Moneyline Betting Explained

The legal and regulated sports betting market in Michigan is attracting plenty of users, and those new to the game often find themselves searching for a simple starting point. We’re going to walk you through a bet type that fits the bill.

A moneyline bet is a fantastic starting point for those looking to dive in with sports betting. While other bet types can be a little confusing at first glance, with extra points and other variables to worry about, that’s not the case here.

For a moneyline bet, you just need to focus on which side will win the game or event. That’s it. There’s no fancy stuff or hidden tricks. It’s just you making the pick versus the sportsbook, and one side is going to win.

While moneyline bets are a simple concept, there are still some nuances you should be aware of before getting started. Don’t worry, we have you covered from top to bottom.

Let’s start by looking at the top ways for you to get into the game.

What’s a moneyline bet?

A moneyline bet is a simple wager type that is one of the most popular offerings at sportsbooks for team-based sports. They make for a great entry point for inexperienced bettors, and there are also plenty of experienced bettors who include this wager as a key part of their overall strategy.

The way it works is this: Sportsbooks provide odds for all games on the docket, and bettors can then scroll through the betting lobby to find the games they like.

Once they find intriguing opportunities, it’s simply a matter of deciding which side they think has the best chance to win. Odds are generally clear cut in that there’s a favorite and underdog, but there will be times when the lines indicate a veritable toss-up.

Moneyline betting odds

Moneyline odds are easily accessible and are generally one of the featured listings on online and mobile sportsbooks. Games are listed with the road team on top and the home team on the bottom, but there are sometimes neutral-site games to be mindful of.

Oddsmakers will designate a favorite and an underdog for the contest. The exception comes when it’s a game that’s too close to call, in which case the odds will be very close in range or equal on both sides.

For games that don’t fall into that category, you can decipher the two sides as follows: favorites have negative odds, while the odds are positive on the underdog side.

Here’s an example of what a moneyline may look like for an NFL game.

  • Las Vegas Raiders +120
  • Indianapolis Colts -140

The Raiders are the underdog for this game, as indicated by the positive moneyline odds. The Colts have negative odds, so you can recognize them as the favorite. Armed with a sense of how the oddsmakers see it, bettors can make their choices from there.

In terms of potential returns, a $100 winning bet on the Raiders would result in a total return of $220. If you place a $100 bet on the Colts at odds of -140 and they go on to win, you’ll get back a total of $171.40.

There are two important notes to keep in mind for moneyline odds. First, the odds don’t stand still after being released. After bettors begin to place bets, oddsmakers may adjust the odds if one side sees more action than the other in a bid to level things out.

The next important point is related to the first. While moneyline odds will be in range at major sportsbooks, that doesn’t mean they’ll always be the same. Bettors can shop around and check the odds at multiple operators to find the most appealing prices.

How to place a moneyline bet

Placing a moneyline bet online or via your mobile device is very simple. Once you have identified the game you want to wager on and the side you are going to pick, it’s simply a matter of clicking the box with the odds for your selection.

Once you do that, the bet is automatically added to the wagering slip. You can enter the amount you want to wager and see potential returns. If everything looks good, you can submit and place the bet. If not, there’s still time to adjust before you commit to the wager.

To further understand how moneyline bets work, let’s walk through some examples for all of the major team-based sports.

Moneyline betting for the NFL

Point spread bets drive a lot of the conversation in NFL betting circles, but they can be a tough nut to crack. Moneyline bets are also available for every game on the docket.

For these bets, there are no extra points to worry about. All you are concerned about is picking the winner of the contest while considering the odds on both sides.

Here’s what the odds might look like for a random game on the docket.

  • Cleveland Browns +180
  • Baltimore Ravens -220

The oddsmakers have installed the Ravens as big favorites, as indicated by the negative odds. The Browns are underdogs and have their work cut out for them as the positive odds point out.

For bettors interested in this game, it’s just a matter of choosing which side they like. Are the favored Ravens too much for the Browns to handle? Is there a way the Browns can pull out a surprise and an upset win?

Once you’ve made the call, you can place your bet accordingly. A $100 winning bet on Cleveland at odds of +180 would return a total of $280. If you place a $100 bet on the Ravens at odds of -220 and they go on to win, you’ll get back a total of $145.50.

Moneyline betting for the NBA

For the NBA, point spreads are also a popular choice, but you can also place moneyline bets on outright winners. This option allows you to focus solely on the bottom line result of the contest without any concern for the margin of victory.

Oddsmakers will set the moneyline odds for each game on the docket, and bettors then get a chance to weigh in. Here’s what you might see listed for one matchup.

  • Boston Celtics +110
  • Indiana Pacers -130

For this contest, the Pacers are slight favorites. The closer the range between the odds for both sides, then the tighter the oddsmakers expect the match to be. When there’s a big gap in the lines, it’s indicative of a clear-cut favorite and underdog.

Regardless of what the odds may say, normal handicapping rules apply. While you can certainly just make your choice and call it a day, you’ll have much more of a chance at long-term success if you spend some time handicapping and confirming your instincts.

If you bet $100 on the underdog Celtics at odds of +110 and they go on to win, you’ll see a total return of $210. For a winning $100 bet on the Pacers at odds of -130, the return would be a total of $176.90.

Moneyline betting for MLB

Unlike the NFL and NBA, the moneyline is the biggest driver for MLB wagering. There is a run line available, which is akin to a point spread and generally set at 1.5 runs, but straight winners and losers are the bet of choice for many.

The starting pitching matchup is a big factor in moneyline odds, so games that have a big spread point to an advantage for one side on that front. Here’s an example moneyline for a random game.

