To me, one of the many great things about baseball is all of the different philosophies about the best way to play the game.
I’m not talking about all of those “unwritten rules” like not stealing bases when you’re up 10 runs, not stealing signs, or not bunting to try to break up a no-hitter. (To me, anything is fair game in the pros, where winning is everything.)
No, I’m talking about the various strategies about the best ways to win a baseball game. Some believe in the small-ball approach to manufacture runs, such as sacrificing an out to advance the runner. Others put a much greater emphasis on the fundamentals like pitching and defense, believing the best way to win is by holding down your opponent. Personally, I’m a big fan of Earl Weaver’s strategy of relying on the 3-run homer, hoping for two bloops and a blast.
With all the different ways to win at baseball, it’s only fitting that we have a lot of ways to bet on baseball as well. But which way of wagering on America’s Pastime is the best?
Before we attempt to single out the very best method to help you turn a profit betting on the diamond this summer, let’s take a closer look at each of the 7 most popular ways to bet on baseball.
Betting moneylines is the simplest way to bet on baseball. You don’t need to worry about how many runs each team scores, when they score them, or how many runs the game is decided by. Just pick which team you think will win the game, and if they win, you do as well.
Like almost all betting lines in baseball, the moneyline odds are heavily determined by the starting pitcher matchup. If a good team has its ace on the hill and is facing a mediocre team with a below-average hurler, the good team will be a pretty big favorite on the moneyline. If the mediocre team has its top pitcher starting that day and the good team is going with its fifth starter, the betting line will be much closer to even, or possibly even favor the mediocre team.
Betting moneylines has its pros and cons. Betting big favorites significantly increases your chances of winning, but you’ll need to win a lot more of your bets in order to profit if you’re consistently wagering -200 or higher. Meanwhile, consistently betting underdogs in the +150 range or higher will pad your wallet when you’re right, but you’ll have to be prepared to lose more bets than you win.
Run lines are a nice option to moneylines, giving you the opportunity to get better odds on the favorite or increase your chances of winning with the underdog. Just like the point spread in football or basketball, run lines are a handicap that is applied to “level the playing field” a little bit.
The run line on an MLB game is always +1.5/-1.5, with the juice fluctuating on both sides. If a team is favored around -200 on the moneyline, you can typically get them at close to even odds on a -1.5 run line handicap (which now requires the favorite to win the game by 2 runs or more). Meanwhile, an underdog that pays close to +200 on the moneyline will now pay close to even odds on a +1.5 run line handicap (enabling them to lose the game by 1 run and still cover the spread).
Betting favorites on the run line may sound like an easy way to get better odds on teams who should win the game, but there are a couple of things you need to be aware of. First, approximately 30% of all MLB games are decided by 1 run, so covering the -1.5 run line may not be as common as you think. Second, teams with a late lead will simply play to win the game, not cover the run line, so they may concede a late run in exchange for an out. Finally, if you back a home favorite on the run line, you’re at the disadvantage of having one less at-bat if the home team has the lead in the middle of the ninth (since the game will be over).
Betting the Over/Under (also known as the total) is the most fun way to bet on baseball in my opinion, especially if you take the Over. When you bet the total, you don’t care about which team wins the game at all. Your only concern is whether the teams combine to score more runs than the total posted by the oddsmaker (Over) or less (Under).
Totals in baseball can range drastically and are based on the calibers of the starting pitchers, the ballpark, weather conditions, and the recent performance of each team’s offense. Most Over/Unders in baseball are set in the range of 7.5-10 runs, but a matchup of Clayton Kershaw versus Chris Sale in pitcher-friendly Dodgers Stadium could result in the Over/Under being 6 runs or even lower. Meanwhile, a game in the high altitude of Coors Field or on a hot and windy day at Wrigley Field will likely see a total of 12 runs or higher, especially if two poor pitchers are scheduled to start.
When you’re betting totals, beware of key numbers. 9 is the number of runs that is most commonly scored in an MLB game, so betting Under 8.5 or Over 9.5 is always a little bit more dangerous because of that.
Team totals are a combination of the moneyline and Over/Under, and something you can use to your advantage if you find the odds are better.
With team totals, you’re strictly wagering on the number of runs (Over or Under) that one team will score in the game. The team total will be based both on the moneyline odds (a favorite’s team total will always be higher than the underdog’s) and the full-game total (if you add up the two team totals, the sum should be close to what the Over/Under is for the actual game).
It makes sense to bet a team total when you feel extremely confident about one team’s offensive chances in a game but aren’t sure what to expect from the other team.
If you are convinced that the Rangers will crush the Angels’ starter, the Rangers Team Total Over may make more sense to wager on than the Rangers moneyline, especially if you don’t feel certain that the Rangers’ pitcher will have a strong game. You may also be able to get better odds on the Rangers scoring Over a certain number of runs than you would by taking them on the moneyline.
