How to Bet on Baseball

The Easiest Major Sport in Which to Show a Profit?

Fans looking at the field at a baseball game in a stadium

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Many longtime sports bettors will say that baseball is the easiest of the major sports in which to show a profit, yet it's one of the least wagered on sports around.

In the book "Sports Betting: A Winner's Handbook" Jerry Patterson states, "More big scores have been made betting on baseball than any other proposition."

The most common assumption on why sports gamblers don't wager on baseball is that they don't know how. There is no point spread and the odds used for baseball wagering look foreign to them. But it's actually quite easy.

The Money Line

The first thing prospective baseball bettors need to do is understand how the money line works.

Smart bettors and professional gamblers will seldom give odds greater than -140 when betting on baseball and always look for a reason to bet the underdog. If you bet nothing but underdogs you can win less than half of your bets and still come out ahead in the long run.

The Run Line

The run line is essentially a combination of the point spread and the money line rolled into one. Don't worry, once you see it in action, it's not nearly as confusing as it first sounds.

The run line uses a constant spread of 1.5 runs, although on very rare occasions you may see it jump to 2.5 runs. The team that is favored on the money line will also be the favored team on the run line.

For Example, the Royals Playing at the Red Sox

Let's use an example of the Royals playing at the Red Sox. On the regular money line we may see odds like:

Kansas City Royals +165
Boston Red Sox -180

This means that Red Sox bettors are asked to risk $180 to win $100, while Royals bettors will risk $100 to win $165. But when betting with the run line, we would expect to see the same game looking closer to:

Kansas City Royals +1.5 -125
Boston Red Sox -1.5 +105

Now, those people betting on the Royals are risking more money than they will win, in this case, $125 to win $100, but they are receiving 1.5 runs. Even if the Royals lose by one run, those betting Kansas City on the run line will win their bet because of the 1.5 runs.

Another Game, Now the Road Team Is Favored

Looking at another game, this time where the road team is favored, we'll choose the Padres at the Giants. For our purposes, let's say the odds on the game were:

San Diego Padres -115
San Francisco Giants +105

On the money line, Padres bettors will risk $115 to win $100, while Giants bettors will risk $100 to win $105. Using the run line, however, we would see odds resembling:

San Diego Padres -1.5 +135
San Francisco Giants +1.5 -155

The reason the odds didn't change as much for the Padres (-115 to +135) as they did for the Red Sox (-180 to +105) is because the Red Sox are the home team and will not bat in the bottom of the ninth inning if they lead by one run or they will stop batting in the ninth inning if they go ahead by a run, even if the bases are loaded and there are no outs, unless they score by home run.

The Padres, as the road team, will continue to bat all the way through the ninth inning even if they're already ahead, or if the Padres take a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, they'll continue to swing away and try to add to their lead.

Betting the run like makes sense when you like a big favorite and can get them at reduced odds by giving the 1.5 runs.

Consider the Predicted Amount of Runs Scored in a Game

It's also wise to consider the predicted amount of runs scored in a game when looking at the run line. Obviously, 1.5 runs are more meaningful in a contest where the oddsmaker is predicting a total of 7 runs to be scored than it is in a game where the predicted total is 14 runs.

How is the predicted number of runs figured? Simply by looking at the oddsmaker's over/under number on the game. If you don't know anything about over/unders, you're in luck, as that's our next topic.

Baseball Overs & Unders

Baseball totals are just like the totals for any other sport, in that you're betting the total number of points (runs in this case) is either over or under the bookmaker's predicted total.

The one difference is that in many cases you will have to risk more than the standard -110 used in football and basketball totals when you place a baseball totals bet. On the positive side, there will be cases where you receive favorable odds, such as +120 when you place a totals bet in baseball.

Using our earlier game between the Padres and the Giants for total purposes, it's quite possible we would see a totals proposition of:

San Diego Padres OV 8.5 -130
San Francisco Giants UN 8.5 +110

What this means is that bettors wishing to wager more than 8.5 runs will be scored will have to risk $130 to win $100, while those wagering on the under will risk $100 to win $110.

Extra Innings and Also Pitchers

For wagering purposes what happens in extra innings counts, both for totals and run line bets.

As a general rule, strikeout pitchers typically perform better in night games and may be solid underplays, while off-speed pitchers who don't register too many strikeouts are usually good overplays when they are pitching in the daytime.

There you have the basics to betting on the National Pastime. Bet wisely and remember that it's a long season and you might be the next gambler to be singing the praises of baseball wagering.