Baseball Betting for Beginners: Reading the Odds, Stats

In the simplest terms, baseball is a team game played with a baseball and a bat. Each team has nine players (sometimes ten including the DH). The game lasts nine innings, meaning both teams are up to bat and in the field nine times.

Baseball is America’s great pastime, and for this reason all American sportsbooks will not only offer bets on baseball, but will do so with many different lines and selections available.

Lets look at the basics of baseball betting, along with nuances and strategies to help you succeed. 

How to Read Baseball Odds

The odds on baseball will be written just like odds for any other sport. Most American sportsbooks will naturally feature the American style of odds on the MLB betting lines. 

This means that if you see a minus sign in front of a number you will need to bet that amount in order to win $100. This also signifies an event that is more likely to happen. For example, odds of -140 for the New York Yankees to win.

If you see a plus sign in front of a number, then for every $100 you bet you will make that number back. This signifies an outcome that is unlikely to happen. For example, +160 for the Chicago Cubs to win its next game. 

These odds will tell us two major things about every bet we make:

  1. The perceived chances of each bet/team winning
  2. The amount of money we stand to make if our bet is successful

The two above points are made clear with each set of odds available in baseball betting lines.

Let's look at a game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.

New York YankeesChicago White Sox

So which team is the favorite in this particular matchup? The Chicago White Sox is the correct answer as the Yankees have higher odds, meaning that their perceived chances of victory are lower. This also means a bet on the Yankees will have a higher return rate. 

This goes for all bets, not just on the moneyline. The higher the odds, the lower the chances that the sportsbook believes this bet to have. 

Reading baseball odds will be the same for most other American sports. The most common betting odds will be on the moneyline, totals and the run line. However, there are many different possibilities for what to bet on. 

Every bet selection featured however will have their own odds which help us understand the two above points. 

When Does Baseball Season Start?

Baseball is a Summer sport, though the MLB season is so long that it actually stretches from the Spring until the conclusion of the postseason in the Fall.

MLB seasons typically start with Spring Training. During this time, MLB teams will head to a few select cities in states like Arizona and Florida in order to practice and prepare for the upcoming season. Spring Training games are held every year, and are almost always attended by eager fans. 

Spring Training usually takes up the first part of March, afterwhich its time for the regular season to begin. The MLB regular season normally runs from the end of March until the end of September. MLB Playoffs are held from the end of September and run through mnuch of October as well. 

College baseball on the other hand gets an earlier start, usually holding its opening day in February. The NCAA season also ends with a World Series, which is normally held in June. 

Furthermore, if you cannot get enough baseball, there is also the annual Little League World Series which spans about ten days usually in late August, as well as the World Baseball Classic held every four years in March.

How long Does a Baseball Game Last?

The amount of time that a baseball game is dependent on a few different factors. However, the most important are the starting pitchers. If the pitchers go through the motions quickly and move through the game it could be a relatively short game. 

A broadcast of a typical MLB game will last approximately three hours. However, it can be shorter or longer depending on in game happenings. College baseball game broadcasts will usually last around two hours. 

There are two different extremes to game times. For example, if a pitcher throws a no hitter then the game will be much quicker. This is nearly what happened in the shortest MLB game in recent history, as a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox came in at under two hours.  

However, there is no real limit to how long a baseball game can last. Not even taking into consideration extra innings, the longest nine inning game between the Red Sox and Yankees was around five hours long. 

The Basics of America's National Pastime

For those who have recently started paying attention to this sports game and want to apply their knowledge when betting at the sportsbook, we will explain the main features and nuances that need to be considered.

  • Teams change sides after three players of the team batting are called out (could be a multitude of ways: strikeout, thrown out, fly ball caught).
  • The win is awarded to a team that scores more runs by the end of the bottom of the ninth inning.
  • There is no fixed time in baseball. A team up to bat  for just one inning could last anywhere from a couple of minutes to over an hour, depending on how soon three outs are recorded. 

If for some reason you don't know terms such as "inning," "run," "homerun," we recommend getting to know these terns before making bets on the sport. Baseball seasons take place mostly in the summer, when most other team sports are on break.

