Moneyline bets, also called win bets in some parts of the world, are hands down the most popular type of bet available to sports bettors.
While they are simple, it’s still important to make sure that you fully understand these bets to ensure you don’t make mistakes and to empower yourself to utilize them for maximum profits.
We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about moneyline/win bets as well as give you some strategy advice in the Looking for Value section at the bottom of the page.
What is a moneyline or win bet?
The names of this bet type are completely interchangeable, and you will hear one or the other depending on where you live in the world. Moneyline is much more common in the US while the term win bet is much more common in other parts of the world.
A moneyline/win bet is a simple wager on who will win a game, race, match, contest, or a fight. It’s really that simple on the surface. If you’ve bet on a team to win the Super Bowl, you’ve to place a moneyline/win bet. If you’ve bet on a boxer of UFC fighter to win a fight, you’ve placed a moneyline/win bet.
Moneyline bets can be presented in three different formats including moneyline, decimal, and fractional. While these will look very different, they will tell you the exact same information about the bet including who you are betting on, who the favorite or underdog is, and what the potential payout you would receive from a correct pick. We will cover all of this in the next few sections.
At this point, all you need to take away from this section is that moneyline/win bets are a simple bet on who the winner of a particular sporting contest will be.
Favorites vs Underdogs
As we mentioned, moneyline/win bets take into account who the favorites and who the underdogs are and will pay out winning bets accordingly. Here’s a quick example that will make this clear. Imagine that Mike Tyson (one of the greatest boxers of all time) is going to fight against an 80-year-old man. If the sportsbook let you bet on either side of the fight and paid you the same, would that be fair?
Of course, it wouldn’t be. Everyone would bet on Mike Tyson, and the sportsbook would lose all of their money and close the next day. So what the sportsbooks do is they assess who is the favorite and who is the underdog and assign a value to how much in each direction they think they are. Let’s look at what the odds might look like for our fictitious fight and break down what everything means.
Mike Tyson | -1600
Old Man River | +1800
This is exactly what the moneyline odds would look like in a sportsbook. Remember, in other parts of the world they may be represented in a different format which we will cover later. They will still mean the same thing and give you the exact same information.
The first part of each line tells you who you are betting on. The first line is a bet on Mike Tyson and the second line is a bet on Old Man River. Next, you’ll see a plus or a minus sign. The plus sign signifies the fighter who is an underdog, and the minus sign signifies the fighter who is the favorite. As you can see, Mike Tyson is the favorite and Old Man River is the underdog.
The number after the plus or minus sign will tell you how much of a favorite or underdog the bet is. The bigger the number, the bigger the favorite or underdog. For example, a team that is -1400 is a much bigger favorite than a team that is -150. A team that is +900 is a much bigger underdog than a team that is +550.
As we mentioned, how big of a favorite or underdog a player or team is will also tell you how much you can expect to receive as a payout for a correct pick. We will cover this in full in the Calculating Your Potential Payout section below.
Different Moneyline/Win Bet Formats
The term moneyline is actually somewhat misused in sports betting as it really just means a type of odds format. Technically, it is a way to represent the odds/payouts for a win bet, but we’re not going to split hairs. What we’d like to point out is that the odds on each participant in a sporting contest can be listed in one of three different formats.
Each of these formats will be the exact same bet with the exact same payout. Different parts of the world just tend to favor one over the over. The US tends to favor the moneyline format while the rest of the world is split between the decimal and fractional formats.
Most online sportsbooks (if they’re a good one) will give you the option of converting the betting odds into whichever format you prefer. Let’s look at some sample odds and how they would be presented in each of the different formats.
Sometimes these are referred to as American odds or just “the odds” by sports bettors. As you can see, these are what we worked through in our above examples. Miami is a slight favorite, and the Celtics are a slight underdog.
Personally, we feel that decimal odds are the easiest to work with as you will see when we get to the section on calculating your payouts. Notice there are no plus or minus signs. You determine who is the favorite and who is the underdog based on the number in relation to the number 2.
