Is it Better to Bet the Moneyline or Spread?

Whether you have experience sports betting or are just starting out, as Texas gets ready to go live with regulated sports gambling, it is important to know how sports betting odds work and the ins and outs of moneyline and point spread betting.

These are two of the most common bet types for betting on one team against another. You can bet them both before and during games.

What is a moneyline bet?

A moneyline bet is the simplest of all bet types. Honestly, it’s possible you’ve already placed moneyline bets in your life and not known the term. Betting on the moneyline is picking which team will win a particular matchup.

But these bets aren’t typically 50-50 situations. As you know, not all teams are equal. Some perform better than others, which is where odds factor into moneyline bets.

You will receive a higher dollar amount with a winning bet on an underdog than you would with a winning bet on the favorite. When the moneyline odds show a plus sign, that usually signifies the underdog, while a minus sign shows the favorite.

Unlike the point spread, the moneyline works the same way in the major sports like football, basketball, and baseball. If you pick the winner correctly, you win the moneyline bet.

Below is an example of an NFL moneyline. It shows the Dallas Cowboys as +275 moneyline underdogs and the Cincinnati Bengals as -330 favorites. This means you would need to bet $330 on the Bengals to return a $100 profit.

Then, a $100 bet on the Cowboys would mean a $275 profit.

What is a point spread bet?

A point spread is the most popular way to bet on sports. Instead of changing teams’ odds as they do with the moneyline, oddsmakers set the point spread by spotting the lesser team a certain number of points as a way to even the playing field.

For example, if the oddsmakers deem a certain team to be five points better than the other, the favored team would need to win by more than five points to cover the spread. Meanwhile, the underdog would need to lose by fewer than five points or win outright to cover the spread.

A popular question when it comes to point spreads concerns the notion of half-points. It’s a simple explanation. When a team is favored by something like 4.5 points, that eliminates any chance of a push (or tie).

Sportsbooks don’t like those, because when bets land on the exact number the sportsbook set, the bettors get their money back. Since there are no half-points in real sports, a spread with a half-point necessitates an eventual winner.

For this NFL point spread, the Denver Broncos are 10-point favorites over the Houston Texans. For the Broncos to cover the spread, they need to win by more than 10 points, while the Texans spread means they would need to lose by fewer than 10 points or win outright.

Are moneylines and spreads used for all sports?

Because there’s almost always going to be a contest winner and a contest loser, moneylines can be used for pretty much every sport. However, point spreads can differ.

For example, football betting and basketball betting are great for point spreads. Spreads can vary widely in these sports (and keep games interesting) due to the high volume of points in most games. However, sports like hockey and baseball have a different system. Instead of calling it a point spread, it is referred to as a run line in baseball and puck line in hockey.

In both, the favorite is always favored by 1.5 runs or goals. The underdog is spotted 1.5 goals or runs. That said, in this system, due to the set spread and the differing qualities of teams, sportsbooks return to something more like moneyline odds.

Pros and cons for moneylines vs. spreads

The moneyline and point spread have their own advantages and disadvantages. With the moneyline, you can cash in on a huge return by correctly betting on the underdog to pull off the upset.

However, such bets are extremely difficult to win on a long-term basis. (Those teams are often big underdogs for a reason.) On the other hand, when you bet on the favorite, you are highly likely to win, but the payouts can be very small.

By contrast, with the point spread, you will rarely find plus odds. But these wagers are easier to win consistently. As a rule, the sportsbooks are trying to make them close to 50-50 bets, moving the spread to pull in equal betting on both sides of a contest.

Which bet type has the best odds?

You are probably going to get the best betting odds with the point spread simply because this is a bet type more conducive to long-term success. The standard odds for point spread bets are -110.

Those spread odds won’t yield a massive return, like if you hit on a huge underdog on the moneyline, but betting the spread is a far more efficient way to make money consistently.

Is it easier to win on moneylines or spreads?

Winning money on sports consistently is not easy no matter what bet type you choose. Simply picking the winner of a game with a moneyline bet is probably the easiest to understand as a beginner.

Just know you will not make a ton of money betting on moneyline favorites and are likely to lose many of the bets you place on moneyline underdogs.

Which are better for beginners—moneylines or spreads?

It might be best to start with moneyline betting, simply because the concept is so simple. You can get a feel for the risks of picking underdogs and the small returns for betting correctly on favorites.

But once you understand how those moneyline odds feel and behave, you can move over to point spreads as a longer-term tactic. With spreads, oddsmakers try to set numbers to create a 50% chance of winning.