The most common types of single-game bets are moneylines, followed by point spreads. But here’s the thing: some very popular sports among Canadians don’t come with point spreads.
From a betting perspective, this is where hockey and baseball have a connection. Neither one offers you a point spread. Instead, they feature a puck line and a run line, respectively.
Here, we’ll dive a bit deeper into moneylines, puck lines (hockey), and run lines (baseball)—detailing everything you need to know about these options and how they differ from traditional point spreads.
How do moneylines work?
The very first thing single-game sports bettors in Canada need to understand is how moneylines function. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to break down.
Betting with the moneyline means picking one side to win a given game. Regardless of the score, all you’re looking for is your selected team to come out victorious. Let’s take a look at an example from DraftKings Sportsbook Ontario, a betting app that Canadians will surely enjoy using thanks to its variety, welcome offers and promotions.
The favourite can be easily identified by the negative moneyline. In the case seen above, that’s the Oilers. The underdog is the plus-money option. For this game, the Jets are in that role. In order to calculate how much you stand to win or lose on these bets, it helps to look at the moneyline relative to the number 100.
Betting on favourites means risking the moneyline number for every $100 in profit, so a wager on the Oilers at -143 requires a $143 risk to win $100. From there, any other stake can be easily calculated via the same proportion. For instance, risking $14.30 could win $10 in profit.
With underdogs, a $100 wager would win a profit equal to the moneyline. So risking $100 on the Jets would pull in $123 in profit, and a $10 bet on the Jets could win $12.30.
Unless otherwise noted, moneylines in hockey involve regulation time along with any potential overtime or shootout. The same thing goes for baseball: unless stipulated, all moneylines include extra innings.
What are point spreads?
To easily understand a puck line or run line, it helps to find their counterparts in other sports. If you look at the pregame odds for a basketball game or odds for a football game, you will notice three standard offerings: totals, moneylines and point spreads.
The spread is a predetermined figure set by oddsmakers prior to a game. Not all teams are created equal, so the point spread is the oddsmaker’s way of evening out the game for bettors.
It’s a hypothetical number of points you can add to or detract from a team’s score at the end of the game to determine if a bet is won or lost. It lays out for you exactly by how much a team must win or lose to turn a profit.
While many football (NCAAF/NFL) and basketball (NCAAB/NBA) bets are placed against the point spread, sportsbooks don’t have one to offer hockey (NHL) and baseball (MLB) bettors. That isn’t to say, however, that both sports don’t have their own versions of spread betting.
What are puck lines & run lines?
In lieu of a point spread, hockey employs puck lines, and baseball uses run lines. Just like spreads, the number represents by how much a team must win or lose for the bettor to win the wager. And as with spreads, the favourite shows a negative symbol next to its puck/run line, and the underdog shows a plus sign.
The process of betting on the puck line odds in the NHL or runline odds in MLB isn’t all that dissimilar from betting against the spread in leagues such as the NFL and NBA. But with that said, there are still key differences.
The biggest one is that spreads in other sports vary wildly based on the quality of the two teams. One NFL game could show a spread of three points while another could stretch to 10 points.
Regarding puck and run lines, the spread is constant. The favourite is always -1.5 goals or runs, and the underdog is always +1.5 goals or runs. To account for the disparity in quality between the two teams, the potential risk and payout vary rather than the line itself.
Puck line betting
The NHL betting version of a point spread is a puck line, and knowing how popular hockey is across Canada, there’s no doubt the public loves taking advantage of this market. So let’s get into more detail based on our above example from DraftKings Sportsbook.
The favourite will be -1.5 on the puck line, and taking on the extra goal drastically improves the odds in the bettor’s favour. But that’s because they must win by at least two goals to cash your ticket. A bet on the Oilers -1.5 (+175) is a huge upgrade from the moneyline odds and means risking $100 to win $175.
The underdog is +1.5 on the puck line, and while the extra goal adds some margin for error on this end, the odds for betting worsen dramatically. A Jets +1.5 (-210) bet suddenly requires a $210 risk to return $100 in winnings.
In hockey, goals can sometimes be difficult to come by, and the sport has less overall scoring than in baseball and much less than in football or basketball. Each goal is of vital importance, evidenced by the drastic price changes when betting a puck line compared to a moneyline. Learn more about just how much the goalie matters in NHL betting.
Regardless of one team’s quality relative to the other, the NHL puck line will always be 1.5 goals. Unlike sportsbooks adjusting the point spread a half-point at a time for basketball or football, the line movement will be present in the odds listed next to the puck line.
Some sports are known to offer alternate betting lines, which are exactly what they sound like. Bettors have the choice of buying or selling goals in exchange for a modified betting line. You can take a team at -2.5 or -3.5 goals for much longer odds. You can also play it safer with lesser odds for +2.5 or +3.5 goals. These markets often fall under the props section.
Run line betting
Baseball’s version of a spread is a run line, which doesn’t differ very much from the puck line. Let’s check out an example from FanDuel Online Sportsbook, which continues to be a sports-betting industry leader.
MLB run lines are -1.5 for the favourite. This means a bet on the Giants at -1.5 (+146) requires a $100 stake to win $146, an upgrade from the -142 moneyline. On the other side, an underdog bet on the Mariners +1.5 (-174) means risking $174 to win $100 compared to +118 moneyline odds.
Although there is generally more scoring in baseball than in hockey, runs can still come at a premium in MLB games. This explains the vast differences between moneyline and run line prices.
Just like in hockey, the 1.5 spread is universal and never budges. Rather than the run line itself shifting, the odds that accompany it evolve based on how the public is betting the MLB game and all the other factors (including injuries) that would normally move a point spread.
Because puck lines and run lines both operate this way, it’s quite common to see odds (also called the “juice”) stray far from point-spread odds. The standard is -110, but most fall between +100 and -125.
Many online sportsbooks will offer alternate run lines as they do with alternate puck lines for hockey. For larger odds, you can sell runs and take a team at -2.5 or -3.5, or you can cut the other way, buying points for a reduced payout.