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Betting the Right Number For Baseball Totals

When it comes to betting baseball totals, a little shopping can go a long ways. While most sportsbooks will have identical lines posted early in the day, that isn’t always the case as more wagers start to come in and books make adjustments based on the wagers they accept. As game time approaches, bettors can occasionally find different numbers at different sportsbooks.
Because of the nature of baseball totals, sportsbooks will generally adjust the odds first before adjusting the number. An example would be a total that opens at 9.5 and the sportsbook receives some action on the over. Instead of raising the number to 10, the sportsbooks will typically shift the odds, so that bettors taking the over will be asked to lay -120 to bet the over and betters can take the under at even money. This is normally written as 9.5o-120.

If the sportsbook continues to get wagers on the over, it may make one more shift to 9.5o-125, but unlike hockey, where you will see totals such as 5o-140, sportsbooks typically won’t raise the odds above -125. Some will eschew the -125 and change the number. But instead of raising the number to a straight 10, sportsbooks will use a number such as 10u-120, where under bettors are now asked to risk $120 to win $100.

An example would be the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Los Angeles Angels on June 21 in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game.

Sunday afternoon most sportsbooks had the total listed at 8.5o-120, but there were several books that had a total of 9u-120. The secret for bettors is to figure out which number to bet into.

In a sense, seeing different totals and odds posted on the same game is a bit like buying points when it comes to basketball or football games in that you can get a better number but you do risk more to wager into an advantageous number.

Having liked the under in the Angels game, it was a fairly easy decision to bet the 9u-120, as if the game fell on 9 the bet would be a push, while those wagering under 8.5 at even money would have a loss.

It isn’t quite so easy to decide on the over in the example, however, as the difference between the two numbers is now the difference between a win and a push, instead of a push and a loss if the game were to fall on 9.

(Those betting over 8.5 would have a win if the game landed on 9, while those betting over 9 at even money would have a push.)

What bettors have to decide is if it’s worth risking an extra 20-cents to bet over 8.5 (and lay -120) or bet over 9 at even money.

One other factor to take into consideration is that while the difference in the two totals is just a half-run, the bettor actually needs a difference of full run to win the wager, as they would push if the game falls on 9 and only win if it hits 10 runs. So essentially by wagering on over 8.5 instead of over 9, the bettor is receiving more actual value than just a half-run.

In football and basketball, buying a half-point will cost the bettor an extra 10-cents, meaning if Team A is favored by 10.5 and the bettor buys it down to 10 they will have to risk $12-to-$10, instead of the usual $11 to win $10.

Since baseball is much lower scoring than football or basketball, a half-run should, at least in theory, cost the bettor more, but it actually doesn’t in the example we used above.

In the majority of cases, a bettor is probably wise to go ahead and lay the -120 to get the best of the number. It’s almost a no-brainer in the difference between a push and a loss to take the better number and is usually the correct call in the difference between a push and a win. Sure, the bettor will lose a bit more on losing wagers, but that should be offset by the number of extra wins, especially if the bettor is proficient when it comes to handicapping baseball totals.


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