We’re about to make the transition from the time when baseball is the primary sport people are paying attention to to when football takes over. That means that sports bettors will be making the transition from primarily betting using the moneyline to primarily using the point spread. Most people seem to prefer the point spread – it’s certainly more calmly discussed and understood – but I always have and likely always will prefer the moneyline. It’s an interesting exercise to look at the benefits and weaknesses of both kinds of bets:
Benefits of Point Spreads
Cost is almost always constant – For the most part you know that each point spread bet you make is going to cost you -110. Sometimes it might cost -120 to be on a popular side, and you may find -105 or even +100 if you are lucky, but the prices you will pay operate within a small range regardless of whether you are going to be betting primarily on favorites, underdogs, or a mix of the two. That makes budgeting easier, makes it easier to keep track of meaningful records, and makes it less risky to play on heavy favorites than it is on the moneyline.
Harder to make a bad bet – The betting public generally likes the favorites. As a result, the odds on favorites are often skewed in favor of the books. If you bet on a point spread favorite that doesn’t have any value the worst you are out is whatever you have bet at -110 or -120. If you are on a heavy favorite on the moneyline, though, you might be facing a price of -250 or -300. That’s far more damaging to the bankroll if things go poorly, and far less beneficial f things go well.
Easier for most people to understand – The moneyline is actually quite simple, but for most people who are new to betting the point spread is easier to embrace and become comfortable with. That’s most likely because the point spread is discussed so often in popular culture, and because the media is increasingly discussing the bet.
Key numbers are useful – The concept of key numbers – the spreads that are most commonly hit in the results of football games like 3 and 7 – are powerful and useful in handicapping. Key numbers are not applicable to the moneyline.
Middling – Even casual bettors can occasionally happen upon middling situations – situations where the odds are set up so that you can bet on both teams at different sports book in the same game and ensure a great result either way – either a very small loss or a very large win. Though theoretically possible with the moneyline this tool is far less common.
Can easily have a strong winning percentage and still lose money with moneyline – As a general rule if you win 55 percent of your games betting on the point spread you are going to make some money. If you are betting moneyline favorites, though, you could easily hit 65 percent of your picks and still lose money.
Benefits of Moneyline
Just have to pick a winner – For the teams that are involved in a game the only goal they care about is winning the game. They don’t care how much they win it by, or how many points the two teams combine to score. It’s all about the scoreboard. Moneyline betting is only about who wins as well. It can be pretty or it can be ugly, but a win is a win. By betting on the moneyline, then, you are associating yourself with the same goal that the team you are betting on has, and you don’t have to be an amateur psychologist to think about motivation nearly as much. When you bet a favorite on the point spread you have to think not just about who is going to win, but when your team is likely to take the lead, how hard they will try once they get that lead, what personnel moves getting the lead may cause, and so on. Moneyline betting involves fewer variables, and simplicity is a good thing. The flipside, of course, is that moneyline underdogs have to win the game, while point spread underdogs have a cushion. I’ll give up that cushion for the payoff as we’ll discuss next.
The beauty of underdogs – There is nothing better than picking underdogs winners on the moneyline. What makes it so nice? Simply, you get back more money than you bet. On small underdogs you might get $110 or $120 for every $100 you bet, and for serious underdogs you can sometimes get two, three or four times as much as you bet. That’s a good thing for several reasons. First, because you get back more than you bet you can make a profit even if you lose more bets than you win. That’s always a good thing. For example, betting moneyline underdogs is great when you are betting two games on a day and you split them. On the point spread going 1-1 on the day would mean a small loss, but on the moneyline it would mean a small profit. Profits are better than losses in my eyes. Besides that, the biggest advantage of moneyline underdogs is psychological. I like that when you bet them and win you get nice payoffs, and you can get especially nice payoffs when you win all of your bets on a day. Successful sports betting is all about the right mindset, and I find it easier to maintain a successful state of mind this way.
Fairer parlays – The odds books offer for point spread parlays should be criminal. The odds they set are at a fixed level, and that level is far lower than the actual mathematical risk of making the bets. Over the long term, then, the expectation is that even a good bettor would lose on parlays. They are a profit factory for books just like roulette or blackjack is for casinos. Using moneylines parlays are calculated simply by multiplying the risk of the bets you are parlaying together. It’s a bigger debate whether parlays are good bets, but there is no denying that parlays using moneylines are a much fairer bet that are conceptually and mathematically easier to show a profit with over the long term.