Betting on baseball is much different from betting on other sports. Let’s look at most of the ways to wager on America’s Pastime and a sport measured by gamblers in +/- units and not by ATS records.
You might know how to bet on basketball and football, but betting on baseball is a different animal. When making a side straight bet on an individual baseball team — the most common and popular type of bet for recreational bettors and wiseguys — you’re betting on teams on the moneyline and not laying any points, meaning you don’t need to cover a specific number within a “point spread,” but only need your team to win.
Baseball odds on the moneyline are in three digits. The favorites are reflected with a minus sign (-) in front of their numbers with the underdogs having a plus sign (+) in front of their odds and are based on $100.
In this example from a game at Wrigley Field, the Cubs (closed as) were favorites of -220 to -240 against the Padres (the home team is always on the bottom), meaning a bettor would have had to bet $220 to win $100, $110 to win $50, $22 to win $10, etc. on Chicago. The favored Cubs — who were betting number 902 — won 5-4.
Should a game be called after 5 or more innings because of weather or anything else, a side bet is official with 5 innings being the threshold of an “official game” in MLB.
Totals (combined runs scored by both teams) in MLB games pretty much range from a very low and infrequent 5½ to a very high and infrequent 15, with totals in the AL being a little higher than in the NL because of the designated hitter -- a player who bats for the pitcher throughout the game, putting more hitters (and thus offense) in AL lineups.
When two good pitchers are scheduled to start, a game will have a lower total posted. When there are two hurlers who have higher ERAs, teams who score more are playing or the wind is blowing out, the numbers are often in the double digits (10+). The vigorish on totals reflects the same moneyline employment.
A sample from that Padres-Cubs game shows that the total closed at either 8½ or 9 depending what offshore sportsbook you bet at, with the total 9 runs scored (5+4=) winning for "over" bettors at 8½ but losing for "under" players at 8½ while those who bet "over" or "under" when and/or where the number closed at 9 would “push,” or get their money back. Reading the juice on the total, those betting the "over" at 8½ Pinnacle had to bet $123 to win $100, while "under" bettors there at 8½ got +111, or “plus-money” as some call it.
If a theoretical sportsbook gets enough money on the "over" at 8½, it will move the number up ½ a run to 9 to protect itself and try to generate some money on the "under" to try to balance their ledgers some and not have too much exposure on one thing. This is a market, after all. If the lemons aren’t selling, you drop the price to a dime.
When betting totals, a game must go 9 innings (or 8½ if the home team is ahead). Should either listed pitcher doesn't start, the action is off and the totals bet is refunded.
Baseball Run Lines (Run Line Betting)
Run lines incorporate taking or giving 1½ runs in a given game at a price much more drastic (both ways) than in the moneyline market. In these bets, for those giving a run-and-a-half (-1½), it means their team must win by 2 or more runs. Remembering that the home team may get 8 only innings to bat (and 24 outs) is important when making this type of bet. For those taking a run-and-a-half (+1½), the payback is much less because their team can lose the game (by 1 run) and you will still win your bet (+1½ -1=+½).
Like with totals, the vigorish for taking or giving 1½ is listed to the right of the respective side. At 5Dimes, you can see below that San Diego +1½ Runs closed at +100 (even money) in this game, meaning whatever bet amount a player made was the same he or she got back (a $100 bet would win $100, plus returning the bettor’s initial $100).
With a final score of 5-4, the Padres “won on the run line,” by a 5½-5 margin (4+1½ =5½ > 5). Cubs bettors, laying 1½ (runs), needed Chicago to win by 2 or more and their bets cost $110 to win $100.
So, this particular random game shows us good examples of how both teams can win (or lose) with the Cubs winning on the moneyline, the Padres winning on the run line and, that what number you get your total often matters with people having 9 pushing their bets and those getting the game at 8½ either winning or losing, depending if they bet the "over" or "under."
When you put a moneyline bet in at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, you must distinguish that you want it “on the run line.” In this example, a Cubs backer would say, “I want to bet 902 on the run line for $XX” (XX = bet amount). Laying 1½ can often provide nice plusses and often gamblers parlay run line games in MLB, trying to make their own little lottery tickets. Here’s a MLB run line parlay calculator link.
