Sports Betting 101: Major League Baseball Betting Basics & Futures Odds

Written By Martin Derbyshire on June 24, 2019Last Updated on January 13, 2023
Baseball betting guide

With most Major League Baseball teams set to play their 80th of 162 regular season games this week, the baseball season is about halfway through. It’s the beginning of baseball’s dog days of summer.

With the NBA and NHL seasons now over, and the start of the NFL season still a summer away, it could also be considered the dog days for the emerging US sports betting industry. There simply isn’t a lot of high profile sporting events to wager on right now in the eight states with legal sports betting.

However, there is baseball and its dog days of summer may be the best time to learn a little of the MLB betting basics and get in the game.

Major League Baseball betting basics

Learning the MLB betting basics starts with understanding the three easiest ways to bet on any baseball game.

There are three basic baseball bet types available for each MLB game at most sportsbooks:

  • Moneyline
  • Run line
  • Totals

MLB moneylines

Betting the moneyline on a baseball game is the same as it is with other sports. Sportsbooks post odds on each team to win based on that teams’ chances.

You just pick the team you think will win and lay down a bet. If they win, you get paid according to the moneyline odds at the time you placed the bet.

For example, on Monday the MLB leading Los Angeles Dodgers will face the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is on the mound, so it would be no surprise to see the Dodgers at -140 and Diamondbacks at +122.

That means a $100 bet on the Diamondbacks would pay $122, plus your bet back if they win. In the meantime, you’d have to bet $140 on the Dodgers to collect $100 plus your bet back if they win.

MLB run lines

Baseball run lines are a lot like the point spreads you see for football games. You have to factor this run line into a game’s final score to determining the betting winner.

Baseball is a relatively low scoring game, so run lines are almost always 1.5. Although many sportsbooks offer alternative run lines that are higher.

With a 1.5 run line, you bet that the favorite will win by 2 or more runs. Or, that the underdog will win outright or lose by just a single run.

Sportsbooks post moneyline odds on each team to win based on that teams’ chances with the run line factored in.

For example, on that same Dodgers-Diamondbacks game, you’re likely to find LA at -1.5 (+116) and Arizona at +1.5 (-136).

As you can see, when the run line is factored in the Diamondbacks suddenly become moneyline favorites. That means gamblers can often use the run line to get a better price on a favorite.

You have to bet $140 on the Dodgers to win $100 plus your bet back on a standard moneyline wager. However, if you bet the Dodgers to win by two or more runs (-1.5 run line), you only need to bet $100 to win $116, plus your bet back.

MLB totals

MLB totals are also similar to totals bets in other sports. You bet on whether the final run total in a game will be over or under a number set by oddsmakers.

You’re likely to find the totals line at eight for that same Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. The odds on totals vary, but you should be able to book either side of the bet from -105 to -120 at most sportsbooks.

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The Major League Baseball futures market

Close to the MLB season’s halfway mark, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball and lead the National League’s West Division. In the meantime, the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs also lead their respective divisions.

Legal sportsbooks in NevadaDelawareNew JerseyMississippiWest VirginiaRhode IslandPennsylvania and New Mexico also offer moneyline odds on who will win each division, league, and ultimately the World Series. Sportsbooks refer to these as the MLB futures markets.

Sportsbooks adjust the odds for each team as the season continues and contenders separate themselves from pretenders.

For the most part, that means that the price on favorites is better the earlier you can book the bet.

Below are today’s odds for the division leaders to win the World Series at four of the country’s top sportsbooks.

This includes the newly launched PlaySugarHouse online sports betting app and PA sports betting operator Parx Sportsbook. Plus, NJ sports betting operators FOX Bet and FanDuel Sportsbook.

To Win The 2019 MLB World SeriesFanDuel SportsbookParx SportsbookFOX Bet SportbookSugarHouse Sportsbook
LA Dodgers+270+325+275+325
Houston Astros+400+400+333+400
New York Yankees+400+400+425+400
Minnesota Twins+800+800+900+800
Atlanta Braves +1000 +1000 +1000 +1000
Chicago Cubs+1600+1800+1500+1800
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Written by
Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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