Betting on Major League Baseball seems like it would be easy on the surface. After all, you are just picking a winner, an over, or an under. There are additional prop bets or derivative bets available, but the juice is what makes betting on a money line sport like MLB so challenging.
The first step in all of this is learning how to read the odds. This comprehensive “How to Bet” guide for MLB will address that and several other baseball betting concepts. In order to get a more detailed breakdown of the type of bet or the concept, just click on the hyperlink.
As an overall point, sportsbooks do have different rules regarding game length in the event of weather or some other stoppage of play and whether a bet is determined a winner of a loser.
- In most instances, money line wagers are considered official when the game is considered official (after five innings or 4.5 innings if the home team has a lead).
- For run line and totals wagers, games must go at least 8.5 innings if the home team is winning and nine if not.
- If games must be rescheduled because of a postponement, all bets are refunded and graded as no action.
Money Line Betting
Baseball is a money line sport. Unlike football and basketball, which have betting odds called spreads, the most basic baseball bet is to pick the winner on the money line. Money lines are always plus (+) odds or minus (-) odds.
For example, the New York Yankees might be a -200 favorite against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles would be +180. That means that it would take a $200 bet to win $100 profit on the Yankees. Your original wager would be refunded on a winning bet as well.
A $100 bet on the underdog Orioles would return $180 in profit, plus your original wager. As far as major sports leagues go, only MLB and NHL use money line betting as the standard, but all sports do offer a money line option.
Money Line Betting Tips
You can also bet something called the Run Line in MLB. That is baseball’s version of a spread bet. The favorite will have a line of -1.5 runs and generally plus odds. The underdog will have a line of +1.5 runs and generally minus odds.
Using the above scenario, the Yankees might be -200 on the money line, but -1.5 (+140) on the run line. That means that you can bet $100 to win $140 if you are willing to take the chance that the Yankees will win by more than one run.
Similarly, you can bet +1.5 runs on the Orioles in hopes that they lose by only one run or straight up win the game. That bet would be something like -160, so $160 to win $100.
Run Line Betting Tips
How many runs will be scored? A totals bet is as simple as that. If the line is 8.5 and the game ends 5-4, you win the over and lose the under. If the line is 8 and the game ends 5-3, that is a push and your full bet amount is refunded.
Like all bets, vigorish (or “vig” or “juice”) is added to the odds on the over and the odds on the under.
For example, that 8.5 line might have the industry standard -110 on both sides. It could be -115 on the under and -105 on the over. Think about juice on a scale of $10 or $100 to make it easier. It would take $115 to win $100 on the under at -115 and $105 to win $100 on the over.
1st 5 Innings
How many times have you been watching a game and the bullpen blows a lead?
Few things are more frustrating than that in a betting sense.
Sportsbooks offer “derivative” betting options across all sports. You can bet first halves and second halves in football and basketball and most sportsbooks even offer quarter lines.
In baseball, the most common derivative betting option is the first five innings. This is an alternate bet that only takes into account the first five innings of the game.
You can bet money lines and totals with this option. Whatever the score is after the last out of the fifth inning will be the outcome upon which your bet will be graded.
Prop bets come in many shapes and sizes.
Some of the most popular ones in Major League Baseball on a game-by-game basis will be something like:
- “Will Giancarlo Stanton hit a home run?”
- “Will the game go to extra innings?”
With these prop bets, the likelier outcome will have minus odds, so something like -500, which would require a $500 bet to win $100. The less likely outcome will have plus odds, so something like +350, where a $100 bet will win a $350 profit.
Score 1st Inning
Will a team score in the first inning is probably the most widely-bet option in the prop market.
This is a simple Yes or No prop bet based on where or not a run will be scored in the first inning. Depending on the starting pitcher matchup, the Yes could have minus odds or plus odds and the No will be the same way.
In-Game Live Betting
Most online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks with an app will offer in-game live betting. Based on the score, the situation, and the number of innings left, the odds will change.
If you think the team facing a 3-1 deficit is going to make a comeback and win the game, you can live bet that money line at plus odds. If you are confident that the team with the lead is going to hold it or even win by more runs, you can bet on those options as well.
- In-game live betting is available for money lines, run lines, and totals.
- The run line before a game is -1.5 or +1.5, but it might be -4.5 or +4.5 during in-game betting.
- The total for a game may have been nine runs, but with a 6-2 score after four innings, the live betting total might be more like 13.
Sometimes it can be a good idea to see how the game is going to go before placing a bet on it and in-game live betting offers that opportunity.
Parlays are a type of bet that requires more than one money line, run line, or total on one betting ticket.
All games on a parlay betting ticket must be winners in order for the ticket to be paid as a winner. Parlay bets come with increased payouts, but also a lot more risk than general straight bets on a money line, run line, or total.
You can read about more baseball betting parlay strategies in our Baseball Parlay betting tips post, but one commonly-used parlay strategy for baseball is to put two big favorites on the same ticket.
Two -175 favorites on the money line would cost $350 to win $200 to bet. On a parlay ticket, two -175 favorites would pay around +145 if both bets won. Some people don’t like to take big favorites, so this is a way to do it that limits risk.
MLB Series Betting
We know about playoff series in all sports, but baseball games are grouped in twos, threes, and fours for the regular season. Baseball is unique in that teams play series in the regular season.
Sportsbooks offer odds for a team to win a regular season series. The oddsmakers will consider the pitching matchups and projected odds for each game and then come up with a series price.
In order to win a series ticket, the team your bet will need to win two out of three games.
Most sportsbooks will put up series bets for a four-game series that include only the first three games, so the team that wins two of the first three games will win that series bet.
Dime Lines vs. 20-Cent Lines
One of the biggest tips that seasoned bettors will have for novice bettors is to shop around for the best prices. Some sportsbooks offer dime lines, while others offer 20-cent lines, when it comes to baseball.
A dime line is a line that has a 10-cent different in price, so a -130 favorite will have a +120 underdog on the other side.
A book that uses 20-cent lines would only have +110 on the return with that underdog while the favorite is still -130. Some books have 15-cent lines, where the underdog in this example would be +115.
A lot of times, the price on the favorite will change as well, so that -130 favorite might be more like -133 with the underdog at +118 or the favorite at -135 and the underdog at +115.
Most sportsbooks with dime lines for MLB will be found offshore. The brick-and-mortars will be either 15 or 20 cent lines and sometimes even higher than that.
Dime lines are much more favorable the player, especially the underdog player. If you can find a dime line book for MLB, that is definitely a place where you want to have an account and place your bets.