A moneyline bet is a wager on the outcome of an event, such as which team or competitor will win a game, tournament, match, race or championship. It’s one of the simplest types of bets available, and also one of the most popular.
Moneylines are perhaps the most popular type of wager among recreational sports bettors in New York as they’re the easiest to understand and place.
Whether betting on who will win the Super Bowl or whether the Knicks will beat the Nets, moneylines are considered to be one of the ‘big three’ pregame wagers for sports alongside points spreads and over/under bets.
Moneylines appear in the betting markets for almost every sport including baseball, basketball, hockey and football to name but a few. New Yorkers are loving moneyline bets in 2022, with all of the legal NY sportsbooks offering extensive markets.
Bettors in the Empire State placed $472 million on Super Bowl LVI. Around two-thirds of NY football fans were disappointed at the end of football’s showpiece event though, having backed the Cincinnati Bengals to defeat the LA Rams.
Typical moneyline odds ahead of the 2022 Super Bowl had the Rams on -200 and the Bengals at +165. So how would such a moneyline bet work, what do the odds mean, and are there strategies for making the most of these straight-up wagers?
A moneyline bet is a wager on who will win a game, match, race, tournament or fight. It’s that simple. Developing a strategy for moneyline betting involves understanding how to identify value and the way they work for different sports.
For most major US sports, the moneyline has only two options - team/player A to win or team/player B to win. Some sports such as soccer will have three potential outcomes - either team to win or the game to finish as a tie.
Ties simply aren’t possible in the MLB, NBA and NHL as they all have buzzer-beating outcomes or to-the-death shootouts. While it is theoretically possible for NFL matches to conclude all square, they almost always never do so sportsbooks don’t offer the draw as an option on their moneyline markets.
When you place a moneyline wager, you simply bet on the team or player you think will win. If they win, your bet wins, if they lose, your bet loses.
If you place a moneyline bet on the tie and that’s the final outcome, your pick will be a winner. For moneyline bets, the final score does not matter.
The purpose of moneyline odds is to equalize the outcome when the two or three (win/draw/lose) sides to the bet have unmatched predicted results.
The odds on a moneyline reflect the perceived talent or performance gap with higher prices for the less likely side to win and lower ones for the more probable.
Technically, a moneyline is just a means of expressing odds on a ‘win bet’. The terms ‘moneyline’ and ‘win bet’ have become somewhat interchangeable in gambling lingo.
Moneyline bets are most commonly displayed using American odds. American odds have a figure in the hundreds or thousands with a plus or minus sign ahead of it.
In American odds, moneyline favorites (those rated most likely to win) are always a positive number and underdogs (those considered the least probable winner) a negative. The bigger the number that follows a plus (+) or minus (-), the bigger the favorite or underdog. When evens are on offer on the moneyline, it will be displayed as -100.
For example, if the underdog is displayed at +200, wagering $100 means you will win $200 profit. Betting on the favorite with a minus figure means you have to bet the odds amount to win $100. So if a favorite is displayed at -200, you would need to wager $200 to earn $100 profit.
Moneyline odds can also be expressed as a decimal or a fraction. Decimal odds reflect the probability of an outcome in relation to the number 2. If the odds number is greater than 2, the team/player is the underdog and if it’s under 2 then the team/player is the favorite. The further away from 2 that the odds are in either direction will tell you how big or small the underdog and the favorite is rated.
Fractional odds are another way of expressing win bet likelihoods. They’re commonly found in horse racing and are the preferred way of displaying odds in most European sportsbooks. Fractional odds are the ratio of the potential profit to be made in relation to the stake amount. For example, odds of 2/1 mean you would win two dollars for every dollar wagered.
Let’s look at an example of how the three main different types of moneyline odds worked when the New York Yankees took on the New York Mets in September 2021.
The odds for Sportsbook 1 in the following are actual odds taken from pregame markets. The odds for Sportsbook 2 are not actual odds and are included for the scenarios described below.
Positive odds on the Mets at sportsbook 2 indicate that they were favorites to win. If the Mets had won, the American odds (note the plus sign) indicate you’d have won $200 on a $100 wager. And so it follows that the decimal and fractional odds confirm you’d win $2 for every $1 staked.
