Betting on baseball requires gamblers to consider circumstances that differ from betting on other sports. For one, rotating starting pitchers means a completely different team takes the field each night. Also, the worst teams in the league tend to win 60 games or more in a season.
With all that said, because of baseball’s unique game style and betting structure, there are opportunities for bettors to capitalize with the right strategy. I’ll lay out a few things to keep in mind before you don your Pete Rose jersey and roll the dice on America’s pastime.
1 – Beware the Favorite
It’s no secret among oddsmakers that the casual weekend gambler has an affinity for betting favorites. In a sport that is typically bet on the moneyline rather than a spread, the books see big dollar signs. There’s a reason the most popular teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, etc., are habitually at -150 and lower.
The extra math can get complicated when you factor in how a heavily-losing record could still result in a huge profit. For example, according to Bet Labs Software, favorites of -150 or more have won 63.3% of their games since 2005. Pretty good, right? Actually, because the favorites have such a big minus number, you’d be better off taking the 36.7% and the high plus-number.
To be fair, this rule applies to just about every type of sports bet, but it’s worth reiterating. Most fans bet on the home teams, the good teams, and the popular teams. Oddsmakers know this, and they stack the deck in a way that takes advantage of the average bettor.
Try to find out where the majority of the public’s money is placed on a given game, then bet the opposite way. Keep in mind that there’s a high likelihood it will work out in your favor, even if you technically lose more games than you win because of baseball’s moneyline setup.
3 – Divisions and Conquer
Teams play each divisional opponent nearly 20 times per year. This familiarity between teams benefits the underdog over the course of a season. Pay special attention to divisional games throughout the course of the season, and note that these may become especially good games to bet.
It may sound like conjecture or anecdotal advice, but the stats suggest that divisional road teams are one of the best value plays. The public overvalues home-field advantage and this leads for favorable underdog plays.
Another interesting aspect of the divisional games is that they’re often higher scoring. This impacts two potential plays, the over/under and the winner of the game. Higher scoring leads to greater variance in outcome, which benefits the underdog. If you’re serious about betting baseball, circle a few of the divisional matchups and see if you start to recognize patterns.
4 – Turn up the Volume
I would normally say this with some degree of hesitation, but when betting on baseball, it’s a good idea to “volume bet.” The amount of games in the sport means that reliable results can’t be taken from a couple games here and there, but rather over many trials over a long period of time.
In baseball, getting a return on your “investment” is done by getting small monetary wins over a long period of time or over the period of many games. With more than 2,430 games to choose from during the regular season, this shouldn’t be too difficult to fulfill.
5 – Pass on Parlays
Yes, hitting on each leg of a five-team parlay does pay out well. If you haven’t started picking up on the theme here, the most seductive bets are often the ones that the house hopes you play.
Remember that baseball (both the game itself and from a gambling standpoint) is all about consistency and getting results over the long term. Making risky bets might work out for you occasionally, but it’s impossible to develop a real strategy when employing these tactics.
6 – Obey Your Bankroll
One of the most difficult aspects of sports betting in general is having the discipline to stick to your bankroll. Waves of winning can cause feelings of mania that result in reckless plays, and losing streaks can make you feel like trying to win it all back in one bet. Stay far away from this mindset while betting baseball.
You might (and likely will) have a bad week or month where it seems like the only way to get back in the green is by taking on additional risk. Keep reminding yourself that there are nearly infinite games to play, and your strategy will work itself out over time.
Each player has their own idea of how much they want to gamble on an average play, but a good rule of thumb is to stay between 1% and 5% of your bankroll. If you’re looking to take mood and feelings out of it, just play 3% on every game and don’t think twice about it.
7 – Entertain Interleague
In case you were wondering, no, I don’t think the MLB should unify the DH rule between leagues. It’s an interesting part of baseball that makes it unique from other games and it only causes problems when it hurts your team.
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Teams now play 20 interleague games per season and these matchups have provided bettors with an edge. Due to the differentiating factors in roster creation, American League teams have fared better overall when taking on NL teams.
The numbers? Since 2005, AL teams have won 54.3% of the games. They also have the advantage when factoring in odds.
8 – Shop Around
The idea of shopping around for the most favorable line isn’t unique to baseball. However, because you almost always bet on moneylines, the results are a little more black and white. Different books are likely to offer varying lines in response to the action they’re seeing on a particular game.
It couldn’t be easier to compare lines in baseball as point spreads are a non-factor. If you’re betting a favorite at -150, see if you can find a better deal. If you’re taking an underdog at +180, you might be able to find something at +195. When margins are more important than overall record, every dollar counts!
Baseball can be a profitable sport if you’re able to separate the money aspect from overall record. It sounds simple, but if you don’t keep track of the money flow, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking all wins and losses are worth the same amount.
Monitor your bankroll, pick some underdogs, and you just might hit it out of the park!
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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