As with any sport, if you want to become a successful bettor in that sport, you have a lot to learn. Regardless of whether you are trying to become an expert MLB bettor or just a casual betting fan, you need to start with the basics. Understanding what MLB odds mean and knowing where to find value on a bet are great starting points for beginner bettors.
What Do MLB Vegas Odds Mean?
The very first thing that every sports bettor has to learn is what the odds they are betting on means. What is the difference between (+) and (-)? What does -150 mean compared to +200? How do I know which team is a favorite and which is an underdog? These are all common questions for beginner sports bettors and without knowing the answers to these basic questions you can't become a successful sports bettor.
What (+) and (-) Means in MLB Betting
When a bettor sees a sportsbook or a betting line for the first time, the first thing they will notice is that each team in a particular matchup has either a (+) or a (-) in front of their odds. Sometimes you will even see a (-) in front of both teams. So what exactly does this mean?
When a team has a (-) in front of their odds, that means that team is the favorite to win that particular matchup. A team with a (-) is a team that will payout negative money on your bet. What this means is that if you place a wager of $100 and your bet wins, you will receive your original $100 plus a profit that will be less than that $100. The amount is determined by the number after the (-). If both teams have a (-) in front of them than the sportsbooks consider this matchup to be close to a coin flip and neither team is really a favorite to win.
For teams with a (+) in front of their odds, this team or player is considered the underdog in the contest, and a winning wager on one of these bets will return your bet amount plus a profit equal to more than the betting amount wagered. If you place a wager of $100 on a (+) money bet, then you will receive your $100 plus a profit that will be more than $100, depending on what the number after the (+) on the bet is.
How Do I Know How Much Money I Will Win on My MLB Bet?
Whenever you place a bet, your bet slip will tell you how much you wagered and how much you win receive if your bet is a winner. However, if you want to know that amount ahead of time before placing your bet, that is easy for you to figure out on your own.
Anytime you see a (-) in front of the odds for a bet, you will be receiving a profit less than the total of your bet amount. Anytime you see a (+) in front of the odds for a bet, you will be receiving a profit for more than your total bet amount.
The base amount for a sports bet is -100. This means you will receive the exact same amount of profit as the bet you made. -100 is also the same as +100 but -150 and +150 are exact opposites. Think of -100 and +100 as "0". So if you place a bet of $50 on a team who has odds of -100 or +100, you would win $100. $50 would be your original bet back plus another $50 in profit for a total of $100.
The larger the (-) number you bet on (i.e. -200 is larger than -150 and so on) the lower the payout will be in relation to your bet amount. A $50 bet on a -200 bet would earn you $75 with a victory. $50 from your original bet plus $25 in profit. A bet on a -500 team would see you receive $60 on a winning wager with $50 being your bet amount and $10 being profit.
For odds with (+) in front of them, the larger the number is (i.e. +300 is larger than +200) the higher the payout will be compared to your bet amount. When betting $50 on odds of +200, you would receive $150. $50 would be your bet amount plus $100 for your profit since +200 acts as "times two" against your bet amount. +300 odds would act as "times three" so you would receive $200 in total on a $50 bet with $150 being profit.
While a bigger number of the (-) scale means that a particular bet is more likely to win, a bigger number on a (+) bet means the bet is less likely to win. The bigger the payout, the less likely the bet is to win. So while a +1000 bet looks nice and will pay you out 10/1 on your bet, those bets are a lot less likely to win than a +200 bet.
MLB Spread, Moneyline and Total Bets
Spread (also known as the "run line" in baseball) and moneyline bets are for specific games. The moneyline refers to the straight-up odds of a team winning the particular game. The spread, or run line, is the number of runs a team either has to win by or cover by in a particular game. In baseball, 99.9% of the time you will see a spread or run line of 1.5. This means the favorite will have a spread or run line of -1.5 while the underdog will see +1.5. This means the favorite has to win by at least two runs if you bet on them or the underdog either has to win outright or lose by just one run if you bet on them.
An example would be the New York Mets taking on the Atlanta Braves. If the Mets are favored, they would have the run line of -1.5 next to them. The moneyline odds could be something in the range of -200. On the other side, the Braves would be +1.5 and could see moneyline odds somewhere around +170.
While sports like the NFL and NBA typically have spread odds in the range of -110, it is a little different in the MLB. Since the spread is virtually universal at -1.5, the payout odds aren't always similar across the board. Yes, some spreads or run lines may have odds around that -110 range but they can also fluctuate heavily. For huge moneyline favorites, the run line may still be very high.
