MLB moneyline betting explained

Betting on an MLB moneyline is one of the easiest bets in sports and is essentially betting on who we think will win the game, but how much money we get will depend on whether we pick the underdog or favorite...

Texas Rangers third baseman Ezequiel Duran

© Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB moneyline key takeaways

  • The moneyline is the simplest form of wagering on baseball as the game cannot end in a tie.

  • This bet is as old as time and it’s here to stay because in essence, teams play to win, and all games must have a winner.

  • Put simply, betting on the Moneyline is choosing what team you believe is going to win the game.

What is MLB moneyline betting?

The moneyline bet is a way of betting on which team is going to win the game outright and the margin of victory or the total number of points a team scores do not matter.

In baseball, for example, if you want to wager on the Houston Astros to beat the Texas Rangers, and they win 1-0, 4-2, 15-14 or 99-0, it does not matter – if they win you will win your MLB moneyline bet.

However, sportsbooks will designate one team the “favorite” and the other the “underdog” which means that, depending on which team you bet on, the payout is going to be different. Think of it this way; if you want to bet on a good team, you are going to have to dish out more money to make a profit than you would if you bet on an underdog team.

MLB moneyline explained

With what we know already on how the MLB moneyline option works, let’s look at an example to help you understand how the odds work and what the potential payout could be.

If we are looking to wager on the game between Houston and Texas, sportsbooks will put out odds of both teams and it’s up to you to decide which team you’d like to wager on. What you might see on your sportsbooks looks like this:

Houston Astros-180
Texas Rangers+195

This example means that Houston is the designated favorite with odds of -180 and Texas is the underdog at +195.

The moneyline bet always relates to bets of $100. The favorite will be represented by a negative money line figure such as -180. This means that in order to profit $100 off your winning bet, you would need to risk $180 dollars. But as I’m sure you already know; you can risk any amount you are comfortable with and the payment (should you win) will be in proportion to the odds. For example, a $10 bet on a -180 line would return $15.56 (original $10 stake + $5.56 profit).

When betting an underdog on the moneyline, you will notice that they have a positive price attached to them. For example, if the underdog you like was +195, a $10 bet would return $29.50 (original $10 stake + $19.50 profit)

The moneyline odds will always be different aside from the plus or minus – those are the only constant. The favorites will always have a negative value, which is how the sportsbooks make their money.

How to bet on the MLB moneyline

 New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (square)
New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso - © Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

If you are like the millions of people who prefer online sportsbooks and placing bets with the tap of a finger or click of the mouse, you would simply navigate your sportsbooks until you find the MLB betting slate and then proceed to select which game (and which team) you want to bet on the moneyline.

Remember, when you see those plus and minus odds, that’s relative to a $100 bet. You can bet as little as a couple of dollars, or as big as a few thousand, depending on your account and sportsbook limit.

You can find the calculator here, allowing you to quickly calculate winning returns as well as converting money line odds into implied winning probabilities, whether you’re betting small stakes or betting all the way up to the maximum limits set by all bookmakers.

Choose the MLB game you want to place a bet on

MLB Moneyline 1 - Draftkings

Click the MLB moneyline for that game

MLB moneyline graphic 2 - Draftkings

Click on the bet slip at the bottom and place your bet

MLB moneyline graphic 3 - Draftkings

What do plus and minus MLB odds mean?

Houston Astros Kyle Tucker
Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros - © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever you see a team that has odds with a minus sign, that means that they have been designated as the favorite in that matchup. The opposite holds true for the plus odds - which indicate that the team has been labelled as the underdog.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky. If we look at the example of Houston -180 vs Texas +187, this means that to turn a profit of $100, you will have to bet $180 on Houston (if that’s the team you were to bet on). If you wanted to bet on Texas, you would simply wager $100 to return $287 ($100 original stake plus the profit).

Depending on the game and teams involved, some MLB favorites can be upwards of -300 (risk $300 to profit $100). In that case, the underdog will have bigger odds such as +225 (risk $100 to profit $225).

If you want to find out your exact return on a specific wager, you can head over to our bet calculator and plug in your numbers.

Betting favorites vs underdogs in MLB

Luis Castillo Reds (SQUARE)
Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds - © Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

MLB moneyline bets are particularly attractive to novice bettors when they are looking at underdogs. They see a nice high positive number and think that the payoff is significant enough to be worth the risk. But underdogs are underdogs for a reason, and it’s usually because they aren’t very good. However, when the right opportunity presents itself, an MLB moneyline bet on an underdog can grow your bankroll quicker than betting favorites would.

Baseball is one of the best underdog sports to wager on because even the very best baseball teams in any given year lose 50+ games per season.

Normally, to bet the top teams in baseball you are going to have to wager a significant amount to return any profit worthy of your time. Good teams are typically -180 or higher, meaning the return on your investment is not the greatest. The flip side of the coin is that with favorites that command big odds, come tempting underdog prices like +200 upwards of +250.

It is a risk-vs-reward scenario when deciding on who to bet on, but it’s critical to your bankroll that you understand why teams are priced the way they are.

MLB moneyline vs the spread

Point spread betting is more common in the NFL and NBA, but MLB does have its own version of the point spread called “The Run Line”.

This is a wager that is typically +1.5 or -1.5 depending on which team you want to bet on. Using the Houston/Texas example above, if you want to bet on Houston and they are the favorite, you will see Astros -1.5 (+150). If you wanted to bet on the Rangers, you would see Rangers +1.5 (-200).

This spread essentially gives you a one-run cushion if you choose the underdog (but you are paying a premium) or more value on the favorite, but they would have to win the game by two or more runs for you to win your wager.

Baseball moneyline bets do not factor in how many runs your selection wins or loses by. Winning the game by one run, is as good as winning the game by six or 15.

Betting the baseball moneyline option is the choice of most MLB bettors because it eliminates any potential of your team winning, but not by enough runs. Remember, home teams do not bat in the bottom of the ninth if they are winning. If your selection is the home team -1.5 and they are up by one run in the ninth, you lose an at-bat and are not afford a chance to cover the -1.5 spread.

Handicapping MLB moneyline bets

There are a million and one ways to handicap MLB moneyline betting as every game offers a unique opportunity to dig deep and find hidden stats and hidden pieces of information that some may have missed when handicapping the game. Because a baseball moneyline bet focuses solely on which team is going to win, your job is to make a case as to why you believe your wager will emerge victorious.

A rule of thumb is to never lay more than -160 odds on an MLB moneyline wager. Because baseball is such a 1-v-1 sport (pitcher-v-batter) there are numerous things that could happen at any given time in the game that could kill your bet instantly. A starting pitcher could get hurt, or a key player could be rested from the lineup, the weather could play a factor, or the umps could have an off night and drive you insane.

As mentioned above, even the best teams (who are given the -160 or worse odds) lose 50+ times per season. Since 2005, teams that have had -160 odds or worse have won just 63 percent of the games, and while that may seem like a good clip, you’d be down -310 units if you wagered on every one of those favorites.

Do your due diligence and find reasons why the underdog can win, not why the favorite ‘can’t lose’.

MLB moneyline FAQs

What does a +200 moneyline mean?
Does the moneyline include MLB overtime?
What is a positive moneyline? Logo staff

Experienced journalists and sporting experts driven by helping bettors boost their gameday experience.

Brand disclaimer

The brands featured in this article are for illustrative and commentary purposes only. There are no commercial associations between the website and any brand featured in this article. Trademark rights and copyrights relating to the teams featured on this page belong to their respective owner(s), which are not associated or affiliated with in any way and did not license rights or authorise or sponsor this article.