How to Bet the Moneyline

Online sports betting is coming to Arizona. This page will be updated with live odds and bonus offers as soon as AZ sportsbooks launch. 

If you have ever bet with a friend or family member that a certain team will win a game, you have made a moneyline bet. Betting the moneyline is about as simple as it gets. All you do is wager on which team will win an individual game. The winnings are paid out differently depending on which team wins, but we’ll get to that later in this article.

Whether you are new to the sports betting industry, which is now legally present in the state of Arizona, or just need a refresher on how the moneyline works, we’ve got you covered with examples from a variety of sports. If you are planning to bet in the United States, it is important to learn how to read and calculate moneyline odds because you will see them quite often.

What is a moneyline bet?

What is moneyline betting? As mentioned earlier, when you are making a moneyline bet, all you worry about is which team wins the matchup. You do not need to worry about how many points a team wins by or how many total points are scored. All that matters is the winner, and it’s up to you to make the correct prediction.

Of course, not all teams are equal. Some teams have far more talent. For this reason, the payout is smaller for the team deemed the favorite than the payout would be if the underdog pulls off an upset.

Quick guide to sports betting odds

Betting odds can be a little confusing at first. As with just about anything, the more you familiarize yourself with the numbers and what they mean, the quicker you will get the hang of sports betting odds. In the United States, most sportsbooks will show moneyline odds, which can also be referred to as American odds.

Even if you are new to sports betting in Arizona, you have likely seen the plus and minus signs with numbers next to them going into a particular matchup. Everyone is confused by what they mean at first, but we’ll walk you through how to interpret those numbers. You might see one team is getting -135 odds to win outright, while another is at +110 odds to pull off a victory.

The minus sign in this scenario indicates the favorite, while the plus sign shows the underdog. If you expect the team that is favored to win and want to bet on them with -135 odds, the way to calculate this is by using $100. If you wager $135 at -135 odds, you would receive a $100 profit. If the odds were -150, a $150 bet would net $100. Make sense? If you believe the underdog will pull off the slight upset with +110 odds, the way you’d calculate this outcome is that a $100 wager would net a $110 profit. If the odds were at +150, a $100 wager would net $150.

Example of moneyline bets for NFL, MLB, NBA

Now that you have the basics down, let’s put moneyline bets into action with some examples for the most popular sports teams in the state of Arizona. We’ll touch on the NFL, MLB, NBA and more from a moneyline perspective.

NFL moneyline bets

The NFL is king when it comes to American sports viewership, and it’s the same for sports betting. In this example, let’s say the Arizona Cardinals are heading on the road to play the Seattle Seahawks with the NFC West division title on the line in the last week of the NFL season.

Let’s say FanDuel Arizona  decided Seattle is the favorite to win outright and is giving the Seahawks -200 odds to come away with a victory. On the other side, they’ve given Arizona +170 odds to earn the upset victory and clinch the division.

As mentioned earlier, the way we’d calculate this out is by using $100 as the benchmark. If you do not think the Cardinals have what it takes and decide to place an NFL wager on the Seahawks, you would need to bet $200 just to earn $100 in profit. Meanwhile, if you believe the Cardinals are ready for the opportunity and bet on them winning outright, a $100 wager would pay out to a $170 profit. Not bad.

MLB moneyline bets

Each MLB team plays 162 games every season, so there are plenty of opportunities for bettors to place MLB wagers April through November. To spotlight another Arizona franchise, the Arizona Diamondbacks will host the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series in this example. (Dream big, right?)

BetMGM sportsbook did their research and determined the Diamondbacks are highly likely to win this one, so they’ll get -250 odds over the Yankees, who are getting +200 odds as the underdogs.

If you are a believer in the Diamondbacks’ chances, a $250 wager would net a $100 profit, while wagering $100 on New York would come to a $200 profit.

NBA moneyline bets

In our NBA example, the Phoenix Suns have gone on a run and are ready to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals. Milwaukee’s top player got hurt in the previous series and will be unable to play, so the expectation is for the Suns to come away with a victory in Game 1.

The Suns are getting -300 odds on the Caesars sportsbook app as significant favorites, while the Bucks are at +240 to pull off an upset without their top playmaker. Phoenix does not have a whole lot of value in this spot because they are favored by so much. But if you want to risk it, a $300 wager results in a $100 profit, and a Bucks victory would be highly profitable. On that side, a $100 NBA wager on the moneyline nets $240 for a nice pay day.