An example here could be the Houston Astros taking on the Baltimore Orioles. Two highly mismatched teams, the Astros moneyline could be in the range of -500 while the Orioles are sitting around +420. The run line wouldn't be around -110 in this situation as the Astros are expected to win by more than two runs in this scenario. Therefore, you could see spread odds somewhere in the range of Houston -240 and Baltimore +180 but the run line is still set at -1.5 and +1.5.
For total bets, a set number of runs will be established by the sportsbook for the number of runs expected in the game. Let's say the total is set at 7 runs (which is a low number). This means if you bet the Under, you need the total combined score of the two teams to be less than 7. If you bet the Over you need there to be more than 7 combined runs in that game. If the total ends up at exactly 7, both bets push and the bet amount is returned. In the MLB, totals are usually in the 7-11 run range.
MLB Futures bets
Futures bets are calculated differently than standard spread and moneyline bets. Futures bets are just given one simple odd for that player or team to accomplish that particular goal. There is no spread or moneyline for a futures bet.
World Series, Divionsal Champions and Playoff Odds
Odds for a team to win the World Series, their respective division or to even just make the playoffs are calculated similarly. The odds are given to each team to accomplish that particular feat and those odds are determined by their likeliness to accomplish that particular feat compared to other teams across the league.
The New York Mets could be +1500 to win the World Series. This would mean that a bet of $100 would win the bettor $1600 if the Packers win the Super Bowl. $100 for the original bet would be returned plus the $1500 in profit for winning the bet.
Teams are also given odds to win their respective divisions. In the NL East, you could see odds along the lines of:
New York Mets +110
Atlanta Braves +210
Washington Nationals +250
Philadelphia Phillies +500
Miami Marlins +1000
Playoff odds are similar to World Series odds. Teams will each be given a set odds amount that will change as the season progresses. All a team has to do is qualify for the playoffs either by winning their division or getting a wild card spot and the bet is a winner.
MLB MVP and Other Player Props
Player props such as who wins the MVP are calculated like World Series and other futures odds. Instead of a team being given a particular odd, a player is given one. An example would be Pete Alonso +800 to win the MVP. That means a $100 bet on Pete Alonso would win a bettor $800 in profit (plus their original $100 bet) if he were to win the MVP that year.
MLB Vegas Odds FAQ
How do MLB odds work?
MLB odds can be found on a particular game, a prop bet or futures bet. The odds depicted on a specific bet determine the payout for that winning bet. For example, a +300 winning bet would net the better three times their bet amount and a -200 bet would net them their original bet amount plus a half.
What do MLB odds mean?
MLB odds means how likely a specific event is likely or not likely to happen. Bets with (-) are more likely to occur than bets with (+) according to that specific sportsbook. The higher the (-) number, the more likely the event will occur, the higher the (+), the less likely.
MLB odds to win the World Series.
Odds to win the World Series are calculated at the conclusion of the previous MLB season and are updated as the season progresses. Teams with a better chance of winning the World Series payout less than the team less likely to win the World Series.
MLB odds to win the division.
Odds to win an NFL division are similar to Super Bowl odds. Instead, these odds are calculated for each individual team to win their respective division. The more likely a team is to win their division according to a sportsbook, the less the payout compared to teams less likely to win.
MLB odds to make the playoffs.
Similar to World Series and division odds, playoff odds are calculated based on how likely a specific team is to make the playoffs. The less likely a team is to make the playoffs, the higher the odds and payout. Teams more likely to make the playoffs offer lower odds and a smaller payout.
MLB odds to win MVP
Odds to win the MVP are calculated the same as the World Series, divisional or playoff odds. The difference is that these odds are on a single player to win the MVP Award and not on a team to accomplish a particular feat.
What is a MLB spread?
The spread on an MLB game is also known as the "run line". This number is virtually always 1.5 runs for both teams. The favored team will have a -1.5 and the underdog will have a +1.5 next to them. This means the favored team has to win by at least two runs to cover while the underdog can either win or lose by one run to cover.
What is a MLB moneyline?
An MLB moneyline determines the odds of each team winning the game outright. The team with the (-) is the favorite and the team with the (+) is the underdog. The (-) pays out less than the (+) team on an equal bet amount.
How to Tell the Favorite of an MLB game?
Whichever team has the (-) in front of their odds on the moneyline, or the (-) runs in the spread or run line is the favorite. This team is expected to win the game both outright and by the number of runs in the spread or run line. These teams pay out less money than underdogs.
From the 2011 to 2017 MLB seasons, 1438 games went to extra innings. That comes out to about 8.9 percent. This means that about one in every 11 MLB games goes into extra innings. In that span, the percentage per year has fluctuated from 7.6 percent to 10 percent.