A Complete Guide to Betting on MLB

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Baseball full betting guide

This article will discuss the basics of betting on MLB including how the odds work, what types of bets you can make, how to choose the best sportsbook and some baseball betting tips and strategies. 

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world and the MLB generates significant attention from the world of sports betting.

How do MLB odds work?

Throughout this MLB betting guide, we will include various examples of MLB bets and their associated betting odds, so let’s start by briefly explaining how the odds work and how to read them.

Betting odds describe the payout for a winning bet. In American sportsbooks, odds are listed as a three-digit number (or sometimes 4+ digits) with either a plus (+) or a minus (-) sign before them, such as +100 or -110.

When the odds number is preceded by a minus (-) sign, that number is the amount you would have to wager to win $100 on that bet. So for -110 odds, you would have to bet $110 to win $100.

When the odds number is preceded by a plus (+) sign, that number is the amount you would win on a $100 bet. So for +100 odds, a $100 bet would win $100 (for a total payout of $200, including your original bet).

Betting on an MLB game

There are three basic types of bets you can place on an MLB game: the moneyline, the run line and the total (which is also called the over/under). These bet types are very similar to the same bets in other team sports like NFL and NBA, but there are some important differences. Let’s discuss each of these three common MLB bets. 

Moneyline

A moneyline bet is simply a bet on which team will win the game. The odds for the favorite will be listed with a minus (-) sign, while the odds for the underdog typically will be listed with a plus (+) sign. 

For example, let’s say the Baltimore Orioles are playing the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Orioles are the favorite. The odds might look like this at DraftKings Sportsbook

TeamMoneyline odds
Baltimore Orioles-140
Toronto Blue Jays+120
Toronto Blue Jays third base Isiah Kiner-Falefa (7) throws to first base during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium
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If you place a $140 bet on the Orioles, and they win the game, then you would get back your $140 plus a $100 profit for a total payout of $240. If you bet $100 on the Blue Jays, and they win the game, then you would get back your $100 plus a $120 profit, for a total payout of $220.

In this example, these teams are fairly even matched, so the moneyline odds for both the favorite and the underdog are relatively close to “even money” (which would be represented by +100 odds and indicate a 50% chance for either team to win the game). If the Orioles were a much bigger favorite, then the odds might be more like Orioles -250 and Blue Jays +200.

A bigger gap between the teams’ moneyline odds indicates a bigger difference in the strength of the teams and the probability of either team winning. In that scenario, a bet on the favorite is more likely to win (but with a smaller payout), while a bet on the underdog is much less likely to win (but with a bigger potential reward).

If teams are very evenly matched, it’s possible that both teams could have negative moneyline odds. For example, the favorite could have -115 odds with the underdog having -105 odds.

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Run line

A common term in sports betting is the “point spread” (or just “the spread”), which is the expected margin of victory by the favored team. The spread is also called “the line,” and in baseball, it is called the “run line” since baseball teams score runs, not points.

In other sports like NFL or NBA, the point spread can vary widely depending on the game, since the margin of victory can also vary widely. In baseball, the run line is almost always set at 1.5 runs, since roughly 30% of baseball games are decided by only one run. 

Continuing our above example with the Orioles and Blue Jays, the run line might look like this:

TeamRun line
Baltimore Orioles-1.5 (+125)
Toronto Blue Jays+1.5 (-155)

When reading the run line, the minus (-) sign before the 1.5 means that team is the favorite, while the plus (+) sign means that team is the underdog.

Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman (35) and pitcher Jacob Webb (71) react during the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
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To win a run line bet on the favorite (in this case the Orioles), they need to win the game by more than 1.5 runs – which means at least two runs, since you cannot score half a run (the 0.5 prevents a bet from being a “push,” or tie, so it guarantees a bet will either win or lose). If the Orioles only win by one run, or if the Blue Jays win the game outright, then run line bets on the Blue Jays would win.

In the example above, the numbers in parentheses represent the betting odds for betting on the run line for either team. As noted above, the betting odds describe the payout for a winning bet. So if you bet $100 on the Orioles at -1.5 on the run line, and they win the game by at least two runs, then you would win $125. On the other hand, if the Orioles lose or only win by one run, then someone who bets $155 on the Blue Jays run line would win $100.

Total

The third standard bet on MLB games is the total, which is a bet on how many runs will be scored in the game by both teams. This is also commonly called the “over/under” because you are betting on whether the total runs will be over or under a certain number. 