This bet is like betting the first half in basketball or football, where you’re betting on which team will have the lead (or how many runs will have been scored) at the midpoint of the game. Technically, 5 innings is a bit past halfway through a 9-inning baseball game, but the bookmakers make it a complete 5 innings so that each team has the same number of at-bats.
The big advantage of betting the first 5 innings instead of the full game is that you’ve got a lot more certainty about who will be pitching for both teams. With bullpens becoming a bigger and bigger factor in MLB, it’s not unusual to see relievers coming into the game before the game is 6 innings old. By betting the first 5 innings instead, you can feel confident that the starting pitchers will be in the game for most (if not all) of your wager.
If there’s a downside to the first 5 innings bet, it’s the volatility of betting on a shorter time frame. If the team you bet against scores a couple of flukey runs in the first inning, the team you bet on will only have 5 innings to overcome the early deficit, rather than 9.
It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when you could only bet on a game before it started. Thanks to the Internet, online betting now gives us the ability to wager on games while they are in progress, opening up a whole new world for sports bettors.
That’s especially true in baseball, a game in which the odds can swing dramatically not just from inning to inning, but from batter to batter or even from pitch to pitch. For example, the chances of a team scoring a run with a runner on second base and zero outs in an inning are much greater than when there is a runner on second base and two outs. Same goes for when a team’s star pitcher has to suddenly leave the game due to injury and a much worse pitcher takes his place.
There are so many different things to wager on in baseball live betting. In addition to wagering on adjusted moneylines, run lines, totals, and team totals, you can also bet on which team will win the next inning, how many runs will be scored in the following inning, or even what the result of the next at-bat will be (hit, walk, strikeout, etc.). Although there may be more juice in the odds (i.e., -120 instead of -110), betting sites are more vulnerable to posting lines that are favorable to bettors because they have less time to post them. If you’re paying close attention to the game and are quick to act, you can easily capitalize.
One final way to bet on baseball is by wagering on props and futures, which are also popular ways to bet on football, basketball, hockey, and other sports.
Before each MLB season begins, betting sites will post futures odds on who will win the various divisions, the American League or National League pennants, and the World Series. They’ll also put up season win totals (allowing you to bet Over or Under a certain number of wins for any team in the league), and many will offer up odds for the major player awards such as MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year.
Over the course of a 162-game season, teams will go through ups and downs, and their chances of winning their division, their league, or the World Series will fluctuate as well. BetOnline, 5Dimes, and Bovada are among the betting sites that will post updated futures odds throughout the season, allowing you to buy low on teams who are struggling or to invest in teams who are looking like sure things to get to the playoffs.
Futures and props aren’t just limited to the full season, either. The emergence and popularity of daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings has forced traditional betting sites to up their games by offering props for individual games as well. For example, you can wager on the Over/Under for how many strikeouts a starting pitcher will record that night, or whether Aaron Judge will collect more hits + runs + runs batted in than Edwin Encarnacion.
The best way to bet on baseball depends a lot on what your goals are in sports betting.
If you’re a recreational bettor who is simply trying to make the games more interesting, pre-game betting like moneylines, run lines, and totals are probably a better fit for you. They don’t require you to constantly have one eye on the games and one eye on the fluctuating live odds, and you won’t need to wait an entire season to see if you won or lost your wagers, something that you have to do if you’re betting futures like win totals and World Series odds.
However, if you’re a more serious bettor and are strictly in pursuit of profit, live betting is the best way to bet on baseball in my opinion. With oddsmakers constantly having to move odds on as many as 16 games in one day, they’re going to make mistakes from time to time. As long as you’re thinking ahead and are able to quickly recognize an error when you see it, MLB live betting is a terrific way to line your wallet.
Ways to cash in on live betting include when a team’s top sluggers are scheduled to bat in the next inning, when a starting pitcher is giving up a lot of hard contact, when a starter is about to go through the lineup for the third time (stats have shown that the pitcher is at an extreme disadvantage in this situation), or when a starter’s pitch count is high and middle relievers may soon be coming into the game.
Don’t sleep on those season-long props and futures, either. You don’t want to bet too many of them because they’ll tie up your betting bankroll for months until they’re decided, but you can find great value betting on teams before they get hot.
For example, the 2017 Astros paid +1400 to win the World Series at the start of the season, and just +500 to win it all by late August. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were +1000 to win the Fall Classic at the end of May, when they were just 33-21, but steamed to +220 favorites before the start of September.
Ultimately, the great thing about betting baseball is that you have so many options.
I suggest you give each of them a try, track your performance and enjoyment level in each different type of bet, and go with the one(s) that give you the best long-term results.
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