What Is A Money Line Bet In Sports Betting?

Table Of Contents:

Money line meaning

There is no more straightforward type of wager in sports betting than the money line. When we watch a sporting event as a spectator we generally focus on which team will win the game, since that is the object of the contest. When making a money line bet, you simply wager on which team will win the game or, in the case of a non-team sport such as tennis, which player will win the match. Sportsbooks offer money lines on essentially every sporting event involving two teams or two players/fighters and so on. 

While you will find money lines for all sports and major US favorites such as NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, money lines tend to be especially popular in the MLB and NHL due to the nature of scoring in those sports. Of course, teams and players can vary significantly in their ability level, and lopsided matchups often happen where one team/player is far more likely to win than the other. For this reason, odds must be introduced, which is the meaning of the money line.

Money line in betting Explained + Examples

In money line betting, the money line refers to the odds the sportsbook sets on both sides of the matchup between players or teams. The favorite is the side that is more likely to win, and has odds considered “minus money” – you will see a minus symbol (-) before the odds to win. On the other hand, the underdog is the side that is deemed less likely to win. The underdog will have odds at “plus money” and you will see a plus symbol (+) before their odds.

For example, let’s say a favored team is listed at -140. To win $100 you would have to bet $140 and if that team wins you would collect $240 including your original stake. This is the easiest way to remember how these odds work: the number with the minus symbol before it is what you need to bet to win $100 on a favorite.

In contrast, say an underdog is +120; in this case, a $100 wager will garner you $120 in winnings and enable you to collect $220 including your stake. It is easy to remember how this works, as the number with the plus symbol before it is the amount you would win on a $100 bet. Of course, you must do the math to extrapolate this to different wager amounts for underdogs or favorites, but this is a simple way to get an idea of the odds quickly.

Three-way money line betting explained

A three-way money line is one where you can bet on Team A to win, Team B to win, or the event to end in a tie. This only applies to sports that can end in a tie. This is a prevalent type of bet in soccer; in fact, the most common, since ties (“draws” in soccer parlance) are frequent outcomes due to the low-scoring nature of the sport.

In addition, since there are three possible outcomes that all have a relatively large chance of happening in a reasonably close soccer match, the odds on all three will be more advantageous to the bettor. There may no longer be a favorite or an underdog. You might, for instance, see one soccer team listed at +150 on the money line while the other is +200, and a draw is +250. It is important to note that in three-way money line betting, in the case of a tie, bets on either side are losers. Only one of the three outcomes can win.

Some tournament matches in soccer extend to extra time and rely on penalty kick shootouts to guarantee a winner. In this case, three-way money line bets are determined by the result of 90 minutes of full-time play before extra time and shootouts. This leads us to the three-way money line betting in NHL hockey, a famous American sports league.

Although standard two-way money line betting is prevalent in the NHL, three-way money lines are also offered. The reason is that many games are tied after three periods, although, like in some tournament soccer matches, overtime and shootouts ultimately result in one or the other team winning. Like in some tournament soccer, the score at the end of regulation decides a three-way money line bet before overtime and shootouts.

How to bet the money line

Money line betting is the most accessible bet type and is offered on just about any matchup you can find. Placing a money line bet takes no effort at all. Sign in to the sportsbook of your choice, locate a sport you’d like to bet on, find a game and select a money line wager.

Still, it is wise to shop at a few different sportsbooks to find the best odds for the wager you would like to place. You may find that one sportsbook has a favorite at -140 while another has the same team at -130, so you would be better off placing that bet at -130. The same situation can occur with an underdog where perhaps one sportsbook lists the team at +190, while on another you would receive more advantageous odds of +200.

You might wonder why you would bet on the money line rather than the point spread. Ultimately both are valid options, and the odds are essentially the same, assuming they are efficient. One common reason is that you would prefer the opportunity to win considerably more money on an underdog than you could on a point-spread bet. A big underdog can result in much more profit in an outright win, whereas you will only receive close to even money on a spread bet.

Another reason to bet on the money line is that perhaps you feel that a favorite is all but guaranteed to win. This does not mean that they would be guaranteed to cover a large point spread. While the payout will be meager on the money line, you may consider it close to free money.

How to calculate money line odds

The easiest way to calculate money line odds is as follows. Whatever number a favorite is listed at equals the amount you would have to bet to win $100. So, a -200 favorite means you need to bet $200 to win $100. On an underdog, the odds listed equal the amount you would win on a $100 bet. So, a +200 underdog means winning $200 on a $100 bet. This makes it easy and requires very little math.

