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Moneyline Explained: How to Make a Straight-up Bet

One of the most popular ways to bet on sports is the moneyline. It can be confusing for first-time bettors to see the symbols commonly used by oddsmakers on the betting board, but we’re here to give you a better understanding of how sportsbooks display the odds. This page will show you how to bet the moneyline for your favorite sports and how it differs from the point spread.

What is the Moneyline?

A moneyline bet simply involves you picking a winning team. Instead of seeing a team favored by 2.5 points like in football and basketball spreads, the two teams will each be given a separate numerical value. These are the moneyline odds you will need to understand.

Let’s pretend it’s the Super Bowl and the New York Giants are taking on the New England Patriots, as they have done in the past. At Odds Shark we use American odds because the majority of betting sites use them, especially when displaying moneyline odds.

Odds for this NFL game would look something like this:

Patriots -120

Giants +200

In this scenario the Pats are the favorite, which you can tell by the minus sign (-). The Giants are the underdog – you can see this because of the plus sign (+). This is universal across all sportsbooks. These numbers signify what you’d have to bet to win $100. For the Giants, you would need to wager $50 to win $100. For the Pats, you would need to bet $120. You don’t have to wager $100 exactly. The amount you bet is completely up to you.

Let’s break it down further:

Let’s say you wager $120 on the Pats. A winning bet would give you a payout of $220 – your $120 comes back along with your winnings of $100. On the other hand, if you were to bet that same $120 on the Giants and they won, you’d get a payout of $360 – your original wager comes back with your prize of $240.

Betting on the underdog is considered a bigger risk, which is why the payout will be higher. The favorite is considered a lock (even though they don’t always win), which is why there’s less risk with a smaller payment.

Our Odds Calculator will show you how much you’d win based on the amount of money bet and the odds.

Moneyline Betting for Lower-Scoring Sports

While you have the opportunity to bet on the moneyline in just about every sport, baseball, soccer and hockey are the two-team sports that use it as the primary betting choice. The main reason is that they tend to be much lower-scoring sports, with the teams each totaling single digits in runs or goals.

An average NHL score would be 3-2. In hockey the action moves so fast that if you blink, you may miss a goal. Conversely, in MLB, the action moves so slowly that you can blink a billion times before someone hits a home run. Meanwhile, games ending 43-27 in football or 110-97 in basketball are examples of why it makes more sense to use point spreads or totals for those specific sports.

This is an example that you may see on the MLB oddsboard:

Boston Red Sox -185

Toronto Blue Jays +165

Here’s an example for the NHL:

Montreal Canadiens -135

Vegas Golden Knights +105

You would do the same as you would if you were betting on NBA or NFL and make your picks based on which team you think will win.

Maximizing your Moneyline Bets

This is a pretty simple concept once you get the hang of it, and you’ll start to see profitable sports betting opportunities by picking a team to win straight up. If you handicap your bets accordingly – we’re here to help with that – you’ll be able to create parlays that feature two or more bets on one ticket to maximize your winnings. More and more bettors are choosing to bundle their bets into one so they can take multiple moneylines on different games.

You can also add spreads and OVER/UNDERs to your ticket. If you feel there’s value in it, you can take the moneyline on a Champions League matchup, with a totals bet on the LA Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs Monday Night Football game, and pick the Chicago Bulls to cover the spread.

The only thing to consider with moneyline parlays is that all bets must hit in order for your ticket to cash. If there’s even one loss, your entire parlay is a bust. For novice bettors, we recommend making your first moneyline bets on their own. Once you get the hang of handicapping your straight-up bets, you can move on to more advanced betting types.

Handicapping your Moneyline Bets

When researching your bets, it’s important to look at both teams equally and review their stats. Underdogs have been known to win occasionally but that doesn’t mean you should bet on them blindly. The following pages will help you make educated bets, no matter the sport:

NFL Moneyline vs Spread

How does the NHL Moneyline Work?

College Football Picks

NBA Picks

Baseball Picks

NCAA Basketball Picks

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