Moneyline vs. Spread Betting: Understand the Differences

There are many different types of bets available to bettors. You look at a set of odds and ask yourself:

What is the difference between a moneyline and spread bet?

While some differences are obvious, there are many that you might not be aware of.

Moneyline vs. Spread: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between a moneyline and spread bet is the result required for you to win your bet.

A moneyline bet means the side you choose needs to win.

A point spread bet means that the side you choose needs to win or lose by a certain number of points for you to win your bet.

Take the following game as an example:

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans have a spread of 8. The Colts moneyline is -375 while the Texans moneyline is +300.

Let’s say the final score ends with Colts 28, Texans 24.

To understand the different scenarios of placing a moneyline vs. spread bet on this game, here are how the scenarios would have played out ($10 bet):

  • Spread: Colts -8 (-110) ->Lose $10
  • Spread: Texans +8 (-110) -> Win $9.09
  • Moneyline: Colts -375 -> Win $2.67
  • Moneyline: Texans +300 -> Lose $10

To get these payouts, you can use the odds calculator.

As you can see, betting on the point spread levels the playing field. The odds are reflected with this change.

The Texans were +300 on the moneyline (25% implied probability) vs. -110 on the spread (52.4% implied probability, getting 8 points).

Moneyline bets have more extreme odds compared to the point spread. Most point spread odds will be your standard -110. Moneyline odds can vary from as low as -10000 to +10000 or more.

Many sportsbooks won’t typically offer moneyline odds at such extremes. Since the moneyline can be converted to an implied win percentage, it can be a good check to see how likely a given bet is to win.

When Should you Bet Moneyline vs. Spread?

There are a few things to consider when deciding between a moneyline vs spread bet.

Bet Where You Have an Edge

While moneyline and spread bets are highly correlated, you may spot some inefficiencies between the lines.

If you have confidence that a moneyline might be off compared to a listed point spread, then it might make sense to go with a moneyline bet.

Do You Want Extreme Outcomes?

The main difference between moneyline and spread bets are the odds associated with each.

With moneyline bets, you are more likely to win your bet if you are betting on favorites and more likely to lose betting on underdogs.

With point spread bets, you will be much closer to a 50% win percentage over the long haul.

Choose Your Bets According to Your Bankroll

Your bankroll and the amount (% of bankroll) you are putting down on each bet could inform whether you choose moneyline or spread bets.

For example, say you have a $100 bankroll and are betting $5 per game. This means that if you lost your first 20 bets, you would be out of money.

While that may seem unlikely, it is dependent on the odds you are betting at. If each of those 20 bets was on heavy underdogs (ex: +500), then you may deplete your bankroll too fast.

If you were betting on point spreads at -110, then you are much more likely to have a longer runway due to a higher percentage chance of winning each bet.

Ultimately you will pay the vig on every bet, so you need to take that into account as well.

Which is a Better Bet – Moneyline or Spread?

Moneyline and spread bets are very different, so it depends on your goals.

If you want to bet on big underdogs hoping for a big payout, then a moneyline bet is better.

If you are a conservative bettor and want to win more often at a lower payout, then moneyline favorites are better.

If you want to roughly have a 50% chance of winning your bet, then a point spread bet is better.

In terms of entertainment value, spread bets could also have an edge as it is more likely each game you bet on has an outcome close to the spread, making bets on each side very exciting.

The advantage in terms of entertainment value for the moneyline comes from big underdog moneyline bets. These bets have big payouts and a small chance of happening. Who doesn’t love rooting for the big underdog to pull off the upset?

Can You Bet on the Moneyline and Spread?

You can bet on both the moneyline and spread on the same game, they just can’t be parlayed.

Some sportsbooks do offer same game parlays that would allow you to bet on the same game.

While you can bet on the moneyline and spread of the same game, it might not make sense to do so.

Going back to the Colts/Texans example, let’s assume you bet the Colts both spread (-8, -110) and moneyline (-375). A $10 bet on each of those would have net -$7.33.

The moneyline bet won (+$2.67), but the spread bet lost (-$10). If you did decide to bet both moneyline and and spread of the same side, you would probably want to vary your bet amounts.

On the flip side, if you bet both Texans moneyline and spread, you would have lost -$0.81.

If you wanted to hedge a bit, you could have bet the moneyline for one team and the spread for another.

If you thought the Colts were going to win, but by less than 8 points (the spread), then you could have bet the Colts moneyline and Texans spread +8.

In this example, both bets would have won, netting +$11.76 on $20 wagered.

Many times it just makes sense to choose either the moneyline or spread, not both.

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