Grab your phone and open any sportsbook app, then pick a random MLB game. Swipe through all betting options.
Keep going… keep searching… keep scrolling.
Eventually you will reach the bottom of the page.
Within an MLB game, there are typically more than a hundred different ways to make a bet. And once the game starts, here come all these live betting options.
During the current boom in legalized sports betting across the country, sportsbook offers consumers what they expect from any type of retail outlet: plenty of aisles to browse.
However, all of these decisions could have unintended consequences. Bettors may have to deal with information overload or, perhaps worse, the potential to thin their bankrolls.
From the start of the handicap process, bettors have basically two different avenues, either set a set of defined parameters or treat the MLB board like a buffet.
We spoke to veteran MLB bettors about how they approach the sport from a betting perspective. They shared insights into the pitfalls that can arise when there are so many options, and had some recommendations for others to follow.
Numbers before dollars
Bill Krackomberger (@BillKrackman), a dedicated professional gambler who prides himself on teaching others, will have his intense focus on baseball for the next several months. Not necessarily because of his love of the game, but mostly because he can find discounted baseball game prices.
“I can go into a sharp deal like Circa and get a -105 for a baseball game when football games are usually -110,” Krackomberger said. “So there’s a 50 percent reduction in juice, and if you’re doing this for a living, not just for fun, any difference like that is very important.”
Being in the racket for so long has given Krackomberger a better understanding of the importance of juice. He doesn’t think most bettors have enough understanding of how much vig should factor into their decision making.
Looking at the prices that different sportsbooks use is the first step in betting on baseball, says Krackomberger.
He pointed out that a number of books are basing their lines on teams playing in big markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as the public tends to support them more often.
“You better not bet on baseball or any other sport unless you have several books open to look around.”
Noted bettor and handicapper Jason Weingarten (@Spreadapedia) agrees that thinking about the big picture is a fundamental aspect of baseball betting before putting down any money.
Bettors shouldn’t even look at the major betting spots on the MLB board, let alone the deeper options, until they have a game plan of where they should ultimately go with winning bets.
Just as a customer sits down for an initial meeting with a financial advisor, bettors need to have this type of conversation with themselves. What MLB bets to make? Well, that’s secondary.
“Someone has to first determine why they’re betting,” Weingarten said. “Are you trying to win $500 or $5,000? It is important to keep this dollar amount in mind as there is a difference between gambling just to play and gambling to win money.
“Playing well and winning money are not always the same.”
When it comes to analyzing all of the different betting options for an MLB game, quantitatively driven Weingarten isn’t too keen on sticking to sides or totals alone. His main concern is to identify any discrepancies between his handicap and that of the books.
“I look at my bets from a risk-reward perspective. If my number on a baseball bet says it should be +110, but I can get an edge if the book posts it at +135, then I’m betting on it.”
If Weingarten had a go-to MLB bet, it would be a run scored in the first inning. However, immediate satisfaction with the result is far from his motivation. The “Yes” bet gets pocketed about 52% of the time, and Weingarten believes the public perceives it hits a lot less than it really does. As such, he often finds odds in his favor as the books form a publicity-based line.
Weingarten is not dogmatic about this type of baseball bet. He occasionally plays the “no” when he sees value.
Five is the new nine
VSiN’s Jonathan Von Tobel, who prioritizes his NBA handicap but is still a consistent MLB bettor, uses what he calls a “fundamental approach” to focus on a defined set of data points.
“I bet sides or totals with a focus on the first five because a lot of my process is focused on thwarting the pitchers,” the host of The Edge said, referring only to betting on the first five innings. “That will lead to the occasional team total or run line bet, but that’s usually the deepest thing I’ll do on the menu.”
Focusing on a limited set of MLB bets is part of the maturing process that most bettors need to achieve. That means finding solace both financially and psychologically when presented with a plethora of options that can turn into a net negative distraction.
“I think an area of focus is important for bettors,” von Tobel said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on sides and totals and first fives like I do. But I believe when you’re new to a sport it’s important to find an area to focus on until you’re comfortable with your process.”
The MLB handicap process can be excruciating now that analytics plays such an important role, not to mention factors like travel, baseball stadiums, and home plate umpires.
Krackomberger says he’s open to a wide range of baseball bets and will often play game lines, run lines and totals. He’s much more willing to bet on sides in MLB than in the NFL or NBA.
“I don’t know anyone who can play long-term in the NFL.”
Like Von Tobel, Krackomberger has found some compelling reasons to bet on the first five innings.
“The first-five bets are good because you can focus on the good pitchers and what they can do,” said Krackomberger. “There’s more stability when you look at the first five bets because of the starters compared to what can happen if the bullpen gets involved.”
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Deciding which baseball bets to play is often based on understanding MLB trends.
So far in 2022, the emphasis on pitch rate is affecting launchers who are expected to throttle on every pitch. That means the tank is often almost empty around the fifth inning. According to FanGraphs, starting pitchers are averaging just five innings this season in a sample of more than 1,200 starts.
All of these seasoned bettors agree to some degree that the best asset an MLB bettor can have is information and data on starting pitchers.
Longtime sports bettor Tommy Lorenzo believes that sides are worth more than sums these days. He bets less on grand totals than he used to.
“The books have gotten tough in terms of grand totals. It’s getting harder and harder to bet on them,” said Lorenzo. “The opportunities are there, but they are getting scarcer by the day.”
As a result of a changing market and how the game is played on the pitch, bettors like Lorenzo and Krackomberger are gravitating towards props, particularly pitcher strikeout totals.
“There are a lot of paid and free resources out there that you can turn to for powerful analytical information about pitchers and predicted outcomes,” Lorenzo said to add.”
The most important word in this quote is “add”. When books offer more than 100 bets within an MLB game, it’s very easy to add more and then add more.
Don’t think that the books offer all these MLB betting opportunities out of kindness. They are aware that the more choices they offer, the more bets they accept.
Shooters love to shoot, and there is an abundance of targets during the MLB season.
Another problem when bettors get too prop-heavy: Weingarten says books can quickly put limits on prop bets and cut them off entirely for some players.
The bettors we spoke to agreed that understanding what drives bookmakers is crucial.
“That happens to a lot of recreational bettors or semi-professionals,” said Weingarten. “They get their only good bet for the night, and maybe they feel good about being ahead of the line. Then they start adding something because they saw someone on Twitter recommended those baseball prop bets. Then suddenly they have too many bets.”
Weingarten is not saying this from a holier-than-thou perspective.
In his early betting days he made this mistake too many times after making most of his bets late at night and early in the morning. This left a large time gap before the first throw and one was tempted to continue shooting throughout the day.
“I’ve heard bookies say baseball is their biggest moneymaker,” Krackomberger said. “With so many late games, bettors tend to chase, chase, chase and you can’t do that.”
While Krackomberger consistently emphasizes the importance of bankroll management, he claims it’s even more important during the long baseball season.
Even for someone like Lorenzo, who has seen many afternoons turn into early mornings in a sports betting book, baseball betting is a constant learning process.
“I liken it to a busy college football Saturday,” Lorenzo said. “You can’t bet every single game. Getting skinny is far too easy, especially since baseball is a daily exercise. I’ve been betting on baseball for 30 years and only until recently focused on the starting pitcher strikeout prop.
“With all the new offerings on the betting menu, bettors should stick to picking a starter, main course and dessert. You can’t order everything on the menu.”