Money Line Bet

What Is a Money Line Bet?

Money line bets are wagers placed on a game’s outcome. In essence, they are bets on which team or competitor will win any given match.

As the wager is on who will win, usually with two teams or competitors, money line bets have only a couple of possible outcomes. Either the team selected will win, in which case the bettor will receive a payout on the odds (discussed below)—or the team will lose, in which case the bettor chose unsuccessfully. Some events, such as fights, may have a third possible bet option: a draw. 

Along with the point spread and the over/under, money line is one of the more traditional available betting options. It is considered one of the more basic forms of betting. 

Key Takeaways

  • Money line bets are bets placed on a game’s conclusion. The term “money line” represents the payouts for winning the bet, with a negative integer for the underdog and a positive one for the favorite.
  • A money line bet is considered to be the least complicated kind of bet because what is at stake is so straightforward: who will win.
  • Payouts still take into account the odds of a game, with the teams split into two neatly organized categories: favorite and underdog.
  • Gambling always involves a negative expected return—the house always has the advantage. 

Understanding Money Lines

The “money line,” in betting terminology, refers to the integers that show the payoffs for betting on a game. Bookmakers separate out teams into favorites and underdogs. There’s a negative integer for the team considered more likely to win (the favorite) and a positive integer for the one considered more likely to lose (the underdog). If, for example, a football game had a money line of Team A (+150) and Team B (-170), then the bettor immediately knows a couple of things: Team B is expected to win, and a bet on it will also pay out less, because it is favored.

The numbers next to the teams, such as +150 and -170 in the example above, represent the money line payouts, and they’re connected to the calculated odds. The negative number shows how much has to be risked to win a $100 payout. Thus, if the money line for the team that you picked was -400, it means that if you placed a successful $400 bet, you would gain $100 on payout. This means that the bettor would have risked $400 and ultimately gained $100. The positive number shows how much would be gained on a successful $100 bet. A +300 money line, for instance, would mean that if you place a successful bet of $100, you would win $300.

Gamblers can find opportunities to make especially good returns when betting markets are inefficient. They look for chances to exploit those inefficiencies. For example, a paper that analyzed 2019–2020 data from bets on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) matches claimed that bets for simple win outcomes were efficient, while bets for wins by round and wins by method were not. There are many such studies of other betting markets.

With the rise of online gambling, the industry is becoming more profitable, more permissible, and more popular, advocates say. Thirty-two states have legalized sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a federal ban on it in 2018 (it was already legal in Nevada, which had been exempted from the law due to the legacy of legal gambling in that state). It is not yet operational in Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio, though.

According to the gambling advocacy nonprofit American Gaming Association, recent data suggests that a majority of Americans see gambling as acceptable entertainment, with many also suggesting that it has an overall positive impact, especially economically. Others worry that gambling addiction and “problem gaming” are becoming more common. Despite this, projections show that gambling, especially online, will continue to grow. And money line bets are considered a comparatively easy way for newbies to bet. 

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states permission to legalize sports betting if they wish to do so. It is still fully illegal in 17 states, including California, Massachusetts, and Texas. In four other states, there is some form of pending legislation.

Money Line Bets vs. Point Spread Bets

A point spread bet considers not only which team wins but also by how much. In this sort of bet, the favorite has to win by a set amount of points or more. The underdog team, in comparison, doesn’t have to win; it only has to lose by less than the spread. To manage risk, bookmakers use point spreads to evenly distribute bettors on both sides of a bet.

Money lines and point spreads use the same information when they’re calculated, and both of their payouts are tied to the odds of a team winning or losing. In fact, both try to account for the relative strength of each team. However, they do this in different ways. Money lines change the amount charged for bets on a team, while point spreads change the team scores that would count as a win. The information in money line markets may be more precise than that in point spread markets, according to some financial studies.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700, or visit ncpgambling.org/chat to chat with a help line specialist.

What is a money line bet?

A money line bet is a wager on the outcome of an event. It is a bet on which team or competitor the bettor expects to win.

What does a +200 money line mean?

A +200 money line would mean that if you placed a $100 bet, you would win $200. It also tells you that the team is not expected to win, as it is the underdog in the game.

How do you figure out a money line?

To figure out how much you would make on a money line bet, you need to figure out how much your bet would pay out. Look at the integers next to the teams. Positive ones, next to the underdog, tell you how much you would rake in if you win with a bet of $100. Negative ones, next to the favorite, tell you how much you would need to be willing to risk to win $100. 

The Bottom Line

Money line bets, one of the simplest kinds of bets to place, allow bettors to select who they think will win a competition. How much any particular bet would win will depend on the odds of the team or competitor winning, which is represented by numbers next to the name (such as +200 or -110).

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. OhioLINK (Ohio Library and Information Network), Electronic Theses & Dissertations Center. “A Test of Efficiency in NBA Point Spread Markets,” Pages 1–2 (Pages 7–8 of PDF).

  2. Astellas Pharma, via SSRN. “Are Money Line Odds in UFC Matches Calibrated? Evidence from Events in 2019–2020.”

  3. New York University, Stern School of Business. “Finding Inefficiency in Sports Betting Markets; a Look Through NFL Confidence Pick’Em Biases.”

  4. American Gaming Association. “Interactive Map: Sports Betting in the U.S.

  5. U.S. Supreme Court. “Murphy, Governor of New Jersey et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. et al.,” Pages 30–31 (Pages 34–35 of PDF).

  6. Global Industry Analysts. “Gambling — Global Market Trajectory & Analytics.”

  7. PR Newswire. “Global Gambling Market to Reach $876 Billion by 2026.”

  8. Ohio University and the University of West Florida, via SSRN. “Informational Differences in NFL Point Spread and Moneyline Markets,” Pages 3, 4, and 9.

  9. Gaming Laboratories International. “Sports Betting in the Post-PASPA Era,” Page 12.

  10. American Psychiatric Association. “What Is Gambling Disorder?

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