Betting On Baseball: The Basics
Like many people who visit Las Vegas, I like to do a little gambling. My favorite place to risk money at is in the sports book. Unlike the majority of sports bettors, football isn’t my game. Football accounts for more sports wagers in Las Vegas than every sport in Nevada sports books.
America’s original pastime played a major role in my life. I grew up playing and watching baseball. My first real business started after collecting baseball cards as a child. Between the ages of 13 through 15 or 16 I had a pretty lucrative business selling baseball cards. Selling baseball cards led to betting on baseball games. Living in Las Vegas has renewed that passion for baseball and betting on baseball.
Betting on baseball is different than America’s new pastime of football. Betting on baseball is so simple that a high school kid could figure it out and fall in love with the game an entirely different way than a typical fan.
Basic baseball wagers don’t involve a point spread. You just have to pick and winner. It doesn’t end there. When you’re ready step up to more involved baseball wagers you can look to other wagering opportunities that are available.
Wagering on baseball isn’t the same today as it was when I started as a kid. There are many more ways to wager on the game. I’ll start an overview of wagering on baseball with the basics and get deeper into newer and different wagering opportunities. Read as far as you like but we’ll begin with simple money line wagers where you pick the winner. It’s as simple as you can get with betting on sports, but there’s a twist.
Money Line Wagers
The money line is based on a wager of $100. For example, if a team is +200 it means that you will win $200 if you bet $100. You can also look at a +200 underdog as the 2 to 1 underdog. On the other side of the wager, a money line of -200 means that you must wager $200 to win $100. It’s always easiest to explain money line betting is with an example:
- Favorite – Money line favorites usually come with a minus next to their name. For example, if you wager on the favorite Yankees at -190 to defeat the Red Sox you would have wager $190 to win $100.
- Underdog – Money Line underdogs usually have a plus next to their name. For example, if you wager on underdog Red Sox at +170 against the Yankees you would have to wager $100 to win $170.
Picking winners isn’t easy but actually wagering on the game isn’t very difficult. Wagering on baseball is just different than point spread betting that you see for football and basketball. If you’d like to mix things up you can wager on a 5 inning winner instead of a full game (9 inning) winner. This shortens your wager so that you usually have a winner or loser before dinner time in Las Vegas.
Personally, I love 5 inning wagers. The shorter game takes handicapping a bullpen almost entirely out of the equation. If the starting pitcher isn’t good enough to pitch 5 innings then there’s a good chance that he’s going to be the losing side.
Total Runs Scored Wagers
This is similar to over/under wagering in other sports. You’re simply betting that the total runs scored will be over or under a number set by the sports book. When you wager on a full game, extra innings are counted towards the total. When you place a 5 inning wager, your wager only includes runs scored in the first 5 innings of the game.
This is a simple wager but with baseball being such a statically driven sport these wagers may come more naturally. The downside to wagering on totals is that the lines are typically tighter so there isn’t chance for a big underdog win.
Run Line Wagers
Run line wagers are becoming an increasingly more popular bet in baseball. The similarity of a run line to a football or basketball point spread is drawing interest from people that normally wouldn’t wager on baseball. Run lines are usually set at plus or minus 1.5 runs. This means that your pick has to win by at least 2 runs or not lose by 2 runs. Sports book operators are even offering alternative run lines with differences greater than 1.5 runs.
Not only are run lines becoming popular because of the similarity to other sports but also because of potential for bigger wins. It’s not rare to see a +300 underdog win a wager. Casual gamblers love being paid 3-1 on their wagers.
One Inning Prop Bets
There is an increasing amount of people wagering on 1st inning prop bets. These wagers are quick and simple – will a team score in the first inning? The wager is over in the short amount of time that it takes to play one inning of baseball. This kind of wager could become more popular with millennial gamblers who can’t even deal with a 9 inning baseball wager.
Fun thought about one inning wagers. Since day games that begin on the east coast at 1:05pm local time, your wager could win or lose before 10:30am in Las Vegas. This is a fun way to have some action while you’re sitting at brunch.
Prop Bets & Futures
This is another growth area for wagering on baseball. There are multiple prop bets for baseball depending on the sports book you visit. There are single game prop wagers where you’re betting on an outcome for an individual game and there are full season prop wagers where you wager on something happening over the season. Some examples might be will a certain player pitch a no-hitter during a game or will that player win the Cy Young award for their respective league.
Futures wagers are where you’ll wager on something happening in the future. The most popular example of this for baseball is picking the World Series winner or season win total over/under wagers.
Wagering on baseball is changing in Las Vegas. It seems as though there are new types of wagers popping up every few weeks it seems. Personally, I stick with full game and 5 inning wagers. The more I have to research, the more jumbled the data seems to become.
The new types of baseball wagers are interesting and should help draw more people to wagering on the game I love. It’s not easy to overcome the house edge in sports betting but the money line in baseball gives you a great opportunity because of the plus money underdogs that might win.