The Yankees displayed at negative odds tells you they were the underdogs. Decimal odds are usually the easiest to work out. If you were betting at Sportsbook 1 and the Yankees had won, for every $1 wagered on them, you’d win $1.83 including the stake. At a glance, the American odds tell you that you’d have to wager $120 on the Yankees to win $100 profit. The fractional odds indicate that for every $6 wagered, you’d have $11 in total returned (with $5 profit).
In the above example at Sportsbook 1, the Mets are priced at ‘evens’. We can tell this is the case as they’re displayed at -100 in American odds, 2.00 in decimal odds and 1/1 in fractional odds. A bet of $100 on the Mets at evens would return a straight profit of $100 in this case.
Odds at sportsbooks change. On moneyline markets, they can move up and down quite frequently. If you log in from time to time simply to place a single win bet on a team or player you follow, you might not even notice that the odds have been moving. But they do, right from when the market opens and often continue to do so until the event starts.
How often moneyline odds alter depends on several factors. When odds on a bet change, it’s often referred to as ‘line movement’. Monitoring line movement can help you get the best possible price on a wager. You’re better off placing a bet when the line moves one way or the other in your favor.
On a two-way (win/lose) moneyline market, money is staked on each side. Lines most often move when more cash is wagered on one side than the other. In general, sportsbooks like to have as close to an even amount of action on each side of a bet. This optimum balance means that whoever wins, the bookmaker earns a profit on the cut (‘vigorish’ or ‘juice’) they take from every bet before they pay out.
Lines also move because of aspects directly related to the game such as injuries, suspensions and team selections. In some sports there can be all manner of other factors. For example, if a golf tournament is underway and the weather takes a turn for the worse, those players teeing off later in the day might have their odds increased as playing conditions worsen. In horse racing, the ground condition and the draw out of the stalls might play a part in moving the lines.
Movements in lines also tend to follow a pattern. When markets are initially released, there will typically be a flurry of bets on one team/player or the other. If more money is being placed on team A, then the sportsbook might make the odds for team B more attractive in an attempt to entice more wagers on them. If that happens, some bettors will see value in team B and begin placing more money on them instead of team A. Again, this can cause the line to move and so the cycle continues.
Moneyline bets can work very differently between different sports. It pays to know what to look out for if you’re choosing a win bet on a favorite sport, team, or a tournament you’re following.
Basketball games tend to be fast-flowing and high scoring with last-gasp winners regularly featuring. It makes NBA or college basketball moneyline bets exciting or uncomfortable depending on who you’ve picked to win. Betting on a strong favorite in basketball often requires a big stake investment for a small return.
Home-court advantage can also have a significant impact in basketball. When the Brooklyn Nets beat Indiana Pacers in April ‘22 at the Barclays Center, they were heavy favorites rated at -2400. A $100 wager on the Nets would only have returned a $10 profit. However, if both the host team and the visitors are in good form then the odds will be closer; on the moneyline you can often find fairly good odds on the home side in such closely matched contests.
Moneylines on two teams in a football game can be way apart or whisker close. Big moneyline favorites on an NFL Sunday can either return small profits on large wagers or quickly drain your bankroll if they’re upset. History says that NFL favorites win around two-thirds of the time. That’s plenty headway for a tanking team or road dog to spring a surprise.
When the Cincinnati Bengals shocked the Kansas City Chiefs on their way to Super Bowl LVI they were rated at around +260 to win. So, a $50 wager on the moneyline on the Bengals paid out a healthy $130 profit.
Baseball betting can be inconsistent because of the high number of games giving rise to so many potential outcomes each week. Seeking out the stats is always essential for MLB moneyline betting such as monitoring the season record of starting pitchers.
When the New York Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox at home in spring 2022 they were rated at -160 favorites for the first game and after a win, the odds lowered to -140 for the re-run two days later. However, the Red Sox as underdogs won that second game at +120 returning $20 profit for every $100 wagered.
NHL moneyline odds often stick hard and fast without the wild swings of some other sports. Hockey matches are regularly quite predictable - though with that lower risk comes fewer rewards. Look out for potential value when two evenly-matched hockey teams come up against each other.
When Tampa Bay Lightning faced the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals, the largest favorite line for the six games was -170 versus +150 on the underdog. The odds remained largely rigid throughout the series. In the two games that Dallas did win, they were +135 and +150 with a profit of $35 and $50 off $100 on each of the Stars’ victories.
