How to Bet the Moneyline in Sports

The moneyline bet, along with spreads and over/under, is one of the most common sports bets available. It’s perfect for beginners.

The moneyline bet is classic. If my team wins, I get the money bet. You pick your team and win money based on the odds.

This post covers the differences between moneyline bets and point spread and over/under bets. It also offers some strategy advice for moneyline bets in football and baseball.

What Is a Moneyline Bet?

Moneyline bets are the simplest form of straight betting. You pick the winner of the game, and that’s it. Often, you will go for the favorite, but there are times you may opt to choose the underdog.

Moneyline bets differ from a point spread bet because if you pick between the Arizona Cardinals (-10.5) and the Houston Texans (+10.5), the Cardinals do not need to cover the spread in a moneyline.

So why would bettors pick point spreads over moneylines?

Assume the moneyline for the game is -350 for the Arizona Cardinals. This means you need to bet $350 to win $100. So while you’re sure a team heavily favored, such as the Cardinals in this example, will beat the Texans, you’re risking more money for smaller profits.

Assume the Texans are +350 to keep things simple. Then, if you bet $100 on the Texans and they win, you earn $350.

You also don’t need to worry about totals as in the over/under.

For Example

If the over/under is 47.5, it doesn’t matter if the Cardinals win the game 3 to 0. You still win the bet.

However, if you bet the over and the Cardinals win 24 to 21, you lose the bet.

As you can see, moneylines carry more risk than point spreads in some circumstances, but they also have far less risk.

Is it ever better to bet with point spreads over the moneyline?

That depends.

Let’s talk about it in the following sections.

Keys to Remember

Let’s assume the Cardinals are the best team in the NFL and the Texans are among the league’s worst. In the example above, let’s say you may be cool with the (-350) moneyline that you saw on ESPN for Fox Sports.

But, come Sunday morning, you saw the moneyline changed to (-450). Now, you’re iffy about betting $450 to win $100. The change may sway you from betting the moneyline. Or, perhaps the Cardinals have a star player returning to their lineup, which bumps the moneyline to (-250).

Now, you’re more than cool with betting $250 to earn $100.

The example above shows you a few critical things. The first is that the moneyline can change, like the point spread and the over/under. Another important thing is that most sportsbooks won’t offer you a chance to change or cancel your bet. So once you place a wager, there’s nothing you can do.

It’s best to wait until almost game time to place a moneyline bet.

This way, if you’d rather bet the moneyline, but you don’t like what you see, you can always wait and see if the moneyline decreases. Or, if you like the moneyline on Thursday, it’s always wise to wait to see if it changes to something else, especially if you’re betting the favorite.

Because again, if the Cardinals move from (-350) to (-450) by Saturday night, you will need to wager an extra $100 to make $100. A changing moneyline can be a scary proposition and shows why it’s wise to wait until the event approaches to place your bet.

Basic Strategy: When to Bet the Moneyline

The Phoenix Suns are playing the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Suns are favored to win. So they’re spotted a (-120) line while the Clippers spot (+120).

In the NFL, the Cardinals (-110) are playing the Los Angeles Rams (+110).

Both examples would make phenomenal moneyline bets because they’re a low risk. Sure, they’re also low reward, but in the game of low-risk betting, you won’t lose much in either matchup. For the Suns game, you would bet $120 to make $100 and walk away with $220 if you win.

For the Cardinals, you would walk away with $210 since you bet $110 to make $100.

Now, if you’re looking for riskier bets, this strategy is not as clear-cut since they carry a lesser risk.

Often, you will find a closer spread too. For example, let’s say the books are spotting the Cardinals at (-2.5) and the Suns at (-5.5). But, since the teams are so close talent-wise in this example, both could end up as one-point affairs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take the moneyline.

You can even turn the above example into an if bet if you’d like to lower your risk.

Further Info:

In an if bet, you would choose a specific order, regardless of the game time. So if the Cardinals and Rams played on Sunday night and the Clippers and Suns on Sunday afternoon, you could still order the Cardinals-Rams at #1.

You take the moneyline on the Cardinals-Rams ($110 to win $100). If you win the bet, your winnings would then wager on the Suns-Clippers game ($120 on the Suns to win $100), or in this case, $210 to win $190.

If you win the bet, you will earn all profits, which equals $400 in this example. If you win the first bet but lose the second bet, it would only cost you the profit, so you’re still walking away with something.

But, if the Cardinals lose the first game, the second bet is voided. Of course, the odds are you won’t place the if bet for a while since they can get a little complicated.

Need a deeper explanation on when to bet the moneyline? Check out the video below.

When Should You Consider Placing Other Straight Bets

Moneyline bets are often the lower risk bets because you’re betting on outright winners. But they can become higher-risk bets if you’re not careful.

You don’t see this as often in the NFL and NBA as you would in the NCAA ranks. So let’s look at one college football example and one college basketball example, where you may find that you’re better off going with either a spread or an over/under.

Suppose the Ohio State Buckeyes are playing a money game against the Youngstown State Penguins. Money games occur all the time in college football, and they pertain to a dominant team like Ohio State paying a team of lesser talent like Youngstown State to come to town and (probably) lose.

Why would you consider picking something other than the moneyline?

You may not, in some cases.

For Example

Ohio State once had an ultra-conservative coach in Jim Tressel, who never ran up the score on an opponent.

If a guy like Tressel still coached Ohio State, the moneyline may be a good idea. However, in college football, you almost always see teams run the score up.

Especially national title contenders so they can further improve their ranking. If Youngstown State is a 56-point underdog, you may even rule out the spread here because, again, it’s not easy for anyone to win a game by 8 touchdowns.

But, you look at the over/under on Friday night, and you like what you see at 69.5. You know Ohio State has defeated Division I FCS teams by 70-plus points in the past, and you know they may be able to cover the over/under without the need for Youngstown State to score a single point.

The over/under, at 69.5, looks more attractive than the point spread (-56) or the moneyline (-5,000).

The same would go for college basketball. Suppose Ohio State plays Cleveland State. Ohio State’s spotting a (-20.5) spread, a 120-point over/under, and a -550 moneyline. Again, it’s a steep moneyline to cover, but you again like the over/under, and the points spread looks like it can win you more.

Sure, there’s still more risk to carry with the point spread or over/under, but you’re looking at recent history, and you see the Buckeyes covering spread after spread here and hitting the over/under. Therefore, in the interest of maximizing profits, you may opt for the spread or over/under.


Today’s post has given you an outline of what moneylines are and a few basic strategies. It has also shown that while you can stick to moneyline bets and other types of straight betting, you can also transform them into if bets, parlays, and more.

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