Moneyline, Spread and Total Betting Explained

Moneyline, Spread and Total Betting Explained
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Moneyline betting, spread betting, and betting on the totals are the most popular types of sports bets. But what are they and how do they work?

Let’s have a look at each example.

Moneyline betting

This is simply a bet on who will win the match, be it a team or an individual. Naturally, some teams or players are superior to others, so as a result, you will usually find the favorite with a negative number whilst the underdog will usually have a positive number attached to it.

Here is one such example:

moneyline betting

Chicago is favored over Green Bay.  Bettors of Chicago would need to stake $170 to win $100, whereas those who think Green Bay will win the game will win $150 should they bet $100.

In sports where a tie is possible, moneyline stakes are refunded if that game ends in a tie. It is always worth checking the terms and conditions of your sportsbook to determine their rules in such an event.

Spread betting

This type of bet is known by a number of different terms, depending on the sport with which it is associated.

Hence while it is known as the spread in NFL and NBA, NHL bettors will know this as the ‘puck line’, while baseball bettors will be used to seeing it called the ‘run line’.

Whatever you choose to call it, the bet acknowledges and caters for the difference in ability between teams by giving the perceived underdog an advantage; a head start if you like. In NFL this will come in the form of points, in baseball it will be runs and in ice hockey it will be goals.

Here is one such example:

spread betting

Cleveland is considered to be superior to Tennessee, so in order to level the playing field, Tennessee is given a notional 5.5 points head start by the sportsbook. So, if you bet on Tennessee with a 5.5 point head start, if they win the match or lose by less than 5.5 points, your bet will be successful.

Equally, you may feel that Cleveland will overcome that 5.5 point disadvantage. If you do, Cleveland has to win by 6 points or more for your bet to be successful.  Note that by using a half-point in the spread, the sportsbook has ensured on this occasion that there cannot be a tie on the handicap.

This is not always the case. In the example below, where Chicago is a 3 point favorite, stakes would be returned to all bettors in this market were the result to end Green Bay 17-20 Chicago, for example.

The attraction of a bet on the spread is that it has the effect of turning even the most one-sided game into a competitive one. As a result, the odds for both favorite and underdog generally tend towards parity if the line is considered to be accurate.

Note that in baseball and ice hockey, the advantage is always set at 1.5 runs/goals because of the lower scoring nature of these sports.

Betting on the Totals

This bet is as obvious as the name implies.  Customers are offered a line which the sportsbook considers to be the median outcome and they are invited to predict whether the result of the game will be above or below that number.

In basketball and football, this line will refer to the total points in the game, in ice hockey it will refer to total goals and in baseball, total runs.

Here is one such example of a totals bet:

totals betting


Jonathan has over 25 years’ experience in the sports betting industry, as a senior odds compiler at a number of high profile fixed odds and spread betting firms in the UK. He is the architect of numerous bespoke internal training schemes for sportsbooks around the world, delivers training both online and in person and also builds bespoke trading tools for clients to complement their sportsbook operations.