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How to Bet on Baseball

MLB Betting: How to Bet on Major League Baseball (Part I of II)

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

Betting on baseball might seem confusing to some. But after a few minutes spent learning about the different available wagers, you’ll find it’s actually quite simple. The chief feature of baseball betting, unlike football and basketball wagering, is that you simply must pick the winner. There are no point-spreads. For some bettors, that is a source of great comfort and gives baseball betting added appeal. Here's a brief overview of how to bet on baseball. Learn more about each particular wager by clicking on the associated links.

Straight Bets: Despite there being no point-spread, there are obviously odds. They are conveyed in the form of a MONEY LINE. You will see a game with two teams listed. The top team is always the road team, with the bottom team always the home team. Each team will have a number next to it. One number will have a (+) sign, while the other team has a (-) sign. The (-) team is always the favored team, while the team with a (+) sign is the underdog. Here is an example.

San Diego Padres (+130)
San Francisco Giants (-140)

Looking at the above game, we see that the San Diego Padres are the road team, with the Giants at home. We also see that the Giants are favored, with the (-) sign and the Padres are the underdog with the (+) sign. Let’s explain how the odds work. It’s really easy.

The Padres at (+130) means you stand to win $130 for every $100 you bet. The underdog money line is always expressed in terms of a "risking" $100 amount. But you can bet any amount. A $20 bet on the Padres would stand to earn $26 if they won. It could also be said that you stand to profit $1.30 for every $1 that you bet.

The Giants at (-140) means you must bet $140 in order to win $100. A good way to look at it is that when you see a money line with a (+) sign--that’s how much you win on a $100 bet. A (-) sign, however, indicates how much you must bet in order to win $100. Mastering this concept will pretty much have you ready to make straight bets. For more info on this topic, check out our article on the Baseball Money Line.

Totals: Clearly, the 2nd-most popular form of baseball betting and probably the easiest to explain. With totals, which team wins the game is of no concern. It’s all about how many runs will be scored. The bookie gives each game a total--a number of runs for the game. You decide if the combined score of both teams will surpass or not meet that number. Here is an example.

Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Over 7.5
Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Under 7.5

In the above game, you have two choices--whether the combined score will be lower or higher that 7.5 runs. Unless otherwise noted, it is assumed you are betting with the common -110 line. That means when playing totals, you are generally betting $110 for every $100 you hope to win. However, it is not uncommon for that line to be skewed a bit, with totals at +100 or -120, depending on different conditions.

Once you master sides (picking a team) and totals (over-under betting), you can delve into some of the other bets.

Runlines: It’s baseball betting with a point-spread. The most common run-line is 1.5, where the favored team must win by two runs, while the underdog can lose, but only in a one-run game. The run-line shifts the odds dramatically, with the favorite often becoming the underdog, now having to win the game by two runs. Here is an example:

Texas Rangers -1.5 (+140)
Cleveland Indians +1.5 (-150)

You can bet the Texas Rangers, but they would need to win by two runs for your wager to be successful. So, if you bet $100 on Texas and they win by two runs, you notch a $140 win. A winning bet on the Indians means they either won the game outright or lost by one run. To win $100 on Cleveland, you would need to bet $150. Before placing this type of wager, we recommend that you read our piece on the Dangers of Betting Run Lines.

Parlays: This is when you bet two or more games. For a parlay to be a success, you have to win all the games you choose. The payouts can be quite attractive, but that’s because these are difficult bets to win. Winning multiple games without a loss in major league baseball betting can be very hard to do. Some bettors find some success parlaying two big favorites. Even that can be tricky to pull off and it just gets more difficult with the more teams you choose.

1st Five Innings Betting - These are great wagers because you can usually get them for close to full game odds which allows you to focus more on the starting pitchers, a variable that is considered to be the most valuable element in baseball betting.

Props: Prop bets are events within an event. You bet on different aspects of a game. A prop bet can include which team will score first, which pitcher will have the most strikeouts, or whether a team will have a certain number of runs.

Futures: As the name implies, these are wagers where you try to predict something that lies weeks or even months in the future. Such bets include which team will win the world series, win the pennant, or win their division. You can also bet whether a team will win more or less games than the number posted by the bookie. It can also include individual player performance, like who will win the home run title or who will win the league MVP award.

While this article did not discuss any specific strategies, mastering the concept of all these different bets should at least bring you up to snuff on how major league baseball wagering works. Be sure to check out Part II of this article: How to Wager on Baseball. If you have further questions about how to bet on baseball, feel free to drop us a line at and we'll be happy to answer!

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