Unlike NBA and NFL where bettors typically wager against-the-spread (ATS), MLB bettors primarily rely on moneyline (ML) wagers. The moneyline in MLB is usually a dime line, which in general, is the lowest vigorish of all the major sports. What a dime line means is if a team is -140, the dog would typically be +130 (a difference of 10 cents, hence “dime”). Granted, at many of your recreational books (square books), you may still see them hanging 15-20 cent lines, since players at those books don’t know any better. With that being said, the global MLB market trades at 10 cents. This reduced juice is attractive to pro gamblers as the lower vig increases their edge on the market. Obviously, it is easier to win at a dime of juice as opposed to a quarter. If you want to see what the juice is on any given set of lines subtract the underdog line (+130 in our example) from the favorite line (-140 in our example). This spread or margin is the juice that you are paying the book to make the transaction. Two evenly matched teams on a dime line (-105/-105) gives the book approximately 2.5% edge. So a bettor would need to win 52.5% of bets to break even. The same two teams at a 20-cent line increased the book’s edge to 4.5% on the same game, forcing the bettor to win 54.5% to break even. Professional MLB bettors clearly understand this reduced house edge and use it to profit. Daily fantasy players should use lines to determine the pitcher that has the highest percentage chance to win the game. It is important to remember though, that a moneyline is not predictive of how many runs a team will score. The best place to check MLB odds is Pinnacle Sports, because they are the best representation of true probabilities since they attract the biggest bettors.
A run line (RL) wager is essentially an ATS bet. The line is generally +/- 1.5 runs, although some books will offer other run lines as well. In this example, if you bet the Cubs RL -1.5, you would need the Cubs to win by more than 1.5 runs to win your wager. The mistake that so many casual gamblers make is playing a RL simply because they don’t want to lay the juice on a big favorite. It can be tempting to take a -1.5 -110 over a ML of -250; however, those are two totally different wagers. Logically, why would a book remove 140 cents of juice from the same side of a wager? It is because the ML and the RL are not 1:1 correlated. A ML does not indicate margin of victory, even if it is -500. An MLB bettor loses a tremendous amount of EV (expected value) by playing RLs simply because they don’t want to bet $500 to win $100. You should only bet a RL if your data is predicting a margin greater than the posted spread, and not simply to save the juice (unless your risk tolerance is extremely low). I think the RL has little to no predictive benefit to DFS players.
Strikeout props are great. They are easily modeled and generally you can gain an edge on the market. However, they are a relatively small market and lack any real liquidity, making it impossible to really earn a living betting on them. Generally, if you can find an edge on the market, sportsbooks will limit your wagers or boot you from the book entirely. The issue I have with using K props for MLB DFS is that they are generally heavily juiced. It is necessary for you to factor in the juice in order to get a true indicator of the predicted strikeout number. If a strikeout prop is 6.5, juiced to the over at -135, the true number is actually closer to 7 strikeouts than 6.5. Conversely, if you had a 6.5 prop juiced to the under at -135, the true number is closer to 6 than 6.5. If you really want the true number you will have to use the Poisson Distribution to calculate it, but estimating should serve just fine for DFS purposes.
Totals are one of the most popular MLB bets. A total bet is simply a bet on the total amount of runs scored in a game. It is posted as an over/under. They are also one of the more predictable outcomes we can wager on, which is why you can risk more money on a side (ML) than a total. Often times, the limits on totals are half as much as moneyline wagers at market setting books (we will talk about what market setting books are in another article.) DFS players face the same Poisson issue with posted totals. A DFS player cannot simply look at a total of 7, juiced heavily to the over or under and say that the game has a total of 7. Again, a conversion needs to be calculated to determine the true implied number of runs. The other issue with using a FG (full game) total is that it does not tell you which team is going to score the runs.
Team totals are bets that set over/unders on a team’s total runs scored for the game. I personally don’t play TT’s (Team Totals) simply because I have a greater edge in FG totals and MLs. This is likely the most used type of wager by DFS players and most traditionally do it wrong. The same issues we have with K props and FG totals also apply to TT’s. You MUST consider the juice on either side of the posted TT. In most cases this may make a minor difference in your daily decision making, but it is certainly important to know.
First 5 (F5) bet are bets on who wins the 1st 5 innings. The reason why you would want to bet a F5 is if you want to take the BP (Bullpen) out of the equation. F5 bets can typically be a moneyline bets, or sometimes even a run line bet, meaning you are either laying 1.5 or getting 1.5 runs over the F5 innings. Again I personally rarely have an edge on the F5 lines and avoid these plays. I think they hold no value for the DFS player.
First 5 Total
Just like the FG total this is how many runs total will be scored in the F5 innings.
This is a Yes/No bet on if there will be a run in the 1st inning. No is almost always juiced at times as high as -150 depending on the pitcher. If you are going to play score 1st bets, you have long term +EV to play Yes.