Basketball moneyline bets - nBA, FIBA & NCAA basketball money line bets explained

basketball moneyline betsOnline sportsbooks offer many types of basketball bets. Successful basketball betting requires you to not only know about basketball teams and players, you must also be able to find the good lines. Basketball moneyline bets are one of the most popular at online sportsbooks. A money line bet gives you two options; a small return on the favorite or a large return on the underdog. Moneyline bets usually confuse beginners to basketball betting. This guide will teach you how moneyline bets work and how you can spot the +EV lines. Around 50% of your basketball wagers should be moneyline bets. The reason you should give so much action to this particular type of bet is simple. The lines do not represent the expected outcomes. This is one of the bets that bookmakers love because they do not actually lose anything regardless of who wins. I will get into that later in this article. First, let's look at what a moneyline bet is and how it works. Here are some links to our other basketball betting guides.

Basketball Moneyline bets Explained

Money line bets always give you two numbers; a positive number and a negative number. The numbers listed are actually dollar amounts but the dollar sign is never included. These dollar amounts represent two scenarios:

  • The negative number in a moneyline bet, e.g. Miami Heat -225, Detroit Pistons +275 - The negative number in a basketball moneyline bet tells you how much you need to wager to win $100. It does not represent the minimum amount yo can bet. Here is an example of a money line on an NBA basketball game; Miami Heat -225, Detroit Pistons +275. Miami is a big favorite so it only makes sense that you should have to bet more than $1 to win a $1. Betting $225 is not the minimum wager accepted by the sports book. You can bet $22.50 to win $10 or you can bet $2,250 to win $1,000.
  • The positive number in a moneyline bet, e.g. Miami Heat -225, Detroit Pistons +275 - The positive number in a money line bet indicates how much you will win on a $100 wager. The team with the positive moneyline is the underdog so that is why the bookmaker is paying 2.75:1. This can be scaled down or up. You can wager $10 to win $27.50 or you can wager $500 to win $1,375.

Now that I have explained how moneyline wagers work in basketball let's take a look at why they are one of the highest +EV wagers available at an online sportsbook. Some sportsbooks will list the moneyline odds differently though. Here is an example:

  • Dallas Mavericks 7/4 - Miami Heat 10/21 = Dal +175, Mia -212

You can easily figure out the +/- using simple math. 7 divided by 4 equals 1.75. So you will win $1.75 for every $1 bet. That is the same as +175. For Miami you divide 10 by 21. This gives you .47. Every dollar you wager will win $.47 so to figure out the moneyline you just need to divide 100 by .47, which equals 212.

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Moneyline bets - how to find the value

When the bookie is creating a moneyline he is not thinking about the actual skill level of the team or their potential to win. The bookmakers job is to acquire equal action on both sides. In the Miami Heat -225, Detroit Pistons +275 example the sportsbook may have a total amount of action that looks like this; Miami: $9,000, Detroit: $1,450. If Miami wins, as predicted, the sportsbook would have to payout $4,000. If there is an upset and Detroit wins the bookmaker would have to payout $4,000. So they are paying one side with the other's money. The only purpose of the moneyline is to draw an equal amount of action so that the sportsbook does not win or lose money on the outcome. The sportsbooks make their money from the small fees they charge you to make a wager, commonly called the Vig or Juice.

So in the example above (Miami Heat -225, Detroit Pistons +275) you have to decide which is the better wager. If the Heat 2.25 times more likely to beat the Pistons? Of course not. That is just a number made up by the sportsbook to draw equal action. Let's say that Miami would win this game 80% of the time based on all of the statistics a handicapper would look at (historical trends, current trends, player injuries, home team advantage..ect). If you do the math you will realize that if you wagered on this same game, with the same odds, you would win 8 out of 10. Let's assume you wagered $225 to win $100 each time. That is $800 profit on the 8 wins and a $450 loss on the two bets you lost. That means you won $350.

The trick to consistently winning money on moneyline bets is being able to determine the actual odds. This is what basketball betting is all about. Many sports bettors look at the facts and come up with a probability of a win/loss in their gut. Others use complex mathematical formulas to determine how many times out of 100 a team will beat the other. Once you have that figured out you will know which money line bet offers more value.

moneyline bet Variance - which sportsbook offers the best moneylines?

All online sportsbooks offer moneyline bets on basketball. If you compare the moneyline odds at each sportsbook you will see that they are not the same. One sportsbook will usual offer a better moneyline than the other sportsbooks. That is why serious basketball bettors always keep active accounts at a few sportsbooks. I have compared the moneylines at the Internet's best basketball sportsbooks for the next basketball game and listed the results below:

Game: Dallas Mavericks Vs Miami Heat

  • Bodog's moneyline - Dallas +165, Miami -192
  • Bet365's moneyline - Dallas +175, Miami -212
  •'s moneyline - Dallas +225, Miami -255

So Bodog offers the best odds if you want to wager on Miami winning. To win $500 you would only need to wager $960. To win the the same at BetOnline you would have to wager $1,275. If you are betting on Dallas the results are the opposite. A $500 wager will win $1,125 at compared to only $825 at Bodog. That is about 25% greater return for Dallas wagers when you bet at BetOnline and around the same on Miami wagers at Bodog. Bet365 is is slightly better than Bodog for Dallas wagers and slightly worse for Miami wagers.

By doing some "moneyline shopping" before you place your bets you can double your winnings. If you bet blindly without checking other sportsbooks you could end up betting 25% more money to win a dollar at one sportsbook compared to another.

Bodog will not always offer the best odds on the favorite and BetOnline will not always offer the best odds on the underdog. You will need to look around and find the best place to make your moneyline bet on a game by game basis.