the Kansas City Chiefs were the favorite to win Super Bowl LIV. However, given how close each number is to 100, the sportsbook clearly believed that it would be a tight ballgame.
To that end, a $100 wager on this game would only pay out $108. Expressed as straight odds, the 49ers were only a 1.08:1 underdog.
Sample payouts (assuming that the bet were to win)
- $100 on the Chiefs – $81.97 profit, $181.97 total
- $100 on the 49ers – $108 profit, $208 total
- $122 on the Chiefs – $100 profit, $222 total
- $122 on the 49ers – $131.76 profit, $253.76 total
- $50 on the Chiefs – $40.98 profit, $90.98 total
- $50 on the 49ers – $54 profit, $104 total
- $5 on the Chiefs – $4.10 profit, $9.10 total
- $5 on the 49ers – $5.40 profit, $10.40 total
NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC)
Explanation: The larger numbers indicate that DraftKings did not expect the final result to be close. At the time, Oklahoma City’s record stood 10 games over .500, while Cleveland had lost 25 more games than it had won.
So, since the sportsbook felt that a certain outcome was particularly likely, bettors who took that side stood to profit very little. On the other hand, if Cleveland did manage to pull off the upset, then a bet would pay off quite handsomely.
- $100 on CLE – $650 profit, $750 total
- $100 on OKC – $10.99 profit, $110.99 total
- $910 on CLE – $5915 profit, $6925 total
- $910 on OKC – $100 profit, $1010 total
- $50 on CLE – $325 profit, $375 total
- $50 on OKC – $5.49 profit, $55.49 total
- $5 on CLE – $32.50 profit, $37.50 total
- $5 on OKC – $0.55 profit, $5.55 total
NCAAB: McNeese State (MNS) vs. Texas A&M – CC (TACC)
Explanation: Occasionally, two teams are so evenly matched that they both feature negative moneylines. In this case, the sportsbook simply does not feel comfortable about predicting the outcome to the point that it will pay extra if the underdog wins.
One thing to bear in mind about moneylines is that point spreads for the same match can reveal further information about the rationale behind where the line is. In this case, DraftKings has set McNeese State as a mere 0.5-point favorite, so the game really could go in either direction.
In this case, since both lines are the same, the payouts will be the same, too.
- $100 on either – $90.91 profit, $190.91 total
- $110 on either – $100 profit, $210 total
- $50 on either – $45.45 profit, $95.45 total
- $5 on either – $4.55 profit, $9.55 total
Other uses for moneylines
Although moneylines are a betting type in their own right, the moneyline format appears in a few other places throughout most sportsbooks. For instance, books use a similar three-digit number to add in their vig to point spread and totals bets.
Though they don’t mean quite the same thing, they serve to inform bettors about how much they’ll have to lay to win $100 on a particular spread or over/under. The same rule about betting favorites on the moneyline – the negative number is how much to wager to win $100 – applies here.
However, moneylines also show up as a format to declare straight odds on various wagers. Notably, futures bets are often expressed in terms of moneylines.
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Example: NBA team futures
Futures bets are wagers on cumulative long-term events. A futures bet might pertain to a season award or an eventual champion.
In that vein, DraftKings has established a futures section for betting on the eventual NBA champion for the 2019-2020 season. Each team in the league appears on a list with a positive moneyline next to it.
Here are the listings for the top 11 teams:
- Los Angeles Clippers: +300
- Los Angeles Lakers: +300
- Milwaukee Bucks: +320
- Philadelphia 76ers: +1200
- Houston Rockets: +1500
- Boston Celtics: +2000
- Denver Nuggets: +2000
- Utah Jazz: +2000
- Dallas Mavericks: +3000
- Miami Heat: +3000
- Toronto Raptors: +3000
The first thing that sticks out about this list is that there are no teams listed as favorites (negative moneylines). Quite simply, it is difficult to forecast into the future with any great certainty. Even the favorites to win it all (the two Los Angeles teams) are still underdogs against the field.
The other thing to notice is that dividing each moneyline by 100 quickly reveals the straight odds associated with each bet. To put it another way, here are those same bets, converted into straight odds:
- Los Angeles Clippers: 3/1
- Los Angeles Lakers: 3/1
- Milwaukee Bucks: 16/5 or 3.2/1
- Philadelphia 76ers: 12/1
- Houston Rockets: 15/1
- Boston Celtics: 20/1
- Denver Nuggets: 20/1
- Utah Jazz: 20/1
- Dallas Mavericks: 30/1
- Miami Heat: 30/1
- Toronto Raptors: 30/1
So, needless to say, these are long odds, no matter who you choose. Hopefully, however, if you choose to make a futures bet, you will at least be able to read the odds as they appear now.