Major League Baseball is the national pastime of the United States. MLB betting is even more popular. On any given night from April through September, there are up to 15 games being played daily. Some games during the afternoon, many during the evening hours, and some even taking place late on the West Coast. That means night owls can have plenty of action as well!
Betting on baseball is simple. Choose the outright winner by betting the moneyline. More advanced wagers include over-under wagers and run line bets (similar to the point spread in football and basketball).
In this guide, we will go over the most common baseball bets. We will then go into MLB’s major events and how you can not only bet on those specific games, but also get a big payday by predicting outcomes months ahead of time!
MLB Futures Odds
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|New York Yankees|
|New York Mets|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|San Diego Padres|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Chicago White Sox|
|San Francisco Giants|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|Kansas City Royals|
How to Read Sports Betting Odds Video
- MLB Bets
- MLB Betting Events
- How to Bet MLB Events
- Popular Teams
- MLB Betting Strategies
The most common way to wager on an MLB game is via the moneyline. This is where you’re picking a team to win–simple as that! Oddsmakers will determine which team is the favorite and which is the underdog.
The favorite will have a minus number listed next to them. That indicates how much you need to bet in order to win $100. The underdog has a plus next to its name. This is how much you’ll win if you bet $100. Sportsbooks want to balance their action. Therefore, you’ll have to risk more to win less on a favorite. On the other hand, underdog bettors will risk less to win more.
New York Yankees +130
Boston Red Sox -150
The Red Sox are the home team (listed on the bottom) and are the -150 favorites. You would need to wager $150 in order to win $100.
The Yankees are the visiting team and are the +130 underdogs. You would wager $100 on New York, and if they win, you get $130.
In this example, the Yankees are a decent underdog. Evenly matched games will be -110 for each team. Heavy favorites will be over -200 and even over -300 in rare cases in MLB.
You’ll notice that the numbers aren’t even. The difference is what’s called the vig or the juice. If there are an even amount of bets for each team, there will be some money left over after paying out the winning bets. This leftover money goes to the sportsbook as a fee for placing and guaranteeing your wager.
SportsBetting3.com Live MLB Bets Explained
- Cincinnati Reds bettors risk $100 to win $160 at +160 odds. The implied probability for Cincinnati Reds is 38.46%.
- Philadelphia Phillies bettors risk $100 to win $53.76 at -186 odds. The implied probability for Philadelphia Phillies is 65.03%.
With an over-under bet, the oddsmakers will set a total number of runs they expect to be scored in the game. You can then bet whether you believe the actual total will be over or under the sportsbook’s line.
An over-under bet is the closest one you can make in baseball that will be a near 50-50 proposition. Oddsmakers try to find the number that would generate an even amount of betting on each side.
Los Angeles Dodgers o8.5 -110
New York Mets u8.5 -110
In this example, the over-under for this game is set at 8.5 runs. This means a bet on the under will pay off if the teams’ combined total is less than 8.5. Conversely, a combined run total higher than 8.5 will pay to bets on the over. For each bet, you would wager $110 to win $100 due to the odds of each side being -110.
Sometimes, the over-under will be a whole number. For instance, if it is 8, and the final score of the game is 5-3, then the bet is a push; all bettors get their original wagers back.
Run lines are just like other sports that have a point spread. To win a bet on the run line in MLB, you will wager that the favorite will win the game by a certain number of runs or that the underdog will not lose by more than a certain number of runs.
Because there are so many games in baseball decided by one run, most run line bets will set the favorite at -1.5 (winning by two or more runs) and the underdog at +1.5 (winning outright or losing by one run). There are some sportsbooks that offer alternate run lines that push into -2.5 or even -3.5. Those extremes are less common.
Run Line Example
Let’s go back to the Yankees vs Redsox moneyline example to see how it plays out with the run line:
New York Yankees +1.5 -155
Boston Red Sox -1.5 +135
Betting on the Yankees to either win or lose by only one run gives you much greater odds for success. Instead of having to bet $100 to win $150 on the moneyline, the tables have turned. The oddsmakers believe there’s a much greater chance the Yankees will win or lose by just one run versus Boston winning by more than one run.
So a bet on New York to cover the spread of 1.5 requires you to bet $155 to win $100. If you think Boston will by more than one run, you can earn more on a Red Sox victory by betting on them on the run line. A $100 bet will net you $135 if Boston covers the spread.
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A futures bet is placed at any point during the season prior to a championship, playoff, final standing, or league award announcement. Choose a team or player to win in advance of the event. In baseball, the most common are selecting a team to either win their division, their league (National or American), or the World Series.
