Betting 101: Know your money lines

As you get deeper into the challenges and joys of sports betting, it will dawn on you that it’s helpful to develop an instinct for money line prices. Even if you prefer not to bet money lines on individual games, knowing typical ranges will help you recognize smart bets on other types of propositions. 

Some examples…

  • Betting parlays using money lines rather than point spreads is becoming more popular by the day. You can map out short term or long term investment strategies by plugging money line prices into an online parlay calculator. If you’re like many bettors, you’ve probably already experimented with these during the NCAA tournament. 
  • You can use money lines to project returns for what VSiN has been calling “rolling parlays,” where…instead of betting teams on the futures board…you keep taking them to win straight up on a game by game basis. If you re-invest your full return each time, your return will be much greater than futures payouts. Parlay calculators are invaluable for this as well. You’ll find this approach very helpful when updated futures prices for the Sweet 16 hit the board. 
  • Series prices in the NBA and NHL playoffs are popular betting attractions. Studying game-by-game money lines can help you evaluate if full series prices properly reflect true percentages. Those will be on your radar in very short order. 
  • Football continues to see growing interest in NFL “Regular Season Win” propositions. If you can make reasonable guesses for point spreads through the season for your favorite team, you can turn those into money line equivalents, and then percentages to win each game (a -200 favorite will win two-thirds of the time, lose one-third of the time. This is how sharps prepare in advance so they can attack opening numbers as soon as they go up. Sports books are putting those on the betting board earlier than in the past because of public demand. 

As a longtime sports fan, you probably have very strong instincts for point spreads. When you peruse those each day before making your bets, spend some time looking at the corresponding money lines. VSiN has compiled a quick chart for point spreads of 1-10 points based on prices from the first round of the NCAA tournament… 

Point Spread: Fav/Dog on money line

Favorite -1: -115/plus 105

Favorite -2: -130/plus 110

Favorite -3: -160/plus 140

Favorite -4: -200/plus 170

Favorite -5: -220/plus 180

Favorite -6: -280/plus 240

Favorite -7: -330/plus 250

Favorite -8: -400/plus 320

Favorite -9: -500/plus 400

Favorite -10: -600/plus 425

 

A three-point favorite will be about -160 on the money line (meaning you risk $160 to win $100, or anything in that ratio…$16 to win $10, $800 to win $500). A three-point underdog will return about 140 (meaning you risk $100 to win $140, or anything in that ratio). 

Now those won’t be in lockstep at every betting location. Different companies use different levels of vigorish at higher numbers. And money lines are a “separate” market from point spreads, so that you will see some game-by-game variation. Generally speaking, those will help you get the job done. 

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