Baseball Betting: How to bet on the MLB?
Table Of Contents:
Where Is MLB Betting Legal?
For many years, states were prevented from legalizing sports betting by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, aka PAPSA. PAPSA was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018, paving the way for legal sports betting in the United States. As of March 2023, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia have all legalized online sports betting.
Numerous other states have legal sports betting, but only in-person. Most other states have at the very least introduced bills to get the process started, so it’s likely only a matter of a couple of years before the rest of the states have legalized betting on MLB.
As of March 2023, The following states all have a legal and regulated sports betting industry, where you can wager on MLB games:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
Best Online MLB Betting Sites and Mobile Apps
Picking a shop to do your betting at is extremely important. They aren’t all the same, and each sportsbook will have different odds and promotions. Each site will have its own unique quirks and offerings, and it can’t hurt to look around as much as possible before settling on a new betting home. It’s always a good idea to have multiple accounts at different sportsbooks, so you can shop around and compare odds. One site might usually have better juice or better parlay payouts, but another will have better live-betting software. There are already a lot of great operators out there, and with legalization spreading across the country, the number of options for bettors will only continue to increase.
How To Bet On MLB
In MLB, you’ve got plenty of options for betting. You can bet on the money line, the run line, the total in the game or a whole slew of props. Just find the best odds by shopping around at different sportsbooks for whatever wager you want to make, then add it to your bet slip and lock it in. The key to betting MLB games is finding teams that are undervalued in the market, and that’s where Pickwise can help. Here at Pickswise, we’re a one-stop shop for everything MLB, as we put in the time and crunch the numbers to come up with the best free picks around. Check out our MLB predictions all season long, since we’ll be providing free picks on the side and the total of every game. We’ll also have tons of free prop bets, Same Game Parlays, and regular parlays, so don’t miss out!
Ways To Bet On The MLB
MLB is one of the most popular sports to bet on, and there are so many markets to wager on within it. During the MLB season, betting volume can get off the charts, and oddsmakers will sometimes change lines just based on the avalanches of public money coming in. You can bet on an individual game or bet on futures markets like the World Series or division winner. In the next section, we’ll be taking a look at each of those markets. Each one has different strategies and angles to exploit, and the money line and point spread can be treated as entirely different handicaps. Let’s break each one down, starting with money line MLB betting.
Money Line Betting
Money line betting in MLB is as basic as it gets. You’re simply betting on which team will win the game as the margin of victory doesn’t matter. With money line betting, one team will be the underdog, and one team will be the favorite. The favorite will be identified by a ‘-‘ minus sign, while the underdog will be identified by a ‘+’ plus sign next to their odds. For example, the Rockies might be an underdog in a game against the Dodgers. You’d see something like the Rockies ‘+175′ and Dodgers ‘-200.’ There will always be a gap between the two odds, so you’ll never see Rockies ‘+200′ and Dodgers ‘-200.’ That gap is the ‘vig’, and it’s how oddsmakers make their money. The bigger the favorite a team is on the money line, the bigger the favorite they’ll be on the run line as well. Money line betting comes with different strategies than run line betting. On a money line, you might be more inclined to back a soft-hitting offensive team that relies on their pitching to win close games without winning them by large margins.
Run Line Betting (Point Spreads)
Run line betting with MLB is the equivalent of point spread betting with most other sports. You’re betting on a team to win or lose by more than or less than a certain amount, not just on who will win the game. Bookmakers offer one of the teams with a head-start, so if the underdogs win or lose by fewer runs than the run line, you win. If you back the favorites, they need to win by more than the run line for you to cash your ticket. Run lines in MLB will almost always be -1.5/+1.5. There are occasions where a big favorite will be -2.5 on the run line, however. Betting the run line is all about what the odds are. A team might be -110 on the -1.5 run line, or they might be +160 on the -1.5 run line. MLB betting is like any other financial market, price point is everything. Getting the best number on a run line is the key to long-term success.
Over/Under Betting (Totals)
Sometimes when handicapping a game, you might have a good idea about whether it will be high-scoring or low-scoring, but no such strong opinion about which team will win. In those cases, a bet on the total runs might be your best option. Oddsmakers will give their assessment of how many total runs the teams will score between them, and you bet higher (over) or lower (under). The figure can vary by a fair amount depending on which teams are playing. In MLB, the total will usually be anywhere from about 7-11. Factors include the weather (bad weather tends towards fewer runs, clear skies and indoor stadiums produce more shootouts), and the strength of the offenses and pitching in the game. Stadiums are also an important factor since some parks are more friendly to hitters than others. Coors Field, for example, home to the Rockies, will often see totals of 12 or higher because of the unique dimensions of the park and the high altitude of Colorado which carries the ball farther.
