Very popular for its simplicity, a moneyline bet in basketball is a wager on which team you think will win the game. A minus (-) sign tells you which team is favored while a plus (+) sign is placed next to the name of the team that is the underdog.
With a moneyline bet, you are not betting on the spread, which is a wager based on the projection of the difference in points between the two teams in the final score. To collect your winnings on a moneyline bet, you just need to correctly pick the winning team. As such, it doesn't matter if the team you selected wins by one point or 100. If the team you picked loses the game, you lose the bet no matter if it's by one point or 50.
Lest one thinks that this is going to be easy money because some teams are clearly better than others, the bookmakers get around this by controlling the size of the payouts for winning bets. This is also simple to understand. The bigger a favorite a team is, the less it will pay out on a winning bet. The more points an underdog is listed to lose the game by, the more it will pay out if it finds a way to win.
All of this stands in stark contrast to a spread bet in which oddsmakers assign a specific amount of points the favorite team must win by. Many bettors prefer spread bets because you can increase your earnings by correctly predicting the winner or loser, and the margin of victory. Once again, this does not apply to a moneyline bet. All that matters is who wins.
Using an example of how an NBA moneyline bet could appear on a sportsbook, suppose you see the New York Knicks listed at -150 and the Boston Celtics at +150. Because the - sign tells you the Knicks are favored, you would need to wager $150 to win $100. A correct bet on the underdog Celtics to win the game would result in you receiving $150 for a $100 bet.
Another reason some gamblers prefer moneyline bets is because the underdog does not have to win the game and it gives you two ways to win. Furthermore, they are easy to understand, which can be particularly helpful to the novice gambler. Perhaps most alluring with moneyline bets is the way they offer the chance for larger returns because the payout is always higher for the underdog based on the odds.
The negative aspect of moneyline bets is you will have to bet more money on the favorite than you stand to win. As opposed to a spread bet, a moneyline bet on an underdog also does not pay off in terms of receiving points and winning a bet even though the underdog loses.
There are times when both moneylines will be listed in negatives, but won't have the same number. For example, teams listed at -105 and -115. Should you see this, the -115 is considered to be the slight favorite. Should both teams be at -110, this means they are considered equal and neither is favored. The reason the 10 is added is so the bookmaker will earn a 10 percent commission on the bets. This is called the juice or vig and guarantees bookmakers a profit as long as the bets on each team are equal.