What Does ‘ML’ Mean in Sports Betting?

The letters ‘ML’ have multiple meanings in sports betting. Most notably, ‘ML’ stands for ‘money line.’ But ‘ML’ can also stand for ‘margins,’ ‘leads,’ and ‘lay.’ Here’s a closer look at the various uses of this shorthand in sports betting.

Money Line

The letters ‘ML’ in sports betting are often used in reference to ‘money line’ betting. When you place a wager on the ‘money line’ for a particular sporting event, your intention is to bet on the outcome of the game. So if you’ve ever placed a wager on the Super Bowl or the NCAA basketball tournament, you’ve probably used the ‘money line.’

‘Money line’ betting gets its name because the bettor is wagering on whether the total score of the game will be higher or lower than its current point spread. For example, a -3 point spread (+3) for the New England Patriots means that if you’re wagering on the game, you’ll win 3 points for each bet you make (e.g., a $10 wager will result in a total profit of $30).

The opposite holds true if you’re betting on the Seattle Seahawks. If you’ve ever placed a wager on the soccer game, you may have used the ‘money line.’ In that case, you’re basically wagering on whether the game will end in a draw or a win for the home team. If you’re losing, you’re stuck with whatever bet you made. There’s no bookmaker credit because the game ended in a draw.


‘Margins’ are the perks a bookmaker gives certain bettors to encourage them to engage in certain wagering activities. For example, if you’re a high roller who always wins big, the bookmaker might offer you a 5% bonus on all your winning bets. That’s a huge incentive to keep making wagers!

In sharp contrast, if you’re a lower roller who frequently loses big, the bookmaker might demand that you pay 10% juice on all your winning bets. That’s a lot of pressure to keep winning!


If you ever watch The Million Dollar Challenge on ESPN, you might remember the show’s host, Jim Ross. Every week, Jim Ross invites professional gamblers to put up a grand challenge. The object is to bet what you can on which NFL team will score the most points in a given week. In order to create more drama, Ross gives the participants a ‘lead’ before each game. That is, he tells the contestants which team will score the most points in advance of the game.

The team that scores the most points in the allotted time wins the challenge. The point counter keeps track of each team’s score throughout the season. For example, last year’s Million Dollar Challenge was won by the Atlanta Falcons with a total score of 47 points. The team was given a 13 point lead before the game.

To keep things interesting, Ross usually gives the participants a last-ditch incentive to bet on their ‘preferred’ team. For example, if you wager on the San Francisco 49ers in The Million Dollar Challenge, you’ll earn a 50% bonus on your winning wagers. But if you wager on the Atlanta Falcons, you’ll only earn a 10% bonus.


‘Lays’ are bets placed by non-sports bettors which are subsequently incorporated into the bookmaker’s action. For example, if you’ve ever bought a sportsbook coupon from an online bookie, you might have laid an ‘over under’ bet. That is, you’ve placed a wager on whether the total number of points scored by both teams will be higher or lower than the number of points scored by the underdogs.

The underdogs will be the team you’ve selected and the spread will be set by the bookmaker. If the spread is set at -3 and the over/under is 48, your wager will be a ‘lay.’ If the over/under is 44 and the spread is -3, your wager will be a ‘lay.’ If the over/under is 47 and the spread is +3, your wager will be an ‘over.’ If the over/under is 42 and the spread is +3, your wager will be an ‘over.’ If the over/under is 45 and the spread is 0, your wager will be a ‘push.’ In all these cases, you’ll earn the same percentage for winning or losing.

What’s Next?

While there are multiple uses for the letters ‘ML’ in sports betting, it’s probably best explained by comparing it to other types of betting. Say you’ve visited a casino and you’ve seen an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. You’ve got money to burn and you want to place a wager on the game. In that case, you would use the ‘money line’ to place your bet. As soon as the gates open for the game, you would rush to the bookie and place your bet!

On the other hand, if you want to place a ‘lay’ bet, you would have to wait until after the game to place your bet. The time between the end of the game and when the results are posted is called ‘post game wagering.’ In many places, you can’t place a lay bet on an exhibition game. But once the game ends, you can revisit the bookie and place your lay bet.

As for the letters ‘ML,’ they may stand for multiple things. But in sports betting, they’re often used to reference ‘money line’ and ‘margins.’ However, in time, ‘ML’ might also be used to reference ‘leads,’ ‘lies’ and ‘lay.’ Whatever your reason for using these letters in sports betting, you can’t deny that they make it easier to talk about wagering activities. Moreover, knowing the various meanings of ‘ML’ can help you get the most from your wagering experience. For example, if you want to use a cash app to place your wagers, you can do so directly from your phone. There’s no need to go to a brick and mortar sportsbook when you can get your wagers from the convenience of your home. Plus, those moments when you’re placing a wager and you mix up the letters… Those are the times when you wish you’d had the opportunity to study the various uses of ‘ML’ in sports betting!