Bet on Baseball?
For some, baseball is the BEST thing to bet on – real value. For some gamblers it is a disaster. Try to answer the following questions honestly to determine if baseball is for you. Should you STAY and bet? Or, GO, and wait for September and the NFL?
GO: SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
If you like betting favourites, baseball is even worse for you than other sports. The Spurs, Blackhawks, and Patriots win 70%+ of their games. The Cubs/pick the best team in baseball tend to win under 60%. If you go 97-65, it’s a winning % just below 60% and an awesome MLB record.
If you lack discipline, baseball will destroy you. There are 10-15 games on per night, staggered time zones, day games/night games (especially on weekends), etc. If when you lose, you press to get even, baseball can finish you off in days. If you are desperate during NFL season you only have Sunday Night Football, then MNF to get even, then a few days off. Baseball offers 400 games each month, almost twice as many as the whole NFL season.
STAY: BET ON BASEBALL
Baseball has 4 factors that make it the most attractive sport to bet:
1: Lower ‘juice’
Of the four major sports, baseball tends to charge the least ‘juice’ or ‘sportsbook’ commission. ‘Sportsbooks’ do this because they can make up the difference on volume (see point 2 below) and to draw people to the casino in the quiet summer when other sports aren’t being played. The NFL/NBA/NHL generally use 10 cent lines (each team is -110 or you need to risk an average of $110 to win $100). Many sportsbooks or ‘bookies’ will offer 5 cent baseball lines (each team is -105 or you need to risk an average of $105 to win $100). (Note: when one team is a small favourite, they will be -120/+110, but total juice is still 10 cents, averaging 5 cents per line, or half juice). Paying half the commission plays a major difference to the bottom line. Assuming you bet 50 baseball games at pick-em and go 26-24. Paying -110 ‘juice’ translates into 1.1 on your 24 losses (see ‘convert odds’ for details). 24 x 1.1 = 26.4, compared to 26 wins, and you LOSE .4 units. Paying -105 ‘juice’ translates into 1.05 on your losses. 24 x 1.05 = 25.2, compared to 26 wins, and you WIN .8 units. This is the difference between WINNING (.8 units) and LOSING (.4 units). This is a spread of 1.2 unit (.8 + .4), on 50 units risked – nice bonus for the better ‘juice’ advantage making a 26-24 record into a profitable one, net of ‘juice’.
2: Plenty to choose from
Each baseball team plays 81 regular season home games. There are 30 teams. That means 2430 (81×30) regular season games to choose from. If you are disciplined, you have 2430 regular season betting opportunities. But follow the ‘5×2 Commandments’ and stay disciplined. Do NOT bet 7 games per night and get juiced to death.
3: Numbers game
Like point 2, lots of games leads to lots of data, to play with/manipulate, or study. If it is September and the Patriots have won 22 of their last 24 games at home, that spans 3 seasons and the data is no longer super relevant. If the Washington Nationals have won 22 of their last 24 at home in early September, it is over a 6 wk span since the all-star break and indicative of a very hot team. When an NFL team has played a month of the season (5 games) and scored 150 pts, averaging 30 points, it may be a fluke (int for tds, big plays, etc). When an MLB team has scored 180 runs in the 1st month of the season (30 games), they are averaging 6 runs per game over a decent time span (or ‘n’ for statisticians) and likely indicative of a high scoring team (conducive to betting overs unless the market line adjusts).
4: Certain dogs can have ‘positive expected value’
Finding a winning formula in any sport is very difficult, but baseball makes it more possible. Betting ugly dogs especially at home, against big name teams can be profitable. The RedSox and Cubs tend to be over-bet, especially on the road against small market division rivals, teams like the Rays and Brewers. If you can stomach the ‘unpopular’ side, TB and Mil at home tend to be value. This is explained in ‘The Sharp Approach‘
CONCLUSION: KNOW YOURSELF
If you bet on the favourites, wait until the NFL season where it will cost you a few points, not baseball where betting teams like the Yankees & Dodgers will destroy you.
If you chase to get even, one August night can ruin your bankroll.
But, if you want to logically and methodically pick situations with a ‘positive expected value’, spend the summer doing math and betting baseball.
If you want to take advantage of low juice and unpopular teams, spend the summer betting the Marlins at home to the Nationals or even uglier, the Padres vs the Dodgers, and enjoy betting baseball.
need a refresher on the terms? See our glossary of terms.
need a refresher on the odds and how they work? See explaining the odds.
Also published on Medium.