I’ll be honest, I wrote most of this column a year or so ago. However, I have been getting emails with follow up questions for the entire year so obviously some readers found the material useful. I’ve updated it and included the moneyline conversion chart. In my next column I will try to cover some of the follow up topics as well. If you are new to betting baseball, or have never tried moneylines in football or basketball, this is a great column for you.
Last week we talked about which is more important, hitting or pitching, when picking winners in baseball. This week I want to discuss moneylines in baseball and how the mathematics involved should impact your wagering decision.
Lets start with a question. Which of these bets would you prefer to place?
$300 to win $100 on a heavy favorite (-300) with a 75% chance of winning?
$150 to win $100 on a medium favorite (-150) with a 60% chance of winning?
$100 to win $200 on an underdog (+200) with a 33.33% chance of winning?
This is a trick question; the correct answer is that each scenario is essentially the same with an expected return of $0.
In scenario ‘a’, 75% of the time you win $100 but you lose $300 the other 25%.
Expected return = (.75 * 100) – (.25 * 300) = 75 – 75 = 0
In scenario ‘b’, 60% of the time you win $100 but you lose $150 the other 40%.
Expected return = (.60 * 100) – (.40 * 150) = 60 – 60 = 0
In scenario ‘c’, 33.33% of the time you win $200 but you lose $100 the other 66.66%.
Expected return = (.3333 * 200) – (.6666 * 100) = 66.66 – 66.66 = 0
I think you can see the pattern here. To calculate the percentage of wins required to break-even for any moneyline use the following formula:
Required Win % = Amount Risked / (Amount Risked + Amount of Win)
E.g.: a line of -110 implies a risk of $110 to win $100 so…
Required win % = 110 / (110 + 100) = 110/210 = 52.38%
Many readers will have seen this number before in my columns because this is the win percentage needed to reach the break-even point when betting spreads and totals in football and basketball. I can hear the collective groan from here as you remember why you hated high school algebra but I implore you to spend a few minutes on this if you want to be profitable at baseball or any other sport. However, let me save you a lot of work by adding in the following chart:
Just a quick note or two to make sure you are all clear on the chart. Have a look at the line for -180. If you lose, you lose $180 but a win only gets you $100. Thus you need to win 64.29% of the time to break even. Similarly, looking at +170, we see a loss only costs us $-100 but a win gets us $170 so we only need to win 37.04% of the time. This chart will be sufficient for almost all baseball lines and a large portion of football and basketball moneylines.
Why is this important? you ask. Simple. Every time you look at a moneyline, you need to know what winning % you need to break even. If you expect the -300 favorite from scenario a to win 80% of the time, than you’ve got a betting opportunity. If you expect a win only 70% of the time, than you should pass and move on to analyzing the next game.
I notice that most handicappers prefer to play underdogs and small favorites while public bettors like the big favorites. Which is better? There is no right answer as both can be right and both can be wrong, it simply depends on the game. Handicappers like underdogs and small favorites because these are picks that are harder for the average player to come up with. If you called a betting service and were told I really like the Red Sox with Pedro Martinez on the hill hosting the Tigers tonight would you be happy that you had just played $10 or $20 or $50 for that pick? No way! Pedro and the Red Sox should beat the Tigers every time out. Heck, our co-ed office softball team took 2-of-3 from the Tigers in spring training. Well maybe not, but you get the idea; if you are paying for a pick, you want something a little less obvious.
Another reason handicappers prefer betting the dog is it eliminates big losses. If Pedro has an off night and the Tigers get the upset win over a -300 or -350 favorite, would you call that handicapping service again? Probably not. But, if the same handicapper hits a win with a +160 or +200 dog, you would very likely be impressed and would be far more likely to use the service again. The handicappers aren’t being dishonest in any way; it’s just the nature of their business.
Although handicappers shy away from big favorites, you don’t have to. Looking back at the first month of the season, I see the Yankees closed as a -210 favorite or higher on twelve occasions. They won 10 of those games. Betting to win $100 on those 12 games would have meant risking a total of $2915 but would have made you $435, a decent return of 14.9%. I am sure I could look through a few other teams and find example where risking the big juice would have resulted in losses, but my point is that you do not need to avoid games just because the moneylines are big. You might choose to, but you don’t have to.
Remember that it doesn’t matter how big the price or how much you get back as long as you know where the break-even point is. Keep this in mind the next time someone says I never lay more than -140 on a baseball game. You can now tell them when they should. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a little more on moneylines.
The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.
Good luck with your wagers!
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino
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