While futures make up the bulk of the betting markets in golf in predicting who will win a tournament, other popular bets include which player will win a round and player match-ups. They’re all essentially moneyline odds and with big fields in golf, the odds and potential returns can be big.
When Scottie Scheffler won the 2022 Masters, he was priced at pre-contest odds of +1600 to claim the Green Jacket while the leader after Round 1, Sungjae Im, was at a huge +6000 to shoot the lowest opening 18 holes. If you’d picked both with $100 on each, you’d have bagged $600 profit on Scheffler to win the 2022 Masters and $6,000 on Im to top the leaderboard after the first round.
Moneyline bets differ from points spreads and totals. A points spread wager is one that will win if you’ve backed a team to win by a specified margin. A total or over/under bet is a wager on whether or not the combined goal, point or run total of a single game will be over or under what the sportsbook sets it at.
Moneyline and spread odds are often closely correlated. A team or player that is favored by the spread to win at higher points is a bigger favorite than one with the spread line set lower. The smaller the spread, the closer the moneyline odds will be as to which side will win.
How each NY sportsbook approaches moneyline markets and the odds that they offer can vary quite widely. It’s always wise to shop the lines for straight-up bets to squeeze as much value as possible from them. Here are the best NY sports betting sites for moneylines:
Best for ease of placing moneyline bets - FanDuel
FanDuel is one of the easiest sportsbooks to use for casual or advanced bettors. Placing moneyline bets is a breeze and FanDuel has useful tools to enable you to place more than one moneyline bet at a time.
Best for moneyline odds boosts - Caesars
Caesars can offer dozens of boosted moneylines every day when there’s a packed fixture list of big games. Their Super Odds Boosts promos are often outstanding.
Best for early release moneyline bets - DraftKings
Some sportsbooks are market setters on odds. That is they’re in early to set their pricing while others simply follow what the leaders have on offer. With their extensive sports data capabilities, DraftKings is often ahead of the game in releasing moneyline odds meaning it’s good to get in quick before the real money starts landing and the lines move.
Best for ‘tight’ moneyline markets - WynnBET
The biggest NY sportsbooks can see wider swings in moneyline odds than some of the smaller ones because of the sheer volume of wagers. WynnBET moneyline odds are particularly ‘tight’ and don’t shift up and down as much as they do at others. It means you get a truer and purer set of odds directly related to the event, rather than being at the mercy of market movements from cash staked.
When you see negative moneyline odds, denoted by a minus (-) sign in front of the price, it shows you that the team is the favorite to win the game. You will never see two positive moneylines in the same game. That would mean that the sportsbook is predicting both teams/players to lose somehow.
Moneyline bets do sometimes get canceled by a sportsbook. There can be many reasons for this. The most common include that a game has ended as a tie when the bookmaker hadn’t offered odds on this. Canceled bets might also apply to postponed or abandoned games or if a customer has violated the sportsbook’s terms and conditions in some way.
A 3-way moneyline bet refers to one that offers odds on either one of two teams/players to win plus the possibility of a tie.
Moneyline bets do push in the event of a tie if this hasn’t been offered as part of the market. Such wagers will be refunded by the sportsbook.
Although US sportsbooks usually display moneyline bets with American odds, you might find it easier to work in decimal odds. To convert American odds to decimal odds, do the following: If the Americans odds are positive, divide it by 100 and add 1 (for example, +500 would be (500/100)+1=6.00). If the Americans odds are negative, remove the minus sign (‘-’) and calculate 100 divided by that figure (for example, for -500 it would be 100/500+1=1.2).
Moneylines are often easier to win than spread bets but typically have lower payouts unless you’re backing a lesser fancied underdog. Placing a spread bet, or ‘betting against the spread’, usually rates as less likely to win than a moneyline but with higher potential profits. Which one is better depends on the game, the teams/players competing, the odds on offer, how much you have to bet, and your own assessment of risk versus potential reward.
Moneyline parlays allow you to put together multiple moneyline bets and wager a single amount on the combined bet. The more moneylines you add to a parlay, the greater the odds and the greater the potential payout. For a moneyline parlay to win, all of your picks must win. If only one is wrong, the bet will lose.