Baseball owes much of its rich history to gambling. When Max Mercy tells slugger Rob Hobbs in The Natural that literally anything can be wagered – balls, strikes, or outs – the film is describing old-time sports books accurately.
A lot has changed since the roaring 20s, but baseball betting is still fun. To make sure you get the most out of gambling on the national pastime, here is a quick breakdown of the rules that MLB odds-makers follow.
Money Line – With this category you are simply picking which club you think will win. Odds-makers will set an “ML” based on $100 dollar bets on either side. For example, if a team is listed at (-150), you would have to place a $150 bet to win $100. On the other hand, if a team is listed at (+130), you would collect $130 on a $100 wager.
Run Line – This category is the same as a point spread in other sports except bookies use the same (-1.5) or (+1.5) margin for each contest, meaning that your pick must prevail by at least 2 runs to cash you in. A (+1.5) underdog will win your wager if their outing is win, a tie or a 1-run loss. Both scheduled starters must take the mound in the 1st frame for this wager to be official.
Over/Under – The total runs scored in a given game. Casinos will set the O/U based on their evaluation of the offenses and pitching staffs of each team. If the final score matches Over/Under, or O/U exactly, the wager is a push. Both scheduled starters must start the game.
Futures – Many books will give you the option of gambling on who you think will capture the World Series, the MVP trophy, or the home run race. The lines are set before the season begins and are adjusted as the season marches forward. If your pick wins a future, you must wait until the season is over before collecting.
First 5 Innings – This bet uses the same principal as the ML, but only the first 5 frames count. That allows you to focus on starting pitching and not worry about a shaky bullpen costing you a win. Both planned starters must throw the first pitches for their teams.
Listed Pitchers – If you place a wager with this option, the two planned starters must start the contest in order for this bet to count. The option is handy for betting on a favorite with an ace starter. If he can’t go as planned on a given day, you don’t have to pray for a less-heralded pitcher to be a hero.
Action – This option allows your bet validity no matter which pitcher starts for each club. It is wise to make an Action bet when betting against an ace on the opposing team, since if he doesn’t happen to start, the replacement pitcher probably won’t be up to snuff. Try placing action bets on underdogs.
Money Line Bets – For a baseball game to be considered official, 4.5 innings must be completed if the home team is winning, or 5 if the away team is leading. If a game is ended because of rain and the proper amount of innings are completed, the club ahead at that point is considered the winner. If an outing does not last to the proper number of frames and out, it will be considered a no contest and your money is returned. If play is suspended and resumes the following day, the wager is considered invalid.
Run Line/Totals – This wager is valid only if 8.5 innings have been played with the home team leading or 9 innings with the away team winning. If there are extra innings, runs score those innings count towards both the line and O/U total. If a tie game is suspended after 9, over/under bets will be determined at the point the game is stopped.
First 5 Innings – A full 5 must be completed for this bet to count. Any game suspended before 5 innings are complete will be considered an invalid bet and your money will be refunded.
Remember, it’s important to be familiar with how each sport is treated differently by odds-makers. Baseball can seem a little quirky with its fixed spread and day-to-day lineup changes. But nothing beats watching a tie score broken with a game-winning double – so long as it’s your team crossing the plate.