When it comes to betting on sports, moneyline and spread bets are the two most common types of wagers. Moneyline bets are straightforward bets on who will win a game, while spread bets take into account the point differential between the two teams.
Moneyline bets are simple in that bettors are wagering only on who will win the game outright. These bets are often used in sports where there is a clear favorite to win, as they offer smaller payouts for the favorite and larger payouts for the underdog. Spread bets, on the other hand, add a handicap to the favored team with the goal of making the odds more even. This means that bettors can win even if the underdog doesn’t win the game outright.
Understanding the differences between moneylines and spreads is essential to making informed betting decisions. While one type of bet may be more suitable for a particular sport or matchup, it’s ultimately up to the bettor to decide which bet makes the most sense for their strategy. In the following sections, we will explore each type of bet in more detail, so you can feel confident when placing your next sports wager. Here’s your primer on moneyline vs. spreads.
What is a moneyline bet?
A moneyline bet is a straightforward wager on which team will win a game or match. The term “moneyline” refers to the odds that sportsbooks assign to each team, which determine the payout for a winning bet. In moneyline betting, a negative number is assigned to the favorite team, while a positive number is assigned to the underdog.
For example, if the moneyline for a game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat is -120 for the Hornets and +110 for the Heat, a bettor would need to wager $120 on the Hornets to win $100. Meanwhile, a $100 bet on the Heat would pay out $110 if they win.
Moneyline betting is available for all types of sports, including football, basketball and baseball. However, the odds may differ depending on the sport and the matchup. In football, for example, moneyline betting is typically more popular for underdogs, as the point spread can be significant in many games.
Moneyline betting examples
Let’s take a look at some moneyline betting examples using North Carolina teams.
- Carolina Panthers vs. Dallas Cowboys: The moneyline for this game might be -130 for the Panthers and +110 for the Cowboys. If a bettor wagers $130 on the Panthers and they win, they would receive a payout of $100. A $100 bet on the Cowboys, on the other hand, would pay out $110 if they win.
- Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: In this college basketball matchup, the moneyline might be -140 for Duke and +120 for UNC. A $140 bet on Duke would pay out $100 if they win, while a $100 bet on UNC would pay out $120 if they pull off the upset.
Understanding moneyline betting is crucial to making informed betting decisions, and it’s important to keep in mind that the odds may vary depending on the sport and the matchup.
What does it mean to ‘bet the moneyline’?
To “bet the moneyline” means to place a wager on which team will win a game or match outright, without taking the point spread into consideration. In other words, the only thing that matters in a moneyline bet is which team wins the game.
Moneyline bets are often used in sports where there is a clear favorite to win, such as in soccer or tennis, where the odds of a team winning are generally more straightforward. In these cases, moneyline bets offer smaller payouts for the favored team and larger payouts for the underdog.
In sports like football, basketball, and baseball, where there can be significant point spreads, moneyline bets may be less commonly placed on favorites and more popular for underdogs. This is because the odds of winning a moneyline bet on the favorite may not be worth the risk, as the payout may be relatively small compared to the potential loss if the underdog wins.
What is a point spread bet?
A point spread bet is a type of wager where the sportsbook sets a “spread” or “line” for a game, which is essentially a handicap given to the favored team. The goal of the spread is to level the playing field and make the odds of winning more even, thus creating a more exciting and competitive betting environment.
In a point spread bet, the favored team must win by more than the spread for the bettor to win the wager, while the underdog team can lose by less than the spread or win outright to win the bet. For example, if the point spread for a game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is -3.5 for the Panthers, they must win by four or more points for a bet on the Panthers to be a winner. Conversely, a bet on the Buccaneers would win if the Buccaneers win the game outright or lose by three or fewer points.
Here’s another example of a point spread:
- North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils: The point spread for this college basketball matchup might be -5.5 for the Tar Heels and +5.5 for the Blue Devils. A bet on the Tar Heels would win if they win by six or more points, while a bet on the Blue Devils would win if they win outright or lose by five or fewer points.
Understanding how point spreads work is crucial to making informed betting decisions in sports betting. By considering the spread, bettors can find value in underdogs or maximize their potential payout on favored teams.
What are run lines and puck lines?
The run line and puck line are the equivalents of the point spread in baseball and hockey betting, respectively. They are used to level the playing field and make the odds of winning more even, similar to how the point spread is used in football and basketball.
In baseball, the run line is a spread bet where the favored team must win by more than 1.5 runs for the bettor to win the wager. Meanwhile, the underdog team can lose by less than 1.5 runs or win outright to win the bet. The odds for the run line can vary depending on the matchup, with the favored team generally having a negative number and the underdog team having a positive number.
In hockey, the puck line is a type of spread bet where the favored team must win by more than 1.5 goals for the bettor to win the wager. Then, the underdog team can lose by less than 1.5 goals or win outright to win the bet. Like the run line, the odds for the puck line can vary depending on the matchup.
Why is there a half-point in spread bets?
