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Point Spread vs Money Line Betting

September 26, 2018
point spread versus moneyline

The Basics

There are a multitude of ways to bet on sports. You can bet on which team will win the game straight up. But this type of bet will usually mean that you must bet odds. Example: 4/1, 3/1, 2/1 etc. You bet $4 to win $1, $3 to win $1 and so on. This is because, naturally, some teams are better than others. They have better players and therefore have a better chance to win. If it were as easy as picking the better team to win straight up, using even money odds, sportsbooks would not be in business for long.

The examples I listed above are what is called “odds wagering”. They were the first form of sports handicapping there ever was. Later, Money Line odds were derived from them. A money line uses the same principal as odds wagering, but allows the odds to be broken down to an even smaller fraction. 2/1 odds would look like this in money line odds: -200. And 3/1 would look like this: -300. What money line odds do is allow the sportsbooks to offer -220 or -135, or any slight variation of those numbers. The odds are refined.

The odds also have the vig (juice or vigorish) built right into the system. The opposite bet of the -220 bet would pay +200. You will notice the 20-dollar difference between the risk and the payout. That is the ten percent vig, or booking fee.

Alternative Ways to Wager the Game

In the 1940’s, a former mathematician named Charlie Mcneil moved to Chicago and opened a sportsbook. His sportsbook was the first to offer the point spread. Point spreads work in games that keep a total score, like basketball, football or soccer. We may agree that Team A is much better than Team B and that they will most likely win. But, by how much will they win? That’s what a point spread is for. Can Team A win by 10 points? Sure. OK, How about 14 points? Not so sure? Good, that is the line. Team A -14 points. Now, your job as a sports bettor is to pick Team A -14 points or Team B +14 points.

Choosing Which Way to Bet

If you see an underdog that you think has a good chance of keeping it close or even winning outright, take the points. Place your bet using the spread. If you see an underdog that, in your mind, has a great chance of winning outright, take the underdog money line. In the first three weeks of college football season, our readers were able to do just that. In week one, Virginia Tech was playing at Florida State and were five point underdogs. We were so sure of a Virginia Tech win outright, we posted the handicapping advice to take Virginia Tech +245 straight up. The game was never close. Virginia Tech won easily.

This past weekend we had another gem just like that first example, but even better. Undefeated LSU rolled into Alabama to take on undefeated Auburn. The spread was Auburn -10. We advised our readers to take the ten points but also to put some money on the money line which paid +345. Needless to say LSU defeated Auburn on a last second field goal and the LSU spread and money line bets both cashed.


These examples of the point spread and money line are basic, but hopefully you got a good idea. Of course, practice makes perfect and always research your games. Using online sports betting resource sites such as are usually a good idea. There is a plethora of sports betting sites a sports bettor can use to glean information he can use for his weekend football bets.