If the number is greater than 2, the team is the underdog. If the number is less than 2, the team is the favorite.
Again, the distance away from 2 in each direction will tell you how big or small of a favorite or underdog the team is. The further away, the bigger the underdog or favorite. A team that is 3.5 is a bigger underdog than a team that is 2.6. A team that is 1.1 is a bigger favorite than a team that is 1.8.
Fractional odds are a nightmare for some people especially if they have bad dreams about math class from school. If you don’t like the fractional odds, all you have to do is solve the fraction and add 1 to it, and you will have the decimal odds.
For example, 13 divided by 20 is 0.65. Add 1 to that, and it is 1.65. 29 divided by 20 is 1.45. Add 1 to that, and it is 2.45.
If the first number in the fraction is bigger than the second (the fraction is greater than 1), the team is an underdog. If the first number in the fraction is smaller than the second (the fraction is less than 1), the team is a favorite.
Calculating Your Potential Payout
One of the biggest perks of sports betting online is that almost every site will automatically calculate your potential payout for you. This allows you to quickly see if a bet is offering you the payout that you want or if the reward is worth the potential risk.
For some of you, though, you’ll want to know how to calculate these payouts yourself. One, it helps to understand what’s going on a lot more and two, it helps you if you are ever betting in a brick and mortar setting where they do not calculate your potential payout for you until you wait in line and place your bet.
We’re going to walk you through how to calculate your payouts with each different type of odds format. We will use the same example of the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics from above for each format to help illustrate that the payouts are exactly the same with each.
When calculating the payouts from the moneyline format, we have to do things just a little differently depending on if the team or player is a favorite or underdog.
If the team is an underdog, then the moneyline number represents exactly how much you would get paid in profit for a correct pick. So if we were to bet $100 on the Boston Celtics and won, we would get paid $145 in profit. Seems easy enough, but you may already be asking what happens if you don’t want to bet in increments of $100. This is totally fine and still straight forward to figure out.
We need to figure out how much profit we will get per dollar we are going to bet and then multiply that by how many dollars we are going to bet. If we divide the moneyline number by 100, it will tell us how much profit we will get for every $1 we bet. So, 145/100 = $1.45. For every $1 we wager, we will get paid $1.45 in profit for a correct prediction.
To calculate how much we will get paid on any bet, we multiply the size of the bet by the amount we will get per $1 bet. So, if we wanted to bet $10, we would multiply $10 by $1.45 and get a profit of $14.50. If we wanted to bet $250, we would multiply $250 by $1.45 and get a profit of $362.50.
Remember, divide the moneyline number by 100 and multiply that number by the size of your bet.
We’ve already learned that the moneyline number for an underdog is the amount we would win if we bet $100. For favorites, the moneyline number is the amount we would have to BET to win $100. So, in our above example, if we wanted to win $100 in profit betting on the Miami Heat, we would have to wager $155.
As we did with the underdogs, we need to figure out how much we will profit for each $1 that we wager. For underdogs, we divided the moneyline number by 100. For favorites, it is the exact opposite. We will take 100 and divide it by the money line number. So, for this example, we will take 100 and divide by 155 and get about $0.645 or about $0.65 in profit for every dollar that we bet.
To calculate our potential profit, we take that number and multiply it by the size of our bet. So, if we wanted to make a $10 wager, we would multiply $10 by $0.65 and get a potential profit of $6.50. If we were to bet $250, we would multiply $250 by $0.65 and get a profit of $162.50.
Remember, divide 100 by the moneyline number and multiply that number by the size of your bet.
Calculating the payouts for decimal odds is much easier than it is with moneyline/American odds. You do not have to account for whether or not the team or contestant is a favorite or an underdog. The calculations are exactly the same.
To calculate your potential payout, you multiply the size of your bet by the decimal. That’s it. If you want to be $10 on the Heat, you would multiply $10 by 1.65 and get $16.50. Now, you may be freaking out right now saying that in our previous example we got $6.50 and now we’re getting $16.50. The difference here is that the decimal calculation will tell you your TOTAL payout which will include the return of your original wager. You will be receiving $6.50 in profit and the $10 from your original bet.