First Five Innings Betting
First five innings bets are a fun thing unique to baseball. They’re sort of the equivalent of a first half bet in football or basketball. It’s just like how it sounds, you’re only betting on the result of the first five innings. Which, of course, changes the handicap of any MLB game. Factoring in a team’s bullpen pretty much goes right out the window, and your handicap will be centered more heavily around the starting pitching matchup. Maybe the Phillies have a starter you think is going to have a great game, but you can’t trust their shaky relievers. Then a first five innings bet might be for you. It’s also great if you don’t have a full 3 hours to spend watching an entire nine-inning game, and want a quicker result.
Player Prop Bets
Player prop markets are offered by an increasing number of sportsbooks and present a chance to support a player to have a good or bad game. Oddsmakers offer over/under prices on individual players’ total hits, runs scored, RBIs, etc. Pretty much everything you can imagine. There are also strikeout props, total outs props, and so on for pitchers. Individual matchups are very important to understand for MLB player props. A leadoff hitter is going to get more at-bats and more opportunities to cash an over on a prop than a guy batting 8th. Maybe a player struggles against right-handed pitching but mashes lefties. You might then want to target their player props when they get to face a southpaw starter.
Team Prop Bets
In addition to player prop bets, you can also make team prop bets in MLB. Those include things like how many total hits just one team will record or how many hits + runs + errors they’ll have. They can also include alternate spreads. An alternate spread allows you to alter the point spread while getting better or worse odds depending on if you gain points or lose points. If the White Sox are -1.5 over the Orioles, a sportsbook might allow you to bet an alternate spread of White Sox -3.5 at +250 odds. Team prop bets aren’t quite as common as player prop bets, but there are still plenty of opportunities for value.
Futures bets allow you to invest long-term. Rather than finding out if you win or lose on any given day, a futures bet allows you to ride with a wager for the whole season. You can bet on the World Series winner at any point, but there are a ton of other markets, such as which team will win their division or the pennant. Futures bets can often offer huge payouts if you pick the right long-shots. One of the most popular futures bets in MLB betting is season win totals. Oddsmakers will set over/under lines for how many regular season games all 30 teams will win. You can take the over on teams you’re high on coming out of spring training, and the under on teams you expect to flop. Then you’ve got some skin in their game with each of their 162 matchups. There are also player futures markets. You can bet on a player to win the Cy Young, for example, and root for them to put up big numbers all year long.
Parlays are high-risk and high-reward. They provide the allure of a big payday, but as a result, are much harder to cash. A parlay involves stringing multiple bets together on one ticket. You need each ‘leg’ of the ticket to hit for your parlay to be a winner. For example, if you bet a Mariners, Tigers and Rangers money line parlay, all three of those teams would need to win for that to cash. If two of them win and one of them loses, you’d win nothing. If it does hit, you’d get a much bigger payout. In MLB, it’s often popular to parlay big favorites together. Since most recreational bettors don’t want to lay -250 juice to back a big favorite on the money line, they might instead combine two or three -250 favorites together in a parlay. Others will sprinkle a few bucks on a huge underdog parlay every day, hoping to hit a jackpot. They certainly can be fun, and can sometimes be wise in the right situation, but it’s important not to get carried away. Generally speaking, oddsmakers want you to bet parlays, and long-term it probably isn’t the best way to make money. But they sure are exciting.
However much you think you know about a game, you will know a little more once it has started. In comes live betting. Exact knowledge of the weather rather than a forecast, a proper idea of the crowd noise rather than an estimate, precise injury news rather than an estimate that may have involved some massaging of the truth by the teams are all advantages you can have for live betting. In every way, live betting will provide you with better information than you had before the game. Right off the bat, you’ll often be able to tell how a game is going to go. How well the opponent is prepared for what’s being thrown at them. Maybe you were concerned about how a starting pitcher would fare in extreme heat. You can tell right away whether it’s bothering him once the game has started. You can also identify spots where regression is likely when live betting. Say the Padres get very unlucky to start a game and they make a series of errors in the infield. You can get value by live betting them when your eyes tell you they weren’t actually playing poorly, but they just made a few miscues that are easy to correct. Many sportsbooks also allow bettors to cash out existing bets in the middle of the game, so if your team is up big, you can take your money and run rather than worrying about a late comeback.
