by Rob Gillespie
Who really likes math? When it comes to betting on football, most North American bettors favor pointspreads over moneylines simply because they get pointspreads. There's no math involved. Once you face your fear of math, however, you'll find that betting on moneylines is easier than you think.
With pointspreads, it's easy to spot the difference between -3 and -4, right? But how much value is there between moneylines of -170 and -210? Most people don't get that; it's just not something that's intuitive to football bettors.
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If you bet on the Minnesota Vikings or the Atlanta Falcons this past week, for example, you would have lost betting on the pointspreads. The moneylines were high, but had you bet on them, you would have won. What it comes down to is a simple decision you need to make with every single game you bet on: Where is there going to be more value?
If you can look at it that way, you then need to ask yourself a couple of questions: "Is this team likely to win but not cover? Is this team likely to cover but not win?" From there it's a matter of doing some simple charting and finding out where the value lies.
Math Made Easy
As a starting point for those that have yet to try and figure out moneylines, here is a quick primer. (More experienced bettors can skip to the next paragraph.) Reading a moneyline is very simple. A typical moneyline would be something like Denver Broncos -165, Miami Dolphins +145. The -165 means you must risk $165 to win $100 on the Broncos while the +145 means you get back $145 for each $100 risked should the Dolphins win outright. Any -number means that is the risk to win $100 and any +number is the payoff for risking $100. It is that simple.
In the event of a tie, all moneyline wagers are settled as a push and monies are refunded. The difference between the two lines typically starts at 20 "cents" in football and gets larger as the numbers get higher. For example, if the favorite is -240, the dog may be +200, a difference of 40 "cents". The higher difference at higher numbers simply serves to keep the percentage of vig for the house roughly the same.
Next up, I want to look at how to compare a spread to a moneyline. Although each offshore book is different, here is a chart that is published on the Internet showing a general guideline for converting football spreads to moneylines in Las Vegas sportsbooks. Note that college is slightly different at -4 and up.
|Favorite Pointspread||Corresponding NFL Moneyline||Corresponding NCAA Moneyline|
One of the most common questions I am asked in reader emails is why we don't offer moneylines for spreads outside the 2-10 range. The reason is that outside these ranges it becomes difficult to balance action. If a spread moves from -1.5 to -1, you don't have much room to move on the moneyline. Players will simply ignore betting the +1 and take the dog at +105 or even, lowering the vig for the house. Above 10, the moneylines are just too high. Bettors seldom lay the big price and then the House sometimes takes big hits when the big upsets come in.
Betting on Moneylines Means More Opportunities
Not every moneyline will present an opportunity, but be sure to compare the moneylines and corresponding spread. Wagering is a game of supply and demand. Going against the public trends will lead to you getting better "prices" on all your plays and you will be more profitable in the long run.
An interesting by-product of these player trends is that books often profit on both the spread and the moneylines when a favorite wins but doesn't cover. This helps make up for some of the sides and middles that take place over the course of a season.
Every football season sees more and more bettors enter the market through things like office pools. With football pools at the office, however, you're still betting on pointspreads. Once that market is saturated and as that market becomes more sophisticated, then I think you'll see moneylines start to grow.
Your challenge this season is to see the betting opportunities that exist beyond pointspreads. Let's say you've got 16 games to bet on this week and you're looking at pointspreads, moneylines and totals. Right there you've got 48 opportunities. If you're only betting on pointspreads your opportunities are limited. Why limit yourself? Do the math.
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Good luck with your wagers!