Let’s finish up our Orioles and Blue Jays example by looking at what all three odds might look like at FanDuel:

TeamMoneyline oddsRun lineTotal (O/U)
Baltimore Orioles-140-1.5 (+125)Over 8.5 (-115)
Toronto Blue Jays+120+1.5 (-155)Under 8.5 (-105)

Just like with the run line, the total will include both the number of runs (8.5) and the betting odds in parentheses. If the Orioles win the game by a score of 5-4, then bets on the over would win, since there were nine total runs in the game. If the Orioles win 5-3, so only eight total runs, then bets on the under would win.

In some cases, the total may be set at a whole number like 8 or 9 without the extra 0.5, which could lead to a “push”. If the total runs scored in the game falls exactly on that number, then the sportsbook would return the original wagers to all bettors and nobody would win or lose.

Note that betting on the total is completely unaffected by who wins the game. Whether the Orioles or the Blue Jays won, if there were at least nine combined runs scored, then bets on the over would win; otherwise, bets on the under would win.

What’s the difference between a run line and a point spread?

As mentioned above, the run line in baseball is very similar to a point spread in other team sports like football and basketball. The biggest difference is that in other sports, the point spread can vary widely from game to game, while in baseball the run line is almost always set at 1.5 runs. 

The other big difference is the odds associated with the run line compared to typical odds for point spreads in football or basketball, which are usually between -105 and -120 for both sides. Let’s revisit the example run line from earlier:

TeamRun line
Baltimore Orioles-1.5 (+125)
Toronto Blue Jays+1.5 (-155)

The odds range from -155 all the way to +125 on each side, which is a much bigger difference than you would find in other sports, where you would rarely see plus odds on a point spread. In baseball, you can usually get plus odds if you bet on the favorite on the run line because it is so common for games to be decided by just one run.

Consider that in our example, the moneyline odds for the Blue Jays were +120, while the odds on the Orioles at -1.5 were +125. Those odds imply that it’s more likely for the Blue Jays to win the game outright than for the Orioles to win by more than one run. That is why the odds on the run line are so different than the odds on the point spread in other sports.

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Other popular MLB bets

While betting on the moneyline, run line or total is the most common way to bet on baseball, there are several other options for betting on MLB. Some other popular MLB bets include parlays, prop bets and futures bets. It is also becoming increasingly popular to bet on baseball in real-time while the game is happening. Let’s explore these other types of baseball betting in more detail.

Parlays

A parlay is a combination of bets that all must win for the parlay bet to win. If any part of the parlay loses, then the entire parlay loses. Parlays are very difficult to win, but they offer big payouts when they hit. That has made them very popular in sports betting and MLB betting is no exception.

Parlays can be built with bets on different games or multiple bets on the same game, which is called a “same game parlay”. While most sportsbooks put some restrictions on which bets can be combined in a parlay, there are virtually endless possibilities for the different parlays you can build. The individual bets within a parlay are often called the “legs” of the parlay. 

Let’s look at a simple example of a two-leg parlay on two baseball moneyline bets:

GameBetOdds
San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco GiantsGiants moneyline-120
Detroit Tigers vs. Texas RangersRangers moneyline-120
Two-leg parlay+236

If you wagered $12 on each of these bets individually, and both bets won, then you would win $10 on each game for a total of $20. However, if you took that $24 and instead combined these bets into a two-leg parlay with +236 odds, then you would win roughly $55.

That’s nearly three times the profit, which shows why parlays can be so appealing, but they are also much more difficult to win, which is why the odds are so high. In that example, if one of the two bets loses, then you would lose the whole $24 parlay. However, if you placed two separate $12 bets, and only one bet won, then you would only lose $2.

Prop bets

Prop bets are bets on specific events that could happen during a game. They could be a yes/no style of bet, such as “Will Bryce Harper hit a home run? Yes (+300), No (-475)” They could also be an over/under style of bet, such as “How many strikeouts will Zack Wheeler throw? Over 6.5 (+100), Under 6.5 (-125).” 

Both of those examples focus on specific players, which would be called an MLB player prop bet. You can also make prop bets on one team or on the game itself. An example of a game prop could be which team will score the first run or whether a run will be scored in the first inning. 

