We have published some articles over the past few weeks explaining the intricacies, the mathematics and the percentages behind moneyline betting. Of course, understanding each of these concepts is an integral part of becoming a successful baseball capper. In general, the feedback received on these articles has been exceedingly positive. We have, however, stumbled upon a fairly interesting theme in our client correspondence. In sum, many gamblers that only bet on football and/or basketball are not totally sure how betting on the moneyline works.
On the surface, moneylines can indeed look complex. Especially to those that are just familiar with the pointspread. So if you have shied away from betting baseball because the moneyline does not make sense, this short piece is for you. If you are a seasoned sports gambler, this article is a bit elementary and we invite you to check out our more detailed piece on the relationship between moneylines and long term winning percentages. You can find it archived right here at the site.
To help explain how money lines work, we have included a recent Major League Baseball game and the odds set on that game by an offshore sportsbook below:
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Date/Time______Teams/Pitchers____Moneyline___Total Runs
Wed 5/5/04_____St. Louis/Morris______+125______Over 8.5 125
4:05 PM PST__Philadelphia/Millwood___135______Under 8.5 +115
The column on the far left is simply the date and start time. In this case, the matchup commences at 4:05 PM PST on Wednesday, May 05, 2004. The second column lists the two teams and their respective starting pitchers. We see above that St. Louis is playing Philadelphia. The Cardinals starting pitcher will be Woody Williams, while the Phillies will counter with starting pitcher Kevin Millwood.
Now for the topic we are writing about: the third column represents the moneyline for each team. Before we even explain what the actual numbers (+125, 135) under this column represent, we should note one crucial distinction between moneyline bets and traditional pointspread bets found in basketball and football. With the basic moneyline, there is no spread or number of points/runs for your team to cover. If the club you personally bet on wins the game, you also win your wager regardless of the score. Simple as that. Runlines in baseball are a different story. We will be republishing our Runline Article in the near future, so be on the lookout.
Of course, we know that with any given matchup, one team is more likely to win than the other. This is true in any sport. In football and basketball, the oddsmakers adjust for this fact by including a spread. We know for example that when the Spurs are 4 hosting the Lakers, the Spurs must defeat the Lakers by more than 4 points for their backers to win their bet. Conversely, the Lakers can either win the game outright or lose by fewer than 4 points to cash a winning ticket for their backers. If the Spurs win by four, the game is a push. For the most part, the spread (e.g. 4/+4 in this case) has a moneyline price tag of 110 to win 100. This translates to risking $110 for every $100 you would like to win.
As we just noted, there is no pointspread in baseball moneyline betting. A team only needs to win the game straight up for you to cash a ticket. And because there is no spread, oddsmakers adjust the moneyline price based upon the matchup. In the example above, Kevin Millwood and the Phillies are being priced at 135. This simply means you must risk $135 to win $100 on Philly. You can wager any amount you wish. But the riskreturn ratio will always be the same (1.35 to 1:00). For example; to win $200 at a moneyline of 135, you would be required to risk $270. On the other side of the equation, the Cardinals are priced at +125. This simply means that for every $100 at risk, you will return $125 should the Cardinals win. Sounds rather tempting right? Well, the implication here is the Phillies stand a better chance of winning in the eyes of the oddsmakers. So the particular price points (135, +125) account for one team having a better chance of winning than the other.
Depending on the matchup, a favorite can be priced anywhere from 101 to as high as 350 or more in some cases. We would all love to risk $110 to win $100 every time Curt Shilling pitches for the Red Sox. But of course the oddsmakers will not allow this to happen, as the public would clean them out. So the oddsmakers offset this type of scenario by increasing the risk amount dependent upon the relative chance of the better team winning the game. Similarly, an underdog can be priced anywhere from +101 to as high as +350 or more. Conversely, the lines maker will increase the win amount dependent upon the relative chance of the lesser team losing.
The final column “Total Runs”is the line for betting on the total runs scored. Betting on baseball totals is no different than wagering on basketball or football totals in that you are betting over or under the combined total number of points/runs being scored by both teams. Here, the total is set at 8.5 runs. If 9 or more runs are scored by both teams combined, the “Over”wins. If 8 or less runs are scored, the “Under”wins. Often times the posted total will also have a moneyline attached to it. In the example above, the Over 8.5 125 implies that you must risk $125 to win $100 in order to play “Over”. If you prefer the “under”, you would risk $100 to win $115 if the game produces 8 or less runs. As a side note, if the total was set at 8 runs and the total number of runs scored actually landed on 8, then the bet would be a “push”and all wagers would be refunded.
We should also point out that prices for both side and total bets in baseball fluctuate from one book to the next in baseball just as they do in every other sport. Therefore, it makes sense to have a number of sportsbook accounts and shop for the best line available. Otherwise, you are simply leaving money on the table!
Also, there is one last important distinction with baseball wagering in that you have the opportunity to “List Pitchers.” In the above example, assume you decide that the Phillies are the right side. You have the option of either “listing”Millwood, “listing”Williams or “listing”both starting pitchers. What this means is that if your listed pitcher does not start (i.e. throw at least one pitch as a starter) for whatever reason, then your bet is voided. This is the equivalent of a free insurance policy that you should take advantage of on every single wager.
Assume you do in fact play the Phillies and Millwood injures himself during warmups and therefore is a late scratch. If you “listed”Millwood on the bet and he does not start the game; the bet will be voided and your wager will be refunded. If you did not “list”Millwood, the bet would still be in action and you'd be stuck with whomever the Phillies decided to substitute in his place! You also have the option of playing a game with “Action.” With an “Action”bet, it doesn't matter who the starting pitchers are—your wager will be honored regardless. Playing a game with “Action”is only recommendable in rare instances. This is simply because starting pitching matchups tend to be the single most crucial element in predicting the outcome of a game.
Hopefully this brief article helps illustrate how moneyline betting in baseball works. While it looks a bit intimidating at first, it is really quite simple once you catch on to the basics.
