Moneyline Betting Explained

A moneyline bet is one of the most traditional of all sports wagers. With retail sportsbooks legally operating in New York and online sportsbooks potentially on the way, people thinking about placing a wager may want to understand exactly how moneyline bets work.

What is moneyline betting?

A moneyline bet is the simplest wager in all of sports betting. Moneyline bets are available in all sports betting markets. With this type of bet, users choose the side they think will win; nothing else matters.

A moneyline bet is a wager that you can place before the beginning of a game. Live moneyline bets may also be available during a game. For all such bets, there is almost always a favorite and an underdog. Considering bettors are choosing an outright winner, the odds for moneyline bets vary. Favorites will have negative odds, while underdogs will have positive odds.

  • Favorite -180
  • Underdog +130

These odds display numbers in relation to $100. To win a profit of $100 while betting on the favorite, you would need to wager $180 on that side. If you wager $100 on the underdog and your bet wins, you would win a profit of $130.

The odds for moneyline bets have such a wide range because you are choosing the outright winner. This means there is no point spread to even the teams for bettors. These odds can vary across sports betting sites. Also, note are these odds are rarely perfect opposites; for instance, in the example above, the favorite is listed at -180 and the underdog is at +130.

Example of a moneyline bet

While moneyline wagers are just straight-up bets, there are still many factors that affect the lines.

Let’s say the New York Mets and the New York Yankees play each other mid-season at Yankee Stadium. Now let’s say the Yankees have had a great start to the season, and they are 60-21. They also are on a three-game winning streak, and Gerrit Cole is pitching. Now let’s say the Mets have had a decent start to the season, and they are 47-34 overall. They are on a five-game losing streak, but they have Noah Syndergaard pitching.

These factors, along with injuries, home versus road records and many others, will affect the lines for this game. Here is an estimate of what the odds might look like:

  • New York Yankees -390
  • New York Mets +240

Considering the Yankees are on a winning streak, have a better overall record and are playing at home, that is enough to consider them heavy favorites. The Mets are not bad, by any means, but bookmakers will look at every aspect of a game to determine lines. This can be a positive for sports bettors, though. In this example, you would have to wager $390 on the Yankees to win $100. But, if you take a chance on the Mets, a $100 wager could make you $240.

It is also important to note that moneyline odds will vary across different sports. No matter the sport, though, bookmakers will analyze every factor surrounding a game.

How do sportsbooks make money from moneyline bets?

Moneyline betting may seem like the odds are confusing. That’s because the sportsbooks are aiming to make money. The odds for moneyline wagers are always disproportionate at US sportsbooks. For instance, when you make a point spread or a totals bet, your odds are usually close to -110 on both sides. Moneyline bets are different. Sportsbooks utilize disproportionate odds to help protect themselves. Let’s break down exactly how sportsbooks do this.

Using the above example, you can see that the Yankees are -390, while the Mets are +240. Now let’s say 20 individuals placed a wager on this game. Ten bettors put $390 on the Yankees at -390, and 10 bettors wager $100 on the Mets at +240.

If the Mets win, the sportsbook will receive $3,900 from the lost wagers while only paying $2,400. This will net the sportsbook $1,500 in profits on the game. In the same scenario, if the Yankees win, the sportsbook would receive $1,000 from lost wagers while paying $1,000. This would net the sportsbook $0.

Let’s say the odds were even, with the Yankees at -240 and the Mets at +240. Using the same scenario, if the Mets won, the sportsbook would gain $2,400 from lost wagers while paying $2,400. Netting the sportsbook $0. If the Yankees won, the sportsbook would receive $1,000 from lost wagers while paying $1,000, again netting the sportsbook $0.

Now, this entire scenario is highly unlikely. No popular sportsbook has only 20 users, and it is very rare to have an even number of opposing wagers. This example is to show that disproportionate odds aim to protect the sportsbook to ensure profit. It also incentivizes gamblers by making odds disproportionate. Why gamble $390 to win $100 when you can gamble $100 to win $240? This system incentivizes placing wagers on a team that is expected to lose. It is also important to note that the favorites usually have more action on their odds than the underdogs, which helps manage profit margin.

