In sports betting a Moneyline bet is a wager on which team will win a game. While offered as the primary wagering option for hockey and baseball, for basketball and football moneylines are an alternative to the point spread. To give an example, take an NBA game of Boston Celtics -5.5 / Memphis Grizzlies +5.5. In addition to the point spread, the alternative moneyline is Celtics -240 / Grizzlies +210.
Favorites - In the above example, the Celtics are -5.5 point favorites. When betting them on the point spread, you need them to win by 6 or more points. However, when betting the moneyline you just need them to win; by how much doesn't matter. In the case of -240, this means risk $240 to win $100. A quick trick is change -240 to a decimal of 2.40, take any sized stake and divide it by 2.40 to calculate your payout. So, if you risk $650 on the Celtics -240, this is $650/2.40=$270.83 and therefore your bet is Risk $650 to win $270.83.
Underdogs - In the opening example the Grizzlies are +5.5 point underdogs. When betting them on the point spread, your wager is successful if they either win the game or lose the game by 1-5 points. If you'd rather bet they win the game outright you can bet the moneyline at +210. The +210 means win $210 for every $100 staked. Again a trick here is to change the +210 to a decimal 2.10. To calculate your payout, take any stake and multiply it by 2.10. So, if you risk $450 on Grizzlies +210, this is $450*2.1=$945 and therefore your bet is Risk $450 to win $945.
To recap: In point spread betting a spread is used to create a 50/50 betting proposition. With moneyline betting there is no such proposition and likewise the odds are based on a team's chances of winning outright. Favorites are listed as a negative moneyline which represents how much stake is needed to win $100 and underdogs are listed as a positive moneyline which represents how much a $100 stake will pay in winnings. When betting in non-$100-increments use the trick of converting to a decimal. For favorites divide the decimal by the stake and for underdogs multiple the decimal by the stake to calculate your winnings. Now that you understand how moneylines work, let's take a look at some betting strategy.
Moneyline Betting Strategy
All moneylines have what's referred to as an implied probability, which is just a fancy term defined as how often a wager needs to win to average breakeven. In the case of Celtics -240, we calculate implied probability using the formula risk/return = implied probability, where return is how much a winning bet would pay (stake + win). So -240 is risk $240 to win $100, the return is $240 stake + $100 win = $340 return. So our formula works out as: $240 stake / $340 return = 0.7059 and therefore the implied probability is 70.59%. This means we should only wager Celtics -240 if we feel they have a greater than 70.59% chance of winning.
To look at the other side, Grizzlies +210 is risk $100 to win $210, the return is $100 stake + $210 win = $310 return. To calculate the implied probability we use $100 stake / $310 return = 32.26% implied probability. This means we should only bet the Grizzlies if we feel they have greater than a 32.26% chance of winning the game.
How to Remove Vig
To start with trivia question: If the odds are Celtics -240 / Grizzlies +210 what is the fair price without vig? Many assume because there is a 30 cent gap between the two lines, we just deduct 15 cents from the favorite and add 15 cents to the underdog, getting a fair price of Celtics -225 / Grizzlies +225. This is incorrect.
Earlier I showed the implied probability of -240 is 70.59% and of +210 is 32.36%. Notice these two probabilities total 102.95%. The extra 2.95% is the bookmaker's advantage called vig. To remove it we need to divide the total percents market (102.95%) by each probability. So: 70.59%/102.95%=68.57% and 32.36%/102.95%=31.43%. Notice now 68.57%+31.43%=100% and therefore the vig has been removed; these figures are called the no-vig win probabilities. Next, go to our odds converter and enter 68.57% into the implied probability field and see this is -218, and enter 31.43% and see this is +218. Therefore Celtics -240 / Grizzlies +210 has no-vig odds of Celtics -218 / Grizzlies +218.
Line Shopping Moneylines
In my detailed article on handicapping the market I explain removing vig and how the bookmaker adds juice in far more detail. I also showed that the no-vig odds for -550 / +450 are -466 / +466. This is an important lesson because most sports bettors understand the importance of using multiple sports gambling sites to shop for the best odds possible. When simultaneously not understanding how moneylines and vig work, those same bettors will end up making many -EV bet. Such an example would be enthusiastically betting -490 on a favorite for the sole reason all other sites were offering -550. In such a case, if the no-vig market price was -466 this would be a poor bet.
For reasons I hinted at in this article, when shopping odds for what's expected to be a lopsided game, you need to find significantly better odds on the favorite's moneyline to make the bet +EV than you need to find on the underdog's moneyline. Knowing this information, you're now well more knowledgeable than most recreational bettors who bet Moneylines not knowing how they work.
Moneyline Bonus Strategy
In sports betting there are two types of bonuses betting sites offer. TopBet.com offers punters an incredible 50% cash bonus on their initial deposit. Consider the bonus is cash there is no unique strategy outside of the usual sound handicapping required to gain an edge. Where additional strategy comes into play is with betting sites that offer free plays as opposed to cash. For example at Bovada.lv bettors are welcomed with a 50% up to $250 free play credit on their first deposit.
As explained in my article on sports betting deposit bonuses if you wager $100 cash on odds +100 your bet is risk $100 cash to win $100 cash, therefore a winning bet returns $200 ($100 stake + $100 win). If you wager $100 free play on +100 your wager is risk 100 Free Play to win $100 and therefore the return is $100 ($0 stake + $100 cash); win or lose your free play is used up. You see cash bonuses are worth 100% their face value while free plays are worth considerably less.
One the best ways to get maximum value out of your free play is to hedge using multiple betting sites. To go back to this articles intro example, if you bet $100 free play on either Celtics -5.5 or Grizzlies +5.5 these bets are made at -110, risk $100 free play to win $90.91. Considering point spreads are a 50/50 propositions, half the time you win $90.91, and half the you just lose your free play. So on average, a $100 free play bet on point spreads is worth $45.46.
To evaluate the hedge method, let's say at Bovada you bet your $100 free play on Grizzlies +210 which is risk $100 free play to win $210 cash. You then head over to TopBet.com and bet $148.24 to win $61.76 on Celtics -230. If the Celtics win, you win $61.76 at Topbet and lost nothing at Bovada so you're up $61.76 cash. If the Grizzlies win, you win $210 at Bovada and lose $148.26 at TopBet so once again you're up $61.76 cash. You see, using the hedge method, you went from winning an average of $45.46 on point spread bets to winning a guaranteed $61.76 no matter which team wins.
Additional Moneyline Tips
Now that you understand moneyline betting, refer to my article on football teasers. After reading this you'll be well prepared to understand the moneyline method of teaser betting analysis explained in my article on college football teasers. The final piece of advice I'll give you: don't be afraid to evaluate the chances of moneyline wagers on large favorites being +EV. This is especially true in football prop betting where in small markets recreation punters prefer chances at large payouts. Heavy favorite bets, such as no for - will the first score of the game be a safety? - Is a prop where many times you'll find despite the massive moneyline the favorite price is +EV.