Over the last few weeks I have covered the ins and outs of betting pointspreads, totals, first halfs and halftimes. With regards to straight wagers, moneylines are really the only thing left to cover. In my opinion, less than half of football bettors understand, and bet, moneylines on any sort of a regular basis. 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.
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 football spreads to moneylines in Las Vegas sportsbooks. Note that college is slightly different at -4 and up.
One of the most common questions I am asked in reader emails is why we don’t offer moneylines for spreads outside the 2-10 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 10, 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 with Ohio State over Miami in the Rose Bowl this past January).
All right, now we can talk about value. This past weekend, there were 14 NFL games. On the pointspread bettors went heavier on 12 favorites and 1 underdog (1 game was evenly split). On the other hand, the moneyline action was heavier for just 2 favorites; compared with 9 underdogs (1 game was balanced and we had no moneyline for two games). Spreads were offside 12-1 on favorites and moneylines were offside 9-2 on underdogs. Guess where you will find value? This past weekend would not have been a good one to play on this value with large favorites like Indianapolis (-260), Tampa Bay (-200) and Minnesota (-240) all losing outright but it is the fear of these big expensive losses that actually keep the prices down for favorites on the moneyline. Just something to think about.
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. Bettors who took the Jets or the Cowboys last weekend would have been better off this week with their teams on the Moneyline instead of settling for a push (or worse) on the spread.
An interesting by-product of these player trends is that books often profit on both the spread and the moneylines when a favorite wins but doesn’t cover. This helps make up for some of the sides and middles that take place over the course of a season.
Okay, now for a quick look back at the weekend. On Saturday, bettors piled up on Purdue and won easily with the Boilermaker’s 27-14 win. Kansas State -18.5 was also a popular bet that covered easily (45-0!). The biggest win for the book was Ohio State -7 over Michigan 33-23, but other than those three games, action was fairly balanced up and down the board. Of the rest of the games, the ones with the most action were Texas -3 @ Oklahoma St (small win for bettors), Virginia Tech -4.5 @ Pitt (small win for bettors) and Mississippi +8.5 @ Auburn (small win for the book).
Sunday wasn’t as kind to bettors. Straight up wins by home dogs Jacksonville (+6 over Indy 28-23), Carolina (+3.5 over Tampa Bay 27-24), and Washington (+3 over Seattle 27-20) in the early games gave the House a great start to the day. When the Chargers (another home dog, +6) won outright over Minnesota, it locked up a winning day and a winning weekend. Only the Raiders late collapse prevented home dogs from having a perfect day. Sunday night action was balanced but there was a lean towards St Louis and the Over so that result was good for bettors. Bettors also get the best of the book with a few totals going over the number: KC/Cleveland, Minnesota/San Diego, Seattle/Washington and Houston/Cincinnati. The Dallas/Buffalo Under was also a popular total play that went against the book. Monday Night was fairly balanced as well, but the lean there was to the Packers and the Over so the result was good for the book and made up for Sunday night. Playing the Eagles on the moneyline was a nice payoff for some clients that now have pretty good reason to ignore today’s column!
I’ll be back next week with a look at parlays. Good luck this week.
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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino