Betting on baseball is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated aspects of the vast world that is sports gambling. The 162-game marathon provides endless opportunities to make money betting online, and the nature of baseball betting rewards risk tolerance more than any other sport.
With that being said, with great opportunity comes a huge amount of potential risk for those who are betting without a well-thought-out strategy. If you can identify the bets that prey on your biases and avoid them, you’ll be much better off in the long run.
In this article, I’ll go over 4 MLB bets you’d be better off avoiding.
1 – Betting the Run Line On Away Teams
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your baseball betting strategy is ignoring the run line. In the right situation, it can take a -140 favorite and shift the odds to +115 or better and the favorite only has to win by 2. From that perspective, it seems like a no-brainer to use it often.
Unfortunately, as with just about everything else related to sports gambling, it’s not quite that easy. Even when the don’t win the game outright, home teams tend to keep things close. That means giving up the extra run can spell trouble if the home team makes a comeback surge toward the end of the game.
It might seem like a betting hack to take the run line when betting on a favorite in order to tilt the odds in your favor. The reality is that there simply aren’t any shortcuts and frequently taking the favorite on the run line as the away team will result in several “should have won it” games over the course of a season.
The run line can be an effective tool for bettors, but the more you play it the more you’ll realize that there are quite a few games that finish with a 1-run differential – many more than you’d think, in fact. If you really want to play the favorite it’s not always a bad move, but wait until they’re playing at home.
To get a good idea of how many games end with a 1 run differential, simply track all of the scores for a month or the season. This will help you make better bets in the future.
2 – Betting Against Winning Streaks (The Gambler’s Fallacy)
It’s only natural that in a sport that lasts 7 months, teams and players are going to go through a number of hot and cold streaks during the course of the season. The interesting thing about streaks in sports is that it often brings the Gambler’s Fallacy to the forefront.
If you’re unfamiliar, the Gambler’s Fallacy, in non-technical terms, assumes that an event will happen because it’s “due” to happen. This is seen frequently at roulette tables, where players will assume that after the ball has landed on red the last three or four spins, it just has to be black on the following spin or else the whole world’s probability model is completely broken.
The reality is past trials don’t impact future trials…in casino games, that is. To continue with the example, the roulette ball has no emotion, no momentum, and doesn’t care what space it landed on last time. Sports, however, isn’t quite that simple.
Whereas the Gambler’s Fallacy would suggest an event that hasn’t happened in due time is bound to happen soon, the opposite is actually true in sports. Still, bettors will go heavily against a team on a winning streak once they’ve won three or four games because hey, they’ve got to lose sometime.
In fact, you should be taking the opposite approach when it comes to teams (or players) in the middle of a hot streak. If a team has won five in a row, why would your expectation be that they’d lose? In terms of the Gambler’s Fallacy, not only would their chances not be worse, their chances may actually be improved due to unquantifiable factors like momentum (everyone know it’s real even if we can’t prove it).
If you’re a bettor, ride the winning streak as long as you can. Don’t try to go against the grain because you think it’s time for a team to end their run.
3 – Betting on Heavy Favorites
This one is, in my opinion, the most unforgivable bet in any sport. The difference is if you do it in football, you’re got about 10 times fewer games to drain your bankroll. In baseball, if you make a habit of betting on heavy favorites you’re simply not going to stick around very long.
MLB betting is without question a volume proposition. Meaning you’re going to go through plenty of ups and downs, but eventually, the right moves will average out and pay off over time. If you’re not betting with value in mind, eventually it’s going to catch up with you even if you’re able to keep your head above water in the early going.
The best teams in baseball lose 60+ times each year, and the worst teams in the league are able to pull off 60+ wins. MLB is nothing like the NFL where the worst teams win only two or three times during the season (if that). Essentially, the main takeaway is that any team can beat another team on any given night.
The likelihood of a big underdog winning in an MLB game is infinitely higher than in any other sport. For that reason alone it’s worth taking the risk and using the favorable odds to your advantage.
Admittedly I probably take things a little too far with this philosophy, but when it comes to betting on baseball, I either take the underdog or lay off entirely. It’s simply not worth risking $160 to win $100 night after night (or something comparable).
If you routinely take underdogs, you don’t need to win even close to 50% of the time to be profitable. However, you can’t just blindly pick the dog without doing your research. Seek out pitchers who have been on a hot streak or offenses that are outperforming their expectations and ride them to wins at the sportsbook.
4 – Playing Too Many Props
Baseball isn’t known for its fast-paced action. That’s probably why prop bets are so popular, even when the odds don’t really back justify the plays. I guess it’s understandable, but if you make prop bets too big a part of your overall strategy, you’re probably not going to end up with good results.
Prop bets are the sportsbook’s best friend. I mean, where else can you have -115 to -120 odds on both sides of a potential outcome. Talk about a win-win situation.
Some of the most popular MLB prop bets include whether or not a team will score in the first inning, the 5-inning line, and individual player props. The first two – first-inning scoring and the five-inning line – are almost always taken by people who are just too impatient to wait until the conclusion of a 3+ hour game. Understandable, but still probably not advisable in most situations.
Just like any other bet, your eventual decision should come down to the odds you’re presented. Keep in mind that putting odds on an event such as whether or not “x” player will hit a homerun in that game is very inexact, so both you and the sportsbook are rolling the dice.
If you’re not already betting on baseball, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity. It might not be as much fun as betting on the NFL – it’s undoubtedly a grind – but more than any other sport, it’s all about properly executing your strategy.
Value bettors will have endless opportunities to pick moneyline favorites night after night, and if you put in the time to spot the upsets that aren’t really upsets (given the talent on the field), you can grow your bankroll in a hurry. If you’re new to the baseball betting scene, I highly encourage getting involved.