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Dangers of Betting The Run Line

The Dangers of Betting Baseball Run Lines

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

Increasing in popularity with each passing season, the run line bet is a betting option that is picking up steam. It has its positives and negatives, to be sure, but here are some considerations to make before plunging in to give it a try. On a run line wager, the favorite must win by two, while the underdog team can lose by one run and you still win the bet.

At first glance, there seems to be some value, as the run line can move the normal line quite drastically. This is especially true if the favored team in on the road, being that the home team always gets a last crack at it. A road favorite that is -130 can become +160 when they have to win by 2 runs. But remember, in sports betting, not all that glimmers is gold.

When betting on teams to either win by two runs or lose by less than two, you’re betting on something that teams might not be gunning for. When we take a team to simply win the game, we can have a reasonable expectation that they will be trying to do exactly that. Even though it is a long season with a mind-numbing 162 games, it’s reasonable to expect a team to try to win. That can be hard enough to calculate, but asking them to win by two might be pushing it a little bit.


Teams are trying to win the game, not to win by a margin that helps you win a bet. So when betting on the run line, we’re not betting on what a team is trying to do, which has obvious pitfalls. When making a slew of run line bets, you will see how this can trip you up. Late in a game, for example, the team and coaches are looking to win. While you’re sitting there cherishing a 2-run lead, the team you’re betting on is more concerned with the tying or go-ahead runs. They may be more cavalier about that run you need in order to cash in on a wager. They may even let that run slip in in order to get a key out. In other words, betting on baseball teams to do something they’re not really out to do can be dangerous.

Even the best baseball teams only win roughly 60%-65% of their games for the most part. Then you throw in the stat that 30% of all baseball games are decided by one run. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for you to get those wins where the lead is two or more runs. Even the best teams lose 60 times a year, so there is a good chance the team you need to win by a certain number of runs won’t even win the game. And if they do, a lot of times, it will be by only one run.

There aren’t too many more painful things in baseball betting than betting a team on the run-line, when a normal straight up bet would have won. For the favorites, that means they win by one run, but you needed them to win by two. With underdogs, it means taking far-worse odds when they won the game straight-up and you could have cashed in on a nice underdog play.

Greed is a constant enemy of the baseball bettor. Asking a team to win by two can often fall into the category of asking for too much. When taking underdogs, betting the money-line is to insulate yourself from risk. Good bettors need to show courage and a lack of greed. Betting on the money line kind of strikes against those two things. It’s trying to be too exact. Baseball is turbulent enough, with the long season and the amount of games. If you can pick winners straight-up at a high enough rate to end up ahead at the end of a season, that’s difficult enough. Betting run lines can sometimes be trying to be too exact in a very inexact form of sports wagering, where anything can and will happen from day to day.

Remember that the bookie never puts bets on the board for our benefit. The growing landscape of run line bets only exists because it is a money-maker for the bookie. So when we see what appears to be good value, it is in fact a mirage. Over the long haul, the bookie wants you betting the run line. And if there is anything we shouldn’t do, it’s doing what the book wants. Be careful with run line wagers.

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