Money line bets are possibly the simplest form of sports betting. Money line bets do not use point spreads like straight bets do. Instead, your job is to pick the winning team with no concern to the score. Since one team may be heavily favored over their opponent, odds for each team are different. It may seem confusing at first, but money line bets are very easy to understand.
Except in situations where opponents are considered an even matchup, the favorite will have a negative (-) money line and the underdog will have a positive (+) money line. Negative money lines indicate the amount of money needed to wager to win $100 in profit. Positive money lines indicate the amount of money that can be won from a $100 wager.
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Colorado Rockies -160
Arizona Diamondbacks +140
In this case, the Colorado Rockies are the favorite, and bettors need to wager $160 to win $100 in profit, for a total payout of $260.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are the underdog, and a wager of $100 will produce a profit of $140, for a total payout of $240.
Always think of money line bets based on $100 figures. Negative (-) means how much is needed to wager in order to win $100, and positive (+) means how much can be won on a $100 wager.
Occasionally, two teams or competitors that are very evenly matched may produce two negative money lines.
New York Yankees -115
Boston Red Sox -105
In this case, the Yankees are considered a very slight favorite. It would require a $115 bet on the Yankees to produce a $100 profit ($215 total return). The Red Sox would require a $105 bet to produce a $100 profit ($205 total return).
Money Line Vigorish
The term vigorish means ‘house take’, also called vig or juice. This is the money the sportsbook or bookie makes for taking the wager. Let’s use the Yankees/Red Sox example from above for this explanation.
If a sportsbook takes 1000, $100 bets on the Yankees and the Yankees win, the sportsbook would pay out $87 profit to each bettor (100/115 odds = .87%. $100 X .87% = $87). So a Yankees win would result in a total pay out of $87,000 in player profits.
From 1000 Red Sox bettors who also placed $100 average bets, the sportsbook would collect $100,000. $100,000 collected minus $87,000 paid out = $13,000 profit.
Now, let’s turn this into a Red Sox win instead. 1000 bets of $100 on the Red Sox would pay out $95 profit per bettor (100/105 odds = .95%. $100 X .95% = $95). In this case the sportsbook would pay out a total of $95,000.
From the Yankees bettors, 1000 bets averaging $100 each would result in a $100,000 collection. $100,000 collected minus $95,000 paid out = $5000 profit for the sportsbook.
In each case, the sportsbook made money. Since a sportsbooks goal is to make money on every bet, they’re trying to create bets that will split the bettors down the middle. When that happens, they guarantee themselves a profit. If they come up with odds that cause a higher % of bettors to bet on one team, the book opens themselves up to potential losses.
Popular Sports for Money Line Bets
Sports like auto racing, horse racing, MMA and boxing do not use points. Without points a point spread can’t be created, so money line bets are the most popular way to bet on these types of sports. While tennis is scored with points, results are determined by sets won, not a point total. This means that tennis must also use money lines.
Money lines are also the most popular way to bet on low scoring sports like baseball, soccer and hockey. The reason is because with low scoring sports it’s difficult to predict a result. One run or one goal can easily be the difference between a win or loss, so betting on a point spread doesn’t make sense.
While straight bets using a point spread are most popular for high scoring sports like football and basketball, money line bets are available as well. Straight bets are used to even out the odds, offering 11/10 odds on any team you choose. With money line bets, there is no point spread and your goal is to simply pick the winning team. Since one team may be heavily favored against their opponent, the money lines offer a much wider range of odds.
Philadelphia Eagles -170
San Fransisco 49ers +150
In this game, a $170 bet is required to win $100 on the Eagles ($270 total return). A bet of $100 on the 49ers would result in a $150 profit ($250 total return).
As you can see, betting on the favorite requires a much larger bet for a smaller win. The underdog requires a smaller bet for a larger win. It makes perfect sense since the underdog is not expected to win.