How to Bet on the MLB: A Comprehensive Guide

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The 2020 MLB season is almost upon us! We are into March, and that means the NCAA tournament and Opening Day are just around the corner. 

We will cover the best ways to best Major League Baseball and cover some of the different strategies. It is always best to get in on the action early, as later in the season, it is harder to find value.

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Betting on the Moneyline

A moneyline bet is by far the most popular bet in MLB. It is also the easiest to understand as you are simply betting on the winner of the game. The Cubs vs. Cardinals could be a matchup you would see. Chicago could be listed at +110 with St. Louis at -130 in this hypothetical example. 

If a bettor placed $100 on the Cubs to win, they would receive $110 if the Cubs were victorious. You would have to place a bet of $130 to make $100 if the Cardinals won. 

Moneyline bets are as simple as that. Bet the team you think is going to win the game. We will cover some more in-depth moneyline betting strategies later.

The Runline 

The runline bet is baseball’s version of a spread. All runlines are put at 1.5 lines, and that number is used as a spread in other sports. Your team must win by 1.5 runs or lose by only one run if you take the underdog. 

A great time to jump on the runline would be if you really like a team to win the game, but the moneyline is just too big to get any value. If you really like a team to win, you can take the -1.5 runline and get a lot better return on your money. 

For example, Gerrit Cole is going for the Yankees against Baltimore. The moneyline is -400, and that is just too big of a risk. You might be able to get the Yankees -1.5 at -210 or so, and that looks a lot better as far as return on investment. 

First Five Innings Betting

Something unique to baseball is the five-inning line. You are betting on who will be leading after the first five innings of play are completed. Compare it to a first-half line in basketball or football. The bettor doesn’t care about who ultimately wins the game, just the result after the first five innings.

The five-inning bet is one where you can really gain an advantage. Let’s say that one of the starting pitchers is really effective but hardly ever goes past five or six innings due to a high pitch count. His team may also really struggle in the bullpen. 

You don’t think they will win the game, but there is a really good chance they will be leading after five innings. This is the perfect time to hop on the five-inning bet. This is bet exactly like the moneyline example from above.

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Betting MLB Totals

For those of you familiar with gambling, this is the over/under in baseball terms. An MLB total is a bet on how many total runs will be scored in a game. Most baseball games will fall in the eight to 10 range. The main variable will be the starting pitchers for both teams, as pitching usually trumps hitting when it comes to runline totals.

Keeping an eye on the weather will also help you identify why a line might be lower than expected. Hitting is always much tougher in colder weather, or when the wind is blowing in. Make sure you look at the weather before placing your total bet.

Baseball Futures

There are a number of different ways to bet futures in MLB. The most popular future in MLB, and most sports, is betting on the champion. Betting on a team to take home the World Series will get you odds ranging from +200/300 or so for the favorite all the way up to +1000 or so for the team with the least chance at bringing home the championship. 

This year, the Yankees and Dodgers are co-favorites, sitting at +300. If you bet $100 on them to win the World Series, you will receive $300 if they pull it off. 

Baltimore, Miami and Detroit are all tied for the longest odds to win the World Series at 1000/1, or plus +10000. If you bet $1 on either of those three teams and they win the championship, you would win $1,000. Now, keep in mind all three of those teams are terrible, and you have most likely wasted $1.

Another popular form of future betting in MLB is on team wins. Every year the bookmakers select a win total for each team. You are then allowed to bet if the team will go over or under their projected total. 

The two favorites, the Dodgers and Yankees, have the highest projected win total of 100.5. You can then bet on if you think they will win more or less than that projected total for somewhere between -110 or -120 in juice, depending on the casino or website. 

On the opposite side, Baltimore is projected with the lowest win total of only 56.5 wins.

Other options for future bets include betting on AL and NL pennants. Betting on the pennant is just the gambler picking who will make the World Series from each league. If you took the Chicago Cubs to win the NL pennant, it would return a 9/1 payout.

A less risky, and therefore a less rewarding payout, is betting on who will win each division. The odds aren’t quite as big because all the team has to do it bring home a division crown for your bet to cash. 

The hardest division to call for handicappers was the NL Central. St. Louis is listed as the favorite at 12/5, with Chicago and Cincinnati both at 2/1 and Milwaukee at 6/1. The Pirates are the only team without much of a chance listed at 300/1.

Prop Bets 

Prop bets have really taken the sports betting industry by storm over the last few years. At one time, prop bets were really only available for the Super Bowl and betting someone to win the MVP of a league. 

Once sports betting started to be legalized in states across the US, sportsbooks had to get more creative, and sports bettors wanted more action.

The prop bet became a popular target for bettors and a great marketing tool for the sportsbook. Sports bettors can now place a wager on MVP for the AL and NL, if a certain player is going to homer during a game, strikeouts by a pitcher in a game, the number of times the Houston Astros will be hit by pitches. 

The list goes on and on. If you can think of it in a baseball game, chances are you can place a wager on it. 

Baseball Parlays

Like any sport, you can place a parlay on MLB bets. You can also team up across different sports if you so desire. You could bet a certain team to win a Final Four game and a couple of MLB moneylines all in the same day.

While parlays have some really great payouts, they are not recommended. The payouts are always at the house’s advantage. While picking the Cubs, Yankees and Brewers to win on a certain day might return you 4/1 on your money, the odds are probably closer to 5/1, and the sportsbook is walking away with that extra money 20% of the time. 

These are fun to do occasionally but don’t make them a part of your regular gambling strategy.

Live Odds 

Live betting has also really ticked up with all the online sports apps. It was hard to place a live bet at a casino because so many things could change by the time you got to the window. But, with a phone in your hand and access to instant betting, this is now a reality.

You can bet inside the game, but the juice is usually a little higher. This can be a great way to hedge a bet if you feel like doing so. 

Let’s say you took the Cubs at +110 against the Cardinals. Chicago opens up a 3-0 lead after two innings, and you can take the Cardinals at +300. If you throw down some money on the Cardinals and they come back and win, you walk away with money in your pocket no matter what.

What is the best MLB betting strategy?

Our recommended strategy for MLB is avoiding parlays and sticking to moneylines. Over the last few years, betting underdogs has been one of the solid strategies for MLB bettors. 

For even more tips, check out our How to Bet on Baseball guide.

You would think you have to win more than you lose to come out ahead when betting on sports. That is not the case if you strategically bet underdogs on the moneyline. 

Betting spreads, you have to hit on at least 53% of your bets to break even. When betting underdogs, you can actually lose more than you win and still come out ahead.

Underdogs range from +105, all the way up to +400 a few times last year. If you are betting on underdogs around that +180 area, you can hit on just under 38% of your bets and still be positive. 

This doesn’t mean just bet underdogs blindly and think you can come out ahead. Research bullpen usage and prior matchups.

Another tried and true method is betting underdogs in divisional games. Since these teams play each other 19 times a year, they know each other well. This familiarity helps offset the talent discrepancy between a team like the Dodgers and Rockies. 

The Athletic showed a study that since 2005, underdogs were just over -574 units when playing out of their division, while they were positive just over 83 units within their division. If you were on the underdog divisional train, you could have walked away with some serious cash, especially if you chose wisely. 

Bet with your head, not over it! Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.