How to Bet Baseball
If you are just getting into betting on MLB games then you to have a basic understanding of the different types of bets you can place. Each baseball season I am flooded with e-mails asking about the basics of how to wager on this sport. This article serves as a good beginners resource for learning how to bet on baseball. I’m going to take a look at money lines (sides), totals (over/unders), run lines, parlays, prop bets, futures, and season win totals.
Money Lines (Sides)
The primary way people bet on baseball is with the money lines. You can actually bet on the money line in just about any sport, but it’s less used in basketball and football. What makes money lines nice is you only have to figure out who is going to win, you don’t have to worry about a point spread or how much the win is by.
The top team is the away team and the bottom team is home. The side with the (+) plus sign is the underdog, the (-) minus sign indicates the favorite. If you want the bet on an underdog the number behind the plus sign is what you will win if you bet $100. If you take the favorite you have to bet the number following the minus sign to win $100.
With money lines you have the option of listing pitchers or going with “action.” What listing a pitcher with your bet does is make sure that pitcher starts for the bet to be valid. If you list a pitcher and he doesn’t start, the bet is a push and you will get your money back. You can list the pitcher of the team you are taking, the opposing pitcher, or both. If you list neither pitcher it’s an “action” bet and as long as the game is finished your bet will be graded.
Let’s take a look at an example:
New York -130
In this example Philadelphia is the underdog playing on the road in New York. If you like Philadelphia to win a $10 bet would win you $12 (plus your staked $10 back). If you wanted to take New York you would have to bet $13 to win $10.
It’s important to note that in the game above the odds are listed using dime lines. A dime line just means the sportsbook uses a 10 cent spread between the favorite and the underdog. A lot of books do this, but others will have a 20 cent spread. If you are playing at a book with a worse set of lines like this your profits can really be eaten up over the course of a season.
Over/under or totals bets are wagers in which you are predicting whether the total runs scored by both teams will go over or under the posted number. Extra innings do count and all pitchers are considered listed (the probable starters at the time of your bet must start). You won’t find very many books that offer a less than 20 cent spread on these bets and the limits are often times a lot lower than with money lines. You will normally see a money line listed along with the total numbers. Let’s take a look at another example.
Philadelphia/New York OVER 8 -120
Philadelphia/New York UNDER 8 +100
In this case if you wanted the OVER you would have to bet $12 to win $10, the UNDER would only require a $10 bet to win $10.
The run line is the closest thing you will find to a spread in baseball betting. The standard run line is 1.5, but at some books you will see options for 1 run up to 2.5 runs or more. The team that is favored with the money line will be the one that lays 1.5 runs to the underdog. Let’s take a look at another example here:
Philadelphia +1.5 -140
New York -1.5 +130
New York was a small favorite with the money line, but now that they are laying 1.5 runs they are an underdog. If New York wins by one run, their run line backers will lose their wager. Likewise, if you bet on Philadelphia on the run line and they only lose by a single run, you will win your bet. The money line numbers work the same way here. For Philadelphia you will have to lay $14 to win $10 and with New York a $10 bet will win you $13.
Run lines are a popular way to reduce your risk if you like the favorite. For instance, late in the year many baseball favorites can be -200 or more. If you take those teams on the run line you reduce the amount you have to wager relative to what you will win.
A parlay is when you bundle a bunch of bets together. All of the teams in your parlay must win for you to profit. If a total pushes or a game gets postponed that just reduces your parlay down one less team. Parlays are a way to get the big payout with very little risk, but are not a wager I recommend in most cases. One exception is with big money line favorites. If I like a couple of big favorites one day I will combo those together so I can reduce the amount I have to risk in order to win.
Some books have proposition bets on all of the big games. They will post odds on nearly everything from how many strikeouts a pitcher will have, who has more hits+runs between two players, what team will score first.
I do like prop bets, but you have to see how big of a spread your book offers. On a lot of these exotic wagers books know they are exposed and will thus only offer 30+ cents on the action, which means you have to be able to hit a high percentage in order to show a profit.
If you want the most bang for your buck look to place your action on futures wagers. With a futures bet you can risk your money on who will win a division, pennant, or the World Series. There are also individual statistics like home run leaders, who will win the Cy Young or MVP, etc. The great thing about futures is that for a small amount you can root your bet on all summer long (hopefully).
The only problem with futures bets is that if you do not have a big bankroll, it ties a portion of that money up for six months or more. This is why I’ll throw a few futures bets down in March before the season starts but they won’t be big bets that tie up a lot of my stack.
Season Win Totals
One of my favorite types of futures bets are season win totals. The sportsbooks will post numbers on each team’s expected win total for the season and you can bet over or under the number. You can normally find a few teams each season that you strongly disagree with the bookmakers on. Teams that over or under-achieved the year before normally show some value the next season. If a team got hit hard by injuries, take a look at the OVER. If a team signed a few big name free agents the lines normally reflect that, and I try to investigate these teams for UNDER wagers.
If you have any questions on how to bet MLB games, feel free to let me know and I’ll get them answered for you.