Baseball First 5 Inning Wagering
Baseball bettors can also employ a 5 Inning line, betting the game almost like a half-of-a-game of sorts with the same realities as a full 9-inning game for both sides and totals, with pushes possible and more frequent by the nature of having (both teams to get) 30 outs as opposed to the usual 54 (or 51 if the home team doesn’t bat in the bottom of the 9th).
And in that sample Padres-Cubs game, Chicago led 3-1 after 5 innings, meaning that the Cubs won the First 5 Innings bet in that game in the side market. And at either 4½ or 5 (total) runs, the First 5 Innings total in this game went "under" for either number. And as you can also see, "under" (8½ or 9) bettors and Cubs run line (-1½) both lost their bets when the Padres pushed across 2 Runs in the top of the 9th.Baseball Alternate or Reverse Run Lines
Much less employed by sports gamblers and only offered in select sportsbooks, Alternate Run (or Reverse) Run Lines give the bettor the chance for either much larger or much smaller odds, depending on the type. In the Alternate Run Line market, baseball bettors can take the game’s favorite and 1½ runs or choose to bet the underdog and lay 1½ runs and get a bigger payback should that team win by 2 runs.
Some sportsbooks also post “alternate” MLB odds where bettors can lay or take 2½ runs with the respective favorites or underdogs in games. And some shops even offer up Alternate Line parlays, which can be a very fun, lotto-like spin:
Baseball Betting Listed Pitchers Options
There is another often bypassed thing to be aware of if you’re pitcher-picky when placing a bet on a MLB game — the Listed Pitcher(s) Option. This enables the bettor to have a bet called off should one or both of the starting pitchers be scratched from the game, depending on the specific bet type. Here are the three baseball bet types, depending on a bettor’s starting pitching preference:
Action: In this type of wager, the bettor doesn’t care which pitchers start the game and has action no matter what. This is the most common type employed.
Both (Specified) Pitchers: This type of wager only has action if the two (both) listed starting pitchers actually start the game. If either pitcher is scratched, the bet is off. A pitcher is declared a “starter” after one pitch.
One (Specified) Pitcher: This designated type of bet has action if the starting pitcher specified by the bettor starts for his team. If he's scratched (and you have listed one or both pitchers), the bet is refunded. Also, any adjusted odds from the pitching change are applied.
Baseball Futures Bets
The futures market is a season-long market with usually only one winner, with the most popular type being on the annual World Series winner (MLB champion). League and division champion futures bets are also offered up before and during the season (up until a certain point, depending on sportsbook), and sees odds change depending on how much is wagered (or not) on a team. College baseball also offers futures bets for the College World Series, as well as individual game odds for select games at select sportsbooks, and for almost all games from the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament Super Regionals moving forward.
Here is a sample futures sheet from the 2018 MLB season for the World Series and American League and National League pennant winners from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:
Regular-season win totals are also another very popular type of futures bet offered that borders on being in the props category. Bettors can bet whether or not a team will go "over" or "under" a posted win total over the 162-game MLB season. For example, the Boston Red Sox (92½ wins total) would need to win 93 or more games for Red Sox team total"over" backers to cash their tickets, while Boston winning 92 games or less would result in the "under" bettors winning in this particular instance.Baseball Props Bets
Sportsbooks will also often post more creative and entertaining season-long prop bets on things like MLB Home Run Leader, AL and NL MVPs and Cy Young Award winners, AL and NL Rookie of the Year, Most Wins by a Pitcher and others. Individual game props are also often offered, with the postseason and All-Star Game getting a deeper menu of props choices.
A parlay simply allows bettors to combine 2 or more sides and/or totals in a combination bet where all of the elements must win (or push) for the gambler to profit and/or get his or her money back. It’s easy. You lose one thing and the bet is garbage. A loser. Finito. A dull diamond memory. Here’s a handy Parlay Calculator link.
Baseball Live Betting (MLB In-game wagering)
This is a still relatively new type of wagering but very popular in baseball with the slow-moving nature of the sport and starts and stops after every pitch or ball in play, as opposed to football, basketball and hockey, where, once the clock starts ticking, in-game wagering is a little more frenetic. Usually done online and by a SmartPhone, but still a (growing) thing in brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, live, in-game wagering gives bettors a chance to apply what they have seen previously in a given game as well as hedge or add on to any current positions.