How to Bet the Moneyline

Now that Canada sports betting is expanding and we are close to seeing online sportsbooks in Ontario, there’s no better time to get up to speed with all of the nuances and specifics of sports gambling.

Starting with the basics and building from there is the way to go and when it comes to bets you can place, you won’t find one more straightforward than the moneyline.

These bets simply involve picking the winner of a game. There will be odds for both sides, and your potential payout will be based on those. If you make the right call, you win. If not, you lose. It’s as simple as that.

While simple in concept, it can be more complex in practice. There are variances to consider for each sport, not to mention getting familiar with how the odds work. Our complete guide to moneyline betting is a good place to get started.

What does the moneyline mean?

Betting on the moneyline means that you are picking one side to win the game. The odds for this bet will appear prominently at online sportsbooks along with the other major pregame bets.

Moneylines are extremely popular wagers for every league including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and more. Let’s take a look at the following example using CFL betting odds:

TeamSpreadMoneylineTotal
Hamilton Tiger-Cats-4.5 (-110)-200Over 50.5 (-115)
Montreal Alouettes+4.5 (-110)+165Under 50.5 (-105)

Looking at the odds, Hamilton is the favourite at -200. So you’d have to risk $200 to win $100 in profit for a total return of $300 once you account for your original stake.

With the underdog, a $100 bet on Montreal at +165 would secure $165 in winnings, plus your $100 back for $265 in total return.

The difference between the numbers indicates the perceived difference between the two teams. For example, odds of +115/-135 point to two relatively evenly matched teams, while a split of +265/-340 suggests more of a potential mismatch.

While the moneyline bet is one of the simplest sports bets to understand, that doesn’t mean that it’s a guaranteed win. Upsets can and will happen, and even your most well-thought-out picks can be off the mark at times.

today’s moneyline odds

The moneyline is one of the big three pregame bets for team sports, along with spreads and totals. Since moneylines can attract a great deal of attention, the odds can shift quite a bit. Additionally, the odds aren’t always equal at each sportsbook.

Check our live odds feed for the latest moneyline odds below, where you can search by league and by bet type:

How to calculate American moneyline odds

If you’re either new to gambling or new to seeing American odds displayed, you may be looking at the odds and wondering: what does “+160” or “-110” mean in moneyline betting?

Not to worry, as these odds are actually quite simple to read once you know what to look for. In addition to indicating which side is the favourite and which is the underdog, moneyline odds also dictate how much you stand to profit from a winning bet.

The moneyline will be clearly indicated and will stand out from the spread and total as just one number with a positive or negative sign in front of it.

Favourites are listed with a negative line while underdogs have a positive moneyline. Since favourites are the team labelled by oddsmakers as the one more likely to win, taking them on the moneyline requires more risk than underdogs.

To calculate wins and losses, use the moneyline and the number 100 as your guide. Moneylines for favourites are the amount you’d have to risk to win $100, while moneylines for underdogs are the amount you’d win with a $100 wager. From there, you can calculate based on the exact amount you’re betting.

Your payout always depends on the odds at the time you placed your bet. While the numbers may move some later, you’ll be locked in at the odds that you used for your bet. Let’s take a look at how the potential payouts vary for a $100 wager, depending on the odds:

  • -200 or 1.50: $50
  • -150 or 1.67: $66.70
  • -120 or 1.83: $83.30
  • +100 or 2.00: $100
  • +120 or 2.20: $120
  • +150 or 2.50: $150
  • +200 or 3.00: $200

As you can see, the bigger the favourite, the less of a payout that you can expect on winning bets. Meanwhile, if you correctly pick an underdog, you can earn more than the amount you’re risking. While that’s always appealing, don’t make the mistake of wagering based on the potential return.

Live moneyline betting

Once games go live, they can break differently than the pregame betting lines suggested. An underdog may sprint out to a lead and quickly flip the game script on its head. Thanks to live betting, you can jump in on these situations, if you wish.

Also known as in-game betting, this style of wagering refers to bets that you can make in real-time as the action plays out on the field.

Moneylines, spreads, and totals are the most commonly-bet live lines, but there are also certain props available with updated odds, depending on the sport.

There are multiple ways to use live betting to your advantage. Some bettors just weren’t able to get a wager in before the game began, while others strategically want to see how the game plays out and potentially pounce on one side or the other if the line gets to a certain value.

Live betting can be something you do on a standalone basis, but you can also use it for hedging your initial pregame bets. If you’re down to the last leg of a parlay, you may bet a small amount on the other side to guarantee some kind of profit for yourself. It can also be used as a way to ‘middle’ a previous bet, which involves betting both sides of a game with some middle ground to land you wins on both.

No matter how you partake, sportsbook apps are the best option, as you can keep track of the current live betting odds throughout the game with ease.

What is a three-way moneyline?

The three-way moneyline bet is most commonly available in hockey and soccer betting, but it’s also available for other sports. As opposed to the standard moneyline where you’re simply choosing which side will win, this version adds a draw in regulation time as a third betting option.

In soccer, this is the main pregame bet that is displayed. Since NHL games that are tied at the end of three periods go into overtime and a shootout if necessary, this is a true 60-minute line. Ties do come up often enough in the NHL, as is the case in soccer, so it’s a bet that makes sense if you have a feeling that extra time is in order.

