How to understand and place a moneyline bet
Maple Leaf stars John Tavares and Auston Matthews celebrate a goal. Photo by Tony Avelar/AP.

What's a moneyline bet? If you're new to betting and have ever wondered what that term means, we have you covered in this moneyline bet explainer.

A moneyline bet involves picking the outright winner of a game. You are simply picking which team you think will win straight up. If the side you choose wins, you win the bet.

Betting on the moneyline is one of the most common ways to wager on sports and is also the most straightforward. We'll take a look below at different moneyline (ML for short) examples for Big Four sports games.

Moneyline bet explainer

Each team is assigned its own odds before a contest begins. One team is deemed the favourite while the other is the underdog. The favourite will have a minus sign (-) before its odds and the underdog will be denoted with a plus sign (+). 

These odds are linked to the implied probability of each team winning. So you will sometimes see odds that are similar and others where there's a large discrepancy. Reasons for a massive difference in odds include talent level, team success, and the health of a roster.

Read more: Glossary of key sports betting terms

If all teams were given the same odds, it would make little sense to pick a last-place team over a conference leader.

What the odds also tell you is the amount you would win depending on how much you wagered. Let's take a look at some examples.

OddsWagerWinImplied Probability

Moneyline bet examples

Now that you understand how odds are linked to payouts and a team's implied probability of winning a certain matchup, let's examine some hypothetical moneyline bets for Ontario's most popular teams.

MatchupAway oddsHome odds
Rays at Blue Jays+120-135
Lions at Bills+490-620
Senators at Leafs+260-310
Celtics at Raptors+110-115

Moneyline odds are presented the same way across the Big Four sports. The only difference in these examples is the odds discrepancy which, again, reflects the quality of opponents facing off. 

The odds will be similar in a matchup between two evenly matched teams (like the Rays/Blue Jays example) while the odds will be nowhere near the same when one team is significantly better than the other (like the Lions/Bills matchup). The same goes for that Leafs and Senators game.

Unless Toronto was missing a number of significant pieces from its roster (say Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Jack Campbell), you can expect it to be a large favourite every time it faces a team on Ottawa's level.

To recap what we illustrated above: In order to win $100 on the Bills moneyline, you would need to wager $620. You would win $490 on a $100 wager if you elected to pick the Lions on the ML and they won.

Moneyline betting tips

Because you would have to risk a lot for a small reward in that Bills scenario, blindly picking the favourite and backing Buffalo on the ML wouldn’t be the recommended play here unless it was part of a parlay. You could, however, pick the Bills to win by a certain amount of points and back them on the point spread. You would get a better return on your investment if they were able to do so.

Underdogs win games every night, so picking the team that isn't favoured to win has the potential to generate a large return on investment. But remember: they are underdogs for a reason.

The Bills are often favourites on the moneyline but that doesn't always make them the right bet. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP.

Just like we wouldn't recommend betting on the favourite every time, we also wouldn't recommend picking underdogs simply because you have the potential to earn more money.

Research, following trends, and how specific teams match up against each other is important when determining who to bet on. Sometimes, it may all point to backing the underdog.

Paying attention to the health of a roster is especially important when making bets because a key player being out can drastically swing the lines.

NorthStar Bets editorial Insiders have no influence, direct or otherwise, over the setting of odds advertised on our platforms.