MLB Betting Trends
Perhaps more than in any other sport, many MLB bettors like to rely on trends to help shape their opinions. Trends rely on historical data that might help predict the outcome of a future game. For example, maybe Cleveland has a strong home-field advantage, and always seems to play better as a home underdog when they have a chip on their shoulder in front of their home crowd. If there’s a strong trend that says they’re 9-2 in their last 11 games as home underdogs, it might be time to pounce. Other common trends include how a team usually fares in bad weather spots or in primetime games. Since teams within a division play a bunch of times every year, a lot of bettors also look at the trends within a given rivalry matchup. Maybe the under is 8-1 the last nine times the Dodgers and the Giants have played because that’s a hard-fought rivalry game that tends to be lower scoring. Trends can be important to monitor, and they can tell you who to fade just as often as they’ll tell you who to back. Many bettors like to ‘fade the public’ by betting against the teams that are heavy public sides. It’s also important to not rely on trends that might not mean much. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, after all. If someone is trying to sell you on a wager because a team is 5-2 ATS the last seven times they’ve played three days after it last rained, you might want to pass.
Five Ways To Bet Smarter On The MLB
Monitor Bullpen Usage
A team’s bullpen is a very important part of any MLB handicap, but it’s more complex than that. You don’t just have to know about a team’s relievers, you need to know how they’re being used. Say the Yankees have a dominant closer, but he pitched on both Monday and Tuesday. You’ve got to factor that into Wednesday’s handicap because New York isn’t going to pitch him three days in a row. Similarly, you’ll need to be aware if a team’s bullpen is heavily fatigued in general. Maybe a team is coming off back-to-back games that went to extra innings where they burned through a ton of arms. That could be a spot to fade a team if you think their starter for the next day is likely to get pulled early and force an overworked bullpen into action.
Know The Strengths Of An Offense
Betting on MLB isn’t as simple as saying “the Dodgers have a great offense, let’s bet on them.” We all wish it was, but it isn’t. You’re going to need to know the ins and outs of every lineup and understand that it’s all about matchups. Certain teams might have a ton of right-handed hitters in their lineup that punish lefty hitters. For example, the White Sox went 14-0 when facing a left-handed starter in 2020. Identifying teams with advantages against certain pitchers is crucial to handicapping MLB games. It’s a lot more complex than a pitcher being just ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
Not All Parks Are Created Equal
MLB betting has perhaps more nuanced than any other sport. One of those nuances is the fact that every team plays on a field with different dimensions. In the NBA, NFL, and NHL, the courts, fields, and rinks are all the same exact size. Not so with baseball. Every team plays in its own unique stadium which is a fun wrinkle, but also something you need to factor into your handicaps. It’s not as easy as just betting the over every time a game is played at Coors Field (in fact the opposite can often be true as oddsmakers may overcompensate for perceived factors), but it is something to be aware of.
Pitchers Get Tired
It’s crucial to remember that MLB has a long season and a lot of games. 162 games to be precise. That’s far more than any other sport, and the grind from March to October can take a toll on a lot of players. In particular, pitchers’ arms can suffer a lot of wear and tear. You’ll need to keep a close eye on starting pitchers as the season gets into the late stages for who might be wearing down. It’s often the case that a starter will have a blistering first few months, and then start to collapse down the stretch. Identifying those collapses can lead to a lot of value.
Teams Are Streaky
Teams in MLB tend to be extremely streaky. Momentum matters and teams get hot and cold at the drop of a hat. Hitting is just as much mental as it is physical, so you’ll often see entire lineups go quiet or start mashing at the same time. Slumps are persistent in baseball, perhaps more so than any other sport. It’s not at all uncommon to see a team rattle off seven wins in a row, before losing nine of 10. Even if it’s a team that has a poor record overall, I’m not looking to fade them if they’re on a heater.
When To Bet On The MLB Throughout The Season?
Thanks to the lengthy season, MLB betting is almost year-round. Over the winter is when futures betting dominates. You can get in all your wagers for season-long bets, including World Series winner, division winner and regular season win totals. That goes all the way through to March when spring training starts. Then you can sit back and bet a few bucks on some exhibition games while waiting for the real action to start. Regular season games will dominate the betting picture from the beginning of April through to October. That’s when you’ll need to be your sharpest. You can also bet futures throughout the season, and it’s easiest to get down on them either early in the morning or late at night when no games are going on. Midseason is often the best time to find value when oddsmakers might overreact to the current standings. MLB playoff betting is perhaps the most fun and goes through to the World Series in November. The World Series is the culmination of the MLB betting calendar, and if we’re lucky will bring 7 games to bet on. The fun doesn’t stop there since you’ll be able to start getting your futures bets ready again right after the World Series because spring training will only be a few months away.
