Moneyline vs. Point Spreads

When deciding to bet on sports, one of the first decisions that must be made is whether or not to bet on moneyline or point spreads. Moneyline ultimately focuses on who wins the game, while point spreads are concerned with not only who wins but by how much. This article will summarize the basic differences between moneyline and point spreads, and will then outline the pros and cons of both.

Moneyline Summary

Moneyline is used in sports where the margin of victory is impossible to determine, or in cases where there is a very slight (and thus difficult to predict) margin. Take boxing for example, where there is only a winner and a loser. Other low-scoring sports such as soccer or hockey also have margins that are very difficult to predict.

In cases such as these, using a traditional point spread would be not only difficult but impractical. Thus the favourite is designated with a minus sign, and the underdog is shown with a plus sign. Take a look at the following example:

Minnesota Twins +115
Toronto Blue Jays -120

Here the Blue Jays are the favourite (as seen by the minus sign) and the Twins are the underdogs (plus sign). The numbers following the signs tell us what amounts need to be bet in order to win $100. Those wishing to bet on the Blue Jays will need to bet $120 in order to win $100, and those picking the Twins will need to bet $115 to win $100. 

Differences between the two numbers will grow if the talent disparity between the two parties is large.

Moneyline Pros

  • Makes it easier to bet on sports where the margin of victory is difficult to determine
  • Easier to understand for novice betters
  • All you need to do is pick a winner

Moneyline Cons

  • Does not take into effect margin of victory
  • Not as precise as betting via point spreads

Point Spreads Summary

Here betters are measured not only by who wins, but also by the margin of victory or accuracy of their bets. It is not enough simply to pick the winning side, but one must correctly wager on what the point differential will be between the two squads.

Essentially you are betting on whether or not the margin of victory will be above or below the spread. This eliminates instances where the favourite will always receive the majority of bets, as now the question of 'by how much' comes into play. Let's look at the same example above to better understand point spreads.

Let's assume that the bookie decides on a spread of 3 for the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays game, and the final score of the game is:

Underdog: Minnesota Twins 3
Favourite: Toronto Blue Jays 5

If a better were to have picked the underdog, he is betting that the underdog's score plus the spread is enough to beat the favourite. In this case, he would be a winner (3 + 3 > 5).

If the better picks the favourite, he is betting that the favourite's score minus the spread is enough to beat the underdog. In this case, he would be a loser (5 - 3 < 3).

Point Spreads Pros

  • Brings into play the element of margin of victory
  • Allows you to bet on all matches, regardless of who is favoured heavily

Point Spreads Cons

  • Difficult to understand for beginners
  • Tougher to decide margin of victory in many cases


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