High odds can be not only on underdog teams, but also on league leaders because of the instability of the games. In the United States league (MLB), the number of wins and losses is within 60/40. In baseball there are no draws, and therefore it becomes slightly easier to predict the victory of one of the teams.

Different Types of Baseball Bets

Betting on the winner ("P1" or "P2")

In baseball, there are two main bets on the outcome: the victory of the first or second team. As we have already written, there are no draws in baseball, but some bookmakers take bets on the victory of a team, taking into account extra innings. That is, if the teams fail to identify the winner in nine innings, an unlimited number of extra innings will be added until a winner is identified.

Winning with a handicap on the teams

The handicap in baseball, as in other sports, is a predetermined difference of runs between the teams. For example, if you bet on K1 with a handicap (-1.5), the final score in favor of this team for your win should be a winning difference of 2 points or more in favor of K1.

In simpler terms, you must subtract the 1.5 from K1’s final number of runs scored. If you have chosen the odds of another team (1.5), the team cannot lose by two or more runs and you would instead add 1.5 to their score at the end. 

Totals Bets

Total is the total number of points (runs) that teams can score in nine innings. Also, some bookmakers offer bets on the individual total of one of the teams, that is, on a specific number of runs scored by either the home team or the visitors.

We've only described the major baseball bets that sportsbooks take. With the popularization of baseball, and especially in America, some sportsbooks offer bets such as "who will score the first or last run in the inning?", "will there be extra innings?", "who will get the first hit and win the match?", "Will there be a home run and in what inning” and so on.

Sportsbooks are mostly taken by players who are well versed in all the intricacies of baseball. Beginners of betting in most cases play on the main outcomes, and about the extended line offered on baseball, we will talk about in a separate graph of this material.

Baseball Betting Strategies

As in any sport, to make a profit on bets, you need to understand it (although even then it will not be a guarantee). Baseball is no exception, rather the opposite: as it is considered a specific sporting event in which you need to know all the subtleties, so as not to lose the entire pot.

There are many strategies for baseball, but mostly they boil down to the strategy of "dogona" (you can find out what it is in a separate article of our School of Betting).

Live bets on a draw in the inning

Once again: baseball games do not end in a draw. Teams at the end of the game identify the winner in extra innings. But bets on a draw within the first nine innings are accepted. The probability of a draw in nine innings is extremely high, and therefore the strategy of "dog" is quite popular among players with live stakes for a draw.

The downside is that the odds of a draw in the inning do not exceed 1.85, which forces the player to have a solid pot and increase the bet several times to win back the previous loss and come out in plus.

Betting on underdogs

Baseball is one of the most unpredictable sports, where notorious underdogs sometimes win over the favorites. And the odds on them are quite high. Within a three or four game series, there is a good chance that the underdog will win at least one game.

Many distance players like to bet on the victories of teams that are at the bottom of the standings. If you lose, the bet on the underdog’s next game should increase. Again, to be in the plus, you need to thoroughly conduct pre-match analytics and have a solid account for betting.

Pre-Game Analytics

Baseball is one of the big four sports played in America, and information about past matches can be easily found. Before betting on baseball, study tournament tables, past and personal team meetings, as well as injuries and disqualifications of key players in the lineup.

Choosing a Stadium

In baseball, all stadiums are different. They may be wider or longer, longer or shorter. Each stadium has its own wind rose, which means that the wind can both interfere with the players and help them by slowing down or accelerating the flight of the ball. For this reason, some sports facilities often host high scoring games, and others - grassroots. Many sportsbooks will indicate the stadium where the teams will play.

Learn more about the different MLB ballparks


Baseball, although a team sport, depends a lot on the individual skills of the athletes. Learning team pitchers is one of the most important factors in betting. A pitcher is a defensive player and put in the simplest way possible he is the one throwing the ball to batters.

Almost the entire dynamics of a game depend on his throwing. In the pre-game analysis, special attention should be paid to the study of the starting pitchers of each team as well as possible bullpen options: their physical condition, motivation and, most importantly, the opposing lineup in the upcoming game.

Starting pitchers are usually decided a few days before each game. You can check even before this though by looking at things like MLB pitching probables, which will show the expected starters for a game before they are officially announced. 

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