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Point Spreads vs. Moneylines

Betting Point Spreads vs. Moneylines

By Loot, Professional Sports Bettor,

There is a long list of pros and cons associated with betting against-the-spread, as opposed to betting on a moneyline. Let’s explore some of those things to offer a better understanding to bettors who are faced with the conundrum of which bet they should make.

We are talking about college and pro football and basketball--the only sports where a point spread is used so widely and as a form of standardized betting. But when betting on football and basketball, you don’t have to bet against-the-spread. You can bet on the money line, where you simply pick the winner of the game. In sports like baseball, boxing, MMA, tennis, soccer, etc., betting on the money line, where you simply pick a winner, is the standard form of betting.

Therein lies the bulk of appeal with moneylines--simply betting on a team to win. It’s just more organic, in a sense, being that you are betting on teams who are trying to do the precise thing you are betting on. Teams are out to win games, not cover spreads. So when betting on a team to just win the game, you are matching the team’s agenda, which isn’t to either win or not lose by a certain number of points.

Let’s look at betting against-the-spread versus betting on the moneyline, both with favorites and underdogs:


When betting on a favorite against-the-spread, winning isn’t enough. You need to win and do so by a certain number of points. That carries with it a certain lack of appeal that some bettors can’t get their head around. That’s why betting on favorites on the money line is so popular among bettors who prefer to pick a team to win, as opposed to doing it by a certain number of points.

Naturally, when betting on favorites against-the-spread to simply win the game on the money line, you will need to bet more than you stand to win. Exactly how much depends on the point spread. The more a team is favored by, the higher the odds will be on the money line.

One of the major problems people run into betting this way is that when betting more than you stand to win, you need to win at a percentage that can be quite high and potentially out-of-reach. That especially applies if you like to take big favorites and bet the money line so you can escape the component of point spreads. You’ll be betting 3, 4, or 5 to win 1 and that simply forces you to maintain a winning percentage that not everyone is capable of doing.

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At the same time, there is an undeniable appeal in betting on a team to just win the game when they’re favored by a certain number of points. It’s just that a lot of bettors may not like the point spread because they think it’s too high for the favorite. When betting favorites on the money line, it’s a good idea to also think that team is going to cover the point spread. If you think the point spread is out-of-whack against the team you’re betting, it’s not going to offer good value on the money line.


The top element of appeal with betting underdogs on the money line is that you stand to win more than you bet. Unlike favorites, you can have a winning percentage under 50% and still come out ahead when betting dogs on the ML. The one obvious downside is that you will be relinquishing the edge that the point spread afforded you. Losing on a money line bet on an underdog when they would have otherwise covered the spread is one of those things in sports betting that can really sting.

At the same time, you can afford to be wrong when betting underdogs on the money line. And a lot of times, you will see games that are virtual toss-ups. It’s really hard to identify a clear favorite. But maybe one team is more followed or heavily-hyped. Maybe they have a player or two who just command a lot of national attention. So that team will be favored by a little and you can catch some nice value by taking an underdog that maybe shouldn’t be an underdog.

By in large, underdogs get more betting value than favorites. The general betting public is geared mentally to take favorites. The bookie can make the line less-tantalizing for favorites and when that happens, the underdog gets the better betting value. When consistently betting on underdogs on the money line in good-value spots, that’s a profitable move over the long-run.

Let’s say you’re taking a 2.5-point underdog in an NFL game. On the money line, you can have that team at +120, which is 6/5 in your favor. And while no one should scoff at 2.5 points, you’re not really making the best use of those points in the 0-to-2.5 range. Basically, your team still needs to win the game at +2.5 or just not lose by 1 or 2 points--neither of which are the more-common margins of victory in the NFL. If you lose by a field goal, which is the most common margin of victory in the NFL, you would still lose at +2.5. There are spots like this where a money line bet succeeds where an ATS bet fails. If it loses on the money line, you probably would have lost at +2.5, as well.

Final Thoughts

This is not an endorsement or condemnation on moneylines. It’s just that certain situations arise where a money line bet is what the doctor ordered. And there will be other times where betting against-the-spread is the more desirable course of action. The key is to not fall into patterns, where you’re exclusively using one or the other. Mix it up. Have different bets for the variety of different scenarios that arise as you wager on sports.

To get a better idea of how point-spreads generally break down to money lines, take a look at the list below. It can vary, but these numbers will illustrate the benefit in utilizing both the point-spread and money line when making football and basketball bets.

-2: -130/+110
-2.5: -140/+120
-3: -155/+135
-3.5: -175/+155
-4.5: -220/+180
-5/-5.5: -240/+190
-7: -330/+250
-7.5/-8/-8.5: -360/+280
-9/-9.5: -400/+300
-10: -450/+325

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