Half-points are used in point spread bets to avoid a “push” or tie. For example, if the point spread for a game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks is -4.5 for the Hornets, a bet on the Hornets would win if they win by five or more points, while a bet on the Hawks would win if they win outright or lose by four or fewer points. Because games always end on whole numbers, the half-point ensures a victor in the wager.
But if the Hornets are favored to win by exactly four, and they happen to do so, the bet would result in a tie or “push,” and the bettor would receive their original wager back. Sportsbooks don’t want that. Thus, half-points are quite common in point spreads.
Is it better to back favorites or underdogs in spread bets?
Whether it’s better to bet on the favorite or underdog depends on the specific game and the betting trends. However, it’s important to remember that the point spread is designed to level the playing field and make the odds of winning more even, so neither the favorite nor the underdog has a guaranteed advantage.
In general, betting on the favorite can feel riskier, as they must win by a certain margin to cover the spread and win the bet. If the favored team has an off day or faces a particularly strong underdog team, they may not cover the spread even if they win the game outright.
On the other hand, betting on the underdog can be a good strategy if the underdog team is playing well and the spread seems too high. Underdogs can also win outright, which means that a bet on the underdog to win outright can often result in a larger payout than a bet on the favorite to win outright.
What does ‘against the spread’ mean?
“Against the spread” or “ATS” refers to a type of betting where the sportsbook sets a point spread for a game, and bettors wager on whether the favored team will win by more than the spread or if the underdog team will lose by less than the spread or win outright.
For example, if the point spread for a game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is -3.5 for the Panthers, a bettor betting against the spread would need the Panthers to win by four or more points to win the wager. Conversely, a bet on the Buccaneers against the spread would win if the Buccaneers win outright or lose by less than 3.5 points.
Betting against the spread can offer bettors a way to find value in underdog teams or maximize their potential payout on favored teams. By considering the point spread, bettors can adjust their strategy and find the best value bets for each game.
What percentage of bets are made on spreads vs. moneylines?
The percentage of bets made on the moneyline and spreads varies depending on the specific sport, game, and betting market. However, spread betting is generally more popular than moneyline betting, especially in sports like football and basketball.
According to some industry estimates, up to 80% of bets on football and basketball are placed on the point spread, while the remaining 20% are placed on the moneyline or other types of bets. In baseball, where there is no point spread, moneylines are the most common type of bet.
Pros and cons for moneylines and spreads
Pros of moneyline betting
- ✅ Higher payouts: Moneyline bets can offer higher payouts than spread bets, especially for underdog teams less likely to win the game outright.
- ✅ Straightforward odds: Moneyline betting is based on straightforward odds, making it easier for bettors to understand the potential payout and likelihood of winning.
- ✅ Flexibility: Moneyline bets can be used in various sports, making them a versatile option for bettors who want to bet on multiple sports.
Cons of moneyline betting
- ❌ Limited value for favorites: Moneyline bets on favored teams often offer lower payouts than spread bets, making them less appealing to bettors who want to maximize their potential winnings.
- ❌ Riskier for underdogs: Moneyline bets on underdog teams can be riskier, as the odds of an upset are lower, and the potential payout may not be worth the risk.
Pros of spread betting
- ✅ Level playing field: Spread betting is designed to level the playing field and make the odds of winning more even, creating a more exciting and competitive betting environment.
- ✅ Lower risk for underdogs: Spread bets on underdog teams can be less risky than moneyline bets, as the spread can offer more cushion for the underdog team to win the bet.
- ✅ Multiple betting options: Spread bets can be used for various betting options, including halftime bets, quarter bets and more, giving bettors more flexibility in their betting strategy.
Cons of spread betting
- ❌ Lower payouts: Spread bets often offer lower payouts than moneyline bets, as the point spread can make it more difficult for either team to win outright.
- ❌ Limited value for underdogs: Spread bets on underdog teams can offer less value than moneyline bets, as the point spread intentionally makes it easier for the underdog team to cover the spread and win the bet.
Is it easier to win on moneylines or spreads?
It is not necessarily easier to win on moneylines or spreads, as both types of bets have their advantages and disadvantages. While moneyline bets can be more straightforward in understanding the odds and potential payout, they can also be riskier, especially for favored teams where the payout may not be as high.
On the other hand, while spread bets can offer more value and a level playing field for both teams, they can also be more complex and require a deeper understanding of the game and the associated odds.
Which is better for beginners: moneyline or spreads?
For gambling novices, moneyline betting may be a better place to start than spread betting. This is because moneyline bets are based on straightforward odds and are easier to understand.
In contrast, spread betting can be more complex and requires a deeper understanding of the game and the associated sports odds. That may be overwhelming for beginners. Spread betting also involves factoring in the point spread, which can add a layer of complexity to the betting process.
That being said, beginners need to do their research and understand the basics of both moneyline and spread betting before making any bets. Beginners should also consider their own betting goals and risk tolerance and start with smaller bets to gain experience and confidence in their betting strategy. As beginners gain more knowledge, they may find that spread betting is a good option for certain games and betting markets.