Major League Baseball, like the NHL, is a different kind of animal from a betting standpoint than sports like basketball and football. Spreads are fixed at +1.5 or -1.5 based on the favorite and the underdog, unless you decide to bet alternate spreads. Alternate spreads don’t make it on to the main odds page at most sportsbooks, though.
Instead of a focus on spread betting, MLB has a focus on moneyline wagering as it pertains to MLB odds. Unlike big moneylines in other sports, most MLB moneylines are generally going to go as high as -400 for favorites and +320 or so for underdogs. You’ll regularly see much higher numbers in basketball and football.
With that in mind, you’ll have to know what to look for and what the bet types are with MLB and other professional baseball leagues around the world.
The best of the best sportsbooks for MLB betting are going to have “dime lines”. That means that the difference between the favorite and the underdog is 10 cents, so a favorite might be -140 and the underdog would be +130. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of sportsbooks like that in the US market, so you’ll have to find something with 15-cent lines, where a favorite might be -138 and the underdog might be +123 or the favorite might be -140 and the underdog might be +125.
Some sportsbooks have “20-cent” lines, so -140 and +120 or -138 and +118. The smaller the gap between the favorite and the underdog, the better your chances are of showing a profit because your break-even rate will be more attainable and the lower margin from the sportsbook will create better odds.
Each sportsbook operates in a different way. With spread betting, most sportsbooks have the same spreads. With moneyline betting, odds can differ quite a bit from book to book, so you’ll want to be able to shop around by having accounts at multiple sportsbooks like PointsBet, BetMGM, DraftKings, or BetRivers.
The standard type of bet for baseball is the moneyline. The simple part is understanding what a moneyline bet means. It means picking the winner. The favorite is designed by a minus (-) sign and the underdog is designated by a (+) sign. Moneylines correlate to an implied probability that the team will win the game and then the sportsbook has a theoretical hold percentage included in the calculation.
The more likely a team is to win, the bigger the money line will be. In a game between comparable teams, you might see one team at -125 and the other team at +105. You can bet “To Win” or “To Risk”, in that you can do something like $12.50 to win $10 on the -125 or $125 to win $100. You can also bet “To Risk” which is just betting an amount you are comfortable with to win whatever -125 is. If you bet “To Risk) at $100, you would win $80.
In the same way that the spread is a “handicap” placed on the favorite, the vigorish or “vig” on the money line is what increases with baseball.
The “spread” bet in baseball is called the Run Line. With this bet, the favorite is -1.5 and the underdog is +1.5. Because one-run games happen frequently in baseball, the +1.5 is usually at minus odds, while the -1.5 is usually at plus odds.
With these bets, the underdog has to “cover the spread” by losing by one or winning the game. The favorite has to cover the spread by winning by more than one run. The team that is the money line favorite is always going to be the Run Line favorite with the -1.5.
There is a correlation between the money line odds and the vig on the Run Line. In the above example of -125 and +105, the -1.5 for the favorite would be something like +145 and the +1.5 would be something like -165. If the money line was -225, then the Run Line might only be something like -145 and the +1.5 would be +125.
Some people bet Run Lines with big money line favorites because they don’t want to lay the high vig. Others just like the higher risk, but the higher reward.
MLB totals betting is the same as it is in any other sport. You bet over/under on the total combined runs for both teams. If the total is 9.5 and the game ends 6-4, the game goes over the total. If the game ends 5-4, the game goes under the total.
The totals also have vig attached to them, with an industry standard starting point of -110. More often than not, the vig will move before the total line moves. For example, a book is more likely to go from 9.5 and the over at -110 to the over at -115 because of betting action rather than move the line to 10.
People really like totals betting in baseball based on the different ballparks and umpires, so you will see a lot of totals movement on the odds screen.
An increasingly popular betting option in baseball is to bet on the 1st 5 innings of a game only. Sportsbooks and bettors realized how frustrating it was to deal with bullpens once the starting pitcher leaves the game. Baseball is the only sport in which we can expect players not to finish a game and the bet goes into the hands of somebody else.
As a result, you can bet money lines, run lines, and totals for just the 1st 5 innings of a game. The favorite for the game is almost always the favorite for the 1st 5 innings. The total is usually about half of the full-game total and the run lines are -0.5 or +0.5 instead of 1.5.
Baseball bettors love to bet futures and props. You can bet on things like the New York Yankees to win the World Series or the Minnesota Twins to win the AL Pennant. You can bet on the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the NL West. The odds will depend on the team and the strength of the division, but World Series odds usually range from +400 on the favorite(s) to +100000 on the worst team(s) in the league.
Baseball is also set up very nicely for prop betting. You can bet things like Yes/No first inning run or will Aaron Judge hit a home run. You can bet on the over/under number of strikeouts for a pitcher. The possibilities are seemingly endless during a baseball season.