MLB Wagering: Getting Started
Howard Bender offers you an introductory look at MLB sports wagering and what you should know before getting started.
Wagering on Major League Baseball is unique in the sense that, essentially, one player dominates the thought process for each side.
That, of course, is the starting pitcher.
While it may be true that, in the NFL, the Quarterback factors heavily in the success or failure of a team, in no other sport does a player factor in more with the wagering process than a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.
When viewing the wagering lines from a conceptual standpoint, here are the ways Major League Baseball is bet.
1. Money Line - This is simply taking the team you choose to win the game. For example, if the New York Yankees are -150 on the Money Line to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, then you are risking $150 to win $100 on this particular bet. If you choose to take Tampa Bay in this situation, you would be playing the underdog so essentially remove about 10% from the favorite and that is your underdog wager. In this case you would be betting $100 to win $140 on the Rays. So a -150 favorite essentially squares off with a +140 underdog. This also can depend on the sports book that you use, but in general expect a 10-15% difference between favorite or underdog in the line.
2. Spread - When a line in Major League Baseball is, for example, -250, you are then risking $250 to win $100. Most people will not see this as a value wager so what you can do is bet the “run line”. The “run line” for a favorite is betting the team to win MINUS a run and a half (-1.5). This means the FAVORITE must win the game by two runs to cash the bet. What this also does is, in some cases, bring the risk down significantly. Instead of needing a -250 to win outright, if you play the run line at -1.5 you could then only risk 120 to win 100, which makes the wager more reasonable. It is also more difficult to wager with the “run line,” given how the team must win by two runs. As an underdog, you can employ this same concept. You can take a team PLUS 1.5 runs if you feel the team may lose, but not quite by two runs. Both concepts are very similar to betting on other sports, where you are using a point spread. Keep in mind, though, spread bets in Major League Baseball are readily available online but not all casinos will take those plays in person.
3. Total - This wager is simply betting on the total amount of runs that will be scored in a game. For example, if the Dodgers are playing the Giants and the implied total between both teams is 10, then you can wager OVER or UNDER that total. The risk on these will vary depending on the line. Most totals will be approximately -115 to win 100, and if you were to choose what is perceived as the less-likely outcome, risk 100 to win 115. That being said, some totals will rise up to risking 125 and 130 to win 100, but those vary based upon the way the sports book perceives the favored outcome.
Another less-common way, but one that is very popular to wager on baseball, is simply to put the odds in the hands of the starting pitcher. What does that mean? Online there are options where you can bet the first five innings of a Major League Baseball game. Whatever the score is after 5 innings, a winner is declared in terms of the bet and the odds are usually representative of the money line for the entire nine innings. You would make these wagers if you feel the starting pitcher on one side has a distinct advantage over the other in five innings and, conversely, if you like the underdog side you can really cash in without even winning the entire game. If the score is tied after 5 innings, it is a push. This mean no one wins and you live to fight another day.
Aside from the common examples listed above, prior to each baseball season there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of proposition wagers to choose from. These could include the number of wins for a team in a season -- going over or under that number. In addition, there would be odds to win the Cy Young Award, MVPs, and, of course, the pennant winners and World Series Champions. Some of those are rotating wagers which means the odds change throughout the season based on performance.