How to Bet on MLB and NCAA Baseball

The MLB fills a major hole throughout the summer when not a lot of sports are on. Each team plays 162 games before battling it out in a 12-team playoff in October. This leaves plenty to bet on throughout the summer with baseball games on almost every day and night throughout the summer. Here are some of the best ways to bet on the MLB and tips on how to do it well.

Most baseball betting is on MLB. This includes the MLB Playoffs and World Series games. The College World Series may make it on a few online sportsbook menus. There may also be some action on games in other countries, like Japan and South Korea. 

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Moneyline betting

Moneyline betting is one of the simplest ways to bet on any sport. Betting on the moneyline is based around picking whichever team is going to win the game. This makes for an easy bet for beginners and is simple to track. These are also very popular bets in the MLB because of how close many games are.

The moneyline bets are popular in the MLB, but staying away from big favorites is a good suggestion. Baseball games typically finish close, so choosing a huge favorite loses value. With teams that are big favorites, bets have to be higher for the bigger payouts, which increases the risk. The best teams will typically lose a couple times a season to bottom tier teams, making all games have some risk. 

For example, a big favorite may be -300, meaning you must lay $300 for every $100 that you want to win. A few upsets can create a bankroll disaster when laying big chalk like this. 

A good strategy in moneyline betting is to watch starting pitchers. If a struggling team is playing with their ace pitcher on the mound, it could help them pull off the upset. If a pitcher has been hot entering the game, it could also help their team win. 

Another thing to watch for is a big underdog who has lost the first couple games of a divisional set. Sweeping a team is hard in the MLB. For the same reason, watching teams on long winning streaks or losing streaks and betting on that streak to end is not a bad strategy. All streaks come to an end and you can find value there.

Run line betting

Run lines in the MLB are typically listed at -1 ½, which evens out close games. These spreads are used to add value to big favorites and underdogs to cover. With run lines staying at -1 ½, the odds on the spread varies from game to game. These odds help balance out how likely a team is to cover the spread.

If you get positive odds on a run line of +1 ½, it can be really good value as most games finish relatively close. Getting the road team with that type of line is strong as well because if the home team is winning in the ninth inning, they do not bat that final time. When we say positive odds, that means that the team getting 1.5 runs is also getting plus money. An example of that line may be the Marlins +1.5 +140 against the Braves.

Another strategy with run lines is using the -1 ½ line to get value on a big favorite. If there is a big mismatch between teams and starting pitchers, using -1 ½ to get value is not a bad idea. Road teams are also guaranteed to bat all nine innings, which can gain an edge as well. Note some of these benefits are priced in the odds, while others are not.

Over/ under betting

Over/ under betting is popular in the MLB as well. Total bets are based around adding up both teams’ final scores. Over/ unders are typically somewhere below 10 runs. With a smaller total differential, over/ unders can vary with their odds a bit. This can allow for underdog type value on a certain side of the total.

A good strategy when betting on over/ unders is about watching pitchers. If two teams are coming in with struggling starting pitchers, it could lead to an over. On the other hand if both starters are hot, it could be the under. Seeing how well teams have done at the plate is also key to picking over/ unders.

A big thing to look for in totals is also watching out for much higher and lower totals. Games that have a much higher over/ under could be a good bet for an under as an overreaction, while games with a low under could be a good bet for the over. Games tend to balance themselves out and when these bets get too high or low, it is typically an overreaction to recent performance.

Another important aspect with totals is elevation. You will notice that the over/ under for a game in Colorado or Arizona will have a much higher number than ones played closer to sea level involving the same teams and pitchers. A baseball travels farther when hit at these ballparks. That causes more home runs. 

Five-inning lines

Five-inning lines are a way to bet with starting pitchers. These bets only count through the first five innings and you can bet the typical moneyline, spread and over/ under. A moneyline bet is lost on a tie through five innings, but usually spreads are listed with similar odds to the moneyline at +0.5 or -0.5. On moneylines, a tie is an option in a three-way bet.

When betting on five-inning lines, it is important to watch out between starting pitchers as they will likely play most of that time. Finding a team that is worse than the other, but has the edge with their starting pitcher, could be a great bet. 

Choosing good over/ under value on the five-inning line can also be a solid bet if two strong starters are on the mound or if two weaker pitchers start. Finding a team in a bullpen game in the first five innings can be a good team to bet against. Watching how teams do the first time or two through the lineup can be a factor in the matchup.

Yes/ No run first inning

Another popular bet can be the YRFI (Yes Run First Inning) or NRFI (No Run First Inning), which is whether or not either team scores a run in the first inning. Watching which pitchers are starting and how they do in the first inning can give a leg up to these types of bets. Looking at how those pitchers start the first inning is also a way to get ahead on these bets.

Finding higher scoring offenses and betting the yes run in the first inning can be a good profit. Teams coming off a shutout are more likely to score early in their next matchup. Teams coming off big offensive performances are more likely to have a lower scoring game and betting on the no run first inning can be a good bet.


Baseball parlays typically involve multiple moneylines, run lines or totals. These may not be correlated. This means that you cannot parlay a moneyline and a run line on the same game. However, you could bet one of those with a total in a parlay.

All legs of a parlay must win for it to get paid. If a side pushes or gets rained out, that leg is dropped. A two-team parlay with a rain out and a win is paid as a straight bet.


Baseball futures involve betting a team to win a division, league or the World Series. The lower the chance a team has to win, the higher the odds are on that futures bet.

How rainouts affect baseball betting

Sportsbooks have house rules on how rainouts are handled. If a game does not go at least 8.5 innings, the total will be a push. A total is usually paid if a game goes nine innings, even if it rains out during extra innings. Sides normally get paid after five innings. 

Always check the house rules for how this is handled. These can vary by sportsbook.

Last Updated on July 10, 2023 by Kristina Mehaffey