A moneyline bet is the most common form of sports wager placed worldwide. However, the concept of the moneyline can be confusing to those new to sports gambling, so we want to explain how they work to make them simple to understand for our readers.
First of all, the reason a moneyline is the most common wager in sports is because it’s the most straightforward - if you bet on a team on the moneyline, and they win the game, you win your bet. That part is simple enough to understand - it’s the numbers that tend to trip up novice bettors.
The reason moneylines can be confusing to new bettors is because the numbers don’t immediately make sense. What does +125 mean? How about -175?
If the moneyline is positive (starts with a +), the moneyline is the amount you would win on a $100 bet on the event. For example, if you put $100 on the New York Yankees at a +150 moneyline, you would win $150 if the Yankees won the game.
If the moneyline is negative (starts with a -), the moneyline is the amount you would need to bet on the game to win $100. For example, if the moneyline being offered on the Boston Red Sox is -150, you would need to bet $150 on the Red Sox to win $100.
You’ll also occasionally see EVEN moneyline odds being offered - this is the same as a +100 moneyline. If you bet $100 at EVEN odds, you would win $100, using the same logic as any other positive moneyline.
Once you understand this concept, you can figure out how much you stand to win on any wager amount on the moneyline. For example, if you wanted to place a bet on the Yankees at +150, but you only wanted to bet $50, you’d know that you would win $75 on that bet - you’re betting 50% of $100, so you’d win 50% of the amount you would win if you bet $100. Alternatively, If you wanted to win $50 on a -150 moneyline, you’d have to bet $75.
Once you understand how moneylines work, the next step is understanding how to compare the moneyline to an expected winning percentage, so you can know whether or not it’s wise to place your wager. This can be easily understood using the example of a coin flip.
As you probably know, a fair coin will land on heads 50% of the time, and tails the other 50% of the time. If you were to bet on either heads or tails at EVEN odds (bet $100 to win $100), you would break even on your bets over the long run. We can verify this using the following formula:
(Expected Win Percentage * Total Return) - Bet Amount = Expected Value
In the case of betting $100 at even odds on a coin flip, that formula would produce the following:
(.50 * 200) - 100 = 0
The expected winning percentage is 50%, the total return would be $200 ($100 plus the initial $100 wager), and the net amount is $100. The fact that the expected value of this wager is equal to zero means that even money (+100) is the breakeven moneyline. If you were to bet on a coin flip a million times at +100, you would expect to have the exact same amount of money as you did before you started.
Let’s say you were offered a +110 moneyline to bet on heads. Would that be a profitable wager?
(.50 * 210) - 100 = 5
The answer is yes - you would expect to win, on average, $5 each time you bet $100 at +110 odds on a coin flip. Even though you would lose the bet 50% of the time, you would be foolish to not take those odds.
Let’s put this into a sport gambling perspective, since that’s what we specialize in here at LazyBets. Consider the scenario of the Boston Red Sox facing the New York Yankees, with Boston being favored at -170 on the moneyline. You believe that the Red Sox should win this particular matchup roughly ⅔ of the time (66%). Does it make sense to wager on the moneyline? Let’s refer to the same formula, using the same $100 wager as an example. (Note: You would win $58.82 on a $100 wager at -170 odds, making the total return $158.82).
(.66 * 158.82) - 100 = 4.8212
The answer is yes! Put your money on the Red Sox, because at -170, you’re beating the breakeven moneyline and should expect to win money on the bet.
Let’s say that on the following day, the Red Sox travel to face the Texas Rangers, where they are a +120 underdog on the moneyline, and you expect them to win the game 40% of the time. Does it make sense to wager on the Sox again?
(.40 * 220) - 100 = -12
The answer is no - the moneyline isn’t a profitable wager in this case, and you would expect to lose $12 on average by betting on the Red Sox in this scenario. The breakeven moneyline in this case is +150, so you’d have to be offered that moneyline or better to make it a wise bet.
So there you have it folks - that’s all you need to know to understand how moneylines work, and how to know whether or not to wager on them. Of course, you could always just read our free picks and forget all the math… but you might want to place some bets of your own someday!
Be sure to check out the rest of our articles in our Gambling Guide - you’ll be beating up the books in no time. Best of luck!