How To Bet On Baseball – Basic Rules and Tips Explained

How to bet on baseball and win strategy

Baseball, for some reason, is perhaps the least popular major league sport for betting. Some people feel that it is difficult, others don’t want to “ruin” the experience of watching the game and rooting for a team, and others feel it is simply impossible to win on a consistent basis.

While it may look a bit hard to place winning bets at first, what with all the factors, pitching statistics and whatnot, it actually doesn’t have to be that tricky.

In fact, MLB baseball can be pretty straightforward to bet on since you don’t really have to bother that much about covering the spread line – you can do very well betting mainly on moneylines. This comes with a caveat though – when betting on the favorite you will be risking more to win less – and we’ll cover this “feature” of baseball betting as we go along.

In this article we will have a look at how to bet on baseball, starting from the absolute basic baseball betting rules and finishing off with some more advanced tips and tools for placing more profitable bets.

What You Need To Get Started

Blue toolbox with a wrenchTools Of The Trade

In order to get started you will of course need a reliable bookmaker or sportsbook to place your bets. I have a more thorough guide on how to select a good bookmaker, so I won’t repeat that information here. However, there are a couple of additional things I want to point out.

As I assume quite a few people who are interested in betting on MLB live in the US, where sports betting is formally considered illegal, you will need to find a sportsbook that accepts American clients. (Unless you go to Las Vegas in Nevada that is). A good list with reviews is available here –

Please note that local legalities for sports betting is a real can of worms. Nothing I say on this site constitutes legal advice. You may need to check with the national and/or federal authorities what the rules are where you live.

Also, when selecting your bookmaker, you might want to compare what odds and lines they are offering. For example, if you are going to use a sports betting system that involves betting on the -1 or +1 run lines, that is something not all sportsbooks are offering (some just give you the standard -1,5 and +1,5 spreads).

Finally, some type of spreadsheet to record your progress is absolutely essential for any serious betting system. Simply use what you prefer; Excel, Open Office, Google docs etc.

Understand What You Are Getting Into

Red info iconAs this is a basic guide on how to bet baseball, and I don’t know your level of experience, I want to briefly cover what to expect from your baseball betting. Since you have landed on this page, I am assuming that you want more out of it than “just for fun”, that you sinceraly want to know how to win money betting on baseball.

No matter how reputable the baseball betting system you follow is – no matter how effective it has proven in the past – you should remember that it is still gambling. There will always be a certain amount of risk involved. As with all forms of wagering you can only bet with money you can safely afford to lose, and you should strictly adhere to a careful money management plan.

Before you start placing live bets you should also familiarize yourself with all the terminology and type of bets. Which conveniently enough is what we will talk about next!

How To Read Baseball Betting Lines

The most common betting lines for baseball betting are money line, run line (or spread) and totals (over under). However, there are many other types of bets as well. I will eventually create a separate guide for explaining all baseball betting odds, but meanwhile you can read more about them here:

“If you are just getting into betting on MLB games then you to have a basic understanding of the different types of bets you can place. Each baseball season I am flooded with e-mails asking about the basics of how to wager on this sport. This article serves as a good beginners resource for learning how to bet on baseball. I’m going to take a look at money lines (sides), totals (over/unders), run lines, parlays, prop bets, futures, and season win totals.

Make sure that you understand what each bet type means, to avoid misinterpreting instructions your system or pick service may provide you with. If in doubt, always ask the provider of your sports betting system how to use a particular type of bet before placing any money on it.

Some systems will also have you placing bets on more than one line in the same game. The highly profitable Alpha trend from Z-code for example, always split the bet between the favorite money and -1 run line.

Not rocket science but, regardless if you are going to bet on baseball in vegas or online, you need to understand the conditions that apply to each type of bet.

Baseball Betting Rules and Odds Explained

Starting Pitcher Conditions

A baseball pitcher getting ready to throw.Since the pitcher is so important in baseball, most (pre-game) bets you place will come with specific conditions that the listed pitchers are going to start. The standard for most bookies is that the listed pitchers (LP) will start. This means that if you place a bet and then there is a pitcher change, your bet will be void and your stake refunded. In order for your bet to be official both listed pitchers must start the game and throw at least one pitch (this goes for all the alternatives below as well). Also note that when it is announced that if a listed pitcher will not start, the money line will usually be adjusted to back to the opening price.

Depending on the bookie you are using you may also be able to place a pre-game bet on the money line while choosing these alternative options:

  • Action (A) – your bet will go live regardelss of who pitches.
  • Selected pitcher (ST) – the pitcher for the team YOU are betting on must start. The pitcher of the opposing team doesn’t matter.
  • Team vs Pitcher (TP) – The listed pitcher of the opposing team must start.