Oddsmakers will set odds on each team prior to the start of the season. Depending on how the season plays out, the odds will change.
Betting on futures can be quite lucrative, depending on your timing and who wins the event you’re trying to predict.
In 2019, the odds on the Washington Nationals winning the World Series were +5500 in mid-June. Placing a futures bet on the Nats at that point would’ve been quite a profitable bet come October.
But in other years, the betting favorite wins it all. Prior to the start of the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees were co-favorites at +450, and the Dodgers ended up winning the championship.
MLB Major Events
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The playoffs in Major League Baseball last throughout October and sometimes creep into November.
The format is changing in 2022, as an additional team from both the National and American Leagues will make the playoffs. This will bring the total playoff teams to 12, which is still the fewest in the four major North American sports.
Playoff teams are seeded by record from No. 1-6 in each league.
The new first round consists of a best-of-three series. The top two seeds in each league receive an automatic berth into the Division Series, while the No. 3 seed hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 in a series where the first team to get two wins advances.
The two teams advancing from the first round will play the other two teams in each league’s Division Series. These are best-of-five series where the home team rotates throughout the series. Games 1 and 2 are played at the stadium of the higher seed, Games 3 and 4 are played at the other team’s home field, and Game 5 (if necessary) is played back at the site of Games 1 and 2.
League Championship Series
The winners of the two AL Division Series meet in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) while the NL Division Series winners face off in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
The format here goes to best-of-seven. The higher-seeded team hosts Games 1 and 2, the scene shifts to the other team’s stadium for Games 3, 4, and 5, and if necessary, Games 6 and 7 are played on the higher-seeded team’s field.
The winners from each LCS advance to the World Series to compete for that season’s Major League Baseball championship. The team with the better regular-season record is given home-field advantage. The World Series format follows that of the best-of-seven League Championship Series.
Betting on MLB Playoffs
We talked about futures betting earlier, but the same concept applies late in the season. Major League Baseball is broken down into six divisions, so you can bet on a team to win a division.
Once the playoffs begin, you can still make a futures bet on who will win the World Series or LCS. In addition, you can bet on the winner of the specific playoff round that’s taking place. These are commonly referred to as “series prices.”
When to Bet
As the example with Washington above showed, your risk vs. reward could be much higher by placing a bet earlier in the season if you really believe in a team, but unless you’re backing a heavy favorite, your chances of winning increase by waiting until the event is closer.
For instance, you may not want to make a futures bet on a World Series or LCS winner until you know whether that team actually makes the playoffs. Yes, their odds will go down, but you will have a greater chance of winning that bet.
Just like the regular season, you can also make the standard array of bets – moneyline, totals, and run line – on each individual game throughout the playoffs, up to and including the World Series.
And due to the added interest in these games, there are also generally more things to bet on. You can try an alternate run line, bet on a certain team’s run total (instead of the total for both teams combined), and even try a prop bet that isn’t reliant on the outcome of the game.
Prop bet examples in baseball include whether the starting pitcher will go over or under a certain amount of strikeouts in the game and whether a certain player will hit a home run or not.
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MLB Teams to Bet On
Houston came into the MLB in 1962 as the Colt .45s before becoming the Astros. The team started in the National League and remained there until 2012, when it switched to the American League and joined the AL West division. Houston has since become one of the premier teams in the league; it won the World Series in 2017 and reached it in both ‘19 and ‘21. The World Series title and the appearance in ‘19 came with controversy, however, as MLB exposed a sign-stealing scandal from within the organization.
One of the original eight American League teams as a member of the Western League in 1894 before rebranded as a Major League franchise in 1901 as the Detroit Tigers. The team is the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League. The Tigers won four World Series titles with the most recent coming in 1984. Detroit reached the World Series twice since then (2006 and 2012), but were defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, respectively.
New York Yankees
The team synonymous with success in baseball is the New York Yankees, also called the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have 27 World Series championships, which is the most in the four major North American sports. Some of the most famous players in baseball history played for the Yankees, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. In more recent times, New York’s last five championships came from 1996 to 2009, when the team was led by Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Boston Red Sox
The Yankees’ chief rival, the Boston Red Sox are another one of MLB’s most popular teams. They play in historic Fenway Park, which has been used since 1912 and is the oldest stadium in the Major Leagues. For much of the Red Sox’ existence, they were hampered by the “Curse of the Bambino.” Boston traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees after winning the World Series in 1918, and they didn’t do so again until 2004. In the American League Championship Series against the Yankees that year, the Red Sox became the only team in MLB history to lose the first three games of a best-of-seven series before coming back to win the final four. Since that point, Boston has made up for lost time, winning the World Series on three more occasions.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers began playing in Brooklyn, New York in 1883 and took on the Dodgers name in 1932. Despite having several of the great players in the history of the game, the Dodgers won just one World Series in Brooklyn. During that time, the team is also known for Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier by becoming the first Black man to play in a major professional sport in the United States in 1947. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957 and have won six World Series there, including the 2020 championship, which snapped a 32-year title drought by the franchise. Going into 2022, the Dodgers have been one of the most successful teams in the game, reaching the playoffs in nine-straight seasons and counting.