Difference between moneyline vs. spread betting

A moneyline bet is a straight-up bet on the outright winner of a game. A point spread bet is a wager that utilizes points to even a matchup. A point spread bet is designed to make the outcome of a wager more of an even split on both sides. The favorite has points taken away, and the underdog has points added.


  • Brooklyn Nets -180
  • New York Knicks +130

Point spread:

  • Brooklyn Nets (-5.5) -110
  • New York Knicks (+5.5) -110

Point spread bets even the odds by adding/subtracting points from a team’s score. If this game finished with the Nets winning 118-115, then a moneyline bet on the Nets would win, but a point spread bet on them would not.

Betting odds explained

There are three main formats for betting odds. Odds using the moneyline format as described above are also known as American odds. This is generally what you’ll find at US sportsbooks. British bookmakers, meanwhile, tend to use fractional odds. This formula lists what you could win (left number) compared to how much you would need to wager (right number).

For instance, -200 would be listed as 1/2, meaning if you wagered $200 (right number), you could win $100 (left number). On the other hand, +200 would be listed as 2/1.

The third formula is popular in other parts of the world and is called the decimal system. You may also see these referred to as “European odds” or “continental odds.” Decimal odds represent how much you stand to win for every dollar you wager, with that original stake of a dollar included. So odds listed as -200 in the American format and 1/2 in the fractional format would appear as 1.5 in the decimal system. Odds of +200 or 2/1, meanwhile, would appear as 3 in the decimal system.

How sportsbooks calculate moneylines

Many factors go into how bookmakers calculate moneyline odds. You will always see a favorite and an underdog. Even if two teams are similar, one will be a slight favorite. Sportsbooks don’t make money from even moneyline bets. Sportsbooks use professional oddsmakers to calculate their odds using probability, statistics and even intuition. Books have to have odds that will appeal to bettors on each side. Moneyline odds are calculated to attract money on both sides of a wager.

Is a moneyline a good bet to place?

With every type of sports wager, there are advantages and disadvantages. Moneyline bets are great due to their simplicity. They are a great bet for beginners. Another benefit is that the oddsmakers have already done the work and established the bet that is most likely to win. They can also be great if you feel confident in an underdog, which typically will have good odds.

On the downside, moneyline bets have poor payouts for favorites. To really win money on moneyline bets, you have to carefully select underdogs or have a large bankroll to make the odds on a favorite worth it. There is also zero flexibility in moneyline bets.

Overall, moneyline bets can be great wagers to place if you just want something simple. If you want more depth or prefer better or more even odds, other types of bets may interest you more.

Other popular sports bets and wagers

If moneyline wagers are not for you, check out these other popular sports bet types:

Point spreads

Point spread bets are another common way people wager. This form of betting aims to even the playing field. Point spreads have pretty even odds for each side, usually around -110. The odds are fairly even because favorites lose points (-x.x) while underdogs gain points (+x.x). These points will be even for each team.

Basically, instead of choosing a straight-up winner, you wager on the difference in the final score. The favorite must win by more points than the spread. The underdog must avoid losing by more points than the spread.


Totals betting is another common sports wager. It works with an over/under system. Just like point spread betting, the odds will be around -110 for each side. Totals bets can be fun because you do not need to select a team to win. Instead, you are betting on how many total points both sides will combine to score in a game. For instance, if a total is set at 49.5 for a game, you can bet on whether the final total score will be over or under 49.5 points.


Prop bets have become increasingly popular, especially in big games like various playoffs and the Super Bowl. You can think of prop bets as side wagers on specific circumstances during a game. For instance, which QB will throw for more yards? Will Sam Darnold have over/under 1.5 touchdowns? Will Sterling Shepard have over/under seven receptions? Props allow you to wager on individual stats instead of the entire game.