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Money Line Basics
For new bettors, money lines can seem a little complicated compared to point spreads, but broken down are actually quite simple. Unlike point-spread betting, money line bets focus solely on the outcome of the game; who will win - who will lose?
In money line betting there is no “juice” (or sportsbook commission) like there is in point spread betting, but the sportsbook advantage is built into the lines.
If you are used to betting against the spread, money line bets can be a good alternative when you don’t have a good feeling one way or the other. Money line bets are less profitable (and less risky) when betting on the favorite. That being said, betting on the underdog can be more profitable if your bet wins, but are more risky in nature.
To describe how a money line bet works, we’ll use a real world money line example. When looking at odds for a Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers matchup, a bettor might see:
Miami (-240) is the favored team for this matchup. Cleveland (+195) is the underdog. So what do the numbers mean? It’s actually quite simple. The bettor who takes Miami will have to bet $240 to win $100. The bettor who takes Cleveland only has to bet $100 for the chance of winning $195.
Looking at this information, it’s clear to see how the odds appear to give the bettor an advantage (if they choose to bet on the favorite), and some hope of doubling up if they choose the underdog. For both sides the risk and potential is clear. The advantage, compared to money line betting, is that the odds of winning are put in the hands of the bettor.
While it might seem simple to win a lot in the long run by always picking a clear favorite, it’s just not that simple. Since you might put down significantly more money than you’ll have a chance to win, one loss can be enough to take away the profit of 3 other wins (depending on the lines). Although clear favorites win most of the time, they’re never a guarantee – favorites do lose. It’s just as important to make wise decisions in money line betting as it is in point spread betting.
Betting on the underdog involves smart betting and can be tricky as well. The risk is lower and the reward is higher. Opposite of the betting on the favorite, one winning underdog bet can make up for several losses. Remember, underdog bettors will lose more of their bets than they win.