MMA Moneyline and Match Bets
Moneyline bets, sometimes referred to as match bets, are the simplest type of sports bet that you can make. While they are simple, this certainly does not mean you can't use them to make money. There are many professional sports bettors who are very successful and most if not all of their bets are made on these moneyline bets. With a moneyline bet, you are picking who is going to win the fight and placing a bet on that happening. If Anderson Silva is fighting Chael Sonnen and you think Silva is going to win, you can place a moneyline bet on Silva winning. If he wins the fight, you win your bet. It's as simple as that.
While the bet itself is that simple, there is a little more you need to understand when placing these bets. Not all moneyline/match bets are paid out the same. These bets are paid out based on how big of a favorite or an underdog a fighter is.
- The bigger the favorite the fighter is (the more likely they are to win), the less you will be paid for correctly picking them to win.
- The bigger the underdog the fighter is (the less likely they are to win), the more you will be paid for correctly picking them to win.
If this weren't the case, then everyone would always pick the favorite, and the sportsbook would be out of business the next day.
Why Odds Matter
Before we talk about how you determine the payouts on a bet, we need to discuss why it's important to look at the actual odds and payouts. There are going to be times when you are almost certain someone is going to win a fight and betting on them is a bad idea and not worth the risk. Let's say that Anderson Silva is fighting an absolute amateur, and the odds for him to win are posted at -1200. Obviously, Silva is most likely going to win this fight so you should bet on him, right?
Well, it depends. Personally, we wouldn't bet on him because the reward is not worth the risk. If you were to bet $100 on him to win at -1200 odds, you would profit only $8.33 if he wins. You'd be risking $100 to win just over $8. Due to the fact that nothing is ever certain, that's a whole lot of risk for just a little potential gain. The same goes for betting on the other side. Let's say the odds on the amateur fighter are +1400. If you bet $100, you would win $1400 if he beat Silva. A lot of people are going to jump on this because of the huge payout, but realistically, it's never going to happen. Frankly, this would probably be a fight we wouldn't touch except maybe to put $10 for fun on the amateur as we'd win $140 if the freakish happened.
The bottom line is you have to make sure that the odds you will be getting on your payout are worth your bet. Picking the winning fighter is important, but making sure that the odds associated are also good is important.
This also means that you will sometimes place bets you think you're going to lose more often than not. Let's say Anderson Silva is fighting Chael Sonnen and the odds come out with Sonnen a +750 underdog. Now, you think Anderson Silva is going to win, but you think the odds should be way closer. They're making it look like Sonnen has zero chance, but you think he definitely has a chance. You would probably look into placing a bet on Sonnen to win even though you think Silva is going to win. The idea is that you're going to win this bet enough to turn a profit. You will lose the bet more often (more actual times), but when you win the payouts are good enough to make up for that. This is the sort of long-term mindset you want to start getting yourself into. The idea is to always be on the lookout for value, and that is found by looking at the associated payouts with a bet.
You'll have odds presented to you in three different ways - American Odds (moneyline format), Decimal Odds, or Fractional Odds. For example, let's say Chael Sonnen is +750 to win. Here's how the odds will look in each format:
- American Odds +750
- Decimal Odds 8.50
- Fractional Odds 15/2
All of these mean the exact same thing; they're just written in different formats. Most sites will allow you to convert the odds to your preferred format with the click of a button.
These odds will always have a plus or minus sign followed by a number. The plus sign signifies that the fighter is an underdog. The minus sign signifies that the fighter is the favorite. The number after the sign is how big of a favorite or underdog the fighter is. A +200 fighter is a bigger underdog than a +150 fighter. A -600 fighter is a bigger favorite than a -350 fighter.
When calculating the payout for an underdog fighter, the number represents how much you will get paid in profit for a $100 bet. For example, +750 means that if you bet $100, you stand to profit $750. If you are calculating for a different bet size, you take the odds number and divide it by 100 and multiply that by the bet size. This will give you the potential profit. So let's say you are betting $10 on a fighter that is +625. You take 625 and divide it by 100 and get 6.25. Multiply that by your bet of $10, and you get $62.50 which is your potential profit.
When calculating the payout for a favorite fighter, you have to do a little math. If you take the amount you are betting and divide it by the odds (use the absolute value) and then multiply that by 100, you will get your potential profit. For example, if a fighter is -300 and you are betting $10, you take $10 and divide it by 300 which gives you .03333. Multiply that by 100, and you get $3.33 of potential profit on your $10 bet.
Personally, we find decimal odds to be a lot easier to work with. They're much more popular in Europe and seem to be preferred by a lot of professional sports bettors. Again, though, they're the exact same; they're just another way to write the same thing.
With decimal odds, there are not positive and negative numbers. All of the numbers are positive. If a number is above 2.0, then the fighter is an underdog. If the number is below 2.0, then the fighter is the favorite. When calculating the potential payout on a bet, you just have to multiply your bet size by the odds number. This will give you the total payout you will receive back from the casino including your original bet. If you want just your profit number, subtract out your original bet, and you're all set.
For example, above we calculated the American Odds profit to be $62.50 on a $10 bet on a fighter who was +625. The decimal odds for this fighter would be 7.25. You do not need to convert that; this is how the odds would be presented to you. If you multiply 7.25 by your $10 bet, you get $72.50. Subtract your original bet of $10, and you get $62.50 in profit. This works the exact same for fighters who are favored as well.
Personally, we like to avoid fractions like the plague, but some people do like them. Fractional odds are figured the exact same as decimal odds except you don't have to subtract out your original bet to get your profit. The fractional odds on our +625 example would be presented to you as 25/4. If we made our $10 bet we would multiply 25/4 by $10 and get $62.50. If you are banging your computer trying to figure out how to enter a fraction in, just divide the top number by the bottom number and hit enter. Then multiply that number by your bet size, and you'll be all set.
The Bottom Line
If you take anything away from this page, take away the fact that the odds are extremely important to look at and that you must look at them before placing any bet. Don't just place a bet because you think someone is going to win. Make sure that the risk and reward line up with what you think is a good value. Risking a ton of money only to win a few bucks can be a risky play as you'll have to risk a large sum to turn just a small profit. While this may fit into some optimal strategies, we personally stay away from it.
Also remember, it's not always about winning every single bet but placing the high-value bets that will turn a profit in the long run. If you see incredible value on a bet that you still think might lose, it might be a good bet to place. This becomes truer the closer to an even bet you get. Here are two scenarios that lay out what the actual odds are and what you think the odds should be.
- Scenario 1
- Fighter A is +500 to win, but you think he should only be around +200.
- Scenario 2
- Fighter A is +2000 to win, but you think he should only be around +900.
Scenario 1 is a much better bet here than scenario 2. While the disparity in the lines is much larger in scenario 2, you are still left with a fighter that is a massive underdog and probably stands little to no shot of winning. In the first scenario, you still think the fighter should lose, but it's much closer, and they have a much better shot of pulling it off. +200 fighters win all the time; +900 fighters rarely win.
*Just as a note, yes technically you should be betting any big value that you see but clearing the variance on a +900 fighter is going to take a lot of money.