Baseball fever’s catching!

Apr 3, 2001 8:41 AM

By Adam Soboleski

What can be long, somewhat boring, but profitable for a bettor?

No, it’s not cricket or golf. It’s baseball!

The Major League Baseball regular season has just started, and with it — the real betting with the first pitch of the regular season — not that spring training stuff.

“Baseball is the least profitable sport for a book,” said Imperial Palace race and sports director Jay Kornegay. “The house will come out ahead at the end of a season, but it’s very small — less than 1%.”

The smart bettor is attracted to baseball.

“Wiseguys do very well,” Kornegay added. “The wiseguys will play it if they see an advantage. Information (on handicapping) is usually good.”

Betting underdogs

Andy Iskoe, a contributing baseball writer to GamingToday, said shopping for values is important.

“Some fans will overplay a favorite and bring in a good price on an underdog,” he said. “A number of handicappers won’t play overpriced teams. Eighty percent of baseball betting comes from wiseguys or regular handicappers.”

Last year’s statistics indicate underdogs are a better bet.

In games where favorites were –110 to –150, their record is 806-702 (.534 winning percentage). But to break even, you’d need a .565 winning percentage.

In games where favorites were –155 to –200, their record is 346-259 (.571 percent). But you would need a .639 winning percentage to break even.

Let’s move to the next money-line bracket (–205 to –320). Favorites in those games were 86-45 (.655 winning percentage). But you’d need a .705 winning percentage to break even.

Are heavy favorites good bets?

Favorites continue to be overbet. In one game last year, Boston was –400.

That’s because Boston sent ace pitcher Pedro Martinez against Tampa Bay. Boston won 7-3. Teams that were –330 or better last year went 4-0.

“We’re seeing the (high betting number) more and more,” Kornegay said. “That’s because of the payroll situation.”

Kornegay is talking about the rich teams getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.

In the last three years, the team with the highest payroll — the New York Yankees — has won the World Series. The Yankees are a 5-2 favorite to win it again.

Parlays, run lines

According to Iskoe, parlays can be profitable if played correctly.

“Sometimes I like to play two big favorites on a parlay instead of one,” he said. “I can parlay to win +125 instead of winning just one favorite at –170. A lot of this is money management and how you make plays.”

A run-line can also turn a favorite into an underdog. Run lines are when a team has to win by more than 1½ runs (or win by two or more runs). This could be a better value.

“You can turn, let’s say, a –170 favorite into a +125 underdog by playing the run line,” Esposito said.

Dog days of summer

In the middle of the summer, baseball takes center stage (or what’s left of that stage), with only WNBA to compete for daily betting.

“The dog days of baseball are especially (slow) during July and August,” Kornegay said.

Iskoe agrees.

“There is less public participation in baseball,” he noted. “People like to come into town and play football or basketball.”


Imperial Palace offers perhaps the most baseball props. There’s the always-popular over/under on a team. Another team bet is a future on whether one will win its division. That one isn’t offered at many books.

There are also futures on who will win the American and National League pennants, and who will win the World Series.

“The props are getting a lot of action,” Kornegay said. “The over/under wins are popular. The division titles are probably almost as popular as the Final Four.”

No parlaying is allowed on any future wagering.

There are also individual player match-ups, like who will have the most home runs — Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire. Sosa opened –140 and is now
–170. Big Mac opened +110 and is +135. There’s also a prop on who will have the most regular season home runs. Sosa is a 7-2 favorite, followed by McGwire at 4-1.