The concept of betting on baseball is simple to understand, but it can be tricky to the novice bettor. Especially because of all the slang used (find out what it all means in our betting glossary). Mainly it is because there are many different types of wagering options to choose from. By taking a few minutes to read our guide you’ll easily be able to understand the differences with each type of bet. That way you can bet on the MLB with confidence.
Understanding the Different Types of MLB Betting Options Available
When betting baseball, the first thing you need to understand is that there are a huge variety of wagers for you to choose from. The great thing about having such variety with betting options is that if you have an edge with any part of the game, series, or season you can normally find a way to profit. You need to be aware of all the options and follow our betting tips to turn a profit this year. Let’s take a look.
Money Lines or Straight Bets
A money line bet is easily the most common of the baseball odds available. All you have to do is make a bet on which team you believe will win the game. There is no spread to cover like in football or basketball.
Betting on the winner is the real bread and butter of betting baseball. Here’s how it works. The plus sign (+) indicates which team is currently the underdog. Betting on underdogs are riskier bets, but that comes with a larger potential payoff. The number posted beside the plus sign is what you will win if you bet $100.
The minus sign (-) next to the line shows the team is the favorite. That negative number is how much you will need to bet to win $100.
Here’s an example:
St. Louis -130
St. Louis is the favorite and you have to bet $1.3 for every $1 you wish to win. For every $1 you put on the underdog, Chicago, you will get back $1.1. You can bet any amount you wish, it doesn’t have to be a single $1 or $100.
When we review the best MLB betting sites for our visitors to use we look for dime lines. The “dime” means the lines are separated by 10 cents of juice. So it would be -120/+110. That’s important because over time you will save quite a bit of money on your losers and you’ll win more on your winners.
With money line bets you have the option to list either or both of the pitchers. If the pitcher that is listed doesn’t start the game then your bet will be cancelled and the money wagered returned to you.
Listing pitchers is a great way to minimize risk. If you like one team because of either starter, it makes sense that you would want to cancel your bet if the pitcher is scratched. A rule of thumb I generally use is to not list any pitchers when taking underdogs, but list the pitcher on the favorite if I’m backing that team. The theory is that with an underdog a replacement pitcher for either team isn’t going to hurt me as bad as if an ace gets scratched and a scrub takes the mound.
*Most of the free MLB picks on our site will be on the money lines.
The next bet type that we’re going to look at is referred to as “Totals” or “Over/Unders”. This is the second most popular type of wager during the MLB season, but they are quite a ways back in popularity. That makes sense. When you hear people talking about games you hear them debate on who is going to win, not how many runs both teams will score.
That is what totals wagers ask you to do. Predict the total amount of runs that will be scored by both of the teams playing. The oddsmakers will set what they believe will be the total amount scored by both teams altogether. It’s up to you to bet on whether you believe the total will be lower or higher than what is listed by the oddsmakers. If you think the score will be lower then you take the under. If you think more runs will be scored then the over is your play.
Your bet will be refunded in three instances. These bets come with listed pitchers automatically, you don’t get to select action. If either starter is scratched your bet is off. If the game is suspended before play has been concluded (gone 8.5 innings or more) or if the total amount of runs scored matches the total made by the oddsmakers you will also receive your wager back.
If the game goes to extra innings, any runs scored therein would still count towards the total.
Before you bet any totals make sure to check the weather conditions. Wind direction plays a huge role in deciding the overs and unders. Some of our best baseball handicappers think totals are the most profitable wagers. If you don’t like over/unders then check their pick history so you can avoid signing up with them.
Run lines are bets that basically incorporate what are known as spreads into the betting equation. The most common line for this type of bet is 1.5. Whichever team is the favorite going into the game will be listed at -1.5, while the underdog is listed at +1.5.
If you’re betting on the favorite to win the game, the score will need to cover the spread, which means that the team must win by two runs or higher. If they don’t, you’ll lose your bet. As for the underdog, you will win the bet if the team wins the game or loses by a mere one run. With these types of bets, you typically won’t have to risk as much money to get some back.
Here’s an example. First, this is a money line.
For a game with lines like this the run line could be:
Houston +1.5 -130
Texas -1.5 +110
Adding the 1.5 runs to the equation typically moves the juice on the game 70-90 points on each team.
Similar to totals these bets come with listed pitchers and must go 8.5 innings or more. Otherwise the wagers are cancelled and your money will be refunded.
An interesting fact is that about 28-30% of all games are won by a single run. But, only those where the favorite wins by 1 run have an impact on this bet and that happens about 18.4% of the time for home favorites and 11.6% for road chalk. However, when you pick the winner but they only win by a run, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
Just remember that in higher scoring games, the one run is less likely to come into play. For low scoring games that extra run can make a world of difference. The typical public bettor loves big favorites, but laying over -200 in juice might be tough for them to imagine. Instead, they will take the -1.5 and the lower juice offered.
Run lines can be a great wager if you think one team is going to hammer their opponent. The line will move pretty significantly. You can take a decent size favorite and make them an underdog. So if you like a team to win big this is a great route to go.
Alternative Run Lines
These are similar to regular run lines. However, the book might flip the 1.5 runs in the other direction. So you will lay a heavier price with the favorite +1.5 or get even better payouts with an underdog -1.5. There can sometimes also be a -2.5 run line. This isn’t a very popular bet, but a lot of books offer it.
A parlay is a basic combination of two or more bets into a single wager. You must win or push each bet in order for your parlay wager to cash. If one team loses, regardless of how many win, the ticket is a loser. While winning this type of bet can be tricky, the payouts increase dramatically as you add more and more bets to your parlay. Check out our parlay calculator to see what your returns could be.
