For the uninitiated, betting on the money line simply means betting on which team you think will win the game. The money line is adjusted based on the spread to help books mitigate risk.
For example, a favorite of four points in the NBA might have a money line of around -184. This means you would need to wager $184 to win $100 if you bet on that team to win.
For underdogs it works a bit differently. A 4-point underdog in the NBA would have a money line listed at about +150. What this means is that you would win $150 for every $100 wagered on this team if they were to win the game outright.
Converting NBA Spreads to Their True Money Lines
What I’m really interested in is whether or not money line betting in the NBA is profitable. I went back over the results of over 20,000 games to find out how teams have performed on the money line. I wanted to see if it’s worth taking at any different spreads.
The chart below shows what the money line for NBA games at each spread should be based on the results of over 28,000 NBA games. It is important to note that these are the fair market values for each money line. Sportsbooks don’t offer fair market odds (otherwise they’d find it difficult to turn a profit). This way we can use the data to identify potential opportunities to take the money line when it is not properly priced. Since we have taken their built in edge out of each probability, we can feel confident that we are getting real value if the money line posted at our book is better than the price in the chart.
The more common the spread, the more accurate the expected win percentage is going to be. We have excluded spreads with less than 100 games to look at, but in reality you are better off considering those with a sample size of 500 or more games.
Point Spread to Expected Win % & Money Line
The table below shows this information in more detail, including how often the favorite and underdog win outright at a given spread, then converting it to a win percentage and using that probability to create a true money line value. Books aren’t stupid, so it’s not common to find value on a regular basis across the board, however, there are some books that are not as sharp as others, or that must compensate for public action on one side and are forced to over adjust one way or the other. This are the situations that are best suited to use this data.
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