What Is Moneyline Betting?

Written by:Darren Cooper|✅Fact Checked by: Michael Savio

Moneyline Betting

In the world of sports betting, the moneyline is the most basic type of bet. You get to pick the team, or, in some cases, the player you think will win the game.

In most sports events, there’s a winner and a loser, but in sports like soccer or MMA, there can also be a draw/tie.

Sportsbooks will offer a three-way moneyline in those cases, giving you the chance to bet on either team to win or for there to be a draw/tie.

In this sports betting guide,USAlegalbetting.com will explore what makes moneyline betting a great option for new and experienced bettors!

Explaining a Moneyline bet

Each licensed sportsbook in states where sports betting is legal sets a favorite and an underdog for each event. Using the American odds format, the favorite is denoted by a minus (-) sign next to their name, while the underdog is marked by a plus (+) sign.

A moneyline bet is when you pick either the favorite or the underdog to win the game, but the odds will be slanted toward the favorite, meaning you’ll get less in return for betting on the favorite, but you could gain more by betting on the underdog.

Let’s look at a pro football example:

The 2024 NFL Kickoff game pits the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs against the Detroit Lions. The Chiefs are the moneyline favorite, with DraftKings Sportsbook listing them at -270, and the Lions at +220.

The best way to understand the numbers after the plus and minus sign is to think of a hypothetical $100 bet. A bet using these Moneyline odds means that a player would have to wager $275 on the Chiefs to get back $100 (plus their stake) if they win.

If you bet $100 on the Lions in this example, you would get $230 in addition to your stake.

The same holds true on moneyline bets connected to a player, like for a tennis match or MMA event, but instead of betting on a team, you’re betting on an individual.

Let’s go over three of the main terms used when talking about a moneyline bet.

The favorite: This refers to the team or individual the sportsbooks believe is more likely to win. They are the team, or the player, who is expected to win.

This is based on stats, data, and perceptions by the oddsmakers.

When you bet on them, you’re riding along with what the sportsbooks say, but that means your payout isn’t as great.

The underdog: This refers to the team or individual expected to lose in the event. Betting on the underdog can be a lot of fun and comes with a better payout, but know that when you do that, you’re going against the wisdom of the oddsmakers.

Even or Pick ‘em: One of the most unique terms in all of sports is the “Pick’em” bet. This means that even after analyzing all the data and information, the sportsbooks aren’t sure who to make the favorite and who to make the underdog, so they leave it to the betting public to make the pick.

They get to pick between ‘the two of them’ with even odds on both sides. An even or pick’em game will usually have the words ‘even’ or ‘pick`em’ listed on the moneyline.

How Does the Moneyline Work?

Moneyline payouts vary based on the respective competitor’s betting market strength. That’s a fancy way of saying betting on a team that’s a big favorite may come with a certain amount of safety, but the payoff can be minuscule. Different areas of the world use different odds formats.

As we already explained, American odds use a plus/minus system linked to $100 wagers, while European sportsbooks use a decimal system to explain the payoff on both sides.

Another term that comes up with moneyLine bets is implied probability. This is just math. If a team has -200 moneyline odds, that means the implied probability of that team winning is 66 percent, the formula divides the stake (in this case, $200) by the payout ($300).

This is another way to calculate your own feelings on a moneyline bet. Are you 66 percent sure that your team will win?

Moneyline outcome

There are three types of outcomes on a moneyline bet. Here’s the moneyline explained:

  • The Favorite Wins: The team the sportsbooks expected to win does. If you bet on the favorite to win, then you get the payout, but remember, that payout could be small based on how big a favorite they are.
  • The Underdog Wins: Ahh yes, everyone loves an underdog story in sports, the team that wasn’t expected to win comes through with a big performance. Betting on the underdog comes with a large amount of risk – they aren’t expected to win – but that means the payout can be excellent.
  • A Draw: Most common in soccer or a boxing match, or MMA fight, sportsbooks can and will give the option for those events to bet on the outcome being a tie. Ties are rare but can happen in the NFL as well. If you place a moneyline bet in a game where there’s no option to bet on a tie, and the game ends in a tie, it’s considered a ‘push’, and you receive your stake back in full.

