If you’ve been thinking about getting in on the fun of baseball betting, you might think that all you need is good luck. After all, what is betting if not rolling the die and hoping that Lady Luck shows you a little goodwill?
The truth is, successful bettors know that not everything is a game of chance. They rely on several methods for placing the best bets and reaping big profits.
Wondering how to bet on baseball? This article will go over everything you need to know about the time-honored tradition, from how baseball betting works to how you can pick a sure-fire winner every time.
How Do Baseball Bets Work?
Betting on baseball is a little different than betting on sports like basketball or hockey. Whereas bettors in those games usually place point-spread bets, meaning that the bettors decide which team they think is most likely to cover the spread, most bettors on Major League Baseball (MLB) games adhere to three kinds of betting:
- Moneyline betting
- Run line betting
- Total betting
Understanding how baseball betting works is the first step to finding long-term betting success, so let’s take a look at each betting method and the different types of baseball bets.
#1 Moneyline Betting
The most popular method of betting on major league baseball games is known as moneyline betting. It is by far one of the simplest and most straightforward of all sports betting strategies because it means the bettor only has to pick the team they think will win the game.
When you place a bet with a baseball bookie, you’ll notice that for any given game, a likely winner (and likely loser) has already been chosen, indicated by whether there's a plus or minus sign before the team name. Those signs also let you know how much money you need to put up in order to win.
For example, suppose the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox in the American League. If the Red Sox are favored to win, the line might look like this:
- Boston Red Sox -130 – As the favored team, you’d need to bet $130 on the Red Sox winning in order to reap a profit of $100.
- New York Yankees +120 – As the underdogs in this scenario, you’d stand to win $120 on a hundred dollar bet if you put your faith—and your bankroll—behind the Yankees.
#2 Run Line Betting
Run line betting is less popular than moneyline betting, but it still happens. For this betting option, bettors choose not only the winning team but also the margin by which they think that team will win the baseball game. In baseball, that margin is set in terms of runs brought home.
For a run line bet, the favored team is assigned a run handicap that tells you how many runs they need to win by. Generally, that handicap is 1.5, which means that the favorite team needs to win by at least two runs.
Often, bookies will add juice to sweeten the line for run line wagers. But what does that look like for the favorite and the underdog?
- The favorite – Let’s say the moneyline bet on the favorite is -140. For the run line bet, a bookie might juice that up to -150 for a line of -1.5 (+150). From there, the math is the same as in moneyline betting: if the favorite wins the game by at least two runs, you stand to win $150 for every $100 you put up.
- The underdog – If the run line bet on the favorite is -1.5 (+150), the line on the underdog is going to look like +1.5 (-130). In the event the underdog triumphs or the favorite fails to win by at least two runs, run line bettors will earn $100 for every $130 bet.
#3 Total Betting
Another popular method of baseball betting is betting the total, or placing an over/under wager. Instead of choosing a winner, bettors decide whether they think the total score of the game, including runs scored by both teams, will be over or under a certain number set by the betting company.
A total betting line might look something like:
- Over 7.5 (-115)
- Under 7.5 (-115)
In that example, a bettor could win $100 for betting $115 that at least eight runs will be scored between both teams. A bettor who thinks that fewer than eight runs will be scored stands to clear the same profit.
Betting On the First Five Innings
For MLB games, bettors can place moneyline, run line, and total bets on only the first five innings of a game.
In most cases, betting lines on the first five innings will be the same as the lines on complete games. That said, you should be aware the run line bet will probably be -0.5 instead of the -1.5 that’s standard for complete games.
Instead of hedging your bets solely on who wins or loses, you can place prop wagers, or bets on the performance of individual players or specific aspects of a baseball game. For example, you might place a prop bet on things like:
- The number of home runs
- The number of strike-outs thrown by a specific pitcher
- The number of RBIs by a certain player
Another option for baseball betting is MLB futures betting. When you place your best bet on MLB futures, you’re not necessarily concerned with the outcomes of individual games. Instead, you’ll wager your money based on which teams you think will win in individual National and American League divisions, championship pennants, or the World Series.
Most of the time, futures betting happens during the pre-season, which adds to the excitement. On the other hand, that can mean waiting months for the regular season to end to see how your futures bet plays out and reap your profit.
How to Bet on Baseball: 5 Tips
Now that you know the important details about how to bet on baseball, you’re probably anxious to get down to your nearest sportsbook and place your bet. But before you go and make your wager, here are five baseball betting system tips to help you win big.
#1 Go With the Underdog
Although it can be tempting to stake your money on the chalk every time, that isn’t always the best way to maximize your profits. Bettors who really know how to bet on baseball know that choosing the underdog can sometimes earn the biggest rewards, in the short and long term. Here’s why:
- Larger return on your investment if the underdog wins – If the moneyline on an MLB game is +150 for the underdog, that means you stand to win $150 on a $100 bet if the underdog wins.
- It takes fewer wins to break even – Because a winning underdog earns you more money than a winning favorite, you don’t need to win as often to recoup your losses at the end of the season.
#2 Ignore Trends
One useful insider tip for baseball betting is to go against the grain. A lot of people bet on baseball games, and only a small percentage of them are actually in-the-know bettors. Instead of applying real strategy, amateur bettors tend to go with odds-on favorites or teams that have been performing well recently. But those things aren’t always the best indicator of how a given MLB game will play out.
Additionally, sportsbooks may adjust their lines when a lot of bets are placed on one side. Paying attention to how the public is betting—and doing the opposite—can align you with the bookies, who likely know more about the subject than your average bettor.
#3 Check the Weather Report Before You Place Your Bet
We like to imagine that the outcome of any athletic event is exclusively about the match-up of talent. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, especially in games like baseball that are played outside. That’s why you should always check the local weather of any game before placing a bet.
There are a host of weather-related factors that can affect how well a team performs, like:
#4 Patronize Several Sportsbooks
There’s always something to be said for loyalty, but don’t think that you can only place your MLB bets through a single bookie. Different bookies will place different lines, so don’t be afraid to open accounts with several different agencies. This will allow you to:
- Find the best lines possible
- Take advantage of bonuses and promotions offered by different bookies
#5 Manage Your Bankroll Wisely
A lot of betting is about playing the long game. That means you need to be diligent about managing your bankroll and placing wise bets. It’s generally advised that you don’t spend more than 5% of your total bankroll on any given game. The following is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind:
- To play it safe, keep your bets between 1% and 2% of your bankroll
- If you want to heighten the stakes a little bit, you can bet 3%
- Real risk takers can bet between 4% and 5%
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