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MLB Betting Guide: How to Bet on Baseball

Ray Liotta’s disembodied voice once told Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come.” Here at Odds Shark, we say, “If you bet it, you could win.” From spring training to the World Series, you have baseball betting options that could get you some major coin, maybe even that A-Rod money. We’ll show you how to bet on baseball so you can become the Hank Aaron of MLB betting.

How to Read MLB Game Odds

In sports betting, whether it’s baseball, hockey, basketball or football, a moneyline bet involves you picking a team to win the game outright. Odds at your favorite betting site will look something like this:

Boston Red Sox -200

Chicago White Sox +170

In this scenario, Boston is the favorite and Chicago is the underdog. Faves are always shown with the minus sign (-) and dogs with the plus sign (+). Another thing to note is the odds style. We use American odds but you have the option to choose Decimal (1.20) or Fractional (1/5) odds. Usually, sports bettors in Europe and Australia use decimals, those in the United Kingdom like fractions, and people in the Americas gravitate toward their namesake odds.

If you were going to lay down $100 on the Red Sox, you’d get a payout of $150 – your original money is returned along with your winnings of $50. Conversely, if you were going to bet on the White Sox, you’d get $270 – your $100 comes back coupled with your loot of $170. To see how much you’d win based on the odds and amount bet, check out our Odds Calculator.

Runline Betting: Covering the Spread (Sort of)

The runline is Major League Baseball’s version of the point spread. Before the game, one team is given the advantage of 1.5 runs to create a more even betting field. The reason the number of runs scored is always set at 1.5 is because baseball is generally a low-scoring sport. Odds will look like this:

San Francisco Giants -1.5

Los Angeles Dodgers +1.5

For the Giants to cover the runline, they would need to win by two or more runs. For the Dodgers to cover, they would need to win the game outright or not lose by more than one run.

First Five Innings: Betting on the Top Half of the Game

During the regular season, especially in April and May, it can take teams time to find their groove. Young players get called up, new managers learn the ropes, seasoned vets can have slow starts, and starting pitchers don’t deliver more than three quality innings, all of which can have a dangerous effect on the score and your betting strategy. This is where first five innings betting comes in.

Generally called F5 bets at the sportsbook, this is like a moneyline bet except you’re only betting on the first five innings of a game. To make this wager, you’ll only need to handicap starting pitchers and look into how they perform for five innings. There’s less risk with F5 bets since you don’t have to take the entire pitching staff into consideration, just the starters.

MLB Totals: Betting on the Combined Score

Let’s pretend the New York Yankees are playing the Toronto Blue Jays. Totals odds would appear like so:

OVER 7.5


Your job as a baseball bettor is to determine whether the combined score from both teams will be more or less than the oddsmaker’s set number. If you think it’ll be 8 or more, you would take the OVER. If you believe it will be 7 or less, you would take the UNDER.

When bookmakers set the totals, they consider factors like ballparks and potential weather. Locations like Coors Field (where the ball travels farther) and Wrigley Field (where wind is impactful) are taken into account. They also look at the strength of both teams’ bats and the weakness of the pitching staffs. In this scenario, if the Jays are hitting everything that comes their way, but the Bronx Bombers’ arms are throwing heat, the totals will reflect that.

Futures Betting: Wagering on Baseball Championships

In March we may not know which teams will win their divisions but we can bet on it. Futures are bets on pennant races and the World Series that you can make before the regular season starts. If you think the Washington Nationals are going to have another stellar year, you can bet them to win the National League. If you think the Detroit Tigers have made enough off-season moves to cement an American League championship, you can make a futures bet on them. You can also bet on who will win the Cy Young and on team win totals.

Prop Bets: Strikes, RBIs and Homers

Prop betting allows you to wager on very specific instances, especially during the playoffs. Props are bets on particular player or team milestones that may not directly influence the outcome of the game like:

• How many RBIs will player X have?

• How many bases will player Y steal?

• How many home runs will player Z have?

• How many strikeouts will pitcher A have?

Parlays: A Bouquet of Bets

Parlays allow you to bundle your baseball bets. Say that five times fast! You can create a betting slip with more than two bets, potentially netting more money than you would on a single bet. However, all your picks must hit otherwise your parlay ticket is a bust like the Montreal Expos. RIP the best team that should’ve won the 1994 World Series.

In-play Odds: Live Betting on Baseball Games

Look for live odds at your sportsbook of choice to make an in-play bet. Odds will be available for plate appearances, runs, which base a batter will get on, and the number of strikeouts a pitcher will record during any given inning. If a bullpen phenom comes on in the top of the eighth and you think he’ll throw at least two strikes, why not make an in-play bet on him?

What is the Most Effective Baseball Betting Strategy?

As former Durham Bulls player Kevin Costner once told Tim Robbins, “Don’t think. You can only hurt the ball club.” We say do the opposite, think about everything. Or let us do the thinking for you with our MLB betting news and analysis.

Moreover, our baseball betting pages cover everything from ump stats (the men behind the plate can often determine how a game will go), free picks (for those days when you don’t know who/what/where/when to bet), pitchers (who gets run support and who doesn’t), and money standings (each team has a betting value).

We also have offensive and defensive stats, a consensus page (so you can see which side of a matchup the public is heavily betting on), and betting trends.

Now that you know how to bet on baseball, and you’ve put up with our multiple references to Kevin Costner movies – the man has made many films about the sport, it’s not our fault – go forth and make your MLB picks.