  • San Francisco Giants +170
  • Los Angeles Dodgers -200

According to the odds, the Dodgers are clear favorites. This big range of odds suggests the Giants winning the game is the more unlikely, so sportsbooks are willing to pay a premium if that comes to pass.

Of course, games don’t always go according to script. The underdog can, and does, win games, and the returns can be quite nice when it happens. Many handicappers make spotting underdogs a big part of their strategy.

For $100 bettors on the Giants at odds of +170, the total return would be $270 if the wager turned out to be correct. If you bet $100 on the Dodgers at odds of -200 and they go on to win, you’ll get back $150.

Moneyline betting for the NHL

For betting purposes, the NHL is similar to MLB. There’s a goal line for each game on the schedule that’s typically set at 1.5, but moneyline betting is a big source of the betting action.

As with MLB, the starting goalie matchup can have a big impact on the odds, as can the recent fortunes of the two teams that will be playing. Here’s what a random line might look like.

  • Washington Capitals +100
  • Pittsburgh Penguins -120

As the oddsmakers see it, the matchup between these two rivals is relatively even, but the Penguins have a slight edge as the home team.

While handicapping the game, you’ll want to look at things such as historical results when these two teams have squared off, and how both sides have been playing recently.

A winning $100 bet on the Capitals at odds of +100 would translate into a total return of $200. For Penguins bettors, a successful $100 wager at odds of -120 leads to a total return of $183.30.

Moneyline betting for college football

While massive college football slates can be challenging to get a handle on, the sport is incredibly popular in handicapping circles. Point spreads are an appealing offering on the menu, but there’s also value for bettors on the moneyline.

Due to the sheer number of teams in college football, there can often be mismatches that translate into moneyline odds that don’t offer much of a return, barring upsets. However, if you stick to games that project to be closer, the odds are much more friendly.

  • Illinois +120
  • Indiana -140

As with other sports, homefield advantage can be a big deal for college football, but that doesn’t mean you just wager on home favorites and hope for the best. It’s still about the matchups, so you’ll have to dig in and find the advantages and shortcomings.

If you wager $100 on Illinois at odds of +120 and Illinois goes on to win, you’ll get back a total of $220. Winning $100 bets on the side of Indiana at odds of -140 return a total of $171.40.

Moneyline betting for college basketball

Last but not least, we have another incredibly popular sport that attracts tons of point spread betting interest. However, there’s something to be said for finding the moneyline value and not worrying about winning margins.

Just like on the football side, there can be mismatches here. The key is to find the college basketball games with tighter lines and zero in on them as they can be a great source of value. For example, let’s consider the odds for this random Big Ten clash.

  • Michigan +105
  • Michigan State -115

These historical rivals have put forth several memorable games throughout the years. In this fictitious matchup, oddsmakers give a slight edge to the home Michigan State side. As the tight range in odds suggests, there’s good value for bettors on both sides.

If you bet $100 on Michigan at odds of +105, a win means a total return of $205. For winning $100 Michigan State bets at odds of -115, the total return would be $187.

How to handicap moneyline bets

While moneyline bets are easy to place and a simple concept to wrap your head around, that doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done. If you’re looking for long-term and sustained success with your betting selections, then you’ll at least want to get the basics of handicapping down.

This applies whether you plan on betting once in a while or all of the time. Gut instincts can certainly lead you to success, but games can also go the other way and leave you holding the bag. If you take the time to examine the matchup, you can confirm the bets you feel strongly about and pass on the ones that ultimately don’t cut it.

Handicapping can be complicated and time-consuming, but there are also ways to keep it simple while covering all of the main pieces of information. Here’s a quick process you can use as a starting point.

  • Understand the odds board: Before you get started handicapping any game or event, take the time to see what the oddsmakers have to say. The odds don’t have to be the be-all and end-all for your decision making, but this is certainly a huge factor to be considered.
  • Examine team strength: You need to really examine both teams involved and assess their strengths and weaknesses. While doing so, it’s important to remove rooting interests and remain completely objective. Are there any clear edges or mismatches to be exploited?
  • How have they played lately: While teams may bring impressive records to the table, that doesn’t mean everything is going well right now. Take the time to examine recent results for a current state of the team, as this can help you spot upswings and downswings.
  • Stats, data and history: It’s very easy to get lost in the research here, so stick to what moves the needle. Points for and against, home and away records, and historical results are a few of the most important to look at.
  • News and notes: There’s plenty of news to be found for each game on the docket. At a minimum, scan the headlines and be on the lookout for things you might have missed. Also, pay close attention to injury news, playing time concerns and coach comments.

If you can at least walk through these five steps, you’ll have a good base of knowledge to drive your decisions. Once you have this part down, you can customize a handicapping routine that makes the most sense for your available time and sports betting strategy.

There are many different ways to go about it, but the good news is you can make it your own. As long as your system is leading you to be right more often than not, then you’re on the right track.

Key takeaways on moneyline betting

A moneyline bet is one of the most popular options at legal and regulated sportsbooks. It’s a simple, straightforward and easy-to-understand wager.

All you need to do is pick the winner of the contest. There are no points or anything extra to concern yourself with. If your selection wins the game, you have a winning bet. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Oddsmakers set the lines for each game on the docket. Favorites will have negative odds, while the positive odds represent the underdog side. The tighter the range of odds, the closer the game is expected to be.

While simple at the surface, handicapping is still a good idea for moneyline bets. You can use a simple process that covers the main bases or get more advanced with a detailed system. As long as you find more winners than losers, that’s the bottom line.

Moneyline bets are a fantastic starting point for those new to sports betting. For seasoned handicappers, there’s also plenty of interest as long as there is value to be found.