How to calculate payouts from moneyline odds

As we mentioned, use $100 to calculate typically, but proportionally, this can be explained with $10 as well. For example, if you bet on a team that is getting +170 odds, a $10 bet would net a $17 profit. Additionally, if the odds are at -120, a $12 wager would calculate to a $10 profit with a winning bet.

How do sportsbooks make money?

One thing you will learn over the course of your sports betting career is that the industry is designed for the sportsbooks to win in the long run. Sports bettors may go on a run and take advantage of the sportsbook for a short while, but earning a long-term profit is extremely difficult for many reasons.

One of the major ways in which the game is favorable toward the house is the vigorish, which has plenty of other names, like the vig or the juice. Now, if you are betting with your friend on a game, life is pretty simple. You both agree on a $10 bet and if your team wins, you make $10. If they lose, your buddy just became $10 richer. That is a fair system, but as we mentioned, commercial sports betting isn’t so fair.

For example, sometimes oddsmakers do all their research and determine neither team has much of an edge, so they label the game as a pick. That means, because the teams are so evenly matched in the eyes of the oddsmakers, neither team is given better odds than the other. However, the sportsbook might set the odds at -110 for both sides to ensure its cut of the action on both sides. If you bet $100 and lose, you lost a full $100. However, if you bet $100 and won, you would not receive a full $100. The sportsbook would still take a small percentage of your winnings because you won with minus odds.

This means that even if you are betting the same dollar amount for every game and pick half of your bets correctly, you are not only not earning a profit but actually losing money. In reality, the break-even number is 52.4% when betting the standard -110 odds for point spreads and totals. If you are connecting on a higher percentage than that, you’re making money. It might feel like a small difference, but in the long run, it is highly profitable for the sportsbooks.

Sportsbooks also have the ability to adjust and manipulate lines based on how the public is betting. If too many bets are going to one side, oddsmakers often adjust and minimize their risk as much as possible. Additionally, there are several betting types that will almost always guarantee a profit for the sportsbooks. One example would be futures bets where sportsbooks will release odds for big sporting events months (sometimes even a full year) in advance. With so much gameplay (not to mention life) unfolding in the six months before events like the Super Bowl, World Series, or The Masters, sportsbooks make a killing in these markets because the vast majority of bettors will lose.

Overall, it’s incredibly difficult to consistently beat the sportsbooks, and it’s why the stories of big-time gambling winners are so impressive.

Difference between moneylines vs. point spreads

We briefly mentioned point spreads in that last paragraph, but here’s some more information on how they differ from the moneyline. Still, both are very popular bets regardless of the specific sport.

Instead of worrying about which team wins with the moneyline, the point spread is sports betting’s way of leveling the playing field by essentially giving the lesser team a head start. For example, if the Arizona Cardinals played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they might be 3.5-point underdogs. Thus, the betting board would show Cardinals +3.5. To cover that point spread, Arizona would need to either win the game outright or lose by fewer than 3.5 points. With the Buccaneers at -3.5 as the favorites, they would need to win by more than 3.5 points to cover the spread.

Point spread wagering is a more popular style of betting and is likely going to be a more profitable option than the moneyline in the long run.

3 top tips for betting the moneyline

  1. Avoid betting heavy underdogs: Upsets are going to happen. When they do, you might see a social media post or sports TV show mention the lofty payout for the few folks who made that correct upset pick. But remember, it’s often luck. Correctly predicting the underdog victory can be a thrilling feeling for the sports bettor, but more often than not, you’re throwing your money away by betting on teams that have a low chance of winning according to the oddsmakers.
  2. Find a happy medium: While you should stay away from regularly backing huge underdogs, avoiding heavy favorites is important as well. When you wager on a team that is almost guaranteed to win by the oddsmakers, you need to risk a high dollar amount to receive much of a profit in return. It could be successful for a while but once that big upset happens, you could be in trouble.
  3. Shop the best lines: We certainly advise sports bettors to open accounts at multiple sportsbooks. This is an easy way to ensure you are getting the best possible moneyline odds. When you identify a moneyline wager that makes sense for you, check out our corresponding odds feed to find the best price.