Parlays are a good investment in baseball because most books will give you the true odds. That means the payouts are not set in stone, but are determined by the actual odds of the games you take. You can figure out the return on your parlay by thinking of it this way. Your initial wager is put on the first game. If that game wins you take your initial stake plus your winnings and double up on the second game. This can go on and on for as many legs as you add to your parlay bet.
Two things you should know about parlays. If you play a lot of these your bankroll will have a higher variance. That means you won’t win as often as with individual bets, but when you do when you will get a big return. So, expect fluctuations in your bankroll.
The other thing is that if you like heavy favorites, then instead of taking a run line and having to worry about a one run margin of victory you can parlay two or more of them together. This is a popular option for MLB bettors.
Proposition bets are smaller bets that can be placed on events that happen inside of individual games or the entire season. These bets can include everything from which team will score first during a game to who will win the MVP at season end. Due to their low volume and uncertain nature these are riskier for the books. Thus, they set the juice a little higher and accept lower limits than normal games. You will have to win a higher percentage of them to show a profit. But, those signals alone should tell you that the books aren’t very confident in their numbers and that you can beat them with solid prop wagers.
The props could be offered on individual players or on teams. You can wager on player matchups on who will have more total bases, more strikeouts, the over/under on strikeouts thrown by a starter, if a player will get a hit or not, the possibilities and wrinkles are endless.
1st Five Innings
First half bets are popular in football and basketball. Since baseball isn’t divided into halftimes, the books have to go by the first five innings. The books take less action on these bets so they don’t look into the odds as much. The lines on these bets will be very similar as the ones for the entire game, but will be decided by who is leading after five innings. If you study hard you might find an advantage.
This is a great wager if you think you have a feel for the starting pitching but aren’t so sure about the bullpens. You don’t have to stress about bullpens or a team finishing the game off. In fact, you don’t even have to do any research on the bullpens.
Let’s face it, starters don’t go as deep into games as they used to. Very few complete games are thrown. Managers pull anyone approaching 100 pitches in a game so they don’t use up their arm. A first five innings bet helps you ignore those frustrations and focus on the starters.
Now, this type of bet can be frustrating too. If you take a team to win in the first five innings, but they are trailing or tied and end up winning the game it’s annoying.
Team totals are a popular prop bet that is similar to totals in that you are supposed to bet on the total amount of runs scored. The difference is that this bet only focuses on the runs scored by one of the two teams. This is especially advantageous during games where the pitcher of one team causes a mismatch. It’s important to note that oddsmakers typically know when a pitching mismatch is about to take place, lessening the chances of the bet paying off hugely in your favor. For this type of bet, I’ve found that a lot of knowledge about the game of baseball is oftentimes necessary. Knowing about team and individual match-ups in a game can lend itself well to making an accurate team total bet.
This is something I’ve never really gotten into but it gives you a stake in every single game. Basically it’s a simple over/under wager on the total number of runs posted by all the teams for that day’s action. If any game is cancelled then the bet is voided and you get your money back. It can be tough enough handicapping a single game, let alone the entire slate.
One of the best aspects of baseball is that, unlike most other sports, teams tend to play a series of games against each other in a row. These series typically last anywhere from 2-4 games. Series betting provides you with the opportunity to bet on who the winner will be for the overall series. The way this bet is handled is similar to that of a money line, except for the fact that the wager is pending for multiple nights.
If you’re searching for a bet that could yield a huge payout, look no further than futures. Futures are bets that you can make on several different things that will be decided in the future, such as the winner of the World Series or the winner of each MLB division. These bets are generally placed before the start of the season, but some books will offered them throughout the year.
It’s important to note that since these bets are made so early, this money will be tied up until the results are in, which can be up to six or seven months. This can be bad if you are impatient but you can get a lot of value and entertainment out of small wagers. If you take your favorite team to win the division and they are in it until the final week, you had a stake in every game for nearly the entire season for a small price.
If you want to be successful with these bets there are some things to look for. Before the season starts you want to pay attention to who has been added or dropped off the roster. If there are a lot of new players or a new manager the team may start slowly. You can get a better price on them if you want a month or two into the season.
Look at the schedule as well. If it starts out easy then you want to get your wager in right away. If they have a tough stretch to open the year, wait until they get through it and if you still want to throw down on that team the price should be better.
Season Win Totals
Betting on season win totals is very exciting, as you get to bet on how many games you believe your team will win by the end of the season. Oddsmakers will set the amount they believe the team will win. You can bet that they will win more or less. If you do some research, you can win big with these bets.
The same strategy applies here. Did a team over or under achieve a year ago? Did they get better or worse in the offseason? Typically last year’s results factor heavily into this year’s win totals, so a smart bettor can take advantage by looking at if a team had injury problems or traded away some big names after starting off slow.
The basic tenets of MLB betting money management are as follows. Set aside an amount that you would feel comfortable using as your starting bankroll. Take a small percentage like 2% of that money and use it as your standard bet size. As you become more advanced you can incorporate a few more tricks to increase your earning potential, but starting out slow and easy is the best way to keep you in the game.
What Makes MLB Betting So Great?
It’s a long season. There are 2,430 MLB regular season games that are played each year. There is constant action every day of the summer. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for you to find apply your baseball handicapping strategies and profit.
This is the best sport to shop around for odds. When you line shop in baseball you can actually get the juice down from a dime line to almost nothing! This makes it very difficult for you to end the season on a losing note.
The other thing I love is that MLB gets passed over in favor of more popular sports. The NBA playoffs are going on at the beginning of the season and towards the end the oddsmakers start focusing on the NFL and college football. This means loose lines that you can take advantage of while the general public focuses on sports that are tougher to beat!
If you have any questions or concerns on wagering on baseball games then don’t hesitate to ask the MLB Baseball Free Picks staff!