108 Learning Annex – How to bet on baseball

Now, you may be looking at this saying “Chorizy, I’ve been betting away my weekly pay for the last 22 years, I don’t need this.” If that’s the case, then this is not for you.

But with legal sports betting on the scene in Chicago and NWI, I wanted to drop this for those who are not familiar with baseball betting or just betting in general.

I am going to use American odds for this. Those look like this: -150, +125. I am not going to go into Fractional or Decimal odds as they are not popular in sportsbooks that service US clientele.

How do the odds work?

It’s important to keep in mind how these books make their money when we think about the odds. They are not betting against you individually. They are trying to get enough money on each side of the bet so they are guaranteed profit. For example, if the odds on each side are -110 and -110. You, the bettor, would need to pay $110 to win $100. So if they get $11,000 on each side of this, they would have $22,000 total. When one of those teams wins, they would pay out the bettors that won $11,000 (returning the amount they bet) + $10,000 (the winnings) or $21,000 total. Leaving them with $1,000 in profit and absolutely no risk.

As you can see in that example, the negative odds number means you need to pay that amount for the opportunity to win $100. The opposite would be something like +125 where you would need to bet $100 for the opportunity to win $125. It works like this:

-150 means I would need to bet $150 to win $100 or $15 to win $10 or if I am Charles Barkley more like $30,000 to win $20,000. When you win that bet, in the first example, you’d win $150 (the amount you bet) + $100 (the amount you won) = $250 total. If you lose, you simply lose the $150 you bet.

+150 means the opposite, you would bet $100 to win $150. When you win that bet, you’d win $100 (the amount you bet) + $150 (the amount you won) = $250 total. If you lose, you simply lose the $100 you bet.

Can my odds change?

This is something common in Horse Racing, where you bet $2 on the 100-1 horse, but everyone has that idea and it ends up being 50-1 when the race starts. That is different in sports betting. The bet you make is what you have. The sportsbook may move that line and the next bettor will have a different price, but once you have made a bet, you are locked in at those odds.

One caveat in baseball is that they may nullify or void your bet if there is a starting pitcher change prior to the game. So if you bet on the Sox with Lucas Giolito listed as a starter, but he gets the shits and they have to start Adalberto Mejia, that bet will likely be voided. Some sites give you the option whether or not you want that, but generally these are voided.

Moneyline bets

This is probably the most straightforward bet in baseball. Since baseball games will go forever if they need to, there is always a winner. And in this bet, that’s all you are doing: choosing the winning team. That sounds easy enough, especially when Gerrit Cole and the Yankees are facing Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers. However, those books know that to get the right amount of money on each side, there needs to be a premium paid to bet on the Yankees and something to entice people to bet on the down trodden Tigers. So you’ll see something like this:

NY Yankees -400
Detroit Tigers +300

In order to win $100 on the Yanks, you have to bet $400. Conversely, if you bet the Tigers and they win, you’d get paid 3x of your bet. What is up to you is which risk you’d prefer to take. But what the book wants to see is something like $4000 on NYY and $1250 on the Tigers. So $5500 total of which they need to pay out $5000.

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Total Runs aka Over/Under

This is also a fairly straightforward bet on its face and one of the few baseball bets where the odds tend to stay around the -110/-110 odds you often see in Football point spreads. All you are betting on here is the total amount of runs you believe will be scored in the game. These usually hover around 7.5 to 8.5 runs. Let’s take the example of the upcoming SF Giants LA Dodgers game. The total runs bet is below:

Over 7.5 -105
Under 7.5 -115

If the final is 4-3, that’s 7 runs and the Under has won. If the final is something like 6-2, that’s 8 run and the Over has won. It’s a simple bet.

Unlike the Moneyline bet, sportsbooks tend to change the over under number rather than move the odds much, in order to keep the money evenly distributed. For example, if we all looked at this game and thought, there is no way they get to 8 runs. We all bet the under. The book is not just gonna root for the over, instead, they will move the line to encourage betting on the other side. First they’ll move it a half run down to 7 and then maybe 6.5 if they don’t get enough action. But remember, you are still locked in at under 7.5.

Runline bets

The runline is the sister bet of the spread in football. It functions the same, as you bet a team and either give away runs or get runs. Let’s go back to the Dodgers and Giants.

Giants +1.5 runs +100
Dodgers -1.5 runs -115

This means if I want to win $10 on the Dodgers, I am betting $11.50 to win $10 that the Dodgers will win by at least 2 runs. So if they win 10-5, after the runline the final score would be 8.5-5 and the Dodgers would still have won. If they win 6-5, then the runline score would be 4.5-5 and I would lose.

While the function is the same as in football, it is different in how the odds are set and move. Typically in football, the spread represents what amount of points will entice gamblers on both sides. And it will work much like the over under where the amount of points you get will change and the odds will stay relatively similar as people put money on either side. For example in the NFL, a spread may be at 6.5 points, meaning the difference is a touchdown + an extra point. Now, if they aren’t getting enough on the underdog (team getting 6.5 points), they may move that to 7 or even 7.5. At 7.5 the favorite (giving the points) would need to win by at least 8 now.

Baseball doesn’t follow this, due to the low amount of runs scored in their games compared to the large amount in other sports like basketball and football. Baseball instead moves the odds associated with each 1.5 runline. Hockey does this as well. So if too much money is on the side of the Dodgers, they will alter the odds as they do with the moneyline rather than move away from 1.5 runs.

Please let me know if this was helpful or if there are confusing points I can elaborate on.

And please, only bet what you are willing to lose.


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