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MLB Betting 101: How to Bet on Major League Baseball

MLB Betting 101: How to Bet on Major League Baseball

The sport of baseball is as much a part of “America’s Pastime” as a warm slice of apple pie, and for bettors, baseball offers an absurd amount of opportunity to wager on the sport.

With 30 teams playing 162-game seasons every year, Major League Baseball is the ultimate sport with action for sports bettors.

From the time pitchers and catchers report to begin Spring Training, all the way down to when that last trash can has been forced to produce a loud bang to indicate a forthcoming slider – if you’re interested in MLB betting, you will have no shortage of options to choose from.

So whether you’re already an All-Star sports bettor or just working your way up through the minors, we have all the information you will need to have a fun a profitable MLB betting season.

MLB Moneyline Betting

Unlike football and basketball, the primary means to bet on Major League Baseball is through moneyline betting.

For those not familiar with moneyline betting, moneyline betting is simply picking the team you believe will win that specific matchup.

There is no point spread to worry about (though in MLB betting this is more commonly referred to as the ‘run line’).  As long as the team you pick to win wins the game – you win your bet.

If there is a twist to moneyline betting it’s that the money you need to risk to hit your desired payout will vary based on the team you select to win the game and the matchup itself.

Moneyline betting, like anything else in sports betting, works off the idea of wagering on the favorite to win $100 or wagering $100 on an underdog to win plus-money.

Here’s an example of what a moneyline bet would look like in MLB betting:

Cardinals (+125)
at Cubs (-150)

In the above example, if you believe the Cardinals will win the game, you would bet $100 to win $125.  If you believed the Cubs would win the game, and wished to win $100, you would risk $150 on the Cubs.

Another wrinkle to consider with MLB moneyline betting deals with last-minute pitching changes.  With any given moneyline wager in Major League Baseball, you are able to bet on two different options: “listed” and “action”.

Essentially what this means is if you select a moneyline listed wager, the two pitchers named as the starters will both have to start the game for the bet to proceed.  If a starting pitcher is scratched right before the first pitch, your bet would be canceled and your money would be returned back to you.

On the other hand, if you take “action” on the moneyline, your bet will proceed as it is regardless of any last-second pitching changes.

Most professional bettors will suggest you always take the “listed” option, as this gives you more flexibility to reassess your bet if the pitching matchup suddenly changes.

MLB Run Line Betting

While point spread betting is extremely common in football and basketball, MLB betting is predominantly done via moneyline betting.  However, there is the option to incorporate a point spread in MLB betting and this is what is most commonly known as the “run line”.

The “run line” is identical in principle to a point spread.  Every game in baseball will have a run line associated with the matchup and this run line will always be set at 1.5 runs.

The team that is the favorite in any given matchup has to win by 2 runs or more to win your bet.  The team that is the underdog will need to either win their game outright or lose by just 1 run.

One thing you will immediately notice in regards to run line betting is that the payout for teams needing to win by 2 or more will be higher than the payout for an underdog to cover the run line.

Here’s an example of what an MLB Run Line may look like at your sportsbook of choice:

Tampa Bay Rays +1.5 (-190)
at Los Angeles Dodgers -1.5 (+160)

In the example above, you can see that the Dodgers are considered the favorite in this matchup, but oddsmakers still believe the Rays will keep the game within a run.  If you believed the Dodgers would cover the run line and bet $100, you would be rewarded with a cool $160 win.

If you believed the Rays would win or lose by 1, you would need to risk $190 to win $100.

On the surface, betting on the run line seems incredibly easy, but the reason for the underdog to have a steeper cost than the favorite to win by 2 is that nearly one-third of all MLB games end up being one-run games.

Another thing not taken into consideration by newer sports bettors is that the home team has a slight disadvantage in covering a run line because if they successfully finish out a game in the 9th, they will not be coming up to bat to try to pad that run total.

Thus you will see plenty of games have an infamous back-door thanks to a late rally that falls just short.

MLB Totals Betting

As is the case with any other sport, if you’re not comfortable betting on a side to win a given game, you also have the option to bet on the combined run total in any given baseball game to be “Over” or “Under” a number set by oddsmakers prior to the start of the game.

