Definition of Money Line
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A money line is a wager on the natural result of a game or event. In other words, the score or outcome is unadjusted. This is different from spread betting where the sportsbook adjusts the score to determine the winner.
Money lines, often written moneylines or money-lines, are also called American odds due to their popularity with US bookmakers. That name, however, is fading because of the commonness of money lines with online sportsbooks.
The typical sportsbook, both online and on land, posts money lines as whole numbers, both positive and negative, and that number indicates the amount of money that the bettor will win on a successful $100 wager.
A positive money line like +400 (or 4:1 odds) indicates that the bettor would win $400 per $100 wagered.
A negative money line like -400 (or 1:4 odds) indicates that the bettor would have to wager $400 to win $100.
A money line like +100 or -100 indicates even odds: bet $100 to win $100. Some sportsbooks differentiate even odds by listing the 100 without a positive or negative symbol, but a money line of 100 is that same as +100.
Often, sportsbooks will list money lines with an additional 10 percent, which is the house’s take, called the vig. In that scenario, +110 would win $100, +330 would win $300 and -440 would still only win $100.
Prior to the 1940s, when Las Vegas embraced the spread, the money line was the default bet. Today, it exists as an alternative to the spread, but more importantly, it exists to facilitate wagers where a spread is not possible.
For example, in boxing or the UFC, a spread does not work, so the money line is the only option.
In the upcoming UFC heavyweight title bout, champion Velasquez opened at -105 while challenger Dos Santos opened at -125. It is not uncommon, especially in fight sports, for both money lines to be negative.
In an event with two or more negative money lines, the largest number indicates the underdog; the smallest indicates the favorite. In this example, Dos Santos is the slight favorite, and Velasquez is the slight underdog.