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How to Read Baseball Betting Lines

First 5 Innings, Prop Bets, Futures Bets

Have you ever watched a third-base coach during a league baseball game? Between pitches, something strange happens. The coach touches his nose, grabs the brim of his cap, wipes his left arm, tugs on his right ear, then wipes his hand on his chest. 

For the uninitiated, it looks random, but for the batter, the coach just told him to swing away.

If you don’t know how to read baseball betting lines, it can make you feel like a batter who never learned the signs.

If you’re feeling clueless when it comes to how to read MLB betting lines, this guide will help you step up to the plate, size up the competition, and place bets that will lead to big-time cash victories when sports betting.

Reading a Baseball Line

The easiest way to learn how to read a baseball betting line is to look at an example of what you might see when searching for MLB odds:

Moneyline                    Spread                   Total Run Line

New York Mets:           +140                           1.5 (-145)              o9.5 (-105)

Atlanta Braves:             -159                          -1.5 (+125)             u9.5 (-115)

If you look at that line and don’t know whether you should wager or not, that’s okay. Let’s break down each element of these betting odds.

Teams

Starting at the very beginning, the first column in any line will show the bettor the teams that are playing each other. In our example, the Mets are playing the Braves. You can also tell that the Braves are the home team as they are listed second. While that’s standard, an MLB sportsbook may list the home team first, so it is worth double-checking.

Moneyline

Now that you know who’s playing, it’s time to get into the types of bets available to you. In this case, the first column lists the Moneyline odds. For Moneyline bets, you are simply betting on who will win the game. If the team you bet on wins, you win your bet. The numbers in this column show you how much you’re in line to win:

  • The Mets have a “+” before their Moneyline bet number. This means they’re the underdog, so a bet on them will pay out more because they’re less likely to win the game. In our example, a $100 bet will pay $140.
  • The Braves are favored, so they have a “-” before their number. This means you have to bet $159 on the Braves to win $100.

Spread

The next column shows us the line for point spread betting. In baseball, this is also referred to as the “run line.” This is a technique that sportsbooks use to help even the odds by spotting the underdog a certain number of runs at the start of the game. Often (and in the example above), the run line for an MLB game will be 1.5 runs. Occasionally you may see a higher run line in matchups that a bettor may consider heavily lopsided.

In our above example, if you were to bet the run line on the Braves, they would have to win by 2 or more runs for your bet to be a winner. Conversely, if you bet on the Mets, they can either win the game or lose by 1 run and your bet still wins. This also changes the potential payouts:

  • It is now considered more likely for a bet on the Mets to win. Hence, you need to bet $145 on the Mets run line to win $100.
  • A bet on the Braves will now have the higher payout. A $100 spread bet on the Braves will pay out $125.
Imago Images / Zuma Wire

Totals

The last column in our example is the totals line, also called an over/under. In this style of bet, you’re not trying to guess who will win but rather how many runs will be scored. In our example, the total runs have been set at 9.5 and you can bet either over or under:

  • The first line is the over line. Not all books will put the “o” next to the over line, but it will always be the top number. To win this bet, the teams need a combined 10 runs or more. If so, a $105 bet will pay out $100.
  • The second line is the under. If both teams score a combined 9 or fewer runs, then this bet pays. You need to bet $115 to win $100 in our example.
  • While it can’t happen in the example above, sometimes, lines will be set that are exact totals (like 10). In this case, if the teams combine to score exactly 10 runs, your bet is considered a push. You neither win nor lose and instead get your initial stake returned.

The MLB All Star Weekend, especially the Home Run Derby, can provide a lot of excitement for those looking to place bets on the totals line. Read up on how to bet on the Home Run Derby before placing those All Star Weekend bets to increase your chances of coming back with a big payout.

Other Baseball Bets

While our example above covers basic baseball lines, there are other bets you may run across the sport, including:

  • 5 Innings – In this type of sports bet, you’re only betting on a part of the game (the first five innings). As games go on, teams will use more bullpen pitchers and variance will become greater, so this is one way you may be able to get a better feel for your bets.
  • Series – Every team plays 162 games during a baseball regular season. These are broken into blocks where two teams will play each other 3, 4, or 5 times in a row. These blocks are called series. For series bets, rather than betting on a single game, you can bet on the outcome of the series as a whole.
  • Futures Bet – Futures bets are ways for you to bet on what will eventually happen down the line. Rather than betting on who will win one game or one series, you can bet on a team to make the playoffs or win the World Series. These bets will often have higher payouts because they are more difficult to predict. As the season progresses, the MLB betting odds will be adjusted according to prior results. Before placing a futures bet on the World Series, read up on how to bet on the World Series so you can feel confident heading into the postseason.
  • Parlays – Parlays are when you combine multiple bets. If each part of your parlay hits, you can be in for a very big payday. However, be wary. If even one part of your parlay is wrong, your entire bet is lost.

If you’re still curious about the types of bets that exist in a sportsbook, read up on all the different types of baseball bets to get yourself familiar with each line going into the MLB season.

Swing Away at Tipico

That covers the basics. Like baseball itself, there’s always more to learn about baseball betting, but with these tips, you should feel confident reading baseball odds and figuring out where you want to put your money.

And for added confidence, head to Tipico. Our online sportsbook has all the baseball bets you’re looking for, and we offer a $750 risk-free welcome offer. It’s time to get off the bench and into the game with Tipico!

Sources:
The Sports Geek. 2022 MLB Betting Guide. https://www.thesportsgeek.com/sports-betting/mlb/
Tipico. How To Bet On Baseball. https://www.tipico.com/us/blog/how-to-bet-on-baseball
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