5 Tips for Betting the Moneyline Underdog by Sport

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It’s the holy grail of high-value betting wins. Enough of them and you’ll be able to overcome an overall losing record and still come out ahead when looking at your bankroll number. Of course, I’m talking about winning when betting on the moneyline underdog.

Though they’re great when they hit, there’s no denying that frequently betting on the moneyline underdog involves more risk than most other types of bets. That means it’s important to pick your spots in order to win frequently enough to justify the play.

In this article, I’ll out six things to look for that can help you spot a good moneyline underdog pick.

1 – The Odds Themselves

The first place that I look when trying to pick out my moneyline underdog picks is the numbers. Though they won’t tell you everything about a game, they undoubtedly do tell a story.

Some bettors might advocate for looking at the big underdog plays – meaning +250 or higher, and focusing on hitting enough of these plays to finish the day or weekend in the green. In my opinion, this can be a viable option but I’ve found it very difficult to win with any type of consistency.

The range I believe to have the most opportunity for bettors looking to maximize the moneyline is between +120 to around +175 (unless you’re talking about baseball – more on that later). These odds indicate that there is a real chance that the underdog will win outright. Additionally, it allows you to take advantage of public bias that might have caused a team that would otherwise be favored to be the underdog.

The bottom line is that most of the time you see a moneyline in the +150 range (give or take a little either way), it’s worth taking a chance and taking the value play.

2 – In Baseball, Bigger Is Better

In football and basketball, the typical play is usually a bet on the spread. Baseball is a bit unique in that the standard bet is on the moneyline. This means that there are some more defined strategies that experienced bettors have been using for years in order to get an edge.

What is interesting about betting on underdogs in baseball is that they feel like they have more of a chance to win. I mean, even the worst teams in the league typically win about 60 games each year. A bad bounce or a timely hit can change the outcome in an instant, and nobody is really taking note of it even if the worst team in the league beats the best team.

MLB Dodgers Player at Bat

When looking at the day’s slate of games and the associated odds, focus your attention on the games that have the biggest moneyline disparity. You might be thinking that choosing the team who is most unlikely to win (if you’re using the odds as a measure) on a daily basis is a bad idea, but in reality your wins will more than cover your losses.

It’s not a foolproof strategy to say that betting on the biggest underdog each day is the best way to be successful betting on baseball, but the data would suggest it will be profitable more often than not.

If you’re someone who bets on baseball on a daily, or near-daily basis, you should get into the habit of reviewing a handful of sportsbooks before making your plays. Due to the sheer volume of games, there’s more variance in odds than you’ll see in a sport like football, for example.

Betting on baseball is a numbers game. That means maximizing every advantage you possible have at your disposal – only using one sportsbook is the opposite of that mindset.

3 – Think Smaller in Football

Whether you’re looking at a list of Sunday’s matchups or trying to sort out your plays on a chaotic college football Saturday, there are plenty of opportunities to make high-value moneyline picks.

As I laid out in the previous section, choosing the team with the longest odds is a good idea in baseball. The same cannot be said when it comes to making money on the gridiron.

NFL Cowboys Quarterback Throwing the Ball

When it comes to betting on football, I’ve found the most success in betting on teams who have close-to-even odds, but still are an underdog on paper. Out of all the sports, football is the one where the team which is favored wins most often. That means if you’re banking on major upsets to sustain your betting strategy, it’s just probably not going to happen.

The odds range that has been most successful for me personal in football is around +110 to +175. This is the area where the underdog has nearly a 50% chance of winning the game on paper, but the sportsbook is looking to get the action to even out.

4 – Pick More Carefully in Basketball

For the sake of this article, when I talk about basketball I’m referring strictly to betting on the NBA. College basketball has an innumerable amount of variables to consider, and I tend to avoid betting it until tournament time rolls around. The professional game, however, is a betting staple that can be taken advantage of if you know what to look for in a matchup.

Unfortunately, when it comes to basketball there’s no hard and fast rule for selecting a high-value moneyline underdog. It requires close attention to the actual games themselves, and you must get into the details from a basketball, and most importantly, circumstantial standpoint.

As most bettors know, things like back-to-back games, games where players are resting in the name of “load management,” and cross-country travel, all have an impact – especially in the regular season.

If you’re able to recognize that several different factors add up to an underdog team having a good chance to win, that’s the time to jump on the play.

NBA Player LeBron James

If in baseball it’s better to play the biggest underdog, and if in football it’s best to play the underdogs closer to even-money, basketball falls somewhere in the middle. When going over the list of games and their odds, look at each underdog and try to come up with reasons why they’ll win against a better team.

One final note on choosing underdogs in the NBA – like baseball, it’s crucial to review different sportsbooks. Even though the NBA has roughly half the number of total games when compared to baseball, the volume is still significant and this inevitably leads to varying odds from book to book.

5 – Individual Sports Betting

Aside from the traditional team sports that I’ve addressed above, sporting events like tennis and golf can also provide huge value for bettors. Several different options are typically available for these types of plays – meaning against the field or one vs. one bets, so you can decide which is best for you.

For example, when looking at golf betting odds you’ll notice that in any tournament, even the heaviest favorite will have plus-money odds to win outright. If you don’t feel comfortable trying to predict one player to win over the entire field, there are one vs. one bets known as “matchup” bets.

Pro Golfer Jordan Spieth

With matchup bets, sportsbooks offer odds on just two golfers and whoever finishes with the better score wins. The matchups offered are at the discretion of the sportsbook, so you should be looking at a few if you want to review all potential choices.

Many golf bettors prefer matchup bets to all other types because they’re simply easier to evaluate. You only need to look at two golfers in depth, which means you can do much more research to make an educated play.

In terms of tennis, I personally have not found a ton of value in moneyline underdogs. While I’m sure it exists, it requires a somewhat deep knowledge of the sport to predict matches that most of the public won’t know anything about.

If you are looking for moneyline underdog plays in tennis, I would stick to the championship rounds, or at least close to it, where the players are better known.


For all the many betting strategies out there today, the one that has stood the test of time always revolves around betting with value in mind.

Use these tips when making your next plays and remember – those who take (smart) risks are often rewards in sports betting.