Sports Betting For Dummies
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Betting on baseball is fun. When a game can change so dramatically from year to year, it can be difficult to demonstrate a system’s effectiveness over a long period of time (one of the characteristics of a high-quality system).

For example, Major League Baseball sees big fluctuations in offensive production, and the most recent season, 2019, is the poster child for this phenomenon. In the years 2005 through 2018, there were 2 games with a total north of 13, and in 2019, there were 20! Some of my favorite systems and angles to explore are ones revolving around "extreme" odds, like very high or very low totals, or extreme disparities in the moneyline.

Betting against home favorites in extremely high total games (13 or more runs) was profitable in 2019. The underdogs won 11 games straight up and lost 5 for an ROI over 50 percent. That’s not a big enough sample size to reliably determine if we’ve got a winning system or not, and ideally, we’d like to look backwards and see if this system was profitable in previous years. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough games totaled at 13 or greater to supply us the history we need.

BET under extreme totals!

While the 2019 season saw the virtual disappearance of games totaled 7 or lower, they aren’t extinct, merely endangered. Betting markets appear to find it difficult to bet that a game will land on 7 or fewer runs when the league average is closing in on 10 runs! You can profit from the market’s inability to imagine a game without much offense. Here’s the setup:
In the Major League Baseball regular season

If a home team is an underdog AND

The game total is 7 or less

BET under the total.

Over the last decade, this system has produced a 55-percent record and an ROI of 5.6 percent. This system would have put you in the black nine of the last ten years. In high-scoring seasons, the opportunities are less abundant, but baseball changes from year to year, so by the time you read this, the high-flying home-run hitting offenses of 2019 might just be a distant memory, and you’ll have opportunities to bet under the 7-run total in droves.

The success at betting under extremely low totals is an indicator that there is a certain gravitational pull in the betting markets, almost certainly created by bettors’ preconceived notions about what a reasonable outcome is. The reality is that when two aces face each other, with great bullpens behind them, 4–0 and 3–1 games are relatively common . . . but gamblers have reflexive discomfort betting under extremely low totals.

Having said that, the number of games with totals at or below 7 has been steadily shrinking as run production has gone up.

Make the total bet at –110 odds. When the under is bet heavily, the odds will change before the total itself will move from 7.5 to 7. For example, if bettors are pounding the under 7.5 at –110, it will move to 7.5 –115, then 7.5 –120, and 7.5 –125 before moving to 7 –110. And as the odds move from –110 toward –125, the break-even win percentage increases. You have to win 55 percent of your bets to be profitable on –125 odds.

BET big favorites!

Although studies have shown that heavy favorites and home teams tend to get undue attention from bettors, the results of the last decade of baseball unequivocally show that there’s money to be made betting with the favorite rather than the opposite.

If we assume home favorites get over-bet, the same is not true of road favorites. Here’s a simple setup you can watch for:

In the Major League Baseball regular season

If a team is favored by –201 or more (i.e. a more negative number) AND

That team is on the road

BET the road team’s moneyline.

It’s simple but profitable: A bettor who started following this strategy in 2009 would have seen a 12.3-percent ROI since then with only two down years. This table give you the data.
Betting Big Favorites
Year W/L Record ROI
2009 13–1 +35.4%
2010 15–7 –1.4%
2011 6–9 –41.5%
2012 9–0 +45.5%
2013 9–1 +29.6%
2014 5–1 +20.3%
2015 12–4 +7.3%
2016 29–9 +9.7%
2017 38–11 +9.4%
2018 65–14 +17.1%
2019 87–20 +13.9%
Total 288–77 +12.3%
A few things to think about with these systems:
  • The data I collected comes from a combination of and my own homegrown baseball database. My data suggests heavy favorites are three times as likely to get more expensive than less expensive (which is an indicator that favorites naturally get more attention from bettors, or possibly that this is a publicly known system). That is, a game listed at –220 is much more likely to go off at –230 than –210. That means betting early is important for this system.
  • These 365 games have an average line of –241, or a 70-percent break-even rate. The 78.9-percent win rate of this system is more than enough for profitability, but you can see where shopping for the best odds matters.
  • I’m listing ROI rather than a flat profit number because clearly the amount of money a bettor makes is dependent on how much is risked. I don’t flinch at showing the very negative returns from 2011 because there were so few betting opportunities. If you were using some form of Kelly bet-sizing or flat-betting, you wouldn’t have lost much of your bankroll on this strategy.
  • We can conclude that the game has been changing in recent years. Particularly, the prevalence of high road favorites has gone through the roof, indicating that perhaps Major League Baseball has a parity problem. In 2014, there were only six betting opportunities out of 2,430 regular season games, and in 2019, there were over 100.
  • Data suggests that betting on the road run line favorite is slightly more profitable, and I’ve even gotten this recommendation from people within the bookmaking industry.

As with any system, this one could dry up tomorrow, or it could continue for another decade. If more people know about it, more people bet it. If more people bet it, the prices on big favorites go higher. As big favorites get more expensive, the break-even percentage goes up.

The good news is, like any long-standing, simple, broad system, this one is begging for an astute bettor to dig in and refine it. Maybe the win percentage gets better if you avoid high-total games or exclude big public teams like the Yankees and Cardinals.

BET pitcher’s duel losers!

In the spirit of betting against public sentiment, consider the premise that there is nothing more pathetic in modern baseball than a team that loses 1–0. Your batters are so ineffective that they can’t produce a single lousy run for your poor, overworked, overachieving pitcher.

Keep your eyes peeled for situations where good teams are on the wrong end of a 1–0 shutout. It appears to have a motivating effect on the next game’s batters:

In the Major League Baseball regular season

If a team lost by a score of 1–0 in their last game AND

The losing team is favored in their upcoming game

BET on the favorite team’s moneyline.

In the last decade, this situation has come up about 10 to 15 times per season and has produced a +11-percent ROI. It works at home and on the road, but the very best situation seems to be when a team loses 1–0 in their final series game against an opponent. These teams effectively take their frustration out on their new opponent, building a 56–25 record, for a +18-percent ROI.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Kevin Blackwood is a highly successful blackjack and poker player. He has written for several gaming magazines and is the author of four gambling books.

Swain Scheps is a games enthusiast, numbers guru, sports betting expert and the author of Business Intelligence For Dummies and Sports Betting For Dummies.

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