Understanding moneyline odds and the line moves

Setting a line is a big process for oddsmakers. For a pro football game, the line is usually originally posted several days before the game begins, for basketball games and hockey games, it can be up to 48 hours before. But moneyline bets are almost like a living thing as it can and will move based on multiple factors.

The biggest thing that shifts the moneyline is how information on both teams or players becomes available. Maybe the starting quarterback is dealing with an injury, or the weather forecast changes and it may favor one team in some way.

The other big thing that alters the moneyline is the number of bets coming in on either side. Sportsbooks will shift the moneyline in response to the public’s activity on either side, seeking to balance the action.

Moneyline bet and point spread

The moneyline and point spread are linked on every sports wager. The point spread is the sportsbook's idea of how big the margin of victory will be on the game. The point spread is created to produce equal bets on either side. 

For example, the Chiefs are six and a half-point favorites against the Lions (this is noted as 6.5 on a point spread bet. The oddsmakers expect the Chiefs to win by at least seven points, but sometimes point spreads can go up to 10 or 14 points.

When the point spread is that large, teams are considered heavy favorites, which means that betting them on a moneyline bet comes with very little risk, but not a lot of reward either.

Tips and strategies

Now that we’ve laid out what moneyline bets are, let’s get into the good stuff, what are the best tactics when considering a moneyline bet?
Like all bets, there are no guarantees. That’s the beauty of sports, you really don’t know who is going to win. 

Understanding the moneyline is not just all about picking the winner, there should be a lot of thinking involved, make sure you do some research on the teams/players involved. Has one team been on a hot streak? Is one team or player better at home than on the road?

Are they underdogs at home? Is there an injury or strategy that you think will be more important than the oddsmakers? 

It all comes down to your personal preference, but one thing to look for when considering a moneyline bet on an underdog is when they’re playing at home, especially in college football.

College football teams often are fueled by emotions with a big crowd behind them and can pull off an upset. The same goes for college basketball.

Now, if you’re looking at making a moneyline bet on the favorite, the biggest thing to consider is whether the payout is worth it. This is your money, and you want to be smart with it. 

Another tip is taking advantage of sportsbook promotions that give you bonus credits after your first moneyline bet. Many will refund your account 100% of your stake (up to a certain amount) if that first bet loses.

Moneyline betting parlays and single betting

Combining multiple bets into one is called a parlay, and you can do that with moneyline bets in multiple ways. The simplest is just picking two or three winners of games on the same day.

For example, picking both the Chiefs, Eagles, and Bears to win on the same NFL Sunday.

Combining those three bets is a parlay and comes with a bigger payout than if you bet the three teams individually.

You can also combine moneyline bets with other bets on a game, like over/under betting. Here, in addition to picking the team that wins, and then adding the choice on the over/under.

Say you like the Chiefs to win the game, and you believe it will be a high-scoring game, but you aren’t sure about the point spread. Then you make a moneyline bet on the Chiefs and the over.

A correlated parlay, like for the Eagles to win and quarterback Jalen Hurts to have over 2.5 touchdowns, is another popular option.

Why? Because it’s logical to assume that if the Eagles win, Hurts will have a good game.

Same-game parlays are still the rage at most online sportsbooks, but when you dive in closely, you’ll see they aren’t always as good as advertised.

Of course, you can also just stick with one moneyline bet. This is called single betting. Even though gamblers aren’t supposed to be emotionally attached to their teams, it makes sense if you want to put a small amount on your favorite team to win each week just to enjoy their success with a little more money in your pocket.

Sportsbook rules

Sportsbooks do have rules and conditions regarding moneyline bets. Odds are you won’t ever encounter a situation where there’s a dispute over the outcome of a game, but there is the possibility that your moneyline bet can be canceled.

This happens often in baseball, where bets are linked to the pitchers listed. If a pitcher is scratched at the last minute and replaced, your bet can get canceled. Usually, in this case, your stake is simply returned to your account.

There are also sportsbook rules on moneyline bets if a game is canceled or postponed due to an act of nature. Usually, the bets will stand until the game is played, but if the location of the game is changed (i.e. the teams flip flop homefield), then the bets are null.
As always, it’s important to look through your favorite sportsbook's rules and regulations to understand all the different possibilities.

Popular Sports With Moneyline Odds

You can make moneyline bets on just about any sport played throughout the world. Here are the leagues that are the most popular.

