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MLB Runlines

Understanding Run Line Wagers

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

With only a little over a quarter of all baseball games ending with a one-run margin, it makes the run line something worth taking a look at. The run line is a point-spread of sorts--with the standard being + or -1.5 runs, though some alternative run lines offer different spreads. The most common one is when the favored team lays 1.5 runs, while the underdog gets 1.5. The run line can drastically change the odds in a game.

A normal betting line might look like this:

Houston Astros (+160)

Los Angeles Dodgers (-170)

But when the run line is introduced to the equation, it changes quite significantly:

Houston Astros (-130) +1.5

Los Angeles Dodgers (+110) -1.5

Because of one run’s difference, the line moved 80-90-points on each team. On a normal bet, the Astros were the underdog at +160. Getting an extra run now means you must actually wager more on the Astros than you stand to win. The Dodgers, a robust favorite at -170, are now the underdog at -1.5 runs.

If a favorite is the road team, the variance between the normal betting line and the run line will not be as great. Let’s look at an example:

Boston Red Sox -115

Kansas City Royals +105

This is the normal spread. The Red Sox are a slight road favorite. When the run line is introduced into it, the new odds will look like this:

Boston Red Sox +135

Kansas City Royals -155

The reason why the run line moves the odds less in the event that a favorite is on the road is because a home team in the bottom of the ninth will not bat if they are leading. In addition, the game will end the moment they go ahead in the 9th. Once up by a run, it’s a wrap, even if the bases are loaded with no outs.

There is a lot to be said for run lines--both pro and con. First off, it can be a little extra painful losing a run line wager on a favorite, where a regular bet would have won. You might feel especially irritated after that happens, perhaps feeling that you were too greedy. One possible method is to do a half-and-half bet--betting an even amount straight and with the run line, in the event of a one-run victory.

Also remember that one run is a more valuable commodity in some games than others. If there are two aces on the mound and the total is 7, a two-run margin can be hard to come by. Contrast that with a game in Colorado featuring two starters just up from the minors and a total of 13 runs. It’s just going to be easier to extract a 2-run differential from a game like that.

Another consideration is the juice. As baseball bettors, that’s supposed to be a major consideration. That’s why we look for sportsbooks offering dimelines, where there is only a 10-cent gap between the favorite and underdog. When betting run lines, you’re likely going to pay a steeper juice. In baseball wagering, if you’re able to bet into a money line with minimal juice, stick with that.

At the same time, there will be games that jump off the schedule, almost beckoning you to take them on the run line. It could be a hot team with a streaking pitcher facing an opposing starter who has been getting hammered. You might think a two-run margin of victory is actually a pretty safe bet in those instances.

Don’t forget to shop around. When betting on the run line, you can see some variance from book-to-book. Consistently locating the best price is a strategy in itself. Keep several accounts open to secure the best number. Over time, that will save us a lot of money.

Before wagering on baseball on the run line, get familiar with it. Know how the numbers work, or how much they change from the normal line is a given scenario. Know what to expect. Then when it comes time to actually make a wager, you will know all the ins-and-outs. This will enable you to avoid poor betting value, while sharpening your instincts for finding good value. If you’re a bettor who prefers betting normally on the money line--that’s fine too. That doesn’t mean we should blow off run line wagers completely. If there is money to be made betting run lines here and there, we should be doing it.

Find the best runline odds as well as alternative runline offers at the web's best sportsbook: 5Dimes.

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