Learn how to read and understand baseball betting lines, spread betting tips and strategies, and more to start making smart MLB picks against the...Read more
Start making smarter MLB picks with this guide to baseball betting strategies, tips, & more. Learn how to read MLB odds & how to take advantage of them!
With games every day from late March through October, Major League Baseball provides ample opportunities to wager on games. On some weekdays and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there is a full schedule of 15 games (or sometimes more, if there are doubleheaders) to choose from for your betting pleasure.
MLB odds are generally a little different than in other sports. The primary form of MLB betting lines are through the moneyline, while football and basketball—the two most popular betting sports in the United States—are done with a point spread. With the point spread, you are betting that a certain team will win or lose by a number set by the oddsmakers in what is close to an even-money bet. For the moneyline, you’re betting on which team will win, but you win less money on favorites and can win more on underdogs being victorious.
There are also runline odds in baseball, which we will get into later in the article, and the always popular over-under, which you see in other sports. We will list advanced MLB betting tips in this article which are exclusively for experts.
At a certain point, it becomes cost-prohibitive to bet on big favorites on the money line. In our guide to betting MLB underdogs, you’ll find that the underdog wins in baseball around 44% of the time. If there’s a heavy favorite (-200 or more), you would have to wager double or triple the amount that you would win. So by betting $300 each on four -300 favorites, you would only make money if all four of those favorites won their games. So even if you get the best MLB betting odds on these moneylines, it is hardly a wise investment.
Plus-money underdogs describe the fact that when you look at money line odds, the higher their “plus number” is, the larger the underdog. Plus-number also means that you win more money than you put up for your wager. For example, if the New York Mets are +115 underdogs on the road against the Atlanta Braves at -130, that means a $100 bet on the Mets would win $115. The plus number, however, can get quite high in baseball—over +400 for serious underdogs. That usually only happens if you have a last place team playing at a first-place team and also facing a top-quality pitcher. But those teams can and do win. In August 2019, the Detroit Tigers, who had baseball’s worst record, were at the Houston Astros (the eventual American League champions that year) and faced Cy Young-winning pitcher Justin Verlander. The Tigers were a +435 underdog but won the game 2-1, marking the biggest moneyline upset in baseball since 2005.
The theory behind strategically betting on plus-money underdogs only is that you are likely to win money in the long run if you can hit at the 44% rate that underdogs win overall. This is because when you lose an underdog bet, you only lose what you risked. Losing a bet on a favorite will cost you much more.
Smart bettors take out the emotional aspect of placing wagers. Numbers don’t lie, so stick to statistics over a longer period of time. Many bettors are influenced by what may have happened in yesterday’s game, which is called recency bias. In baseball, there are many factors that don’t translate from one day to the next. First off, starting pitchers are different each game, which can cause vast differences in lineups and the way one team plans to face the other. Weather can also play a factor one day but not the next.
Another form of bias is that casual bettors are more likely to bet on teams and players they’re familiar with, which can influence the lines since these type of players make up the majority; this is especially the case at sportsbooks in vacation destinations like Las Vegas, where you are more apt to find casual bettors. This can influence odds on popular teams like the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Other gamblers will also avoid placing bets for or against their favorite team, as bias can creep in on a personal level.
The bottom line here is to stick with statistics. Check out how starting pitchers have fared in their last five or 10 games to give you a large enough sample size, injuries each team is facing, home and away records of the respective teams, and how the two teams have done in other head-to-head matchups this season.
This requires some research, but it’s a method that usually pays off if you know what to look for. Lines generally move throughout the day based on how the public is betting on the game. If bettors perceive that there’s value on a team with the odds that are given and 75% or 80% of the overall money is on that Boston Red Sox team, oddsmakers may shift the line to make that team more of a favorite on the moneyline.
Sometimes, however, you see reverse line movement. This is when most of the money is being bet on one team but the line moves in the other direction. Using the example below, the New York Mets are -127 favorites with 56% of the money going to them, while the Chicago Cubs are +126 with 44% of the action going their way. Reverse line movement would be if the Mets were then at -115 despite the most of the bets being placed on them. This means that oddsmakers sense that, while there is less money being placed on the Cubs, there is a large percentage of “smart” bets going to Chicago. The house can tell when a savvy bettor has made a move, so they will change the line accordingly even though most casual bettors are going in the other direction.