An example of what an MLB Over/Under bet would look like this:

Minnesota Twins O8.5
at Detroit Tigers U8.5

If you believed the combined run total would be 9 runs or more, you would take the over 8.5 runs here.  If you believed the combined run total would be 8 runs or less, you would take the under 8.5.

MLB Over/Under bets are extremely popular bets amongst bettors that wager on baseball, and the combined total will fluctuate based on a number of factors, the most common being:

  • Pitching matchup
  • Pitching venue (ex. Coors Field in Denver will typically have higher totals than an evening game at Dodger Stadium)
  • DH or no DH (especially in interleague games at AL ballparks)
  • Weather (is the wind blowing in and killing home run balls or is the wind blowing out and turning extra-base hits into home runs?)
  • Is the game indoors or outdoors? (Games in a dome/closed roof will have much better conditions for a pitcher than a game outdoors)
  • Umpires (Some umps have tighter strike zones than others, leading to more batters on base and runs scored)

MLB First 5 Innings Betting

If you love quarter or half bets in football and basketball, first 5 inning bets in MLB betting will be right up your alley.

First 5 inning bets, also known as ‘F5 bets’, are moneyline bets where you are betting on just the first five innings of a baseball game.

If a team you want to bet on has an awful bullpen but solid starting pitching, there may be greater value in betting on the first five innings of a game than letting the bullpen have a chance to blow your moneyline, run line, or total.

During the long MLB regular season, particularly in the first two months of the year, it may take baseball teams a little bit of time to get back into rhythm, pick up on pitching tendencies, new manager tendencies, and so forth.

As such, teams will notoriously have slow starts and as a bettor, you can absolutely capitalize on that.

If you only wish to handicap starting pitchers and rely on them for your bets, MLB first 5 inning betting is probably for you.

MLB Parlay Betting

A parlay is a single wager that essentially combines two or more individual bets into one wager.  In order for your parlay to be a winner, every bet you make must win or the entire ticket will be a bust.

MLB parlay betting is no different than parlay betting in any sport.

However, if there is a discernible difference between parlay betting in football or basketball, it’s that MLB parlay betting will primarily be based on moneyline bets or total bets.

Note: Most sportsbooks will not allow you to parlay run lines, but this varies from sportsbook to sportsbook.

Here’s an example of what a traditional moneyline MLB parlay may look like:

Braves -150
Indians -200
Mariners +150

In the above example, if the Braves, Indians, and Mariners all won their respective games, you would win this parlay.

MLB Series Betting

Another wrinkle to MLB betting comes via MLB series betting.

MLB series betting is precisely like it sounds.  Prior to a series beginning in baseball (2-4 games against the same opponent), you are able to bet on the team that you believe will win that series.

For example, if the Miami Marlins and New York Mets were about to begin a 3-game series, you may see this presented by your sportsbook of choice:

Miami Marlins to win series (+150)
New York Mets to win series (-130)

The team that wins at least 2 games out of this 3-game set will win the “series”.

In the event the series is 2 or 4 games (or a game in the 3-game set is rained out) and ends as a 1-1 or 2-2 split, the bet would be deemed a “push” and your money would be returned.

MLB Futures Betting

A futures bet in Major League Baseball is a bet about something that you believe is going to happen in the future.

The two most common MLB futures bets come in betting on the team you believe will win the World Series and betting on teams to go “Over” or “Under” a projected win total for the 162-game season.

In the case of bets on who will win the World Series, you will be able to make futures bets on that at any point during the season.

MLB Win Total bets, however, will need to be submitted before the beginning of the season.  These bets do not adjust as the season goes on.

If you’re not wanting to bet on who will win the Fall Classic or if the Mets will win less than 80 games this season, there are numerous other ways to take part in the MLB futures market.

Some examples include:

  • Betting on a team to win their division
  • Betting on a team to win the pennant
  • Betting on a team to win one of the two Wild Card slots in the AL/NL
  • Betting on a player to win an individual award (Cy Young, MVP, etc.)
  • Betting on a player to win the batting title
  • Betting on a player to hit the most home runs/have the most RBI


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