What’s the Difference between the Moneyline and the Spread?
When most bettors get ready to place a bet on their favorite sport, they typically face a choice of whether to bet on the Moneyline or the Spread.
These are the two most common betting markets for the four major sports.
Still, there are many who don’t know the difference between the two markets, so we are going to break each down for you to help you understand why players choose one over the other and when it’s more advantageous to choose the Moneyline over the Spread and vice versa.
Understanding The Point Spread
Let’s start with the Spread.
This is the type of betting market that you most often hear about when people talk about football and basketball games. The point spread is a wagering option where the favorite is handicapped by a specific number of points.
Let’s have a look at a typical point spread, using the NFL as an example.
At a participating sportsbook, the point spread for a game between the Browns and Patriots might look like this:
- Cleveland Browns +13.5 (-110)
- New England Patriots -13.5 (-110)
So what does that mean?
The Patriots are perceived to be the much stronger team in this matchup so they must be handicapped in some way for bettors to want to take Cleveland.
This is where the point spread comes into play. In this example, the Patriots have been set as a 13.5-point favorite in the game. Expert linemakers have determined to the best of their abilities that this is the handicap that must be applied in order to even out the game.
This example means that if you want to bet on the Patriots, you have to “lay” the points. In order to win the bet, you have to believe the Patriots will win by 14 or more points.
On the other side, if you think that the Browns can keep the game close, then you would want to “take the points” and hope the Cleveland will either win outright or lose by 13 pts or less.
What makes point spreads so much fun for gamblers is that the team you select does not actually have to win the game. All they must do for you to win your bet is “cover the spread,” which means they are within the number that is posted.
Understanding the Moneyline
Let’s now take the same game, but look at the Moneyline.
A Moneyline bet is one where you are solely picking the winner of the game, no matter what the final score ends up being. For a game with a heavy favorite like our example, here is what a Moneyline could look like:
- Cleveland Browns +280
- New England Patriots -300
The numbers next to each team represent the return in factors of $100.
In this scenario, the Patriots are likely going to win the game, so the sportsbook makes you wager a lot of money to get a return – you would have to risk $300 to win back $100 in profit.
If you think that Cleveland is going to pull off a huge upset, then you are going to be rewarded with $280 back in return for a bet of $100.
Bear in mind that while both of these spreads are using $100 as a guide, you do not have to bet that much. It is essentially a multiplier or a guide.
If you only wanted to bet $50 on the Patriots moneyline, you would get back $66.67 in the event of a New England win, a $16.67 profit.
Which Market is Better?
The answer is, it depends.
If you have a big bankroll and can make moneyline bets on favorites that will produce decent returns, then that could be the right wager for you.
Use your best judgement and assess your bets on a game-to-game basis.
We will cover other types of markets and betting strategies in depth in our Guides section, but for straight wagers, these are the two most common and popular wagers to place on any individual sporting event.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a difference between the moneyline and the point spread?
Yes. The result of a moneyline bet is dictated only by which team wins where a point spread bet result is determined by a handicap applied to each team in the matchup.
What is the number after the point spread?
The number after the point spread is the “juice” or “vig” that you will pay on a given wager. If the juice is -110, it means you will have to bet $110 to make a $100 profit.
What does it mean to take the points?
Taking the points means to take the underdog on the point spread. If the underdog was +10.5 in an NFL game and you want to bet on them, you would “take” 10.5 points and add them to the underdog’s final score.
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