Strategies for Betting the Baseball Run Line

Baseball and Hand

There are many different wagering types and strategies that handicappers use when gambling on baseball. One of the most popular is called a “run line” bet. Run lines are a type of baseball handicap betting in which a 1.5-point spread is applied to the final score.

The favored team lays 1.5, meaning that they must win by at least two runs to win the bet. On the other side, the underdog takes 1.5, giving them a win as long as they lose by less than two scores.

Because the point spread is a set value, it doesn’t always bring the line to even odds, as you see with handicap wagers in other sports. A substantial favorite that’s bet on the run line will give you a more favorable payout than on the moneyline, but they may remain the favored side.

Meanwhile, taking underdogs on the run line can decrease the payout if they win outright but improve your odds of winning the bet. Then, there are ways to combine the moneyline and run lines to create some positive-value situations for yourself to increase your bankroll.

In this guide, we’d like to help you find success through betting on the run line. Numerous systems and strategies have already proven effective at making money. But there’s also lots of bad advice out there that makes sense on the surface but actually leads to more losing than winning. We’ll clear up these common misconceptions while showing you how to find success through wagering on these baseball handicap bets.

Look to the Moneyline for Help

When planning to place a run line bet, the place to start is actually the moneyline odds. These will tell you which team is expected to win and to what extent each side is favored or is the underdog.

The favorite will have a negative three-digit number expressing their odds, which is the number in dollars that one must wager to win $100.The underdog will have a positive three-digit number, valued at the amount of dollars paid out on a $100 wager.

To Determine the Value of the Run Line

There are a couple of different ways you can use the moneyline odds to help with your handicapping. The first is that they will make it easier to determine just how favored one squad is over the other. The closer the two sides are to even odds, the more likely the contest is to be decided by a narrow margin.

Once you know that, the smart money is on betting the underdog on the run line. Ideally, you’re looking for odds ranging from -105 up to +200. With roughly thirty percent of games being determined by a single run, it makes sense that the relatively close matchups would be where they’re most probable.

To Move the Spread from -1.5 to -1 for Favorites

If you want to take the -1.5 handicap associated with run lines and move that number down to just -1, you’ll need to get a little creative. There’s no option to move the spread like a teaser or pleaser does in football betting, but it can be done. You’ll only need to split your staking amount into two bets, one on the moneyline and the other on the run line for the same game.

First, you make sure that the moneyline odds are such that, should you win that bet, the payout will be more than the amount you wager on the run line. Now, you place half of the money on the -1.5 run line favorite’s bet. The other half of your stake is put on that same favorite, only on a moneyline bet.

This, in effect, has moved the spread down to only -1. If your team wins the game by one run, the moneyline ticket wins and the run line loses, but you break even, ultimately making the wager a push. If you’re fortunate enough to have your side win by two or more, you win both bets, scoring a decent payday.

Example of Splitting $100 Into Two WagersThe Houston Astros are -150 favorites straight up in an upcoming game against the Cleveland Indians. The -1.5 run line, also on the Astros, is being offered at +140. Since you want to break even if Houston wins by exactly one, you will be betting $60 on the moneyline and $40 on the run line. The reason is, at -150 odds, a $60 bet pays out $40, bringing you back to an even $100 should only one bet win.

The remaining $40 is bet on the -1.5 run line at +140. If the Astros beat the Indians by two or more runs, that wager will earn $56. But since winning this ticket means you’ve also won the moneyline gamble, that means you’ll earn a total of $96 on your $100 wager.

Before, it would have cost you $150 to earn $100 by betting Houston. Now, you’re either pushing or getting nearly the same return while staking much less, as long as your side wins. You’ve also taken a -150 favorite and essentially bet them at -104 odds, which has highly positive value.

Study the Totals Line

In the same way you can turn to the moneyline for some guidance, the totals line is beneficial as well. There’s nobody better in the world at predicting how contests are going to play out than professional oddsmakers. They’ve got all the insider info, the relevant statistical analysis, and some of the best handicappers in the world working on their side.

The idea is to locate totals lines set at a value which is more likely to produce one- or two-run games.

For ExampleLet’s look at an over-under set at seven runs. Knowing 30% of games are decided by a single run and that blowouts are rare in baseball, the most likely outcome of a matchup with a 7-run total is a final score of 4-3.

Sounds like an excellent opportunity to take the +1.5 on the underdog! Nine is another somewhat prevalent line that is perfect to exploit in this way.

There has been some research that suggests an 8-point totals line is ripe for a -1.5 favorites bet. Look for opportunities to gamble on a favored team that’s won at least half of their games, roughly 50%-55%.

