This year’s Major League Baseball (MLB) season is officially underway and fans will be enjoying a packed schedule right through to October.
While all 30 teams are kicking off their campaigns, followers of the sport are looking to see who will make the postseason playoffs.
Some take this further and put money at stake on single games, series or even the season as a whole. There are a variety of different ways to bet on baseball, so it pays to know how it works.
First off, mlb odds almost exclusively involve moneyline betting, which essentially means picking the outright winner of a game. One team will be the favorite, the other the underdog, with the former netting you less returns than the latter were you to correctly bet on them.
American odds traditionally use a plus/minus odds system, meaning the favorites are shown with the minus sign (-) and underdogs with the plus sign (+). The corresponding number following that sign conveys the returns you’d get, depending on how much you wager.
The other two most commonly used systems are the decimal and fraction ones, which are mainly used across Europe.
The MLB has its own version of a point spread, referred to as the runline. This form of betting is used to provide more attractive options for games that are quite unbalanced, i.e. one team is a comfortable favorite over the other.
With runline betting, the underdog is given a 1.5 point boost to literally even the odds. So, in practice, this means the favorites start with a 1.5 point deficit and the underdogs a 1.5 point advantage. This means that, should you bet on the favorites, they would need to win the game by two or more points for your bet to come in.
For the underdogs, they either need to win the game outright or not lose by more than one run. Runline bets are slightly more complicated than moneyline ones, so may not be the best option for those new to MLB betting.
The reason runline betting is always set at 1.5 as opposed to, say, a typical NFL point spread of 4.5 is because baseball is a low-scoring sport.
Over/under bets are another viable option for baseball bettors, just like for many other sports. Bookmakers will set a number of combined runs from both teams and provide odds for the game having a number of runs over this or under it.
The set number will always be in a .5 format. So, for example, the over/under for a particular game could be set at 7.5 runs. This means an “over” bet would require the game to have 8 or more runs, while an “under” bet would need 7 or less. Remember, this is for the combined runs of both teams.
Oddsmakers take several factors into account when setting these odds, including the parameters of the ballpark and even the weather. The strength of each teams’ bats is also, of course, considered before the odds are decided.
For those less willing to punt on an entire game, there are also first five innings options, typically known as F5 bets. This means you’re betting on just the first five innings of a game, as opposed to the whole thing.
These bets can be particularly useful earlier in a season when teams are still finding their groove, trying out younger players and generally steadying their form.
Moneyline and runline bets are available for F5 betting, meaning you’re either betting on which team is leading after five innings, or you’ll have a .5 swing if you opt for a runline, rather than the 1.5 one for a full game.
With less risk comes less reward as F5 bets generally do not offer as generous odds as full game ones.
Prop betting is one of the more technical options, as it involves betting on specific instances in a game that may or may not have a major impact on the result. For example, you can bet on a specific player to hit a certain amount of home runs, or another player to steal a certain amount of bases throughout the game.
These are the most popular areas of betting for baseball, but there are myriad options out there and the odds are constantly changing to reflect how teams are performing.
In terms of general tips for betting on baseball, it’s always wise to do some research into games and teams to get an idea of how things could go. You should also avoid betting on big favorites where you can; oddsmakers know that more casual bettors will always bet on popular teams and favorites and so the odds reflect that.
If they win, your return is smaller anyway and should they lose, well, then you’re out of pocket. It’s better to focus on the underdogs with your bets, as that’s where the value is.
Baseball is fairly unique based on the sheer volume of games played in a regular season, providing fans with a huge variety of scenarios to place bets on. Within each game, there are plenty of different ways to wager money and try your luck.