How to Make a Moneyline Bet: Betting on Sports Winners

Many sports bettors don’t like betting on point spreads, because they only want to pick the game-winner. For them, moneyline bets are the way to go. Today, we discuss how moneyline bets work, how to read the odds and give tips for winning moneyline bets.

What is a Moneyline Bet?

Three options exist with a moneyline bet: the favorite, the underdog, and occasionally a pick’em bet. In all three cases, the object is to pick a winner. You don’t have to worry about the winning team’s margin of victory. It’s all about picking winners.

How to Read Moneyline Bet Odds

Most moneyline bets have a favorite, which is given the (-) symbol, and a winner, which is given the (+) symbol. This tells a bettor how to read the odds. All moneyline bets are based on the $100 wager, though bettors are not required to place a $100 bet. The same math applies to $5, $10, $25, or $1000 bets.

Here is an example:

Odds for a Moneyline Bet’s Favorite

Favorite Odds

$100 Bet Wins

Los Angeles Lakers -120 $83.33

To figure the payout on a moneyline bet involving a favorite, you divide the 100 by the moneyline bet. If the Los Angeles Lakers are a -120 favorite, you divide 100 by 1.2 to produce a payout of $83.33. Or put another way, you would need to wager $120 to win $100.

Odds for a Moneyline Bet’s Underdog

An underdog bet works in the opposite way. First, you use the plus prefix to denote the odds. Second, you calculate the payout based on $100, though the calculation is much more straightforward.



$100 Bet Wins

New York Knicks +190 $190

In this case, you multiply 1.0 by the moneyline bet’s odds. Since this always ends up the moneyline bet’s number, this works out easily. +190 means you receive $190 for a winning underdog bet (plus your original wager). If the moneyline odds are +250, then you win $250. If it’s +500, then the payout is $500. But if it’s +5000, then the payout is $5000.

Moneyline Bet Results

When you make a moneyline bet, three possible results are possible. Here are the three options.

  • Moneyline Win: If you bet $100 on a +300 underdog, then the bet would pay out 3-to-1 odds. You would receive $300 plus your original $100 bet.
  • Moneyline Loss: If you wager $100 on a sporting event and your chosen team doesn’t win, then the online sportsbook keeps your $100.
  • Moneyline Push: If the bet pushes, then the money is returned to the bettors. If you wager on a hockey game and it ends in a tie, then the moneyline wager didn’t produce a winner and it’s declared a “push”. You receive back your original wager, but nothing more.

How to Bet the Moneyline

Bettors who want a win-or-lose choice prefer moneyline betting. You simply pick the winner, regardless of any other calculations. Here is what a moneyline bet looks for NFL and NBA games.

Example of an NFL Moneyline Bet

Let’s say the Philadelphia Eagles are a -125 favorite to beat the Dallas Cowboys, who are a +115 underdog. If you bet $100 on the Cowboys and they won, then you would receive $115 plus your original $100 bet back.

If you bet on the Eagles and they won, then the calculation would be 100 divided by 1.25. That means you would receive an $80 payout plus your original $100 bet back. It’s as simple as that.

Example of an NBA Moneyline Bet

Often, NBA bets are much different. The difference between a favorite and an underdog isn’t as much in most regular-season contests. Let’s say you bet on the Boston Celtics versus the Philadelphia 76ers, where the Celtics are small underdogs.

If the Celtics are -115 favorites, then you would divide 100 by 1.15 for the payout. That means you would receive an $86.96 payout plus the original $100 bet back. If the Sixers were +105 favorites, then you would receive a $105 payout plus the original $100 stake.

Implied Probability and Moneyline Betting

When making these bets, it helps to understand “implied probability”. This is a fancy term that means the implied odds that either team will win a game. If gamblers have trouble deciding which side of the wager is best, calculating implied probability helps them visualize which way to bet.

For positive odds, the formula is 100/(Odds + 100) x 100 = implied probability. For negative odds (favorites), the formula would be Odds/(Odds + 100) x 100 = implied probability.

The previous NFL game provides a good example. If the Eagles are -125 favorites, then the calculation would be 125 / (125 + 100) = 55.55%. The bookmaker is implying the Philadelphia Eagles have a 55.55% chance to win the game.

If the Cowboys are +120 underdogs, then the formula would be 100/(120+100) x100 = 45.45%. The bookmaker is implying the Dallas Cowboys have a 45.45% chance to win the game. Once you have these probabilities, you can weigh which option is better — while remembering that the payout for the Cowboys is higher.

Moneyline Betting vs Point Spread Betting

Sports bettors often have a choice between making a point spread bet or a moneyline bet. With that in mind, it’s best to see which is better for what types of gamblers. Here is a comparison between moneyline bets and point spreads.

Pros of Moneyline Bets

Pros of Point Spreads

Simpler: Just Pick a Winner Simpler Payout Rules
Lets You Root for Favorites Gives Underdogs a Better Chance to Win
Allows Parlay on Same Game Allows Parlay on Same Game

This last point needs elaboration. Parlays bets are multiple connected bets, but you don’t get paid unless all the connected bets win. Bettors like to parlay bets because they offer much bigger payouts. They also like to bet on the same game, thinking it gives them a better chance to hit multiple bets. For the same reason, sportsbooks often don’t allow two bets from the same game to be parlayed.

You could make both a moneyline bet and a point spread wager on the Eagles/Cowboys and make it part of a parlay. Let’s say the Eagles are -3.5 favorites and the Cowboys are +3.5 underdogs. You decide to bet on the Eagles to win the moneyline bet (win outright), but the Cowboys keep the same game within a field goal. You could bet on the Eagles to win the moneyline bet and the Cowboys to win the point spread bet, then parlay those two bets to get a bigger payout.

Line Shopping for Moneyline Odds

Remember to shop around for moneyline odds. Two online sportsbooks might have different moneyline odds on the same game. If one offers +150 odds on an underdog and the other offers +175 odds on the same moneyline bet, it’s better to make the +175 wager. That’s why it’s best to create an account at multiple online bookmaker sites.

Moneyline Bets FAQ

Should I make a moneyline bet or make an Over/Under bet?

Moneyline bets are perfect for bettors who only want to pick the winner. Over/Under or totals bets are the best option for those who expect a high-scoring shootout or a defensive struggle. If you have a good idea on both betting options, you can combine the two in a parlay bet for a higher payout (if both bets hit).