MLB Betting Strategies
MLB betting is a lot of fun, but it’s also complex. Oddsmakers are sharp, and they’re tough to beat. As such, you have to work hard to find an edge. There are several strategies you’ll need to implement to become a successful MLB bettor. Bankroll management is one of the most important ones. There are going to be ups and downs since even the sharpest bettor in the world is going to endure a losing streak. It’s crucial that you don’t get sloppy with your money and bet too much on any one game. If you don’t have smart bankroll management, one cold stretch could leave you with nothing left to bet when you start to heat up again.
Also remember that baseball is a nuanced sport, and you can’t just bet on teams. You have to do deep dives into pitching matchups, factor in bullpens and which stadium a game is being played in.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start going deeper with your MLB betting strategies. In order to beat oddsmakers, you have to find an edge you can exploit. You can’t simply bet against the team that has a star player hurt because that’s probably already being factored into the line. To find your edge, you need to identify factors that aren’t already baked into the line. It can be wise to stake out a niche, find something that you do well and stick with it. Maybe you develop a system for first five innings totals betting.
Another crucial element of MLB betting is getting the best odds. Have multiple accounts with different sportsbooks, so you can compare odds and make sure you’re getting the best value. Just like how you’d check the price of an item from multiple retailers when doing online shopping. It’s the same principle. The difference between -114 and -110 might not seem huge on the surface, but it’ll make a big impact on your bankroll in the long term.
Pay attention to head-to-head matchups between pitchers and hitters. If a pitcher has been on the same team for 10 years, he’s going to have faced the hitters in his division a ton of times. Certain hitters see specific pitchers well, and you’ll need to factor in their history.
Once you become a seasoned MLB bettor, you can take your game to the next level. That involves a lot of data. To be a true pro, you’ll need to start logging all of your bets. This allows you to manage your bankroll most effectively, and to identify what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Don’t leave anything up to your gut or hunch and you can see exactly how you’ve done on every type of bet. Keeping a log will tell you what your strengths are and you might notice you’ve been picking poorly on run lines, but are hitting 60 percent of your strikeout props. Once you’ve got everything down to a science, you can come up with your own power rankings and numbers to rival oddsmakers’. You’ll be able to start setting your own lines based on your rankings (which you’ll make by closely observing all 30 teams), and then seeing how they differ from the lines that oddsmakers set. If you price the Reds at -150, but oddsmakers open them at -120, your power numbers will show you that’s a lot of free value. Another concept experienced bettors need to understand is that in baseball, it’s all about the number. Lines fluctuate in the 24 hours up to first pitch, and numbers will move back and forth, just like in the stock market. Treat your betting just like you would any financial market, because timing is everything. If you can consistently beat the closing line, you’ll be profitable long-term.
Things To Avoid When Betting On The MLB
There are plenty of pitfalls with MLB betting, and many things you need to avoid. For starters, bet with your head and not your heart. Don’t let emotions get the best of you and never bet on a team just because you want them to win. Bet on them because you think they will win.
Treat your betting like you would any other business, and take it seriously. Don’t chase your losses. If you go 0-5 in the early slate of games on a Sunday, don’t bet 10 units on Sunday Night Baseball just because you feel like you’ve got to make it all back in one game. It’s a very long season, and you’ll need to stay smart to be profitable.
An easy trap to fall into is betting teams based on records. If a 21-35 team is a favorite against a 37-19 team, don’t just assume oddsmakers have made a grave mistake, there’s probably a pretty good reason why.
Similarly, don’t just bet on a team because they have the ‘better’ pitcher in a game. A pitcher’s ERA doesn’t tell you everything. Maybe that pitcher struggles on the road, or they have difficulties with lineups that have a lot of left-handed batters. There’s a lot more at play than just surface-level statistics.
It’s also important to know when to not bet on a game, even if you really like one side and you don’t get the best number. If you identify the over 8.5 in Pirates/Mets as a spot you like, but by the time you place your bet, the line has shifted to 9.0, it’s likely going to be wise to pass. When a key number is involved, even a single run can be worth so much that it can shift a great bet to a poor one.