NFL Official League LogoNFL

Fall Sundays in America belong to the 32-team NFL, and its tailor-made for sports betting. Moneyline odds come out on Mondays, meaning that the lines can move throughout the week, prompting more action from bettors. Professional football is the most popular sport in America, and NFL moneyline betting is how most people gamble at licensed Betting sites.

NHL Official League LogoNHL

The National Hockey League has two different lines: traditional moneyline bets, on what team will win, but the points spread for hockey is called a “puck line” and usually is set at a 1.5 goal margin. With a long regular season and fast action, the NHL is underrated as a game for sports bettors.

NBA Official League LogoNBA

The NBA is where some of the biggest stars in the world play. Everyone, just about, has shot a basketball in their life, and the drama each night on the hardwood is unmatched. Teams get hot, players get on runs, and every night in the NBA is fantastic. NBA moneyline betting lets fans take their shot at picking the winner.

MLB Official League LogoMLB

Baseball has a different pace of play than the other major sports in America but is still fun getting in on the action with betting apps and desktop sites. It has the most regular season games of any American league, with each team playing 162 games, so there are always plenty of MLB moneyline betting options.

College Football

Take professional football, reduce the level of play a bit, but throw in about 10 times more passion and frenzy, and you get college football. Teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) have dominated the sport the last few years, but with regional rivalries and showcase games each weekend, college football provides a thrill every time out.

College Basketball

College basketball has rabid fans and rising stars on the court. There are also dozens of games each day in the fall, and with the quick turnaround time and emotions playing a big part, it’s impossible for sportsbooks to provide perfect odds all the time. Smart bettors know betting on college basketball can be profitable with the right research.


How does a moneyline bet work?

MoneyLine bets are the simplest form of sports betting. It’s just picking the overall winner of the game. The team that is expected to win is called the favorite, the team expected to lose is the underdog. The favorite will be assigned a moneyline value (listed with a minus sign) that provides a smaller return on your bet than betting on the underdog (listed with a plus sign).

Does the moneyline change after it’s been set?

Yes. The moneyline can and will change after it’s been initially set. Multiple factors will help swing the moneyline in one direction, including news of a player’s injury, a weather forecast, or the public’s betting on an event. If you feel strongly about a moneyline bet, you should make the bet as early as possible to ensure the best possible odds.

Can you add moneyline bets to parlays?

You can combine moneyline bets into parlays through multiple methods. You can keep it simple and just bet on multiple moneyline outcomes, like picking two or three basketball teams to win the same day, or you can combine your moneyline selection on a game with other prop bets like the over/under or a player total on the same game to make a parlay.

Do different sportsbooks have different moneyline odds?

Yes, which is why you should always look around to see what’s out there on legal sportsbooks. While the difference may not be that significant, more money is more money, and a difference of -250 and -280 is worth it.

Are moneyline bets available for live betting?

Live betting has shown the intersection of technology and sports betting. Live betting is where the odds on games are constantly updated even after a game starts and has become very popular for sports bettors. And yes, you can make MoneyLine bets up to a certain point through live betting, meaning if you’re watching a contest and feel an upset is brewing, or sense a momentum shift toward the favorite, you can place your bet on the moneyline even after the contest has started.

Does every game have a moneyline?

The answer is no. You won’t see this much in professional sports, but some college events are such big mismatches that sportsbooks won’t put out a moneyline, just a point spread. The most common example is a big college football power facing a lower division school, like Alabama against Southeastern Louisiana (a Football Championship Subdivision school). Sportsbooks know there’s only about a .01 percent chance of Southeastern Louisiana winning the game, so they won’t set a moneyline. Instead, they’ll set a huge point spread, like 49 points to produce betting on either side.

What does pick’em mean?

This is one of the more unique terms in all sports betting in that it reveals that even the sportsbook isn’t sure who is going to win, so they leave it up to the individual bettor to choose the winner without factoring in a points spread. You get to pick ‘between them,’ and hence the term pick’em.

Betting on the moneyline is a great way to start your sports betting journey. You can back your favorite team, whether they are the underdog or favorite, or hedge your bet in a way and pick a team to win without worrying about the point spread. We say the moneyline is the simplest form of a sports bet, but it can also be the most profitable.