Learn How to Bet on Baseball
MLB Betting Guide: Tips, Terms, and Sportsbooks
Introduction to Baseball Betting
Baseball has been a part of America's history since the late 1800s. America's pastime has grown over the last century+, with 30 teams across Major League Baseball and each team holding up to 40 players under contract (and 26 on the active roster). While the sport has struggled over the last few years, the league continues to try and make it grow.
Now where we'd like to see it grow is through your wallet.
Baseball can be a complicated sport to understand, especially with how slow everything moves over the course of a game. What are run lines? How do extra innings work? What's a designated hitter?
But what's even more important than knowing how the game works? How to bet on it. Use the information below to get a grasp of the game and how to effectively bet on baseball.
MLB Betting 101: The Baseball Betting Basics
There are three different answers you may want when trying to figure out how to bet on baseball:
- “I see Astros -180 and Royals +160. What on earth does that mean?
- “I know how to bet and what all those numbers mean, but I don’t know where to bet.”
- “I know how to bet, but I want to sharpen my handicapping skills and become a more profitable baseball bettor.”
Let’s start with the basics.
How Do Moneyline Odds Work?
A popular bet in baseball is the moneyline, which requires you to pick the winner of the game. But it’s not a 50-50 proposition in most cases – you won’t get paid the same for taking the Mets to beat the Marlins in New York as you would for taking the Mets to beat the Braves in Atlanta, given the ability of each team.
So each team is assigned moneyline odds by the sportsbook based on their ability, and bettors have to pay a corresponding price. Here’s how they work:
- Mets -300
- Reds +250
American odds like these are centered around $100. So if you bet $300 on the Mets at -300, you’d win $100 if New York wins. If you bet $100 on the Reds at +250 and they win, you’d win $250.
You don’t have to bet $100, of course. If you bet $3 on New York, you’d win $1. Bet $1 on the Reds, win $2.50.
Are There Point Spreads in Baseball?
In football and basketball, the most popular betting option is the point spread – it’s a bet on the margin of victory in that game. Because baseball is lower-scoring, the spread (called the run line) is almost always -1.5 and +1.5 runs, with corresponding odds depending on team ability. So the favorite needs to win by 2 runs to win a -1.5 bet, and the underdog can lose by 1 or win the game to cash a +1.5 bet.
Let’s use that same example from above.
- Mets -1.5 (-110)
- Reds +1.5 (-110)
Because New York is so much better than Cincinnati, sportsbooks are saying it’s about a 50-50 chance that they win by 2 runs or more.
For more evenly-matched teams, you can get big prices on the -1.5 side, and you’ll have to pay up to bet the +1.5 side.
- Red Sox -1.5 (+200)
- Blue Jays +1.5 (-240)
Remember, at +200, you’re risking $1 and winning $2. That means it’s less likely to happen, because these two teams are closer in ability.
What About Over/Unders?
Another popular betting option in baseball is wagering on the total (aka the over/under).
You’re betting on the total runs scored by both teams going over or under the number set by sportsbooks.
Most MLB totals in 2022 are set at 8 or 8.5, with some at 9 and some at 7 and 7.5 for lower-scoring teams.
The Twins-Rays total on May 1, 2022 was 8. Minnesota won 9-3. That means anyone who took the over cashed their bet because 12 runs were scored. If the total was 8, it would be a push and all bets get refunded.
But depending on the teams and situation, you may have to risk a different amount on the over or under.
Twins vs. Rays
- Total: 8
- Over odds: -125
- Under odds: +105
Like the moneyline example above, you have to pay more for betting the over than the under. Sportsbooks and bettors have determined the game going over 8 is more likely than it going under.
For every $1.25 risked, you’d win $1. For every $1 risked on the under, you’d win $1.05.
Rangers vs. Orioles
- Total: 8
- Over odds: -105
- Under odds: -115
Sportsbooks believe it’s more likely the game goes under than over, so you have to pay a bit more to take the under.
Totals are not just limited to the full game. You can bet the first five inning over/under, alternate totals, and more.
For additional explanation, you can explore the articles below.
Best Sportsbooks for Baseball Betting
Different sportsbooks provide different odds when it comes to games lines, player props, futures and more. Take a look at our options and picks on where to go for your different MLB bets to find those best odds, so you can make the most profit.
MLB Futures Betting Odds
Futures betting lets you select champions, awards and more across different parts of MLB ahead of time, meaning you'll get huge odds and the potential to win big at a smaller risk margin. Futures can be bet on at nearly any point in a season, but you'll find the best odds during the preseason -- which also makes predicting things like who will win the World Series or be named an MVP even more fun when you make the call before the season's even started.
