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.
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.
There are four primary situations in sports betting. You have home favorites, road favorites, road underdogs, and home underdogs. Each of which has their own chart below.
You will see two different money lines compared in each chart. First there is the “expected money line.” It looks at the win percentages for each situation at each spread and converts it into a money line. That line is compared to the “actual money line.” Which represents the estimated money line for NBA games at each spread.
This information can be used to find out when it has historically been profitable to bet teams on the money line at certain numbers. For example, the expected money line for a home favorite of 2.5 points is -149. The actual money for this situation is around -143. This shows us that betting teams at -2.5 on the money line is profitable bet.
As you will see, this is not typically the case, meaning the house almost always has the edge on money line bets. This is important to note when handicapping the NBA and breaking down the NBA odds. It’s why you will see most of expert handicappers only release plays on the sides and totals.
Here’s look at all four situations and how they have performed on the money line. If you enjoy the information on this page, you may also be interested in our NBA key numbers article.
*Please note that some higher lines did not have enough games to qualify as significant data. For those games we used estimated win percentages to better represent those numbers.
Now here’s a look at road favorites.
Now we look at the underdogs, starting with teams on the road.
Finally, let’s see how home underdogs have fared on the moneyline.
Don’t let this information scare you away from betting on the money line. Instead, use it as a tool to recognize when you are getting value on the money line or not. We’ve used estimated moneylines for our “actual money lines.” This means you may be able to find value at many of these lines if you shop around.