It is very common to include prop bets in a same game parlay. For example, a three-leg same game parlay could look something like this:

  • Leg 1: Phillies moneyline (-120)
  • Leg 2: Bryce Harper 1+ RBI (+135)
  • Leg 3: Phillies over 3.5 runs (-240)
  • Total parlay odds will depend on the specific sportsbook’s formula for determining same game parlay odds.

Futures bets

Philadelphia Phillies first base Bryce Harper (3) celebrates after hitting a Gand Slam home run during the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park.
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Futures bets – as the name implies – are bets on something that will happen in the more distant future, rather than betting on an upcoming game. All the previously discussed bet types focus on betting on individual games. The markets for those bets are typically only available for approximately 24 hours before the game and the bets will be “resolved” (i.e. the outcome determined) and winning bets paid out when the game is over. By contrast, odds for futures bets could be available up to a year in advance, which means you could be waiting a very long time to find out if your bet wins.

There are many different types of futures bets in baseball betting. One of the most common examples is betting on which team will win the World Series. Other examples include betting on which teams will win the National League or American League pennant, which teams will win the division, which teams will make the playoffs or how many games a team will win in the season. 

You can also bet on individual players in the baseball futures market. For example, you can bet on which players will win the MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year. You could also bet on a player’s statistical performance, such as the amount of home runs they will hit in a season. MLB futures bets give fans something to follow and root for all season.

Most futures bets are also available throughout the season and the odds will change based on what is happening during the season. If one team is exceeding expectations early in the season, their odds to win the World Series will go down. The closer you get to the end of the season, the more information you have about player and team performance, therefore it becomes easier to predict who will win. As such, the odds will change to reflect that.

Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) celebrates his solo home run against the New York Mets with teammates in the dugout during the third inning at Citi Field.
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Live betting on MLB

It is becoming increasingly popular to bet on MLB games in real-time while they are being played, which is called live betting. When you visit a sportsbook while a game is live, you will see a “live” icon next to the game which indicates that there are live betting opportunities available for that game. 

Many of the same bets that are available before a game are also available during the game. However, the odds will change depending on how the game is going. For example, let’s say the Braves are playing the Nationals and are big favorites in the game, with moneyline odds of -250 before the game begins. If the Nationals score a few runs in the first inning, then their chances of winning the game would go way up, and the Braves’ moneyline odds will drop closer to even money. If you think they will come back to win, you could get much better odds on the moneyline than if you had bet on them before they fell behind. On the other hand, if the Braves are winning by a few runs late in the game, such as the seventh or eighth inning, then their moneyline odds would be more like -1000 or even lower. 

Live betting on baseball also offers some bets that are only available during the game. For example, you could bet on which team will score the next run or which player will get the next hit. You could even bet on the outcome of a specific pitcher vs. hitter matchup. For example, if Ronald Acuña Jr. is on deck, you could bet on whether he will get a hit or make an out in his plate appearance. You could even be more specific and bet on whether he will hit a home run or strike out.

Live betting is a very dynamic approach to betting because the odds are constantly changing and some bets are only available for a few minutes. An astute baseball observer who can sense the way a game is going could find some great betting opportunities by live betting on baseball.

MLB betting strategies and advice

While getting started with betting on MLB is relatively simple, getting good at it can take time and experience. There are many factors to consider when trying to pick winners in MLB. A few tried and true strategies for baseball betting include avoiding big favorites and focusing on underdogs (especially in division games). Let’s discuss each of those strategies in more detail.

Betting on heavy favorites is not profitable

As we discussed above, MLB teams that are heavy favorites may have moneyline odds as low as -200 or even lower. At -200, you are only winning $0.50 for every dollar you bet. That means you would need to win more than 66% of your bets to be profitable, and even heavy favorites typically will not win 66% of the time.

To understand the math there, let’s say you placed six different $100 bets on six favorites at -200 on each one. If you won three of those bets, with a $50 profit on each one, you would win $150. But you would lose $300 on the other three bets, for a net loss of $150. If you won four bets, then you would win $200 on those bets and lose $200 on the two that lost, breaking even. Four wins out of six is 66%, so you would need to do better than 66% to be profitable.

Especially for novice bettors, it may be tempting to bet on the favorites because they do win more often than not (roughly 65% of the time, according to various baseball research services). However, oddsmakers know that bettors like to bet on favorites, and they set the odds accordingly. The payouts on those odds are simply not worthwhile.

