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How Major League Baseball Betting Odds Work

By Scott, MLB Handicapper, Predictem.com

There are a number of different major league baseball bets you can make. One thing they all have in common is the all-powerful “money line.” That might sound like gambling mumbo-jumbo, but it’s really easy to understand. Let’s take a look at what a money line is and how to apply it to all the different types of baseball wagers.

The Money Line

In all forms of gambling, there are odds of one kind or another. In baseball, those odds are expressed on the money line. Look at it simply as a way to communicate odds or probabilities. If the weatherman says there is a 75% chance that it will rain, he could also say it’s -300 that it’s going to rain. Let’s apply it to baseball using different numbers.

Houston Astros +140 vs. New York Yankees -160

Above is a standard baseball wager. Each team has a money line, which are the odds of them winning the game. Houston is the underdog at +140. When you see plus signs, that means the team is an underdog. New York is -160 and the favorite. Whenever you see a minus sign, that indicates a favorite.

Houston is +140, meaning you win $140 for every $100 you bet. You don’t have to bet $100. The money line does that simply to make it easy to understand, by utilizing the convenient $100 point of reference. You win more than you bet on Houston because they are the underdogs.

The Yankees are favored at -160. That means you must bet $160 for every $100 you hope to win. If betting smaller, that would break down to betting $16 for every $10 you hoped to win. You get less than you bet because they are the favorite.

When betting baseball in its standard form, you are simply betting on a team to win the game. For a variety of factors, one team will be given a better chance of winning. You need odds to accommodate for the gap in quality. Since MLB features more parity than any other major sports league, those odds are never all that big, rarely surpassing -300, which in layman’s terms equates to a 3-to-1 favorite, which is a fractional form of odds that only allows for so much nuance. With a money line, the odds can be boiled down to a very specific number.

Here are 4 facts about money lines that will give you a big leg up when it comes to understanding major league baseball betting odds:

Minus Sign = Favorite

Plus Sign = Underdog

Minus any number means that is how much you need to bet for every $100 you hope to win.

Plus any number is the amount you win for every $100 you bet.

*And remember, the $100 figure is just a reference point. You can bet any amount depending on the limits of your book.

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Here are some more types of baseball bets. We will be using the money line for all of them.

Totals

When betting on baseball games, you will be able to bet on “totals,” which are projected run amounts for a game and you bet whether the combined total score of both teams will be under or over that number. Here is an example:

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Total: 7.5
Over 7.5 -125
Under 7.5 +105

In the above example, the total is 7.5 runs. The over is slightly favored at -125, meaning you must bet $125 for every $100 you want to win. That bet wins if 8 or more runs are scored. The under is a small underdog at +105, meaning you win $105 for every $100 you win. In a lot of games, the odds will break down evenly at -110.

Run Lines

Normally, a baseball game is bet with the winner of the game winning the bet. With a run line, the favored team is -1.5, meaning they need to win by two runs for the bet to win. The underdog team becomes +1.5, meaning they can lose the game by one run and the bet would win. Here’s an example:

Tampa Bay Rays +1.5 (-155) vs. Boston Red Sox -1.5 (+135)

In the above example, you see a run line, with the underdog Rays being given an extra 1.5 runs, meaning they can lose by one run. The favored Red Sox are -1.5. meaning they have to win by two runs. The addition of just one run made the favored Red Sox an underdog at +135, with the underdog Rays now a favorite at -155. That’s how much difference one run means in baseball .

Alternate Run Lines

Alternate run lines are basically just like run lines, except they take it a step further. Rather than the favorite having to win by 2 runs, they need to win by 3 runs. And the underdog team would be able to lose by two runs. When a team is -2.5, that means they are “giving” 2.5 runs. You could look at it like -2.5 means you’re subtracting 2.5 runs from their total. If they win 4-2, you subtract 2.5 runs from 4 and they lose 2 to 1.5. A team at +2.5 is “getting” 2.5 runs. The plus sign means they are getting 2.5 runs added to their final score. So if they lose 5-3, you add 2.5 runs to their total and now the bet wins 5.5 to 5. You can also make it so the favored team can lose by up to two runs or that the underdog can win by 3 runs. You can play with it a little more in alternate run lines than in run lines.

Here’s an example of an alternate run line:

Pittsburgh Pirates +2.5 (-230) vs Los Angeles Dodgers -2.5 (+190)

In the above example, the Dodgers were the original favorites, but the addition of 2.5 runs made Pittsburgh a robust favorite. For Pittsburgh to win this bet at +2.5, they can win the game or just not lose by more than two runs. For L.A. to win at -2.5, they need to win the game and do so by at least 3 runs. At -230, you would need to bet $230 for every $100 you hope to win on the Pirates. With the Dodgers at +190, you would win $190 for every $100 you win. You can find alternative runline bets at Sportbet.

Prop Bets

Prop Bets are bets you make on event within a game. It can focus on player or team performance and the bets are not usually tied to the final result of the game. Here is an example:

How Many Strikeouts Will Clayton Kershaw Have Today?
Over 7.5 (+110)
Under 7.5 (-110)

In this prop bet, you are betting on how many strikeouts Clayton Kershaw will have. Whether you pick over or under 7.5 strikeouts, the odds are -110, meaning you must bet $110 for every $100 you want to win.

Understanding the different baseball bets that are available is pretty easy. For the most part, you’re betting on which team will win the game or maybe whether the score will be lower or higher than the bookie’s forecasted total. These are easy concepts to understand. The only sticking point is being able to clearly understand the odds of the available wagers. And if you can master the easy concept of money lines, you’ll be well on your way.

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Moneylines - The most common of baseball bets. Beautiful too, as they create a situation where you can win less than 50% of your bets and profit by betting underdogs!

Totals - The easiest wager to beat in all of sports betting. There's a reason why sportsbooks have lower limits on over/under bets!

Runlines - A wager that creates a point spread where a team is either -1.5 runs or +1.5 runs. Underdog run lines are a great bet for game in which you predict a slim margin. Favorite moneylines pay well and are great bets for potential blowouts.

Alternative Runlines - Turn a favorite into a +2.5 underdog! Turn an underdog into a -2.5 run favorite. You better know what you're doing before betting these lines or your bankroll will resemble the action of a craps table.

Parlays - This type of bet is the reason many bookies drive cadillacs. Big risk; big payouts!

Prop Bets - Similar to totals, these are easy to beat if you do your homework. Avoid the ones that look easy though as they're surely sucker bets.

Futures - A great bet for recreational bettors who only want to spend a few bucks and have something to root for all season. There's a big payout if you're right!

Season Wins - Bet on teams to go over or under the posted total. Fading public opinion can make you money with this type of wager. Especially with public teams.

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