The underdog should have a winning percentage of about 41%-50%. In this situation, the -1.5 run line will win approximately 55% of the time, providing a return of about 22.4% for the handicappers who invented the system. Over the course of a season, that’s a spectacular return.

Bet +1.5 RL Against Heavy Favorites

You would think the smart play would be to find the most massive moneyline favorites and bet them on the -1.5 run line, the thinking being that if they’re so heavily favored, surely they’ll win by more than one score. Surprisingly, this is not a winning strategy. In fact, the opposite is true.

Actually, most contests in which one team is significantly favored over the other will end with only a one-run margin. In fact, matchups with even odds end with multiple-run discrepancies more often than games with a big favorite. This means that the dog’s +1.5 run line is where to look when facing lopsided moneyline odds.

Use Correlated Parlays Where Permitted

Correlated parlays are a system of pairing the run line of a game with the totals bet on a parlay card. These aren’t always permitted, depending on the sportsbook, but I’ve found books in Vegas that allow it. When these bets hit, a winning parlay will pay 3-to-1, if not more. It then becomes nothing more than simple math.

Let’s say the Nationals are sitting at +142 on the -1.5 run line, with an over-under of 9 priced at -101. If you are allowed to parlay those two bets and wager $100, the winning payout would be $381.60. Those are 3.8-to-1 odds. So, you’ll need to hit roughly one in every four of these bets to break even.

Looking over Major League Baseball results over a decade stretch, when a team covered the spread, winning by at least two runs, the totals bet went “over” almost 55% of the time! So, you just have to find a total of around 8, which we already know produces more -1.5 RL wins than other lines, and parlay both of these wagers.

Look for Home Dogs

Another strategy that has traditionally produced profitable results is to bet the +1.5 run line for underdogs playing at home. After applying the spread, the side that you’re betting should be priced within the range of +220 and -105.

Analyzing nearly one thousand games that meet those two criteria and taking the historical betting odds into account, the long-term return on investment for gambling on light-to-moderate home underdogs is just under 5%.

If you’d like to be a bit more selective, look to the totals line as well. If you identify the contests in which the over-under is set at seven or more, with the above factors still static, you can increase that return on investment to a little over 6%. Isolate totals that equal precisely 7 or exactly 9, and your odds of improving your bankroll are even higher.

Using a service like BetLabs, you can continuously tinker with the data, applying new filters until you find a winning system that works for you!

For ExampleWhat if you look for a team that’s only an underdog at home because of their recent losing streak?

The data suggests betting underdog home teams that most recently lost three consecutive games or less can return almost 20% on your investment, although you will lose a higher percentage of your wagers.

Take 1.5 in Pitchers’ Parks

There’s more to look at than which squad is at home and which is on the road. As is always the case with baseball, the type of baseball park in which the game is being competed matters equally as much as who calls the stadium “home.” That’s why you’ll always want to check the data for park factors, to ensure any advantages given by the stadium work in your favor.

Obviously, it will be difficult to win by two or more runs in a pitchers’ park. These are locations in which it’s difficult to hit home runs, where the environment favors a more defensive contest. It makes sense, then, that we’d be more inclined to look for situations to take the +1.5 runs rather than lay them. Your best bet is to combine some of the tips you’ve learned above with relevant park factors.

For ExampleWe just covered home underdogs. Well, a home dog that happens to play their games in a pitchers’ park is even that much more exciting! If you can find a situation in which the road team is starting an ace pitcher, this may be an opportune time to fade the public, who mostly bets based on starting pitching, and collect a ton of value on your pick.

Lay -1.5 When Scoring Should Be High

The higher the score, the more likely the game is to be won by two or more runs. The reason why is just basic math. A game with seven total runs can produce four different results: 7-0, 6-1, 5-2, and 4-3. However, a game with 13 total runs can end in scores of 13-0, 12-1, 11-2, 10-3, 9-4, 8-5, and 7-6, meaning there are seven different possibilities, only one of which is less than a two-run margin.

For this reason, when researching totals values, the higher over-under lines should be looked at as better opportunities to bet the favorite and lay the -1.5 runs. Once again, the more filters you can apply to these scenarios, the more accurately you can identify winning bets.

In this situation, consider park factors once again. If you can find a fitting ballpark for scoring, you may be able to anticipate a high-scoring matchup that the public wasn’t thinking to expect.

