Behind the Counter: Sportsbook trader explains process behind increasingly popular YRFI and NRFI bets

Seattle Mariners hitter Ty France
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Jared Smith

MLB· 1 week ago

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Jared Smith, a versatile host and analyst with over 10 years of experience in sports media and two decades as a sports bettor, has joined the Pickswise team as a lead betting analyst. Smith will serve as a full-time content creator, producing informative and engaging content every day across multiple platforms.

If you’ve perused gambling Twitter in the last 2 years, you’ve likely seen the phrase “NRFI” or “YRFI” floating around, short for “No Run First Inning” and “Yes Run First Inning”.

The NRFI is the trendier side, as bettors believe the odds are in their favor predicting that no runs will be scored in the first inning of a specific game. However a recent thread on Twitter from Jack Andrews explains the math behind it, which states that over the last 4 years, the odds that neither team will score in the 1st inning is just under 50%. That means if you’re betting the NRFI consistently at minus money, you’re likely making a bad bet.

Why are NRFI/YRFI bets so popular?

Instead of slogging through a 4-hour baseball game, you’re done in 20 minutes, sometimes less. I’ve lost and won these bets after the first batter of the game, and even the first pitch.

“It’s baseball’s version of a first quarter in the NBA or NFL, first period in NHL, but it’s even faster,” said WynnBET Senior Trader Chris Youn. “It’s a quick result without having to watch or keep track of the rest of the game. Also, the best hitters of each team are always involved since they are almost always at the top of the batting order.”

I’m also very keen on eliminating the bullpens as much as possible from my daily baseball handicaps, which in my opinion is the most unpredictable part of each game. This strategy takes that to the extreme and puts full focus on the starting pitchers.

How do oddsmakers set NRFI/YRFI lines?

In a vacuum, this is almost a coin flip proposition, but it’s not priced that way. There are several factors besides math that skew these lines in a certain direction.

“Starting pitchers and the strength of the first three batters in each lineup,” emphasized Youn. “If there are Cy Young caliber pitchers starting, the line will be juiced toward the under 0.5, around -140 or -150. If the pitchers are not as great, but the top of the order hitters are all-stars (Yankees, Angels, Dodgers), you will get slight juice on the over 0.5 instead. I personally think that the starting pitcher is more of a factor when calculating the juice.”

Since this market is relatively niche, oddsmakers don’t feel inclined to move the lines much based on action.

“We do not adjust unless the liability is very high,” added Youn. The limits are also usually lower than the traditional markets, which reduces liability. I would say a 5-cent, maybe 10-cent move if all the books are getting action on only one side.”

What’s the best strategy for betting YRFI/NRFI?

Based on the initial data I’ve collected in the first month of this season, the YRFI and NRFI are hitting almost an even number of times. However both sides are down significant units because of the juice associated with these bets. That makes it easy for me to eliminate any minus money higher than -110 on either side when making selections. The juice is simply not worth the squeeze, regardless of how good the matchup might seem.

Since the YRFI has had a slight statistical advantage over the last 4 years, that’s the side I prefer more often than not. My strategy each morning is to hunt all plus-money YRFI bets available in the market, then handicap the starting pitcher matchup accordingly. If I can find pitchers with 50% YRFI rates or higher, and correlate with above-average lineups, I usually pull the trigger.

Another approach I’ve theorized is the NRFI at Coors Field, which is almost always offered at plus-money because of the high totals associated with those games. Now that I’m tracking these regularly, I’m of the belief that the NRFI will be profitable at Coors Field this season, even though the YRFI might hit more than 50% of the time.

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