What is a moneyline parlay?

For decades, the only legal sports betting options for Canadians were the parlay-style games available via provincial lotteries.

The introduction of single-game wagering and online sportsbooks opens the door to many more options, but you can still place parlays. A moneyline parlay is when you tie together multiple moneyline selections into one slip, in exchange for a larger payout.

The returns for winning parlays can be great, but winning consistently can range from challenging. To win a parlay, all of your selections must be correct. One single wrong choice means that the entire bet loses. Parlays can make sense for a smaller portion of your bankroll, but keep your expectations in check.

Biggest moneyline betting mistakes

Sports betting is filled with potential pitfalls no matter what bet you focus on. For the moneyline specifically, here are three traps that you’ll want to avoid:

  1. Always betting on the favourite or underdog: No matter how finely tuned of a strategy you may have, favourites are going to lose when you least expect it, while those well-thought-out underdog locks won’t come to pass. It’s all part of the game and there’s just no getting around it. As such, mindlessly betting on the favourite at every turn or continually backing the underdog in hopes of bigger scores will rarely turn out well over the long term.
  2. Forgetting To Go Line Shopping: If you can get the same exact item somewhere else at a lower price, where will you spend your money? Should it be any different when you’re betting on sports? Nope. When betting on the moneyline, each slight variation in odds can be a difference-maker for your bottom line. If you’re not placing your bets at the best possible odds, you’re doing it wrong.
  3. Betting With Emotion: There is no place for emotion when it comes to betting on sports. If you simply can’t bet against a team due to personal rooting interest, then take a pass and watch the game without wagering. Betting with emotion opens the doors to making less than optimal decisions. The more you do that, the more you can expect to be on the losing end.

How much should you bet on a moneyline?

For individual sports bets, a simple rule of thumb is to never wager an amount that you are uncomfortable losing. The money that you use to wager on sports should be disposable income that you would use for another entertainment-related expense.

If you plan to play regularly, it’s helpful to have a set bankroll and budget in place. Your total roll is the amount of funds that you have on hand as well as what you may need to replenish. After that’s set, you can move on to how you want to allocate it.

Many seasoned bettors stick to a set betting amount that represents a portion of their bankroll. On the conservative side, a bettor may only put 1% to 2% in play on a single wager, while a more aggressive approach may call for 3% to 4%.

As for what works for you, it really comes down to your personal comfort level. If your total bankroll is $1,000 and you decide to only place 2% at risk per bet, your betting amount is $20. For those who prefer 5%, a bet is $50.

For example, say you want to bet on four upcoming CFL games. At $20 per bet, your total stake for the week would be $80, while it climbs to $200 when your unit size is $50.

These guidelines can help you set your own parameters. To find long-term success with betting, budgeting and tracking your performance are crucial steps. If you keep your unit size consistent, you’ll know when it’s time to increase or reduce your stakes.

Where do I find a moneyline calculator?

Before placing a bet, you’ll want to know how much you can expect back if you win. While online sportsbook applications will do this for you, you are welcome to calculate it yourself. For the moneyline, there are two simple equations to remember with American odds.

  • When the number is negative, a bet of that much would win you $100 in profit. For instance, a bet of $120 at odds of -120.
  • When the odds are positive, the number is equal to the profit on a winning $100 wager, such as $140 at +140.

For decimal odds, here is the formula:

  • Stake * (odds – 1) = potential profit
    • Betting $100 at odds of 1.9
    • $100 * (1.9 – 1)
    • $100 * 0.9 = $90

You can also use a betting calculator such as this one. Once you find what you want to bet on, select the odds and add in your stake. Just like that, you’ll see your potential return. Moneyline calculators can be helpful if you don’t want to mess with the equations.

Why the moneyline over other bets?

As one of the main pregame bets, the moneyline is a big driver of action at online sportsbooks. It’s very popular with bettors in different sports, and also a good starting point for those new to betting. So what are the top reasons for leaning toward the moneyline over other bets?

  • For new bettors, the moneyline is the best starting point due to its simplicity.
  • The straightforward nature is a big plus for bettors who don’t want to wrestle with spreads or continually hunt for that extra half-point.
  • Barring a tie, your wager will depend on the result of the game. There are no extra points to worry about, so late covers in garbage time are not a concern.
  • Moneyline odds clearly indicate the favourites and underdogs, while the range between the numbers gives an idea of how even or lopsided a matchup to expect.
  • The moneyline is available for all major sports, so your betting knowledge here will transfer from sport to sport.

Of course, it’s not all roses and daisies. On the downside, the varying odds on the moneyline make it difficult to project long-term results. When betting on spreads and totals, bettors know what their break-even point is based on the consistency of the odds. For moneyline betting, it’s possible to win more than you lose and still not show a profit.

What is a “good” moneyline bet?

No matter what type of wager you’re working with, you’ll look back at the results and label the bets as good or bad. Naturally, we all tend to think of the winners as good bets and the losers as bad bets, but it’s not always that simple.

For a simple rule to follow, if you’ve done your due diligence on the matchup before placing a bet, and also shopped around to find the best possible odds for your choice, you can include it in the good category. If you’re winging it and betting haphazardly, it’s a bad bet.