Sports Betting

Uncomfortable about betting on baseball? Here are some helpful tips.

Major League Baseball is back on the betting board. Many bettors who love football and basketball shy away from baseball because they’re not comfortable with money lines. Today, VSiN will try to make you more comfortable!

The great thing about money lines is that you only have to pick the straight up winner. There won’t be any concerns about your bench letting a 20-point lead shrink to 10 when you were laying a dozen points…or an underdog’s “meaningless” layup at the buzzer turning a winning bet into a losing bet. Pick the game winner, cash your ticket.

Because oddsmakers know gamblers would just pick the superior team if every game was priced at “pick-em,” there’s a premium charged to favorites. You have to risk more than you’ll win. There is a corresponding reward for taking a shot on the underdog, where you’ll win more than you risk.

Here’s a quick example from Opening Day. The first run of 2019 in the National League was scored in a marquee matchup featuring Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets vs. Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Washington was at home, and priced as a favorite.

Washington -125

NY Mets +110

If you wanted to bet on the Nationals, you had to lay $125 to win $100, or anything in that ratio. That could mean $12.50 to win $10 for smaller bettors, or $1,250 to win a thousand for big bettors.

If you wanted to bet on the Mets, you’d risk $100 to win $110, or anything in that ratio. That could be $10 to win $11, $50 to win $55…whatever your comfort level. (The Mets would ultimately cash as an underdog with a 2-0 victory.)

Because the general public loves betting favorites, but shies away from very high-prices (the Yankees were -380 vs. the Orioles on opening day, meaning you had to risk $38 just to win $10), sports books also offer “run line” options. Here, you can “lay” -1.5 runs on the favorites, or “take” +1.5 runs with the underdog. Additional money lines are stacked onto the runs through, making it a bit more complicated for novices.

In that Yankees game, you could have taken the Bronx Bombers -1.5 runs at just -180 on the money line (meaning you’d have been risking $18 to win $10 that the Yanks would win by at least two runs). You could also have taken a flier on the Orioles at +1.5 runs, +160 (risking $10 to win $16 that Baltimore would stay within a run or win the game outright). (The Yanks would ultimately cash easily on the run line in a 7-2 victory.)

Sports books also offer Over/Unders in baseball. These work the same as in football and basketball. You’ve probably made a few totals bets in recent months. The Over/Under in deGrom/Scherzer was a low 6.5 in a projected pitchers duel. Totals are more commonly in the 7.5 to 8.5 range, with numbers reaching double digits if poor starting pitchers are hurling in great hitting environments.

As “first half” betting became more popular in football and basketball, sports books also began offering “first five inning” propositions in baseball. Here, you’re just betting on which team will “win” the first five full innings, and whether the run count will go Over or Under a lower total. Money lines are usually very close to the full game prices (as odds are strongly influenced by starting pitchers). Totals are roughly half the full game number. Our aforementioned deGrom/Scherzer matchup had a five-inning Over/Under of three runs. (The Mets won the first five innings Thursday 1-0.)

For those of you who hate sweating bullpen drama late in a close game, five-inning propositions may be the perfect approach.

We’ll talk more specifically about handicapping baseball in the coming weeks. This is a very popular betting sport for sharps because daily schedules offer plenty of options, and the season lasts from late March through October.

Other Notes

FS1 and ESPN will celebrate baseball’s opening weekend with TV doubleheaders. Saturday on FS1: Atlanta at Philadelphia (3:05 p.m.) and San Francisco at San Diego (7:05 p.m.) Sunday on ESPN: Chicago Cubs at Texas (3 p.m.) and Atlanta at Philadelphia (6 p.m.).

Don’t forget that Bryce Harper now plays for the Phillies. Philadelphia is about 5/1 to win the National League 10/1 to win the World Series at many global sports books…second only to the LA Dodgers in the senior circuit. You can already see that networks will be paying close attention to Harper and his new team.

Amidst rumors of an immediate demise, the Alliance of American Football moves into its eighth week of regular season action. Here’s the schedule…

Saturday: Orlando at Memphis (TNT, 1 p.m.), San Diego at Salt Lake (NFL Network 7 p.m.). Sunday: Atlanta at Birmingham (CBS Sports Network, 1 p.m.), Arizona at San Antonio (NFL Network 7 pm.).

Point spread records so far in the AAF: Orlando 5-2, Salt Lake 5-2, San Antonio 4-3, Memphis 4-3, Birmingham 3-4, Arizona 3-4, Atlanta 2-5, and San Diego 2-5.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at