EDITORS NOTE: The late author and GamingToday columnist Huey Mahl wrote informative baseball articles nearly a generation ago that still apply. In Mahl’s memory and as a service to our readers we are reviving his successful gaming advice over the next few months.
The first time I ever bumped into a so-called "point spread" line on baseball games was back in the 1970s. Jackie Gaughan was the first to hang up the 1Â½-run line at the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. It was all inclusive of any odds posted for any baseball game and was not a "pick’em" affair, but carried a money line of its own.
Prior to that, when the odds on some favorites became prohibitive (-200 or over), some bookies dealt a 2 or 2Â½-run spread on those high lay games where the odds might be 10/11 pick or —120/even, etc.
But Jackie’s 1Â½-run line took off from the regular game money line and was quite intriguing. It was a case where favorites became dogs if you gave the 1Â½ runs, or the dogs became favorites if you took the 1Â½ runs tacked onto the actual score.
It’s a very tempting bet, and bookies guard their action by imposing lower limits and banning cross-line parlays. All the 1Â½-run lines I’ve seen are based on at least a 20-cent line. Most bookies get "sided" on this proposition. Most action is predominately bet on the regular favorite. But like the craps table, the house is most likely "sided" on the pass line, but the vigorish works in the volume/time grind.
What is misleading to the average bettor is that there are more baseball games decided by a one-run margin than one would normally presuppose. There is a high incidence of one-run results due to the unique nature of the game. That is, the home team has the advantage because they bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. Except for a come-from-behind grand slam, the game is automatically over when the home team goes ahead by one run. The inning is not completed.
The bookie crafts his 1Â½-run line from the regular money line initially. Thereafter, the run line has its own pool and operates independently from the regular money line. There are two types of 1Â½-run lines posted, depending on whether the favorite is at home or a visitor on the road.
I designed this chart, and it appeared in GamingToday before any other publication.
The column on the left is used by the bookie when the favored team is at home. The right column applies when the favorite is on the road.
Let’s take the case where the initial (no run) quotes are -180/+170 for the favorite and dog. In the run line, we always add 90 cents to the favorite’s price. That reduces the favorite’s price by nine 10-cent increments down on the scale to +110. Also, we subtract +100 from the dog’s quote. That’s ten 10-cent increments above the dog’s price to -130 when he takes +1Â½ runs.
Thus on the run line, the new quotes are +110/-130 on the favorite/dog quotes. This movement would apply to any initial quotes on the money line. Note, also, there is now a 20-cent straddle between the numbers on the revised run quotes (excluding signs).
On the right scale, we are making a run line from an initial -150/+140 dime-line quote when the favorite is the road team. Here we add +50 cents to the favorite’s price and subtract -60 cents from the dog’s price, cutting the line movement almost in half.
The -150 quote now becomes even money (+100), and the dog’s price moves to -120. This applies to all initial quotes on the dime line as well. New quotes are even/-120 on the favorite/dog relationship on the +/-1Â½-run line.