Baseball Betting Guide

A guide to making bank no matter who’s at the plate

Baseball betting has been in vogue for over a century, and even though the sport’s audience has declined overtime, there’s still more than enough of one for bookmakers to offer bets. But baseball betting can be a complicated world to enter, especially if you’ve got no prior experience betting on sports. So let’s skip right to brass tacks and jump right in.

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The First Step | A Baseball Betting Guide

Let’s say the Tampa Bay Rays are facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers for a playoff game. You find that the odds for a standard moneyline bet (we’ll explain what these are later) are (+250) for Tampa Bay and (-160) for Los Angeles.

What this means is that if you bet $250 on the Rays and they won, you’d get a total payout of $350. In the case of Positive Odds, the number in the bracket represents the amount you’d need to bet in order to receive a profit of $100. So in this case, your return is actually 40 percent (The $250 you bet plus your $100 reward).

On the other hand, according to this Baseball Betting Guide if you’d bet $250 on the Dodgers and they’d won, you’d get a total payout of $650. This is because Negative Odds are read differently than positive odds. In the case of negative odds, the number in the bracket represents the amount you’d win had you placed a $100 bet. This means that you’ve netted a nice 160 percent return on your bet (The $250 you bet plus a $400 reward).

Note: You should remember these percentages, they’ll come in handy later.

Looking Deeper | Smart Baseball Betting Explained

If your reward is less than the amount you bet, it generally means you’ve placed your bet on the fan favorites. Positive odds denote the team that’s more likely to win, while negative odds represent the underdogs.

So in our previous example the Dodgers were the underdogs, and that’s why betting on them yielded over thrice what the same amount would’ve yielded if you’d bet on the Rays and they’d won after being bet on. Though that might make you believe that you’ve got less of a shot at winning while betting on the team with better (higher paying) odds, that isn’t exactly true.

Forming your own strategy | Playing Baseball Odds in your favor

The essence of baseball betting strategy relies on making bets that are likely to result in a favorable outcome. You won’t get far if you’re always betting on the underdog, because, obviously, the underdog doesn’t win every game. But in the case of baseball betting, “underdog” odds don’t necessarily mean a team is less likely to win, and that’s where you make your best buck.

Let’s go back to our previous example presented in this Baseball Betting Guide: we had odds of (+250) for the Rays and (-130) for the Dodgers. After researching the teams and doing your due diligence, you found out that the Rays actually have a 60 percent chance of winning, while the Dodgers are at 40 percent.

Expected value is a way to put your bets in terms that can be compared, allowing you to know which bet offers better return considering the amount of risk involved. To calculate it, you factor in the bookmakers odds as well as your best estimate of both teams probability of success. The formula is as follows:

(Probability of winning * Decimal Odds) – 1

With this information in hand, you calculate that the expected value you gain from betting on the Rays is:

(0.6 * 1.4) – 1 = 0.84 – 1 = -0.16

Now let’s calculate the EV of a potential bet on Los Angeles:

(0.4 * 2.6) – 1 = 1.04 – 1 = +0.04

The numbers in this case don’t really mean much, what matters is the nature of the value. A positive number denotes a value bet, which is a bet that offers a better return than it should considering its likelihood. A negative value means that your bet is not a value bet, and that you’re making less of a return than you should be.

This discrepancy arises because of the difference in a bookmakers odds and a team’s winning percentage. Your odds depend entirely on the bets being placed, and thus on public opinion, and have no direct link to a team’s likeliness to win. It doesn’t matter how many people bet on a particular outcome; a bet holds no sway over the outcome itself.

So in the case of our example, while Tampa Bay was, both statistically and by popular opinion, the better team, while the Dodgers didn’t have the numbers on the field or in the books. But because so many people bet in favor of the Rays, and so few bet in favor of the Dodgers, the bet for Los Angeles actually made more mathematical sense, even though they were much less likely to win.

This example perfectly illustrates the importance of crunching the numbers when formulating a strategy. Don’t forget to do your homework the next time you’re looking to make good bets!

Types of Baseball Bets

You can bet on a variety of outcomes when it comes to baseball, and the list keeps growing with every passing year. Currently, you can bet on each of the following:

The Moneyline:

This is a term used for bets that deal with the result of a game (like our example above). You win if the team you’ve bet on defeats the other team.

The Runline:

These are bets that afford the underdog team a run advantage of 1.5 runs, meaning that the favorite team has to win by at least two runs for your bet to be successful. If betting on the underdog, your team has to either win the game, or be less than 1.5 runs behind while losing, for you to win your bet.

F5 Bets:

Since baseball games feature multiple innings and multiple lineups, F5 bets allow gamblers to place bets without having to factor in the performance of every player in the team. F5 bets only deal with the first five innings of the match, so if you bet on a team and they’re leading at the beginning of the sixth, you’ve already won, even if the opposition stages a comeback.

Aside from these three major categories, the world of baseball betting is also home to Parlays, Futures, prop betting and more. If you liked our baseball betting guide, check out our Baseball page.