by Mike Hayes - 04/17/2006
Though it lags in popularity among baseball wagering aficionados, betting the MLB runline is an intriguing and potentially profitable alternative to the traditional moneyline, and now there are more runline options available to bettors than ever before.
At one time runlines were reserved for games that appeared lopsided, so much so that bookies couldn't generate any interest in an underdog regardless of how much those betting on the favorite had to lay. This is no longer the case. Not only is a runline available on every game, but some Internet books also offer reverse and alternate runlines, giving bettors several wagering opportunities on a single game. With more opportunities to choose from, there is greater potential to spot value.
In addition to the traditional moneyline, all sites offer a runline with the favorite laying 1.5 runs and the underdog getting the same 1.5 runs. When laying runs you will get a much better price than you would get on the favorite with the moneyline, and when taking the runs will get a significantly lower price and, in fact, will almost always go from a positive figure to laying money.
It is important to remember, however, that unless you are counting on a two-run home run in extra innings, laying runs as a home team, which is more often than not the favorite, means needing home team to win by two or more runs through only eight innings of at bats -- a decided disadvantage which explains the vast difference in price.
Take a recent game between the Dodgers in Pittsburgh for example. Pinnacle Sportsbook had the Pirates at -135 and the Dodgers at +125. If you were willing to lay the 1.5 with the Pirates, the price jumped to +162. Taking the 1.5 and the Dodgers would mean a -172 price.
Some sites offer alternative runlines, meaning you can get the favorite at +1.5 runs or the underdog at -1.5 runs. In that same Dodgers/Pirates game you could get +193 on the alternate run line with Los Angeles laying 1.5 runs or the Bucs at -213 getting the 1.5.
The Dodgers won this won 8-3, so Dodger backers who were willing to lay the 1.5 were rewarded with odds of nearly 2-1 rather than +125.
Bettors who favor the runline are sure to have more than the usual share of thrills, as well as the indigestion, that comes with sports betting, as 30 percent of all MLB games are decided by a single run, which might explain why most bettors stick to the moneyline. "Moneyline action is considerably higher than runline action for baseball," said Greg Jorssen, spokesman for Bodog. "In fact, 64 percent of our entire baseball handle is on the moneyline, as compared to runline betting which represents only 9 percent of total handle."
The Nationals played in the most one-run games last season, 61 (38 percent), winning 30 and dropping 31, meaning a bettor who theoretically wagered on the Nats with runs every game last season would have posted a record of 113-49.
The White Sox, though they posted an AL best 99 wins, were just 54-108 when laying runs, as they had had a Major League best 35-19 record in one-run contests - good for the Pale Hose, but bad for the guy laying runs.
The key in betting the runline, as it is with any form of sports betting, is identifying and capitalizing on value.
Jorssen said baseball is already the preferred sport among professional bettors because there is more value to be found than in the other sports. 'We actually had more handle in last year's baseball season than we did during the entire 2004-05 NFL season," he commented. "Most sharp bettors prefer to wager on baseball as there is a lot of value to be had in some of the lines."
The Yankees, for example, are almost always favored, but of course they don't always win, so there can be great value in games betting against the Bombers.
Last Friday Mike Mussina and the Yanks were solid favorites over the Twins in Minnesota, so much so that you could even get +100 on Minnesota at +1.5 runs. The Twins didn't need the runs, as Scott Baker and the Twins beat the Yanks 5-1.
When betting the favorite, the runline certainly looks appealing as you will, in most cases, go from laying money to getting money. Even if 30 percent of all games are decided by one-run, odds are that, should your team win, it will win by more than one run and cover the bet.
Pedro Martinez pitching against the Braves at Shea in the opener of a three-game set this week is a perfect example of this. Pedro and the red hot Mets look like a lock against Jorge Sosa , but at -200 or more most people will take a pass. If you think the Mets can do better than a one-run victory though, you can get the Mets as an even money proposition on the runline.
While laying the runs might be appealing, sharps prefer to take the runs when presented with the right opportunity. "Pros will almost always take rather than lay in almost any sport and it's no different on the runline in baseball," Jorssen added. "Baseball is all about the value of the number as anyone can win anytime."
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