Don’t be Square on High MLB Money Lines

Sunday the Houston Astros were laying -370 here in Las Vegas at home against the Kansas City Royals. Get ready to see a lot of high numbers like that throughout the season.

*There are several very good teams
*There are several very bad teams
*Good teams will be expensive at home vs. bad teams

The first "square" reaction (that of losing bettors) when they see a high price is to say to themselves, "I can't lay that high a price to win, the only way I can bet it is to lay -1.5 runs on the run line." As we've discussed in the past. That's NOT any better! It just feels better because squares are more afraid of high money lines than they are of runs. Plus, they just assume a big favorite is going to "kill" the horrible teams, so what's one run going to matter?

Look, oddsmakers don't turn into idiots when pricing run lines. Those are ALSO stacked against casual bettors. Oddsmakers know the value of a run, and make a price that still gets the house the best of it. Often squares are getting an even worse deal laying -1.5 runs. They think they've outsmarted the system…but they've only outsmarted themselves.

What's the "sharp" way to bet the highest MLB money lines? Usually it's to PASS the game! You are allowed to do that you know. We talked about this last Friday…sharps bet PRICES, not teams. The Wise Guys make a price on every game. Then, they compare that to the market. Would sharps ever lay -300, or -350, or -400 in a baseball game? They would definitely do that if they had an even higher grading than the market.

Let's say the line is -300, but sharps made it -350. Is that enough to lay the juice. No! A -300 favorite must win the game 75% of the time to break even. A -350 favorite must win 77.8% of the time to break even. That's not much of a difference in the big picture. A 50-cent grading might seem like a lot to you. It is in competitive games. A -110 favorite must win 52.5% of the time, a -160 favorite must win 62% of the time. That kind of grading is HUGE. But, way up in the higher ranges, 50 cents is almost trivial. Now, if sharps had made the game -400 (80% win equivalent), then they'd lay -300.

Sharps will generally bet more dogs than favorites because the market is stacked against favorites. Sharps use that to their advantage. Naturally, they will bet a lot more dogs than favorites at these high prices. They understand they'll lose more games straight up than they'll win. But, they win enough on successful bets to make up for that. Squares worry way too much about their "won-lost record" or how many tickets they get to cash. Sharps want to make money.

When you see high prices through the season, be aware that sharps are usually passing the game. If they're not passing, they're probably on the dog just because lines are stacked against public betting trends. To take a favorite of that price, sharps would need to see:

*A big edge in starting pitching
*A big edge in the bullpen (particularly a lockdown closing sequence)
*A big edge in scoring potential
*Motivation for the favorite rather than "playing out the string"

The fact that the AL powers are all fighting for playoff position could actually make some of those huge favorites bettable. Houston did beat Kansas City 11-3 after all (after jumping ahead 8-0 in the second inning). If great teams are convinced they need to win NOW, that might provide a percentage boost in a few spots. Still, gradings to big underdogs will be much more common for sharps.

What about using 5-inning lines? Some squares are afraid their bullpen will blow a late lead on a big favorite. They bet SO MANY favorites that they suffer that fate often enough. The math doesn't show this is any better. You're still laying a huge price to win the first five straight up, or giving up 0.5 runs on the half-game run line.

My best advice is to cure yourself of the urge to bet favorites all the time. Too many squares come to sports books trying to find ways to bet the best teams. The latest fad is to stick them all in parlays to try to sweep. On Sunday, there were a lot of public parlays featuring Houston and the NY Yankees (who lost). Many bettors also put the Cubs in parlays because there was "no way" Chicago was going to lose again to Cincinnati (wrong!). The more square you get, the more that can go wrong!