If you want to turn this number into your profit only, just subtract out your original bet. So $16.50 – $10 = $6.50 in profit.
Let’s look at betting $250 on the Celtics to make sure it matches up with our other examples. We should show a profit of $362.50 as per our earlier calculations. Let’s see if it works correctly.
$250 x 2.45 = $612.50. Again, that is our total payout so let’s subtract our $250 original bet to get our profit. $612.50 – $250 = $362.50. Again, this is the exact same payout as with the other odds formats.
This is the format that terrifies people the most. We can promise you that fractions aren’t as scary as they seem if they’re explained properly. Here is the easiest way to calculate your profits and payouts with fractional odds. Solve the fraction and then multiply that number by your bet size to get your potential profit. If you can’t remember how to solve fractions, it’s ok. Don’t look at it as a “fraction” but more as a division problem. 13/20 is the same as 13 divided by 20. 29/20 is the same as 29 divided by 20.
So to solve the first fraction for the Heat, we do 13 divided by 20 and get 0.65. Let’s look at our calculations for the $10 bet and the $250 bet. If we bet $10, we multiply our solved fraction of 0.65 by $10 and get $6.50. This is our correct profit! If we bet $250, we multiply our solved fraction of 0.65 by $250 and get $162.50. This is out correct profit!
As fractions are a bit more challenging for some people, we will also show the math for a $10 and $250 bet for the Celtics. We start by solving our fraction by doing 29 divided by 20 which gives us 1.45. If we multiply that by $10, we get $14.50, and if we multiply that by $250, we get $362.50. Both of these are correct!
Now, just to point out, the fractional odds and the moneyline/American odds give us our profit. The decimal odds give us our full payout which includes the return of our original bet. You are still getting your original bet back with the moneyline/American and decimal odds, it’s just not reflected in that calculation. If you want to see your full payout (basically how much money they should hand you), simply add your original bet amount to your profit number.
Understanding the Juice and Line Movement
You might not think you should be concerned with how the sportsbook makes their money off of moneyline bets, but it’s actually a lot more important than you might think. Understanding how the casino takes its cut (the juice) can help you to understand how and why the lines (moneyline odds) can and will move.
You see, the sportsbooks will all release initial lines and then those lines will stay or change based on how people are betting. This can greatly affect when and if you should bet on a game or contest. Let’s explain what we’re talking about and then go into this a bit further with some strategy advice.
The sportsbooks are not fans of gambling. In fact, they do everything they can to avoid having to gamble. They want a fixed payout no matter what happens in a game. So what they do is try and get the correct amount of money bet on each side of the game so that they are paying out the same amount no matter who wins.
How do they do this?
They do this by manipulating the lines to entice action where they need it. If they have too much action coming in on one team, they will adjust the lines to pay out less for that team to deter more bets. At the same time, they will adjust the line for the other team to pay out more to entice more action on that side. This dance continues until the game starts to try and get the correct amount of money on each side of the contest.
So how does the sportsbook make money?
If you noticed in our example from earlier, it wasn’t -145 and + 145. There was a slight difference in the odds. This is the casino taking their cut. The casino wants to just take a small percentage from the bets, and then they couldn’t care less about who wins or who loses.
How does this affect me?
When the lines change for the above reasons, the amount you will get paid out changes as well. Just so we’re clear, once you lock in a bet, you are locked in at those payouts. If the line moves, you get to keep (or are stuck with) the line you bought in at.
If the public comes out and bets really hard on one side, the line is going to move a lot making the odds worse on that side and a lot better on the other side. If you’re planning to bet against the public, you should wait to bet until the line moves as far as you think it is going to. Be careful, though, if you wait too long and some big money bettors bet, they can move the line back.
