Baseball Betting

MLB Gambling Probability and Handicapping

Major League Baseball, referred to by fans and sports journalists as simply MLB, is not only considered “America’s Pastime,” it is the oldest sport still played in the United States. Now made up of thirty teams split into two conferences, MLB was once a small group of independent teams. The first pro ball club, The Cincinnati Red Stockings, is still a member of America & Canada’s professional baseball league, though you may know them better as the Cincinnati Reds. For a team founded in 1869 to still be competing nearly 150 years later is a testament to the rich history and fan fever that surrounds pro baseball.

Handicapping Pro Baseball Games

The sheer length of baseball’s history (stats and trends can be examined over the course of a century and a half) gives certain types of sports gamblers all they need to build a basic betting strategy. Handicapping baseball games is easier than in most other sports for a few reasons. First, the impact a high-quality starting pitcher at the top of his game (or a player with a hot bat) can have means that it’s easy to find little differences between teams that can give you some insight into the outcome using very little time. The second thing MLB handicappers have going for them is a long season: each squad plays 162 games in the span of about 180 days, providing a wealth of statistical knowledge to mine while making picks on games. Finally, because so many books provide opportunities for MLB wagering, handicappers can combine their baseball wisdom with line shopping tactics to give themselves the best possible return on investment.

How to Read Baseball Odds

But of course, before you even worry about learning to shop for lines, handicapping players and teams, or developing your bankroll strategy, you need to understand how baseball odds are represented. A number of different ways exist to bet on the outcome of baseball games, and you can learn all there is to know to bet like an old pro in just a few minutes.

Let’s make up a game and set of odds in order to explain how they work. Let’s say you walk into a sportsbook or load an online sports gambling venue and look at their baseball lines. Since you’re a Cubs fan, the game pops off the page. It may look something like this:

121 – Chicago Cubs / John Smith / +135 / Over 7.5 -115
122 – Milwaukee Brewers / Jack Pierce / -125 / Under 7.5 +105

Yes, baseball odds even look different than those for football, basketball and the other sports that use traditional point spreads. But once you learn, you’ll be able to read a baseball betting board in no time.

The first number is the code used by the book to indicate a team – it’s easier for bettors to yell out a number than the name of the team and it makes life easier on sportsbook employees as well. After the team’s name is the starting pitcher, followed by the money line, then the over/under or totals option.

Money Line Bets in Professional Baseball

Understand first that betting on the money line is by far the most popular way to wager on MLB. These type of wagers are sometimes called “straight bets,” and ask the gambler to pick which team will win. There’s no point spread in these bets; as long as the team you put money on wins the game, you’re a winner. Unfortunately, picking the better team isn’t all you have to do.

The majority of the time, the money line for a given team will be some number that’s greater than 100, and that number can be shown as either a positive or negative with the use of plus and minus signs. Numbers of -101 or fewer indicate favorites; the larger the number after the minus sign, the heavier of a favorite they are. Teams with a plus sign in front of their money line are underdogs. Again, the larger the number, the less likely that team is to win in the eyes of the bookmaker.

When betting on an underdog, the money line number indicates how much you win for bets in units of $100. In our above example, a bet of $100 on the Cubs would net you an additional $135 plus your original stake. Should you choose to bet on the favored team, the Milwaukee Brewers, the money line number tells you how much you’d have to wager to win $100, in our case $125.

Run Lines & MLB Wagering

But baseball bettors aren’t limited to money lines only – various run line bets are available that make MLB wagering similar to point spread games. Because baseball games are often decided by two or three runs, it’s common to see lines around 1.5 runs in either direction. Using half-points prevents ties.

If you bet on a run line of +1.5, your team has to win by two or more runs for you to earn a pay-off. On a -1.5 run line, a team could lose by a single run and still put money in your pocket. Sound like a point spread? It basically is, except that the prices of laying run line bets varies more than traditional spread bets. The number after the run line tells you how much you stand to win for a wager of $100 or how much it will cost you to win $100, depending on whether you’re betting favorites or not.

MLB Picks, the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Dumb

There’s a saying in baseball that started appearing in the modern era, when schedules were set at 162 games: every team is going to win 54 games and every team is going to lose 54 games . . . what a team does with the other 54 games determines their performance in a given season.

One of the dumbest things you can when hunting down MLB picks is depend heavily on a tout service that will sell you their opinions of the outcomes of games (and point you towards good game investment opportunities) for a fee. Truth is, anyone can access Major League Baseball’s massive stat archive and do enough research to handicap games. Even the best MLB pickers in the world rarely have a success rate of more than 60%, so assuming that handicappers and touts can help you win money any better than you can do on your own is just plain dumb.

Want to bet on the world’s biggest and most popular pro baseball club? Spend a little time handicapping games, look for value by shopping for the best possible lines, and be patient.