Moneyline betting is an American term for the betting market match winner which is simply a wagering option for which team will win a match with no handicap involved. This is the most common way betting is done on baseball and hockey games and for basketball and football it is a popular alternative to point spread betting. In this article I will explain how the odds work, introduce the websites with the best odds and explain the dynamics of this form of wagering in great depth.
Understanding Moneyline Odds
First let me explain how the odds work. The odds can be expressed as either a positive or a negative. A positive moneyline is how much profit a winning bet will pay per $100 staked. A negative moneyline is how much a player needs to stake in order to win $100. +175 means risk $100 to win $175 profit and -183 means risk $183 to win $100 profit. To calculate for other bet amounts, just change the moneyline to a decimal and multiply for positive or divide for negative. Betting $60 on +175 is risk $60 to win ($60*1.75=) $105 and staking $60 on -183 is risk $60 to win ($60/1.83=) $32.79.
Betting Moneylines Online
First, understand bookmakers make their profit (vig) by shorting positive moneylines and inflating negative moneylines. A term to be familiar with is cents. Yankees -180 / Twins +160 is said to be a 20 cent line which is referring to gap between -180 and +160. Also if one site is offering -180 and another -176 one site is said to have a 4 cent better price. A dimeline means a 10 cent line (example: -150/+140) and a nickel line (rare) means a 5 cent line (example -120 / +115). Where you bet moneylines online makes a difference. Many sites charge a lot of vig using 20+ cent lines. The sites offering better value are listed below.
Understand the websites above are best on average because they build less juice into their lines than competitors Justbet, Topbet and Bookmaker do. It is still important to shop as many betting sites as possible including the three just mentioned in seeking the best price. Line shopping is the heart of moneyline betting strategy.
Understanding the Dynamics
There’s a huge mistake many novice sports bettors make on a regular basis. I’m going to explain the dynamics of moneyline betting multiple ways in the hope you’ll firmly grasp the concept and avoid making the same mistake.
Question 1: Game 1= Bears -110 / Falcons -110. Game 2= Patriots -450 / Jaguars +350. Which of these two lines has more vig? To novice players the obvious answer is the Bears/Falcons because it is a 20 cent line as opposed to a 100 cent line. This is answer is however incorrect. The second line has less juice (vig) than the first.
Question 2: All online betting sites are offering Patriots -450 / Jaguars +350. A friend says: “I’ll offer you either Patriots -380 or Jaguars +380, which would you like?” You are only concerned with having the maximum expected value. Which wager -380 or +380 has higher expected value? Many bettors would say if the line is -450 / +350 this averages to -400 / +400, therefore -380 is the better bet. This is again wrong. -450 / +350 when vig is removed is -368 / +368! If you’re thinking: what? wait? why? you are completely lost and lack understanding of the basics. It is a good thing you found this article as I’ll explain further.
Implied Probability Explained
Understand that all moneylines have an associated implied probability, which means how often they need to win to break even. The math for calculating this is risk/return=implied probability. Return refers to stake + win. So -110 is risk $110 to win $100 and the return is $210 ($110 stake + $100 win). The math here is 110/210=0.5238 (52.38%).
Do not skip this exercise: Visit our odds converter and under required break even percentage enter 52.38%. You’ll see this is American odds -110 as just explained. Increase this figure by 1% to 53.38% and you’ll see the American odds are -114.5. This is a 4.5 cent increase.
Continuing this exercise, enter 81.82% and you’ll see this is -450. Add 1% more to make it 82.82% and you’ll see this is a -482.1. That’s a 32.1 cents difference for 1%, but above 1% was only 4.5 cents.
The lesson here is that cents are near meaningless for evaluating odds. All that matters is implied probability.
Calculating odds, VIG and EV may look difficult at first, but do 1 or 2 examples and it’s a piece of cake
How to Remove Vig
Back to question #2: again, novice bettors often make the mistake of assuming -450/+350 has a -400/+400 fair value line, which is well off. The way to calculate this is -450 has an implied probability of 81.82% and +350 has an implied probability of 22.22%. Notice these total 104.04%. The reason they are higher than 100% is the bookmaker’s advantage (vig) which we’ve already discussed.
To remove vig: divide both implied probabilities by their combined total (in this case 104.04%). 81.82%/104.04%=78.64% 22.22%/104.04%=21.36%. Notice 78.64%+21.36%=100%. This means so long as vig was divided equally, the oddsmaker determined the favorite will win 78.64% of the time leaving 21.36% of the time for the underdog. Enter these into our odds converter and you’ll see 78.64% is -368.2 and 21.36% is +368.2 in American odds format.
Originally to come up with -450/+350 the bookmaker took his starting probabilities added about 4% vig. When doing this, he couldn’t simply add 2% to the favorite and remove 2% from the underdog; he needed to do this proportional to how often each side is going to win. This meant giving 78.64% of the 4% to the favorite and taking the remainder from the underdog. Next he made some slight adjustments/rounding to get a nicer looking number, giving him -450/+350.
The equation for calculating EV is (win probability * what you’ll be paid if you win) – (loss probability * amount staked)=EV. Using the same odds we’ve been discussing let me calculate the EV for each.
$100 at -450 pays ($100/4.5=) $22.22 and we know our chances of winning is the 78.64% we calculated earlier. This plugs in as (0.7864*$22.22)-(0.2136*$100)=-$3.88. As we expect to lose $3.88 per $100 stake we have a -3.88% expected return on investment (ROI). The bookmaker on average profits 3.88% of our staked amount.
$100 at +350 pays ($100*3.5=) $350 and we know our chances of winning are 21.36%. This plugs in as (0.2136*$350)-(0.7864*$100)=-3.88. Again we have same -3.88% ROI and again the bookmaker on average profits 3.88% of our staked amount.
Re-Answering Questions 1 & 2
When betting point spreads that are 50/50 propositions $100 at -110 pays $90.91. This plugs in as (0.5*90.91)-(0.50*$100)=-4.55. This here is a -4.55% ROI. As you can see, the bookmaker makes more on -110/-110 than -450/+350. Likewise, we pay less vig betting either option on a -450/+350 line than we do on either option of a -110/-110 line.
Do you understand now why -110/-110 has move vig than -450/+350. It is really as simple as noting 1% of a big number is far more than 1% of a small number. If you did the exercise with our odds converter earlier you are already aware of how this works. There is an important lesson to take from this involving shopping large moneylines at multiple betting sites. When dealing with the favorite you need to find MUCH better price than the consensus moneyline to find a +EV bet. When dealing the underdog you need to find only a small amount better. Again for -450/+350 the no-vig lines are about -368/+368, not the -400/+400 novice bettors often believe that they are.