How to Bet on Baseball
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Here are the key terms you want to be familiar with to understand what kind of baseball bet you are making and some tips.
You are picking which team will win the game on a money line bet, regardless of how close the game is. Although selecting the winner may seem cut and dry, it’s not as simple as just picking the better team or better starting pitcher.
The oddsmakers want to get close to equal action on both sides, so the lines are set to make the favorite a risk. On the other side, the reward is more profitable if you can predict an upset at the right time.
A standard bet with a favorite is -110. The number with a (- minus) in front of it shows how much you have to risk to win an extra $100 in profit. That amount you are risking on the favorite is the amount charged by a sportsbook for taking a bet, and it is often referred to as “vig” or “juice.”
A number with a (+ plus) in front of it is how much additional profit you would make off a $100 bet, and means that team is the underdog.
If you are betting standard -110 favorites, you need to win 52.4% of your bets long term to turn a profit. However, with baseball, the odds for most games are not just -110 for the money line. If you are mainly picking favorites, it is possible to win a lot more than 52.4% of the time and still lose money long-term. But if you are playing more underdogs, it is also possible to win less than 50% of your bets and still turn a profit.
For example, let’s say the Dodgers are playing the Diamondbacks. Los Angeles is a -270 favorite as the superior team, and Arizona is a +220 underdog. Although you believe the Dodgers will win this game, the odds give you something to think about. If you take Los Angeles on the money line, you have to risk $270 to win $100. On the other side, you can put $100 on Arizona with a chance to gain $220 of profit.
If you are thinking about this long term, you only need a +220 underdog to win 32 times out of 100 in order to turn a profit. On the other side, you need a +270 favorite to win 73.1% of the time for these types of plays to benefit you.
A common way to bet on sustainable favorites, and reduce the juice, is by making a pick on the run line.
The run line is the spread in baseball. A standard run line bet will have the favorite at -1.5 and the underdog at +1.5. On a run line bet, you need the favorite to win by at least two runs at -1.5. On the other side, at +1.5, as long as the underdog does not lose by two runs or more than they win against the run line.
The run line allows you to play favorites at a less risky price. However, you also need them to win by more than one run. Keep in mind that if you are taking a home favorite, you are at a disadvantage due to them getting three fewer outs on offense if they are winning before the bottom of the last inning.
If you understand football or basketball totals, then understanding what the over/under means in baseball is no different. When making a bet on the total, you are picking whether or not you think there will be more or fewer runs scored than the set number. If a line is set at 8 and you think less than 8 runs will be scored, you pick the under; if you think there will be more than 8 total runs in the game, you pick over. If the total amount falls exactly on your bet, then there is a push, and you are refunded your wager. There can be no ties when there is a total with half run added on.
With totals, the time you place your bet can have a lot to do with whether you win or lose. For example, let’s say the Tigers are playing the Royals and the total is showing an over/under of 8.5 when the line is first released. If you believe the total is too low, you may want to play the over as soon as possible because it could jump to 9 or even higher. However, if you think the total is too high, keep in mind, that you may see the number go down to 8.0 or less later, so you may want to take the under before it does.
In this case, you are picking the result at the end of the first five innings instead of the entire game. First-5 bets are still available on the money line, run line and totals. In a first-5 money line bet, if the game is tied after the first five innings, the result is a push meaning that both sides will have their wager returned.
If you take a favorite on the run line, you will be taking that team at -0.5, and you need them to have the lead after five innings; a tie after five innings on a run line first-5 favorite results in a loss. If you take the underdog at +0.5, you will win your bet if they either have the lead or are tied after five innings.
First-5 inning bets are compelling because you can focus more on the starting pitching matchups and give a lot less thought to the bullpens.
A prop bet allows you to wager beyond the standard full-game odds and bet on different aspects of a game or event. Prop bets can be made on a team or individual player.
The most popular pitching props are going to be on the over/under for strikeouts. Offensively, there are also props on if and which players will hit a home run, who will hit the first home run and on how many hits and runs an individual or team will accumulate. There are a lot of different props available, and they can go deeper depending on the sportsbook. Each prop will clearly explain what you are betting on.
When betting props, it’s good to look at the past head-to-head history between the pitchers and hitters. It’s also good to look at the home/road splits as many pitchers perform better at home than on the road. Don’t just look at wins and losses as that’s an outdated stat.
Futures bets allow you to focus on long-term results. When you make a futures bet, you will need to wait a longer amount of time, usually the end of the season, to cash in a winning ticket.
The most common futures bets will be on who will be in the World Series, Pennant and division winners, win totals, and individual awards. Finding value for a team that may have made key moves but is under-the-radar is crucial if you want to make a nice score.
The over/under win totals will be the simplest.
However, other bets, like the next MVP, will result in potentially higher payouts because there are so many different possible results.