However, if you calculate what you would win on different wager amounts other than $100, you would need to do some math. Still, it is straightforward. On a favorite, meaning negative odds, you would take the number and divide it by 100. Then divide your total wager amount by that number. The result will be your profit.

For example, say you want to bet $50 rather than $100 on our -200 favorite from above. Divide 200 (since they are -200) by 100. You will get 2. Now, divide the wager ($50) by that number (2), and you will see what you would stand to win ($25). This checks out since you win half of what you bet, just like if you wagered $200 to win $100.

Favorable odds (underdog) work the same, except for one twist. Take the number from the positive line and divide it by 100. Then, instead of dividing your wager by that number, multiply it. So, say you want to bet $50 on the +200 underdog. Divide 200 by 100, and you get 2. Now multiply 2 by $50, and you have $100. Again, this makes sense as you win twice what you bet, just like betting $100 to win $200.

Football money line bets

NFL money line bets are less popular than spread betting, yet still a standard option. It can be fun to root for a team to win the game rather than cover a spread. In addition, a significant underdog in the NFL can garner a considerable profit in the event of an outright win. The same applies to NCAA football.

It is a good idea to compare the point spread to the money line and analyze what you think is more favorable. In many cases, since NFL money line odds tend to be very efficient, the money line and the point spread will offer a similar projected return on investment (ROI). Yet, there may be times that you find an inefficiency between the two.

Say the Los Angeles Rams are three-point underdogs (+3) against the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL game. This means that if you bet either on the point spread, the odds will likely be -110 on both, meaning a $110 wager garners you $100 on either side. Yet on the money line, you might find that the Rams are +130, meaning a $100 wager wins you $130. 

Perhaps you consider it likely that if the Rams are within at least three points, they will win the game outright. Taking the extra potential profit may make sense rather than betting on the Rams via the spread. It is hard to definitively quantify which is the better decision since the odds of the Rams winning outright versus covering a three-point spread are not definitive. Yet, this is a situation where you might prefer the money line.

Basketball money line bets

While NBA money line betting is not as common as point spread betting, it is still a popular option. There are a few reasons why betting on the money line can be worth considering in the NBA and NCAA basketball. When a favorite is significant, the point spread may be so great that although they are very likely to win the game, it may be hard to win your bet. Teams will likely rely on bench players down the stretch when they get up by a significant margin. This means it is easy for teams to get blown out to cover the spread late in the game.

Another reason you might consider NBA money line betting is to take advantage of an underdog you think has an excellent chance of winning outright. Say you can only get four and a half points (+4.5) on the spread, you might be able to take +165 odds on the money line. It may be worth taking the dramatically increased profit in an outright win rather than the points on the spread.

Hockey money line bets

NHL money line betting is prevalent considering that, in contrast to the “puck line” (the hockey version of a point spread), your team simply needs to win the game for you to win your wager. Since hockey games are very low-scoring and puck lines are set at a 1.5-goal differential.

It can be unappealing to bet on a favorite needing to win by two goals to win your wager. Commonly, hockey games result in a one-goal win. On the other hand, while betting underdogs on the money line is also quite viable, it would be more common to take an underdog on the puck line.

Baseball money line bets

MLB money line betting is prevalent in baseball, just like in hockey. The MLB’s point spread is called the run line since baseball uses runs rather than points. Like in hockey, it is usually set to 1.5 runs, although you may find alternate run lines at some sportsbooks. Since the run line is fixed at 1.5, and baseball is a relatively low-scoring sport, the money line becomes more popular. This is particularly true when betting on a favorite.


Can you parlay money line bets?

Yes, you can add money line bets to parlays just like any other type of bet.

Do money line odds differ from one sportsbook to another?

Yes, they certainly can, although rarely will the discrepancy be extreme. For instance, you might see a difference of -105 to -110 on a favorite.

Are money line bets good bets to make?

Yes. Money line betting is not much different than any other kind of bet in relative value. If the odds are advantageous on any type of wager, it is a +EV (expected value) bet.

Do money line odds change once they’re set?

Yes. As with point spread odds, money line odds move with the market as bettors place money on both sides.

Where can I place a money line bet?

You can place money line bets at any of the legal sportsbooks we recommend. Examples are FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook.

Luke Lindholm

Managing Editor for US Media Partnerships

Writer for Pickswise. Luke was born in PA but raised in MA and has been writing about major sports for 2 years. He plays soccer and basketball with a love for the EPL, NBA, NFL and NCAAF. Nothing runs faster than home dogs and betting the under is an act of maturity. Luke is a Liverpool and Patriots fan for life, YNWA

Social accounts: