Start making smarter MLB picks with this guide to baseball betting strategies, tips, & more. Learn how to read MLB odds & how to take...Read more
Betting on baseball has become much more common in the internet era, after decades of languishing as a second-class betting option to football and basketball. Betting on baseball is much different than betting on the other major American sports, for several reasons. While football and basketball focus on point spreads, baseball’s primary betting method is the moneyline. They aren’t even called point spreads in baseball, they are called run lines. This guide should serve as an introduction for beginners to MLB betting and a good refresher
So, consider this MLB betting guide an explainer for a beginner to betting on baseball but it can also be a good refresher for experienced baseball bettors.
Baseball betting is unlike most other mainstream sports. How does MLB spread betting work? How are odds calculated? What can affect bets? All these essential questions and more are answered in this guide.
Betting on baseball requires arguably more research than betting on any other sport. You need to know which pitchers are starting for each team, you need to be familiar with their recent results and their results against the team they are facing. You also need to research the lineups the starting pitchers will be facing. Is there a lefty starting pitcher facing a primarily lefty lineup? Does a certain team hit significantly better at home than on the road? Did one team’s bullpen get overworked the night before? You need to weigh a number of factors before placing a single baseball bet.
There’s a plethora of different ways to bet on baseball. The most common of which is the moneyline bet. Instead of spreads, baseball uses something called run lines, where one team will be a 1.5 run favorite over the other, with varying odds. Other ways include five inning lines, where you pick who will be leading after five innings, and totals, over/under betting, where you wager on the total number of runs scored in the game, plus prop bets, where you bet on events or players surrounding the game, and futures bets, where you bets on events in the future, like the next World Series champion.
The best time to bet on baseball is usually right after each team announces its starting lineup. Starting lineups are usually announced about four hours before a game. The reason to wait is that you don’t want to bet on a team and then find out hours later that they are giving two of their best hitters the day off. This is particularly likely to happen when teams play a day game directly after a night game.
One of the most unique factors of baseball betting is that the day’s starting pitcher is a massive component in deciding who to bet on. A great starting pitcher can turn a below average team into a serious favorite. A pitcher getting called up for a spot start from the minor leagues where they had a 4.00 ERA can turn the best team in baseball into an underdog that day. It’s critically important to analyze the starting pitchers in every game you are considering betting on, especially focusing on their most recent results.
Teams generally release their starting lineups approximately four hours before the opening pitch of a game. Because you almost always know who the starting pitchers will be, you should use the lineups as a tool to analyze against each team’s respective starters. Many sites track statistics of hitters versus pitchers and you should also check their right-lefty splits. Perhaps the team you are planning to bet on rakes against righty hitters, but they struggle versus lefties, or vice versa. It should go without saying that keeping up with lineups will also keep you updated about injuries, which is vital information to know when putting money on a team. These days all of this information is accessible within seconds so use it to your advantage when placing your bets.
One of the most underappreciated aspects of baseball betting is bullpen analysis. A diehard fan of say, the Cardinals, could tell you on any given day, which relievers are likely to have the day off due to recent overusage, and which relief pitchers are likely to be used that day. It is imperative that you know which bullpens have been performing well recently and which bullpens have been overused.
Like any outdoor professional sport, the weather (especially adverse weather) can have a serious impact on baseball games. Not only can inclement weather cause delays in games, but other less severe factors can also affect the outcomes of games. Examples include heat and humidity affecting the flight of a struck baseball; cold weather affects how pitchers grip and throw the ball; outfielders can have difficulty in tracking balls in sunny conditions; and windy weather can affect throws, hits, and numerous other elements of the game. So before placing money on a game, it is always wise to know how the weather may play a role.
One of the unusual quirks of betting on baseball, and most other sports for that matter, is that you can bet just as much, or more, on a meaningless spring training game as you can on Game 7 of the World Series. In terms of betting on spring training, it is imperative to know who is playing for both teams.
The nature of baseball’s preseason is much different than other sports, as teams often announce ahead of time who they will be playing, particularly on long road trips, where veteran players are often left at home to avoid a lengthy bus ride through Florida or Arizona. There are also split-squad games, where a team splits up into two, and faces separate teams on the same day. So the Miami Marlins A-team might face the New York Mets, while the Marlins B-team could be playing the Minnesota Twins.
In terms of betting on the MLB postseason, the key difference is there are more betting options. Each game will have more player-related prop bets, particularly as you get deeper into the playoffs. By the time the World Series comes around, there are often multiple prop bets concerning each player on both teams.
Before you start betting on MLB games, it’s essential to be able to differentiate between the various types of bets you can make on baseball games every night. What’s the difference between a run line and a moneyline? How do you calculate how much money you are set to win if your bet is successful? Here is an explainer for all of the most popular methods of MLB bets.
One of the fundamental forms of MLB betting is the moneyline bet. When you bet the moneyline, you are betting on which team will win the game. How many runs a team wins by or how many total runs are scored play no factor in moneyline bets.
Let’s use a hypothetical game as an example, where the Minnesota Twins would be playing the Kansas City Royals. Suppose the Twins are -200 favorites and the Royals are +185 underdogs. In all forms of betting, the minus (-) sign indicates the favorite, the plus (+) sign refers to the underdog. So, if you wanted to place a moneyline bet on the Twins you would need to risk two dollars for every dollar you are hoping to win. If you choose to bet on the Royals, for every dollar you wager, you could win $1.85.
Because in this scenario, the Twins are significant favorites, you would only make a 50% profit on your bet if they win the game. But, for the Royals you would nearly triple your money if they win.
In football and basketball betting, the most popular bet is the one using a spread. For a number of reasons, the spread best works quite differently in baseball. For starters, the spread is generally called the run line, and the number is almost always fixed at 1.5 runs. Because the line is fixed, betting odds may vary a great deal from game to game, where one favorite might be a -150 favorite while another might be a -120 favorite.
If the Texas Rangers are -1.5 run favorites over the Seattle Mariners with -120 odds. That means that a $120 bet on the Rangers would yield $100 in profit, if the Rangers win by 2 or more runs. If the Mariners were +110 underdogs against the run line, that would mean that a $100 bet on Seattle would earn you $110 in profit were they to win (or lose by 1 run.)
Five inning bets are a unique form of baseball betting. You can make a moneyline bet on the first five innings of a game, or bet on a five-inning run line, generally 0.5 runs. The purpose of this bet, and the reason for its rapidly increasing popularity is that starting pitchers are pitching fewer and fewer innings these days.
It can be extremely frustrating to bet on a team because you feel good about one team’s starter and are suspect on the other team’s starter, and see the team you bet on build a 7–2 lead, only for it to evaporate due to a bullpen meltdown late in the game. By betting on the game’s first five innings, you are essentially betting on which starting pitcher will outduel the other, and removing the unknown factor of each team’s bullpen performance.
Prop, or proposition, bets are wagers where you bet on events, players, or specific stats surrounding a game, but not on the winners or losers or total number of runs scored.
On an average MLB night, some prop bets might be:
Will Mike Trout hit a home run tonight?
Will Clayton Kershaw strike out 6.5 or more batters in tonight’s game?
Will there be a run scored in the ninth inning tonight?
Will Alex Bregman drive in a run in tonight’s game?
Will the Brewers-Marlins game go into extra innings or not?
So, to use a hypothetical prop bet as an example, say Justin Verlander has -120 odds to allow more than 1.5 runs in a game. If you bet $120 on the over and Verlander allows 3 runs, you would win $100 in profit.
While frequently called the over/under in football, in baseball betting the number of runs scored in a given game is usually called the total.
A totals bet, asks you to bet on the total number of runs that will be scored in one game. So, if the total for a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays game is 7.5 runs, a person would wager on the over if they thought 8 or more runs would be scored, or they would bet the under if they predicted that there would be a combined 7 or fewer runs scored in the game.
The betting odds for MLB totals are generally -110, which means that you would be wagering one dollar and ten cents for every dollar that you are trying to win. Occasionally you will see a number other than -110, but the odds generally will not move a great deal in either direction.
If you were wagering on a hypothetical Orioles-Blue Jays game, you would be picking between identical -110 odds for both the over and the under. However, occasionally if enough money has been bet on the over of 7.5 runs, the oddsmakers could adjust the over odds to -112, and lower the under odds to -108, with the goal of pushing more bettors to take the under, in order to maintain a nearly 50-50 split of bets on each number.
Parlays are bets that combine at least two different bets into one larger bet. There is no limit to the amount of bets that can be parlayed into one large wager. It is important to know, however, that in a parlay you need to win EVERY game you bet, or the bet is a loser. Going 9-1 in a ten team parlay would not earn you any money.
You could parlay the moneylines of all fifteen favorites playing on a given MLB night, and while your odds of winning that bet would be extremely long, your potential winnings would be very large, and significantly greater than if you bet all fifteen games individually.
To give an example of a parlay bet, a person might decide to wager on the Atlanta Braves to beat the Miami Marlins, in a game where the Braves are -140 favorites AND the person also might decide to bet on the San Diego Padres to defeat the Colorado Rockies as -125 favorites.
The way a parlay works is instead of betting on both of those two games separately, you can instead parlay them by placing the bet on both games together. If you bet those two hypothetical games as a parlay, you are increasing the potential amount of money you would earn if both picks are winners. Making two separate $50 bets would earn you $175.71, assuming both teams you bet on won. However, if you combined both games by parlaying them, the total amount of money you would win if both of your bets win would be $208.57, a double digit percentage difference in winnings.
For people who want to bet on baseball 365 days a year, futures bets have become more and more commonplace. A futures bet is a wager on future events, like team win totals, award winners, and championships.
Easily the most popular form of MLB futures bet is to bet on the next World Series champion. If you wanted to, the day after the MLB season ends, you could bet on any of the 30 MLB teams to be the winner of the next World Series, or their respective pennant or division title. You can also place futures bets on award winners, such as betting on who next year’s NL home run champion will be or the AL Manager of the Year would be.
To give an example of a hypothetical futures bet, the Philadelphia Phillies have +3000 odds of winning the World Series. That means that a one dollar bet on the Phillies winning the title would earn you thirty dollars if the Phillies end up winning the championship. Generally, the team favored to win the next World Series might have a futures line of about +500 while whichever team is least likely to win it all might have odds of approximately +10000 or higher.
One major reason why futures betting has increased in popularity is that it presents opportunities to win far larger amounts than a traditional spread or moneyline bet. A wager on the spread of a random Thursday afternoon MLB game gives you limited earnings potential. Even the largest underdogs of the season may only return two dollars or so for every dollar you bet. With futures betting, even the biggest favorite would provide a larger return than that.
Some of the most popular MLB bets include moneyline bets, run lines, prop bets, five inning bets, run totals, parlay bets and future bets.
The most prudent time to bet on an MLB game is after starting lineups are announced, which is usually approximately four hours before a game is set to begin. Waiting until the day of the game ensures that you don’t bet on a team only to see its star playing sitting on the bench when lineups are announced.
Betting on baseball is legal in 19 different states. There are four more states, in addition to Washington D.C., that have legalized baseball betting but do not yet have operational MLB betting yet. Two dozen more states are on the path to legalization, while only three states have seen no movement towards legal MLB betting. Click here for the full list of states where MLB betting is legal.
Some good to know MLB betting strategies for underdogs include betting the moneyline in a divisional game with a home underdog, NOT betting against a team with a top-20 pitcher, avoiding underdog teams who are on a losing streak, and avoiding opponents who are on a winning streak.
First and foremost, start to give the runline more attention than you did in the regular season. Additionally, pay attention to home underdogs (especially if the series goes to 6 or 7 games) and keep an eye out for teams showing steady pitching and offensive production!