When the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, legal sports gambling grew by leaps and bounds, with many states passing laws legalizing sports betting within weeks or months of the ruling. Currently, wagering on Major League Baseball (MLB) is legal in more than two dozen states. Sports fans in these states can now place bets in person and online on their favorite teams all year round.
When it comes to baseball, there are many ways to bet, and understanding the odds is a critical first step for anyone interested in wagering. Some baseball lines and prices can be tricky to understand, but knowing what to look for and how bookmakers calculate their numbers gives you a better chance to win.
Generally speaking, bookmakers begin by looking at each team’s performance. They then consider factors like weather, injuries, home-field advantage, trends, and even intangibles to determine a number that represents each team’s chance of winning. They then look at what other bookmakers are doing and adjust their numbers accordingly.
Understanding Bet Types
There are several ways to bet on baseball games, including the moneyline bet, the run-line bet, and over/under wagering for live games,
The moneyline is represented by either a positive or negative integer. This number corresponds with how much money needs to be bet to win $100. A positive number represents a bet on the underdog, and a negative number represents a lay bet on the favorite.
For example, at the sportsbook at BetMGM Ohio, there is a game on the board between the Los Angeles Angels (-250) and the San Francisco Giants (+195). The Angels are the -250 favorites, meaning you will need to lay $250 to win $100, while you can bet $100 to win $195 by backing the Giants (the underdog).
The second example is in reverse order. The New York Mets (+150) are playing the Toronto Blue Jays (-190). Your $100 bet on the Mets will pay you $150 if they win the game, while you need to lay $190 on the Blue Jays to win $100. Here the Mets are the underdog and the Blue Jays the favorite.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to bet dollar amounts to match the odds exactly. Sportsbooks fractionalize moneyline bets meaning if you only bet $50 on the Phillies in the above example, your payout would be $75.
Over Under Betting
The over/under refers to the number of runs two teams will combine to score in a game. This bet option allows you to bet on the total runs scored to be either over or under the number set by the oddsmakers. The over/under number in baseball is always represented by half a run to prevent ties.
Bets on the over/under are also relative to the number 100 and usually open at -110 aside.
Run Line or Run Spread
You’ll usually see the second number, the run-line (also called the run-spread). The standard run-line spread is always 1.5 runs. The favorite will always be +1.5 runs and will need to win by two or more to be graded as a successful bet, and the underdog is always +1.5 and will have to win the game or lose by just a single run.
As with the money line, the run-line payouts are relative to the number 100, with the favorite run-line side being a negative integer and the underdog being positive.
Baseball futures bets come in several different forms. Traditionally most sportsbooks will post odds to win the World Series, the League (Pennant), and Division almost the entire baseball season. Season Wins Totals will also be listed before the start of the season and is traditional over/under wager based on the number of wins a team accumulates for the entire season.
An example of a future bet would be the Los Angeles Angels’ odds of winning the 2023 World Series. This is usually represented as a positive integer, such as +1500. This means you will win $1500 for every $100 you wager.