MLB Betting Strategies
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A long-term study of baseball statistics shows that underdogs win four out of every nine MLB games (approximately 44%). Given that some underdogs face pretty long odds, you can be successful if you can identify these winning underdog teams.
Say you’re going to bet on nine favorites. If those nine teams have an average moneyline of -150, you would need $1,350 to make nine bets, laying $150 per team. Depending on the individual odds, you would have to win at least six, maybe even seven, or more bets to turn a profit.
But let’s say you get -150 odds on each bet:
6 Winning -150 Favorites
6 Winning Bets = $900 stake (6 x $150) + $600 won (6 x $100)
Total Payout = $1,500
3 Losing Bets = -$450 lost (3 x $150 stake)
Profit = $150 ($600 won – $450 lost)
ROI = $150 profit/$1,350 stake = 11%
Betting on nine underdogs, on the other hand, only puts $900 at risk. Suppose the underdogs’ moneyline is +130 each. Winning four of those nine games, averaging +130 per win, would gross $520 in winnings. The 5 losing bets would total $500. Your net profit is $20.
4 Winning +130 Underdogs
4 Winning Bets = $400 stake (4 x $100) + $520 won (4 x $130)
Total Payout = $920
5 Losing Bets = -$500 (5 x $100 stake)
Profit = $20 ($520 won – $500 lost)
ROI = $20 profit/$900 stake = 2%
5 Winning +130 Underdogs
5 Winning Bets = $500 stake (5 x $100) + $650 won (5 x $130)
Total Payout = $1150
4 Losing Bets = -$400 (4 x $100 stake)
Profit = $250 ($650 won – $400 lost)
ROI = $250 profit/$900 stake = 27%
Four underdog wins doesn’t provide as great an ROI as six favorites winning, but it at least keeps you in the black for the day, and five underdog wins is more lucrative.
Take Advantage of Betting Biases
If you’re trying to win money by betting on sports, take your emotions out of the game. There are two types of bias that you need to eliminate to be successful: popularity bias and recency bias.
Popularity bias, also known as identity bias, means people are more likely to bet on teams and players they know. To take advantage of this, oddsmakers may artificially inflate the odds for popular teams (like the Yankees, Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, etc.). There will likely be value in betting against these teams or deciding to bet on less popular teams like the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, etc.
Just because a team scored 10 runs the night before, doesn’t mean their offense will be as productive the next night.
Different starting pitchers will affect each team’s ability to score runs. Therefore, there will be potentially large swings from game to game. If you’re trying to use statistics to find trends, be sure to use a large sample size across multiple games. Reviewing last night’s box score isn’t enough and will lead you to be susceptible to recency bias.
This happens in casino games as well, and the house tries to take advantage. Take this example to better understand recency bias: if you’ve been by a roulette table, you’ve probably seen the board that lists the last several numbers that came in. This is done to get you to take recency bias into account.
Every time the wheel is spun, there is an equal chance that red or black will hit (it’s not quite 50-50 because of the two green spots). If you see on the board, however, that the spin has come up red the last eight times, you might think that it has to “even out” and be more likely to bet on black.
How the Weather affects MLB Betting
Baseball is primarily an outdoor sport. You need to know which games can be affected by the weather. Carefully monitor the stadium’s weather forecast. Most often, inclement weather will impact the over-under of a game.
When to Bet the Over
In cold-weather cities, the ball is less likely to travel in April and September compared to the warmer summer months. In Chicago, the wind could be blowing out at Wrigley Field, increasing run totals to 11 or 12 compared to 8 or 9 on a calmer day. The over would be a better bet.
Altitude plays a factor in Colorado Rockies home games, as more home runs and triples are hit at Coors Field than anywhere else in the majors.
When to Bet the Under
Finally, rain can be a factor. A baseball game is official after five innings. A game could end prematurely at the top of the sixth inning if a heavy storm arrives. The team with the most runs would be declared the winner.
Fewer innings also means less of an opportunity for runs to be scored, decreasing the final run total. If rain is in the forecast, you may want to consider taking the under.