Focus on “First Five Innings” bets

Because so many variables go into determining the outcome of a baseball game, it can become slightly more predictable if you can eliminate some of the variables. For example, the starting pitchers are (almost) always known going into each game but, especially in modern MLB, starters don’t pitch the entire game. Additionally, it is impossible to predict what decisions managers will make over the course of a game, and they get more hands-on as a game reaches its later stages.

This is why making a bet on the outcome of the first five innings can make more sense, rather than betting on the outcome of a full game. This is especially the case if your analysis includes information regarding how the starting pitchers are being valued.

How do you find the right MLB betting site?

Every major U.S. sportsbook offers betting on MLB, but not all sportsbooks are created equal. While most of them will offer many of the same betting markets, the betting odds always vary from one sportsbook to the next, so using multiple sportsbooks and shopping for the best odds is another sound strategy. Some sportsbooks also differentiate themselves by offering unique betting markets or betting promotions.

In the table below, we have summarized some of the standout features for MLB betting at five of the top U.S. sportsbooks. These sportsbooks also vary in other ways, such as their banking options, user experience and customer service. We cover some of those differences in our other sportsbook reviews, so for this article, we have focused on differentiating features that are specific to betting on baseball.

SportsbookStandout feature(s) for MLB betting
DraftKingsGreat variety of live betting markets
FanDuelUnique “Dinger Tuesdays” promotion offers $5 bonus bets for every home run when you bet $25 
BetMGMThe “edit my bet” feature allows you to change some MLB same game parlay bets 
CaesarsDaily game-specific promos and odds boosts
BetRiversRobust integrated stats and analytics features

What type of promos are you likely to find for MLB betting?

One of the best ways to get good value on MLB betting is to look for sportsbooks that offer unique promotions.

One such promotion offered by FanDuel Sportsbook is called “Dinger Tuesdays.” Every Tuesday, if you place a $25 bet on a player to hit a home run, you will get a $5 bonus bet (up to $25) for every home run hit in that game, regardless of who hits it. For example, say you bet $25 on Aaron Judge to hit a home run when the Yankees play the Red Sox. If Judge does not homer in that game, but other players like Giancarlo Stanton, Juan Soto and Masataka Yoshida combine for four homers, you would still get four different $5 bonus bets.

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Caesars Sportsbook also offers some of the best MLB-specific promos on the market. They offer daily odds boosts on two-leg same game parlays on MLB games. An odds boost is when a sportsbook offers more attractive odds than it would normally offer to generate more betting action. For example, they may offer a parlay with the Diamondbacks moneyline and a Christian Walker home run at +600 odds, but with the odds boost you can get it at +750. That is a 25% increase, and some of their boosts have been seen as high as 50%.

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Another type of promotion to look out for is parlay insurance. BetRivers is one sportsbook that frequently offers this feature. With parlay insurance, if you place a parlay with a minimum number of legs (usually at least four), you can get your stake back (up to $25) if only one leg of the parlay loses. This promotion can ease the sting of missing a parlay because just one leg lost.

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FAQ

How do MLB odds work?

Betting odds describe the payout for a winning bet, and they work the same way for MLB as they do for any other sport. One of the biggest differences between betting on MLB and betting on other team sports like football or basketball is that betting on the moneyline is much more common in MLB while betting on the point spread is much more common in other sports.

What’s the difference between a moneyline and a run line?

Betting on the moneyline means you are betting on which team will win the game. Betting on the run line means you are betting on the margin of victory. The run line is almost always 1.5 runs, which means if you bet on the favorite on the run line, they need to win by at least two runs for your bet to win. 

Can I bet on individual player props for MLB?

Yes, betting on individual player props is very common in baseball betting, just like in other sports. Some common MLB player props include betting on a player to record a hit, an RBI or a home run. Other examples include betting over/under a hitter’s total bases or a starting pitcher’s strikeouts.

What is the best sportsbook to use to bet on MLB?

Our pick for the best sportsbook for MLB betting is Caesars Sportsbook because they offer the best MLB-specific promotions. Take advantage of daily odds boosts on two-leg same game parlays and other daily promotions. Caesars is also very competitive with other sportsbooks in terms of the variety of betting markets it offers and the competitiveness of its odds. 

Is it legal to bet on MLB in the US?

Yes, betting on MLB baseball is legal in many states in the U.S. The list of legal online sports betting states in the U.S. is readily available and subject to change as more states legalize sports betting. You must be at least 21 years old to legally place online bets on baseball.