When it comes to betting the moneyline, people most often probably think of baseball, tennis or even football. When played properly, though, the moneyline can be an excellent way to cash in on the NBA, too. Before you plunge into the moneyline market, though, you really need to know what the bet is and how to maximize your use of it. To brush up your existing knowledge, or to help you in learning about moneylines, here are the things you need to consider to get started:
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Just what is a moneyline?
Essentially, a moneyline bet is a bet on which team is going to win the game. There is no point spread or other handicap for either team, so if you pick a team and it scores more points than the other team then you win. Obviously there has to be a catch, though, or the bet would be way too simple. The sportsbooks balance their risk by setting different prices on each team. You win a smaller amount than you bet if you pick the favorite, and you generally win more than you bet if you pick the underdog. The stronger the favorite the less you will win, and vice versa.
How do you read a moneyline?
The simplest way to think about a moneyline is to consider a base bet of $100. A moneyline is a number larger than 100, and it is either positive or negative. A line with a positive number means that the team is the underdog. If the line, for example, was +160 then you would make a profit of $160 if you were to bet $100. Obviously, then, the team is a bigger underdog the bigger the number is - a +260 team is perceived to be less likely to win than a +160 team.
In most cases, the favorite will be the team with a negative moneyline (in some cases both teams can have a negative moneyline if they are both closely matched). A line of -160 means that you would have to bet $160 to win your base amount of $100. A team with a moneyline of -130 wouldn't be favored nearly as strongly as a team with a moneyline of -330.
Why would I bet a favorite on the moneyline?
The biggest advantage of the moneyline for the NBA is that your team doesn't have to overcome the point spread for you to win your game. If your handicapping leads you to believe that one team is likely to win but you can be less certain that they will win by as much as the point spread then the moneyline may be attractive. You are sacrificing some potential return because the moneyline won't pay as much for the favorite as the point spread will, but it's obviously better to make a small profit than it is to lose a bet. This is particularly attractive in basketball because the favorites can often face large point spreads and teams can win comfortably and effectively without covering the spread.
Why would I bet an underdog on the moneyline?
Simply, bigger returns. On a point spread bet you would usually have to spend $105 or $110 to win $100. If you bet on the moneyline you may instead only have to spend $50, or even less, to win $100. You won't win as often, of course, because the underdog not only has to cover the spread, but it actually has to win the game outright. Upsets happen, though, and good handicapping will often isolate situations where the likelihood of an upset exceeds the risk of the bet. This is especially relevant in the NBA because the number of games, and the possibility for even the best teams to have a bad night mean that major upsets are far from rare and can be very profitable.
There's another reason to bet the underdogs on the moneyline as well. If your handicapping has made you feel very strongly that a poor team is due for a big win then the moneyline allows you to profit much more handsomely from your conclusion than a point spread bet does. The moneyline, then, is a powerful situational tool for people who closely follow the NBA.
Is there a magic formula?
It's not exactly magic, but here's the one formula you need to master to effectively play the moneyline:
Required win percentage = Amount risked / (Amount risked + Amount of win)
Using this formula you can determine whether there is value in any moneyline bet. Say the spread on a favorite is -160, for example. Your required win percentage is 160/(160 + 100), or 61.54 percent. In order to make a profit, then, you would need to win at least 62 of every 100 games you bet. If you are confident that you can do this based on your handicapping or historical trends then there is value in the bet. If you don't think that the bet would hit with that kind of regularity then the bet is not worth making. The formula works for underdogs as well. Take a +260 underdog - 100/(100+260) = 27.78 percent. If you have come to the conclusion that the underdog would win at least three of every ten games played between the teams then you have found value.
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There is literally no moneyline, no matter how high or low, that could not potentially be attractive given the right situation. Similarly, there are some teams that would not be a good bet in a situation no matter what the moneyline was.
What's the juice?
A handicapper who is serious about long-term profit will want to know what the juice is on a bet to make sure he isn't paying too much for the privilege of making a bet. You can find calculators on the Internet to calculate the juice on moneylines. The juice is different on each different moneyline, but it can be smaller in many cases than the house edge you are sacrificing in a point spread bet. It may seem like a point spread of -480/+440 would be unattractive if you were betting on the favorites, but the juice here is just 1.26%, which is lower than most point spread situations.
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