MLB Team Odds
America's pastime has taken a hit over the years in terms of ratings and viewership, but the idea that "baseball is dead" is far from the truth. Now that we've made it through the MLB lockout, the season is off and running to a hot start. Tons of teams are in play to compete for their respective league Pennants and the World Series title.
There are 30 teams to choose from over the course of the 162 game season, but eventually, only one will hoist the Commissioner's Trophy. Pick the MLB World Series champion, Pennant winners, individual award winners and much more.
AL East Division Betting
Arguably the most fun in all of Major League Baseball, the AL East seems to be a dogfight almost every season. The rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox is one of the best in sports, and both have been in World Series contention over the last two decades. The Tampa Bay Rays have risen up to the top of the ranks as of late, and the Toronto Blue Jays have a strong young core that will keep them in contention for the next 15 years. As for the Baltimore Orioles...well, there's always next year. And the year after that.
|AL East Teams|
AL Central Division Betting
After a good decade+ away from the top of the division, the Chicago White Sox returned in 2021 to claim the AL Central title. The division has claimed a number of AL Pennants over the past 20 years, with the Sox winning in 2005 (and the World Series), the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012, the Kansas City Royals going back to back in 2014 and 2015 (with a World Series title in the latter year) and the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians), making it to the finale but falling in 2016. If the Minnesota Twins could just get past those Yankees...
|AL Central Teams|
AL West Division Betting
Since 2010, the AL West has been well represented in the World Series, with back to back appearance and losses by the Texas Rangers in 2010 and 2011, and stints by the Houston Astros in 2017, 2019 and 2021. That 2017 season is of course the scandal filled year that saw the Astros win the World Series only to be caught in a sign-stealing cheating scheme. But still, they've won the AL West in four of the last five seasons and the pennant in two of the last three. The Oakland A's have been a solid representative in the Wild Card (and the division winner in 2020), but haven't gotten far since. Could Texas' new stars -- Corey Seager and Marcus Semien -- catapult them to the top again?
|AL West Teams|
NL East Division Betting
Another interesting division in the league, the NL East has seen six World Series titles and 11 pennants since 1995 -- when the current five teams were all put together. The Atlanta Braves ran the division for a decade before the Philadelphia Phillies had their own five year stretch. Throw in a couple of Washington Nationals wins (plus a championship) and even a New York Mets appearance in the World Series, and you can see the divisions had its fair share of fun in recent years. But the Braves are now back on top, running the table the last four years and are sitting pretty as the reigning World Series champions as well.
|NL East Teams
NL Central Division Betting
Arguably the biggest highlight of the division and one of the biggest highlights in league history was the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse by ending the 108 year championship drought. Other than that, the NL Central has been mostly quiet in the last 20 seasons, with just the St. Louis Cardinals making some noise with three NL pennants and one World Series title from 2004-2013. The Milwaukee Brewers are the current division champs, while the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to really make a dent as proud representatives of the NL Central.
|NL Central Teams
NL West Division Betting
The San Francisco Giants ended the Los Angeles Dodgers' eight year reign atop the NL West in 2021 with a stellar 107-win season. The division as a whole has been hot since 1998 -- when all five current teams were put together -- winning the NL pennant 10 times and the World Series five times. The San Diego Padres have put together an All-Star roster in the last couple of seasons and look ready to contend, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies have some work to do.
|NL West Teams
MLB Betting Tools & Utility
Figuring out the correct wager you want to place on a straight bet can be tough based on the odds, and gets even harder when you want to create one of your favorite 10-leg parlays. The Action Network's got you covered with out betting calculator that will do the math for you!
Baseball's version of a spread bet in the "run line" or how many runs scored separate the winning team and losing team. With baseball such a competitive game that often finish in just one run separating the two sides, lines are most often -1.5 (favorite)/+1.5 (underdog).
It's always a good idea to check out what the public consensus is on a particular game you're thinking of betting on. The Action Network has you covered here as well. Side with the public or fade them to get an edge. Win or lose, make your choice.
Sometimes, having experts share their insights on a game can help you take a side in a game you're undecided on. The Action Network has a panel of experts that share their takes and picks on every game being played on the field each day. Take a look at their records and history, and see who you'd like to follow or fade as the season moves forward.
You want to get the best bang for your buck when betting on a game, but it's tough to tap through each sportsbook on your phone to find the best line. The Action Network's Odds page will show you all the lines available for the biggest sportsbooks out there, as well as the two best options on each side of a game.
Injuries are a part of any sport, and besides for the implications they have on the field, they can also effect betting lines and how you should wager on a game. Keeping track of injuries every day can be tough, so check out The Action Network's Injury Report each day to make sure you don't suffer a bad beat that could've been avoided.