Let’s Place Some Actual Bets

Enough with the basics. Let’s have a look at actually placing some bets on the money line and/or runline.

The Moneyline

The most common method of betting baseball is probably the money line. You simply pick the team you think is going to win.

Like in other American sports the away team is always listed first (or on top), like: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics, or

New York Yankees 2.61 (+161)
Oakland Athletics 1.57(-175.44)

The numbers after the team name are the odds, in decimal and US formats, that correspond to what percentage the bookie thinks the team has to win. If you use the US formats any number with a + in front is the amount you will win if you place a bet of $100 (naturally you also get your initial stake back when you win).

Personally I prefer decimal odds though, and most online sportsbooks allow you to easily change this to your liking.

Generally speaking good teams will get lower odds than teams that are (currently) doing poorly. And the listed pitcher is another huge factor for setting the odds, as he frequently has the biggest impact on the outcome of the game.

We’ll have a look at the factors determining the outcome of a baseball game in a separate guide (there are many of them), but if you where going to look at only one thing in analyzing a baseball game it would probably be to compare the starting pitchers.

Bevare Of The Favorite

Never Fear, Underdog Is Here!

Never Fear, Underdog Is Here! (Photo credit: Cayusa)

In the example above, Oakland Athletics is a rather obvious favorite while New York Yankees is considered the underdog.

In MLB baseball it can be rather expensive to back the favorite money line team. Therein lies the challenge of how to bet on baseball successfully. Winning a 100 games during a baseball season is extremely difficult, for any team. For example the winning percentages for the World Series teams 2014, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardnials, where .599.

It can be a dangerous proposition for beginners who, after looking at some of the statistics, are prone to siding with big favorites. Keep in mind that even the best MLB teams tend to lose around 40% of their games, so depending heavily on favorites to deliver is often a losing strategy over the long run.

You could offset this by betting on the run line as well (see below), but if you’re not careful with this it may be harmful to your bottom line instead.

For this very reason you will often find that smart handicappers will often seek for oppurtinities for betting on the underdog instead. If you always bet on the road team (not without very good reason of course) you could generally speaking be profitable by winning just half of your bets. Betting favorites you will probably have to nail at least 60 percent just to break even.

The Dime Line Difference

Dime ObverseAs I’ve noted earlier, not all sportbooks are created equal. Different bookmakers will have slightly different odds on the same sports and games. This is what makes something like arbitrage betting possible in the first place.

For baseball though, there is another difference to take note of.

If possible you want to go with a sportsbook that offers what is called the “dime line”. This simply means that the difference between the underdog and the favorite line is 10 cents. If the favorite is at -140 (1.71) the underdog will be at +130 (2.3).

A sportsbook offering a “wide line” can have the difference at .20, which would give the underdog in the above example the odd +120 (2.2).

This means that the bookmaker with the dime line is going to (on a $100 bet) pay you $10 more if you win the underdog bet. Over the course of a whole baseball season this can obviously make a huge difference.


When To Place Your Bets – Linereversals

Whatever line you are going to play, the money line for a baseball game is definitely something to keep your eye on – from being released to the first pitch it may change significantly.

On the face of it this means that you can get better odds by timing your bet, but the behavior of the money line can also be an indication of other things.

Sudden line changes are a popular way handicappers use for analyzing games, as is information about how “the public” is betting on a particular game.

For example: suppose TB Rays is a big favorite in their games against Mariners, and that most people betting are backing the Rays. Normally this would mean that the Rays money line slowly go down in value, but now it suddenly spikes – giving a much higher odd for the Rays.

This can often be a signal that something strange is afoot. And if you where planning on backing the Rays you may want to reconsider your wager, or potentially even placing a bet on the Marlins +1,5 run line.

Conversely, if the favorite suddenly gets a clear supporting line that may be a good indication to go forward with that bet. Please view the below video for a more thorough explanation of how this works.

  • Click Here to access the Z-Code line reversal tool for free

Please bear in mind though, that a line reversal tool is best used in conjunction with other system indicators. Personally I have had the most success using it more as a “filter” than as a betting signal in its own right.


As you see from the above, the basics of how to bet in baseball are in some regards simpler that for other sports. You aren’t forced to bet spreads and there are no possible draws or anything like that you need to worry about.

I would like to emphasize however, that having a good system to adhere to is very important. If you want to be serious about betting you just can’t keep betting on gut feelings or personal team preferences.

You can refer to the reviews section on this site for baseball systems and pick services that I currently recommend.

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