Don’t Overvalue Starting Pitching or Undervalue the Bullpen

Repeating what was said in another section, the public is enamored with starting pitching, and it’s often the primary – if not the only – variable with which they make their gambling decisions. Because of this, starting pitchers are consistently overvalued. A team starting their ace can expect to be favored in most contests regardless of the ballpark, umpire, weather, or countless other variables that impact the outcome.

It’s our job, then, to find ways to fade the public and profit. An excellent way to do this is to identify teams with a weak or tired bullpen. Researching which umpires are assigned to the game and looking up their yearly statistics can help as well. An ace going up against a small strikezone won’t look like an ace in that particular game. Then, imagine if the game is also being played in a hitters’ park!

That’s what baseball betting is all about: finding a spot in which a stud pitcher, who the casual fans love, is playing in a situation in which as many variables are working against them as possible. If you can grab +1.5 as well, that’s a tremendous bet that will treat you very well over time.

Bet +1.5 RL for Teams on Losing Streaks

In an earlier section, we applied a filter to our statistical results that improved the return on investment significantly when we isolated teams on losing streaks ranging between one and three games. The public reacts strongly to recent outcomes, so teams with consecutive losses commonly see valuable lines.

These teams are ideal for +1.5 underdog run line bets. You’ll get a better price because teams on losing skids often go ignored by the casual bettors and even the oddsmakers at times. Meanwhile, just because a team is losing, that doesn’t mean they’re failing by wide margins.

A margin of victory of two or more runs is still a difficult task, after all. But due to the losing, that +1.5 spread will probably pay out at a higher rate than usual.

Consider Everything and Combine as Many Filters as Possible

Whether you’re betting the moneyline, the run line, or the total, the more information that you acquire, the better the chances of winning baseball wagers. We’ve covered many different aspects of run line gambling here today, but the best bets will use and combine as many of these factors as possible. So, if you know that lower-scoring games favor the +1.5 side of the run line, what should you do?

Clearly, the first things you’ll want to know are the moneyline odds and the totals line. Using those, you’ll know which team is favored and how severely, as well as the kind of game the professional handicappers believe to be the most probable. Now, some of our systems say you should merely make your determination based on this information alone, but you could still find better value by digging deeper.

Maybe the totals line isn’t a perfect 7 or 9 and has actually been bet up to 10.5 thanks to the recent offensive explosion of the road team. Not to mention that both squads are rolling out their fourth or fifth pitchers in the rotation. Rather than automatically expecting a high-scoring game like the casual public, you look into some additional variables.

Sure, recent performances and who is starting seems to point towards lots of runs, but what if the park isn’t conducive to home runs? Worse still, the game is being played on a windy day, with gusts coming in from the outfield and stopping fly balls in their tracks. Then, the umpire assigned to the game is notoriously stingy with his strikezone, on top of everything else!

Suddenly, those set rules don’t seem like such a great idea. It doesn’t matter that everyone is telling you that the total is expected to be high; you know better. You at least know the high total is less probable than what they’re anticipating. If all significant factors are pointing towards fewer total runs, bet the +1.5 that you would for low-scoring totals, regardless of the actual line.

Meanwhile, you’re getting better odds on the +1.5 side because the bookies and everyone else knows that high totals are best for -1.5 wagers. See, while the tips and tricks shared here and elsewhere are good baseline rules to consider, they still aren’t the end-all-be-all. The more context you can apply and the more data you can collect, the easier your choice will become.

The Wrap-Up

While some sports utilize flexible point spreads to handicap matchups, with one side giving as many points as necessary to provide both sides an even chance of winning, baseball’s version is different.

Baseball’s only point spread bet is called the run line, and rather than increasing or decreasing with respects to the matchup, the handicap is always set at either +1.5 or -1.5, depending on the side. Because the spread is independent of the moneyline odds, the run line does not bring both sides to even money.

There’s still a favorite and an underdog; the odds just shift in accordance with the 1.5-run adjustment. So, a slight favorite on the moneyline may get +160 odds like a traditional dog once they have to win by two or more. On the other side, a moneyline underdog that’s taking +1.5 could move over to -120 odds, for example, like your typical favorite.

Handicappers have created numerous betting systems as well as fundamental rules to consider when placing this type of wager. We’ve shared several of them in this very article. However, beware of blindly adhering to these rules one hundred percent of the time.

Remember to apply a few more filters, looking for details that may have gone overlooked by the public. While they’re obsessed with starting pitching, remember to analyze all of the surrounding factors from the ballpark to the weather to any recent losing streaks.

The more information you can collect for each run line bet, the better. But even if you do stick to the basic rules within this article, you’ve at least set yourself up with a solid foundation. It will be there to build on whenever you feel ready to do so.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.