So if you spot reverse line movement, place a wager on the team where the smart money is going. Historical looks at these types of bets have proven to be profitable over a span of several years.
“Sweet spot” underdogs are teams that have advantages over favorites that other teams don’t have. The primary example here are teams that play within the same division. If you’re not familiar with the divisions in MLB, just look at any standings page. Teams in the same division play each other at least 18 times per season, while teams face non-division rivals only a maximum of seven times. Think of all those times you see the Boston Red Sox playing the New York Yankees; that’s because both teams reside in the American League East division. More head-to-head matchups mean more data is at your disposal on how each team fares against the other. Underdogs in division games have a better winning percentage than ‘dogs in interdivision or interleague contests.
In addition, road teams are at more of a level playing field against division rivals and fare better in these types of games overall, and history shows that more runs are scored in divisional games than other ones, which can be attributed to each teams’ familiarity with the other’s pitchers. More runs overall also adds to the chance that an underdog can win a game, so if you’re following the underdog betting method, take an especially long look at division games.
While weather may not necessarily favor one team over the other, it does play a part in betting on run totals. You’re probably familiar with the over-under number—the number set by oddsmakers where you can bet that the run total between the two teams will either go over or under that number.
One factor that can affect offenses in baseball is wind. The direction and speed of the wind can affect whether more or fewer home runs are expected in a game—this is especially the case in Chicago, where some Cubs games have an over-under of 11 or 12 runs when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field. Over the course of several seasons, the under is more likely to hit when wind is blowing in at least 5 mph and the over gets an advantage when the wind is blowing out at least 8 mph.
Altitude plays a factor at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado—home of the Colorado Rockies. Over-under numbers there are routinely over 10 because the higher altitude allows for the baseball to go farther in the air, leading to more home runs and triples.
Finally, rain can be a factor. If rain is threatening whether a game can go the full nine innings, a bet on the under gets an advantage here. That’s because a game is official after five innings, so if there’s a downpour in the seventh inning and a game can’t resume, it ends at that point, so teams have two fewer innings to reach the over-under total than originally thought. You should, however, check the rules of your particular oddsmaker because some houses require that a game go at least nine innings before over-under bets become official.
A novice or casual bettor will have an account with one vendor and place all of his or her bets there. But doing this does yourself a disservice, as you can maximize your odds and winnings by shopping around different sportsbooks (if you are gaming in a place like Las Vegas) or going to different sites online.
Sidelines is a great resource for this, as we list the odds from several different vendors for each game on the moneyline, over-under total, and run line, and we’ll highlight the site with the best odds in each category. Many sites will offer what appear to be slight differences (say the Cleveland Indians are +120 on one site but +125 at another), but this is a free $5 that you can win on the +125 bet, which can add up over the course of a season if you’re a frequent bettor.
It also pays to have accounts with different vendors because you can take advantage of specials and promotions from each one, as these companies are all vying for your business.
A key part of being a smart, disciplined bettor is knowing how to manage your bankroll—the total amount of money you’ve committed for wagering. Most experts will recommend betting the same amount of money on every wager (whatever that amount is, it’s referred to as one “unit”). A conservative strategy is betting 1% or 2% of your bankroll on each bet, a middle-of-the-road strategy is 3%, and an aggressive strategy is 4% or 5%. By setting a set number of units on each bet, this takes out the emotional component of deciding on how much to wager on each game and also helps keep you from tilting (betting more during a losing streak to try to “win it all back” at once).
The other key part of managing your bankroll is to avoid exotic bets like parlays and teasers. These bets offer larger payouts but require you to select two or more winners in order to cash in on the long odds, and as you probably know if you’re an experienced bettor, picking one winner is hard enough! You could make a three-team parlay, win two of the three games but come up with nothing because you need to win all three to satisfy the terms of the bet.
We hope that you were able to pick up some sound strategies in order to turn your baseball betting from maybe a fun endeavor that didn’t show favorable results to one where you can put proven methods to the test and give yourself the best chance to win cash over the long haul. Use the underdog strategy, reverse line movements, sweet-spot underdogs, weather factors, and going against public bias to your advantage when you’re planning out your strategy with your bankroll.