The Power of the Moneyline

Just about every sports bettor on the planet understands, and bets on, pointspreads, but only a fraction understand, and bet, moneylines. It is an even smaller percentage of bettors that can recognize when a moneyline is presenting value and play accordingly. In this week’s column I want to discuss how to compare the spread to the moneyline so you may be able to find some value yourself.

As a starting point for those that have yet to try and figure out moneylines, here is a quick primer. More experienced bettors can skip to the next paragraph. Reading a moneyline is very simple. A typical moneyline would be something like Denver Broncos -165, Miami Dolphins +145. The -165 means you must risk $165 to win $100 on the Broncos while the +145 means you get back $145 for each $100 risked should the Dolphins win outright. Any -number means that is the risk to win $100 and any +number is the payoff for risking $100. It is that simple. In the event of a tie, all moneyline wagers are settled as a Push and monies are refunded. The difference between the two lines typically starts at 20 cents in football and gets larger as the numbers get higher. For example, if the favorite is -240, the dog may be +200, a difference of 40 cents. The higher difference at higher numbers simply serves to keep the percentage of vig for the house roughly the same (perhaps I will cover this math in a later column, but you will have to trust me on this for now).

Next up, I want to look at how to compare a spread to a moneyline. Although each offshore book is different, here is a chart that is published on the Internet showing a general guideline for converting spreads to moneylines in the NFL. Note that college is slightly different and is omitted here in the interest of space.

Favourite Pointspread
Corresponding Moneyline

One of the most common questions I am asked in reader emails is why we don’t offer moneylines for spreads outside the 2-14 range. The reason is that outside these ranges it becomes difficult to balance action. If a spread moves from -1.5 to -1, you don’t have much room to move on the moneyline. Players will simply ignore betting the +1 and take the dog at +105 or even, lowering the vig for the house. Above 14, the moneylines are just too high. Bettors seldom lay the big price and then the House sometimes takes big hits when the big upsets come in (like last year’s Super Bowl).

All right, now we can talk about value. This past weekend, players bet heavier on 10 favorites, 3 dogs and were evenly split on one other game. On the other hand, the moneyline action was heavier for ZERO favorites, 7 dogs, and balanced on 6 (we had no moneyline for New Orleans/Washington). Spreads were offside 10-3 on favorites – Moneylines were offside 7-0 on dogs. Guess where you will find value. Considering that favorites were 5-9 against-the-spread (ATS), but 9-5 Straight Up (SU), there was definitely moneyline value this past weekend on the favorites.

An interesting situation that arises as a result of these player trends is that books often profit on both lines when a favorite wins but doesn’t cover. Kansas City/San Diego is a great example. The spread moved all the way from Chargers -3 last Monday to Chargers -4 at kickoff. The Betting public was heavy on San Diego. However, our moneyline only moved from -175 when posted on Thursday (spread was SD -3.5 at the time) to -190 at kickoff. According to the chart above, that moneyline should have been -200 but bettors didn’t seem to care and were taking the Chiefs +165 in droves. When Drew Brees led the winning drive to edge the Chiefs 35-34, we were left in a win-win situation as we collected on both the Chargers money on the spread and the Chiefs money on the moneyline. Note that the Bills-Texans, Cowboys-Panthers and Colts-Ravens games also had the favorite winning but not covering and resulted in a pretty good weekend for books.

These betting trends are not limited to football. Over the past 4 days, bettors had the favorite on the runline (baseball’s version of the spread, always -1.5 runs) in all 6 League Championship games played. They had the dog on the moneyline in 5 of those. With the favorite winning by 1-run in three of the game (Anaheim 2-1 Friday, San Francisco 4-3 Sunday and 2-1 Monday), we were able to collect both ways on those three games and have a great baseball weekend.

Not every moneyline will present an opportunity, but be sure to compare the moneylines and corresponding spread. Wagering is a game of supply and demand. Going against the public trends will lead to you getting better prices on all your plays and you will be more profitable in the long run.

As always I am pleased to present Bodog’s top bookmaker, Kent, and his Line Move of the Week. This past weekend, I was able to get down the wager center/head office in Costa Rica and take in the action myself. (If you get a chance to go to San Jose, be sure to go to the restaurant Tex Mex in Santa Ana. Their Muchaca Burrito is by far my favorite meal in Costa Rica, and perhaps the world, so I make it a point to stop in on every trip and I made Kent take me there after the last games kicked off on Saturday. I am still full…). Anyway, here is what Kent had to say:

I know Rob is writing about Moneylines this week so I was going to use the Chargers-Chiefs game. Now, he tells me he has already used that game in his column. (You take the guy out for dinner and he steals your thunder. What a guy!) Second choice would be the Broncos-Dolphins game on Sunday Night. We opened Broncos -3.5 (Even) and I fully expected this to be a messy 3/3.5 spread as many of the primetime games have been this week. However, the number worked out very well as players loaded up on Denver and the line moved to -3.5 (-110). The Dolphin action was on the moneyline and it actually moved slightly in the opposite direction from +155 down to +150. It looked like a golden situation with us cheering for a small Broncos win. When the Broncos scored to go up 22-21, we thought we had another big middle but the Dolphins came back to win 24-22 and we ended up with just a modest profit.

My thanks to Kent and remember to check the spread against the moneyline in every sport you bet. Every once in a while, you will find a mismatch and be able to take advantage of the value.

The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.

Good luck with your wagers!

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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino