How Moneyline Betting Works in the NFL

When it comes to handicapping NFL games each week, the point spread is the favored method. However, some sites offer the moneyline method as well. This requires you to bet on one of the two teams, and the winning team is the one that pays off. The differential in the amount reflects the handicap.

When you look at a moneyline betting listing, teams are not listed in the same way. This can be confusing to bettors who are used to working only with point spread listings. However, understanding how these listings work pays dividends when you’re building your winnings.

An NFL moneyline puts the visiting team and first and looks something like this:

  • Seattle Seahawks -225

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers +175


The team with a negative number is the favorite, and the team with a positive number is the underdog. Here’s how it works. If you want to win $100 on Seattle, you have to bet $225. This reflects the heavily favored status that the Seahawks hold in this game. If you bet $100 on Tampa Bay and then win, you receive $175 in winnings. So if you bet on Seattle and they win, you walk away with $325 (your $225 plus your winnings). If you choose Tampa Bay and they win, you walk away with $275. Obviously, your winnings with Tampa Bay represent a higher proportion of what you take away, but that reflects the higher risk of choosing that team.

So where’s the commission? It’s there, but it’s a little tougher to find. The commission comes when the bookmaker elevates the charge a little more for the favorite and pays back slightly less than he should if the underdog wins. On one side, they’re charging too much, and they’re underpaying on the other, in order to keep their profit.


The benefit of moneyline wagering is that you don’t have to mess around with a point spread. If the team you chose wins, you get your money. You put more at risk to win less money when you choose the favorite, but your risk is less when you choose to bet on the underdog. Because of the parity at work in the NFL, upsets happen every week. If the point spread is just too close to let you make a decision or if you think an upset is coming, choose the moneyline. There is some variance between sports books when it comes to each moneyline, so shop around for the best deal possible.


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