Sports Betting

If you’re betting on baseball, here are some traps to avoid

If you’re new to betting Major League Baseball, there are some common traps that you should try to avoid.

Many new bettors are intimidated by high money lines on favorites. They’re used to laying 11/10 on football or basketball bets. Suddenly, the baseball teams they want to bet are as high as -200 (risk $20 to win $10) or -250 (risk $25 to win $10). Newbies will try to think of shortcuts that allow them to “justify” betting on big favorites.

Among those ill-advised strategies: laying -1.5 runs at a more favorable price (the run you’re giving away is a form of vigorish, as is the bottom of the ninth you may not get to use if you’ve backed a home team)….grouping big favorites together in parlays (having to sweep multiple teams to win a bit is another form of vigorish)…or only backing those teams right after a loss or two because they’ll be “extra motivated” to win (the Dodgers recently lost seven in a row!)

Sometimes big baseball favorites do win blowouts…and sometimes multiple favorites win on the same day. But, over the long haul, you’ll be taking the worst of it with these strategies. Sports books LOVE bettors who play this way.

Many new bettors think they’ve invented the concept of taking any team that’s lost the first two games of a series in the third game to avoid the sweep. If you haven’t tried it already, your buddy will suggest it this weekend. It’s a decades-old shortcut that works just often enough to drain your savings through a season. Sweeps are more common than realized. And, betting on a team with a talent disadvantage because of a “wishful thinking” intangible is rarely smart. Do you think oddsmakers haven’t heard about this? Their grandfathers heard about it.

Betting “first five inning” props because you’re sick and tired of bullpens blowing your bets. While losing late is very frustrating, you’re probably forgetting about the times your offense rallied in the final innings because the other bullpen stunk. And, you haven’t even studied the dynamics of five-inning results. You’re just assuming you’re going to be great at it!

While it’s true that five-inning props are more heavily influenced by starting pitching, that’s not as big an edge as you’re probably thinking. Even with great pitching (which is never a sure thing), your offense may only get two rotations through the lineup.

Think about “the heart of the order” coming to the plate as a “possession” in football or basketball. Those are your best chances to score. Would you bet a football or basketball game based only one what’s going to happen in each team’s first two or three possessions?

Besides managers are getting much more aggressive about yanking starters who get in trouble. Trailing managers have no interest in helping you win your bet.

VSiN will talk more about baseball betting strategies through the summer. We’re still in the early days of what’s shaping up as a very entertaining season.

Other Notes

Game 3s begin Thursday night in the NBA Playoffs. That means handicappers and bettors will be dealing with site switches in all eight first-round matchups the next few days. Long time bettors know that home crowds are at their loudest and most raucous in their first “appearance” of the postseason. That’s particularly true for fans of series underdogs in need of a big performance. Keep that in mind as you look for line value Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in all the new home openers.

What to make of all eight NBA series openers staying below their market Over/Unders last weekend? Pro basketball is evolving at a breakneck pace in this era of analytics. Oddsmakers can only guess how much (if any) playoff basketball will slow down from regular season norms. Be sure you study box scores to look for extreme outliers in three-point shooting and game pace instead of just assuming what happened last time will keep happening. That statement will be just as true in a month as it is today.

Jonathan Von Tobel (host of VSiN’s “Betting Across America”) and I put together an initial set of estimated “market” Power Ratings based on indicators from the first two games. Feel free to update these on your own as Game Three numbers settle. We use a standard three points for home court advantage, but will consider four points for Denver and Utah if the market prices that way in this round.

East: Milwaukee 87, Toronto 86, Philadelphia 83, Boston 83, Orlando 79, Indiana 79, Brooklyn 78, Detroit 78 (no Griffin 75).

West: Golden State 90, Houston 86, Denver 84, Utah 83, Oklahoma City 82, Portland 82, San Antonio 81, LA Clippers 80.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at