When sports bettors wager on baseball, they often choose the run line rather than the money line. Most books offer bettors both, but often there are good reasons to choose the run line over the money line. In order to understand why, you first need to understand how both work.
Money Line and Run Line
The money line is a basic wager in which sports bettors choose which team will win the game. There is no spread involved when you bet using the money line. So if the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing, you are simply betting on which team will win the game outright.
Money line Example
The run line for the game might look something like this
Pittsburgh – 144
The Pirates are favored, which you must risk more cash ($144) to win less ($100). If you wager on the Reds, you would risk less ($100) to win more ($134). The reason bookmakers offer a more attractive payout on the Reds is because they are the underdog, and they need to generate action. The Pirates, because they are favored, will attract bettors readily, and so bookies don’t need to create an attractive wager.
One of the things that bookmakers know is that the general betting public will be instantly play the favorite. They also know that the favorite often loses. Still, they need to attract action on the other side by providing a fairly large payout on the team that is not favored.
Run Line Example
The run line is set up similarly to the money line. However, it also offers sports bettors a bit of a point spread. Basically, the run line reverses payouts due to the fact that the favorite is put at a disadvantage while the underdog is awarded an advantage. Run lines are either 1.5 or (on rare occasions) 2.5 runs.
The run line on the same game might look like this:
Cincinnati +1.5 – 175
Pittsburgh – 1.5 +155
With the run line, if you bet on the Reds, who have been given 1.5 runs, you must bet $175 to win $100. However, the Pirates, who are listed at -1.5 runs, in essence spotting the Reds a run and a half, now have underdog odds, as you can wager just $100 to win $155.
The reason why you have to wager so much more on Cincinnati when you play the run line is because the Reds, along with being on the plus side of the ledger, are also away. That means that they are guaranteed to come to the plate in all nine innings, improving their chances of winning outright or coming within a run.
Also, note that Pittsburgh is offered at a very high payoff as the favorite listed at -1.5. That’s because they have less of a chance of winning in accordance with the spread. If they are ahead by one run, they will not bat in the bottom of the 9th. Plus, even if they do go into the last of the ninth behind or tied, they simply need to win by one run and the game is over. If that happens and you bet on the Bucs, you would lose your bet.
The Reason for Both Lines
There are a few good reasons for sports books to provide bettors with a choice between the money line and run line. First, it helps to draw more action to the game. Now bettors have two choices in betting on the same game. Also, the run line works to attract those who believe that the Pirates will convincingly win. For those bettors, the run line is a good way to receive a much better payout while seeming to risk less.
In a close game, however, there’s a good chance that Pittsburgh will not cover. That means there’s a decided advantage for the bookmaker to offer the run line. Plus, the run line bet on Cincinnati is a substantial one, which may serve to dissuade sports bettors from going with the Reds. This is something that bookies would like to see.
By offering both types of bets, they are generating action on the Reds through attractive money line odds, and action on the Pirates with the run line that offers a solid payout. In both instances, the more attractive bet favors the bookie because it is more difficult to hit.
Why Choose the Run Line?
There are good reasons to go with the run line over the money line. Here are a few favorable circumstances:
- Take the run line when the favorite bats last and you think their hitting will produce a lot of runs, while their pitching drastically limits the underdogs.
- Also bet the run line if the underdogs are at home (which assures their final at-bat) and you think they can match the favorite. They won’t bat if they are ahead, and they will if they are losing, even by just one run. This gives you a great chance to cash in on a +1.5 run line.
- Wager on the run line when the favorite is away, getting to bat all nine innings. Only bet the favorite at home if you think they have the hitting chops to go into the bottom of the 9th ahead by at least two, and they have a closer who can seal the deal.
- Play the run line if you believe it will be a pitching duel and a tight game. This is especially true if you are going with the underdog, who can really use the points.
Run Line Disadvantages
The disadvantage of the run line is that it costs a decent amount of cash to get just 1.5 runs for the underdog, but the payout is substantially lower. Of course, taking the lower payout and heightened risk makes sense in certain instances, but not in all.
In a worst-case scenario, you end up taking the underdog with the run line in a game in which they are blown out. You may as well have bet the money line in that case.
No matter which type of bet you choose, you need to do so after careful consideration. Handicap each game to determine which wager, if either, works best. Remember that these bets list the starting pitchers, and if either of the starters do not toss a pitch, all bets are off. Bookmakers view starting pitching as integral to upholding the integrity of the lines. No other sport has this provision.