Deciding when to bet can be a dance, and it is definitely an important skill to have if you want to be a successful sports bettor. It’s important to point out as well that the entire sports betting community do not bet from the same pool. This means that each sportsbook does not care what is going on at the other sportsbooks.
If all the money at one sportsbook comes in on Team A and all the money comes into a second sportsbook on Team B, they’re both going to adjust their lines accordingly to what is going on in their book. This means that if you want to bet on Team A, you should go to the second sportsbook where the line will be great. If you want to be on Team B, you should go to the first sportsbook where the line will be better.
This is called line shopping and is an integral part of sports betting, especially with moneyline bets. Most good sports bettors will have accounts on lots of different sportsbooks so they can check the lines on every bet they are making. Whichever book has the best lines for them is where they’re going to place their bet. To be honest, with how easy it is to shop lines online, the only reason you wouldn’t is if you were too lazy and didn’t care enough about your bottom line.
Looking For Value
Looking for value is something that is important with all types of bets but is especially important with moneyline odds. It might be more correct to say that it is more important with moneyline bets because people tend to make mistakes here regarding value more often.
We’ll start by posting a question. If you think that one team will beat another team and you are almost certain of it, should you make that bet every single time? If you answered yes, then you really need to start learning this concept. What we neglected to tell you was that the team you wanted to bet on have odds of -2000. This means that for a $100 bet, you will get a profit of $5.
The question then begs itself if a $100 bet is worth it for a $5 return. If the person cannot lose, maybe it is worth it. An instant 5% return is great. But the exaggerated example here is to try and point out that you need to make sure that what you are getting paid out is worth the risk that you are taking.
Here’s a less extreme example. Let’s say that Fighter A is fighting Fighter B and you think that Fighter A is going to annihilate Fighter b. Like you don’t even think it’s going to be close. Let’s say you decide that you would be willing to bet even if the odds were -400 on Fighter A. You’d only be getting $25 back on your bet, but that’s what you think is fair.
If the odds were -600, that would be a bad value bet. Yes, you might win the bet still, but you are not getting properly compensated (based on your prediction) for the times that you lose that bet.
If the odds were -200, that bet is AMAZING value. You are getting paid way better than you feel like you should be for this bet and you should definitely make the bet. You feel like you only deserve $25 for this bet, but the sportsbook is willing to pay you $50!
While this makes perfect sense, it might not make sense on how you would change your betting except not betting if they have the team marked as too big of an underdog. Well, this is also true of underdogs. Look for underdogs where you are getting paid more than you think you deserve.
For example, let’s say that two players are playing a tennis match and one player is +250. You think that this player has a MUCH better chance than that but still is an underdog. Most people would tell you that you are crazy to make a bet on someone that you think is going to lose. The thing is, though, underdogs do win and if you’re getting paid more than you should when they do, you’re going to be profitable. Here’s a simple math breakdown.
Let’s say the sportsbook has a series of bets that are all +250. You think in reality that the bets should actually be +125 and that the bet is not as big of an underdog as the sportsbook thinks. This means that you think you deserve $125 for every $100 bet that wins but the sportsbook is going to pay $250. Even though you think that the bet is still supposed to lose, you should make this bet.
Without losing you with the math, the implied probability (or how often you should win) of a +250 bet is 28.6%. This means that you should win this bet 28.6 out of 100 times. This is what the sportsbook thinks will happen. You, however, think it should be +125. The implied probability of that is 44.4% meaning that you think you should win the bet about 44.4 out of 100 times.
Ignoring the sportsbook juice for now for simplicity, if they are right and you bet $100 100 times, you will lose about 71.4 times (-$7140) and win 28 times (28.6 x $250=$7150). If we didn’t round, you would basically make $0 and lose $0.
If you were correct though but getting paid at the sportsbooks rate, you would lose the bet 55.6 times (-$5560) and win the bet 44.4 times (44.4 x $250 = $11,100). You would profit over $5,000 for betting on bets that you thought you were going to lose! This is finding value. Value bets are great as a part of a long term winning strategy and are the key to conquering the “simple” moneyline/win bets.