One fun baseball related activity that is often overlooked is baseball betting. You can go to Daily Matches at William Hill and make a number of different types of bets.

I’m not sure why baseball betting isn’t as popular as other sports, but I think that it probably has to do with the nature of the game itself. In most team sports, you will have the full complement of the team playing every night (except for injuries, of course). But the big difference in baseball is that the outcome of the game is highly dependent on the pitching matchup. While the production of the team is an important factor, the starting pitchers will likely dictate how you are going to bet a certain game.

Good betting sites know that this information is key and will list the starting pitchers to make it easy for you to view that game’s starting pitching matchup. And even though that is one of the key pieces of information, the game is also dependent on the team’s bullpen. So sometimes you need to hope that the starting pitcher can last long enough, while pitching well enough, to put the team ahead for good.

The standard betting options are pretty straightforward and easy to understand, once you get the hang of it. The obvious one is where you pick the winner. There will be a betting line on this so that you won’t make as much when you pick a heavy favorite to win. A common format that the betting line is displayed as a fraction. For example, if the betting line for a team to win is 2/1, then that means that for every $1 you bet, you can win $2. And if the betting line were 1/2, every $2 you bet would mean a win of $1.

Sites that allow betting will typically set these odds based on the likelihood of a team winning. Even for those that haven’t taken probability and statistics courses, you can get the hang of it without much trouble. To make things simple, assume that there is some probability of each team winning, and since one of those two teams has to win, the sum of the two probability would add to 100% (since the game can’t end in a tie). So if Team A is playing Team B, and Team A has a 60% chance to win, then Team B has a 40% chance to win (and a 60% chance of losing). The betting lines generally follow these probabilities.

The fractions that are displayed as betting lines are the odds of a team losing divided by the odds of a team winning. So in this scenario, Team A would have a betting line of 40%/60%, which simplifies to 2/3. Team B would have 60%/40% or 3/2. Since Team A is more likely to win, you get a lower return on your money. If you were to bet $300 on Team A and they won, you would win $200. And since Team B has a lower likelihood of winning, if you were to bet $300 on Team B and they won, you would win $450.

Since I did oversimplify things there, you won’t see the betting lines of each team winning multiplying together to be 1 as they do here. Most sites will set the odds so that about half of the people will pick one team and the other half going with the other team. And as they are a business, they will offset the odds a little bit so that they will make some money regardless (such as one team being a 61% chance to win and the other being a 41% chance to win which slightly reduces their payouts).

Beyond betting on the winners, you will commonly see betting lines on the total runs and margin of victory. The total runs are typically listed as an over/under (higher or lower than that number) with a betting line associated with it. For instance, the over/under could be 8 runs with a 10/11 betting line. So if you are correct with the over/under, you almost double your money. With the margin of victory, they will assign a handicap to each of the teams, so the favored team could have a -1.5 handicap (where you subtract 1.5 runs from that team’s total to determine the winner) and the underdog team could have a +1.5 handicap (where you add 1.5 runs). And with each of the two handicaps, you would have a separate betting line.

So this was a quick explanation of the three most common bets you will see in baseball (winner, margin of victory and total runs) where you can bet for either team, which will drive the six common lines that you will see. I hope this was a worthwhile primer for you, but if you have any questions, let me know.