While most sports bettors are familiar with the point spread as a means for betting on certain sports such as football and basketball, the common way to bet on sports such as baseball and hockey is the money line.
In general terms, a money line is a handicapping device used by oddsmakers to level the playing field between a favorite and an underdog in a particular matchup. The goal of any sportsbook is to have an equal amount of money bet on either side of a game and the money line is great equalizer between the two. For example, if the New York Rangers are home favorites against the Boston Bruins in a hockey game, you might find the following listing for the money line in the game:Boston +140 New York -150.
What this means in betting terms is that to win a $100 wager on the favored Rangers you would have to risk losing $150 if New York loses the game. Conversely, if you want to bet $100 on Boston as an underdog, you would stand to win $140 if the Bruins go on and win that game. The main thing to remember is that a typical money line bet is a straight-up proposition. You risk more money to bet the favorites and you can make more money betting the underdogs. This type of sports bet is all about risk and reward. During the course of a typical NHL or MLB season, the favorite is bound to win more total games than the underdog, but there is not an overwhelming difference in the winning percentage. While the betting public is infatuated with betting on favorites, the money line bet is a great opportunity to bet on underdogs.
Depending on how you bet on money lines, you can actually lose more games than you win betting underdogs and still make a profit. For example, if you bet on the underdog in five MLB games with a money line higher than +150, you can lose three of those games and still come out slightly ahead. Going with a simple example of five identical +155 money lines in those five games; you would collect $310 for the two games you won and owe $300 for the three you lost.
Money line bets are all about opportunity and confidence in your picks. If you are absolutely convinced that the Rangers are going to beat the Bruins, then the $100 you stand to collect if you are right is worth the -150 risk on that game’s money line. You need to pick and choose your spots when betting money lines, but it is still a great way to beat the books when the timing is right.
Just like a point spread in a football game can go up and down based on the amount of money bet on either side, a money line will move up and down as well in hockey and baseball. If the early money is trending towards the favorite, then that line will go up and so will the line on the underdog. The sportsbooks will always have a built in edge to skew the numbers in their favorite, but this in-turn can create some golden opportunities for bettors if you know where to look.
Tracking money line movements is a big part of handicapping any matchup and sometimes it pays to book a bet early and sometimes the best strategy is a wait-and-see approach. This is especially true if you are big on an underdog when the betting public is all over the favorite. The time-honored cliché’s of “any given Sunday” and “that is why they play the game” are as true today as they have ever been.