Moneyline vs. Spread: Which is the Better Bet?

Single-game sports betting in Canada opens the door to a whole new variety of betting options, once unavailable under old laws.

There are many advantages to single-game betting (as opposed to having access only to parlay bets), starting with the fact that having more choices is the first step to a great user experience.

And while parlays have the potential to be profitable, they are extremely difficult bets to win with any consistency. You have a much better chance of turning a profit by placing single-game bets or props.

Rather than multiple sides included in every bet, each one is graded on its own. To help new bettors prepare for it, here’s how single-game betting works with the two most popular bets in sports—the moneyline and the point spread.

How do I read a moneyline?

There is nothing simpler for a new bettor than moneylines. Betting the moneyline translates to picking which team will win the game. The score doesn’t matter at all. All that’s needed is the team you select to be the winner, and the profits are yours.

Let’s take a look at an example from William Hill Sportsbook, a brand well known to many Canadian bettors.

First, we need to identify the favourite and the underdog. The favourite will carry a negative line. In this game, that is the MapleMoneyline betting at WH Sportsbook Leafs (-300). The underdog will have a positive line, and the Senators (+250) receive that honour. To easily 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 favourites on the moneyline means risking whatever the line says to win $100. Thus, a moneyline bet on the Maple Leafs requires a $300 stake to win $100. That translates to $150 risk for $50 in profit, or $30 for every $10.

Selecting underdogs means risking $100 to win the amount stated in the moneyline, so betting on Ottawa in this situation means winning $250 in profit on a $100 bet. If you’re calculating odds for a lesser amount, that’s $10 to win $25 or $50 to win $125.

In sports, teams are not evenly matched, which is why the two sides have different moneylines. To account for the disparity in quality, bettors are required to risk more to wager on the favourites than the underdogs.

Unless otherwise stated, moneylines include all forms of overtime. Many sportsbooks will also have markets for regulation time. But they will be listed in another section, likely under props.

Moneyline betting strategies

If you’re looking for a few strategies to apply when placing single-game moneyline bets, keep the following in mind.

Track line movement & betting percentages

Two things that bettors should know is how a line has changed and which side the public is on. Combined, these factors could reveal reverse line movement, which is an indicator that the public is worth fading.

For example, say a team is -150 and has public support. But rather than the line growing, the movement goes the other way and it becomes -140 or -130 instead. That is an example of reverse line movement, which could mean the most respected bettors (usually professionals) back the other side.

Avoid big favourites

When single-game betting in Canada, backing a heavy favourite can mean taking on huge risk. A team that is -300 requires risking three times what you stand to win.

Even though moneyline favourites are seemingly safe bets, they can ruin your bankroll if they don’t come through. Once moneylines reach this point, look toward the spread if you find yourself leaning toward a favourite.

Use implied probability

You may not have access to the the same analytics the professionals do. But there’s still a simple way to convert betting odds into a percentage and help decide if a wager is worth making.

Let’s say a team has moneyline odds of-140. The formula for a favourite is: Negative Odds / (Negative Odds + 100) x 100. Once we drop the negative sign and plug the number in, we wind up with a 58.33 implied probability. If you feel that team has a 58.33 percent chance or better of winning the game, then you find value in that bet.

On the other side, a team could be +140. The formula for underdogs is 100 / (Positive Odds + 100) x 100. After going through the formula, our implied probability is 41.67 percent. Think that team has a 50/50 shot at winning? Then you have a line with some value.

The implied probability for favourites will always be above 50 percent while underdogs will come in with a lesser percentage.

Create multiple sportsbook accounts

Having more than one account allows bettors to shop around before committing to a bet on one particular site. Moneylines are not the same at all sportsbooks, and comparing multiple sites will give bettors choices when it comes to picking the most valuable line. Having more than one account also makes bettors eligible for more promotional offers, which are not universal across all sites.

How do I read a point spread?

Now that you understand how moneyline betting works, understanding the point spread will be easy. The point spread is a figure preset by oddsmakers that tells bettors how much a team can win or lose by and still yield a successful bet.

The team that wins the bet is said to “cover” the spread. For favourites, that means winning the game by more than the spread indicates. Betting on favourites against the spread results in better payouts than when taking the moneyline.

With underdogs, covering the spread requires winning the contest or losing by a less than the point spread. Potential profits with underdogs are higher with moneyline bets, but the point spread provides a margin for error and a way to win money on the team that loses a game. Time for another example, this one from industry giant DraftKings Sportsbook.

As in moneylines, favourites show a negative point spread. Here, that is the Denver Nuggets (-3). The underdog has a positiveSpread betting at DK Sportsbook symbol with its point spread, and in this game, that is the Toronto Raptors (+3). To figure out how much you stand to win or lose, bettors need to use the line that accompanies the point spread and calculate it the same way they would with a moneyline.

An against the spread (ATS) bet on the Nuggets at -3 (-108) requires an $108 risk for $100 in profit. Betting on the Raptors (underdog) at +3 (-113) means risking $113 to win $100.

Point spread betting strategies

Here are some key strategies to consider when placing single-game point spread bets.

  • Look for reverse line movement: Some aspects of moneyline and spread betting are the same. That includes monitoring reverse line movement. In this case, we are looking for movement in both the spread and the line that accompanies the spread. As a whole, the sharps are more knowledgeable than the public. This is one way to judge when the professionals are going against the masses.
  • Wait to bet on underdogs: We’ll start by admitting there are times when an underdog is getting too many points on the opening line, and the number shrinks before the game. But in many more cases, public money comes in late, and it comes in on favourites. More times than not, the spread is driven to its largest point right before a game starts.
  • Buy the extra half-point: Many sharps will scoff at taking value off your line, but the regular bettor isn’t a professional, and that’s perfectly OK. Especially in sports such as football, where every half-point can have a huge impact, don’t be afraid to take on a line that is slightly worse to get a better number.
  • Shop around for lines: This is another strategy that can be used for both moneylines and point spreads. Any bettor would be smart to create multiple sportsbook accounts and give themselves the ability to go line shopping before filling out a bet slip. Comparing point spread odds at multiple sites helps you get the best line possible. That could be the difference between winning and losing.
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