The runline is a form of spread betting for baseball. Similar to hockey’s puckline, the runline is not intended to handicap the game to create the opportunity for an even money wager. Instead, the runline creates a new set of odds for bettors – usually flipping the favorite and the underdog.
The runline works by adding 1.5 runs to the underdog’s final score or subtracting 1.5 runs to the favorite’s, depending on which side of the bet you take. In practice, this significantly alters the odds of the game. To win a runline bet on the (moneyline) favorite, the team would now have to win by 2 or more runs.
A Case Study For The Runline
As we can see, the New York Yankees are facing the Toronto Blue Jays. In the above we chart we see the moneyline odds and the runline odds.
In this scenario, the Blue Jays are coming in as a slight favorite at -108 moneyline odds (meaning a $108 bet would net you a $100 profit), the Yankees a slight underdog at +100 ($100 bet to win a $100 profit).
A moneyline bet is the most straightforward wager you can make. With a moneyline bet, you are simply betting on who you think will win the game.
With a runline bet, you no longer care who wins the game (at least not completely). Instead, you care about the spread. When betting the runline, you are betting on the game + or – those 1.5 extra runs. The runline can be a great way to shake things up and give you an alternate set of odds.
As we can see in the example above, the Blue Jays are the moneyline favorite at -108. But, when we look at the runline odds, the Blue Jays become the underdog at +147. This means that if you wagered $100 on the Blue Jays to win the puckline, you would have a potential profit of $147.
The runline odds also flip for the Yankees. They start as the moneyline underdog at +100. When you bet the runline, though, they become the favorite at -160. This means you would need to risk $160 for a potential profit of $100.
The odds flip when betting the runline because you are no longer betting on the simple, in-game winner. We can see that the runline is -1.5 for the Blue Jays and +1.5 for the Yankees.
This means that to win a puckline bet on the Blue Jays, they would have to cover the spread – win the game by more than 1.5 runs. Of course, there are no half runs, so they’ll need to win by 2. This is because the runline subtracts 1.5 runs from their final score.
Likewise, if you bet the runline on the Yankees, you are hoping that they will either win outright or lose by less than 2 runs since the runline adds 2 to their final score.
Let’s assume this is the outcome of the game:
If you bet the puckline on the Blue Jays, did you win?
Sadly, you didn’t. Although the Blue Jays won the game, they didn’t cover the spread of 1.5 runs. This means their “Runline Score” was really 3.5 (5 – 1.5) – less than the Yankees’ 4 runs.
Had you bet the runline on the Yankees, the result would be the opposite. Even though the Yankees lost the game, they won the runline! Their “Runline Score” would be 5.5 (4 + 1.5).
Another Example Of The Runline
In the above example, subtracting 1.5 runs from Toronto gives you a score of 2.5 – 2. This means your Toronto bet wins. As with our other example, if we add 1.5 runs on a Yankee outcome we end up with a score of 3.5 – 4, meaning your Yankees bet loses.
If this topic is still a little unclear, click over to our article about the puckline and spread betting explained, which gives you very similar examples and illustrations to this runline explanation.
What would change if this was the outcome of the game instead?
Well, betting the runline on the Blue Jays would cash! This time the Blue Jays’ 2 run victory over the Yankees is enough to cover the spread. Their “Runline Score” would be 7.5 (9 – 1.5).
Conversely, betting the runline on the Yankees would be a losing day. Their “Runline Score” would be 8.5 – still not beating the Blue Jays’ 9 runs.
Why Bet The Runline
The runline’s best asset is that it offers a new set of odds and adds excitement to the game. From our example (first chart), we see the oddsmakers think the Blue Jays and Yankees game is almost a toss-up. Betting the moneyline on either one is almost an even money bet.
The runline gives you the chance to take a spicier bet. Instead of taking the favorite straight up, you can bet they’ll win by at least 2 runs. Now, you’re no longer getting -108 odds on the Blue Jays, but +147. The runline gives the confident bettor a chance to make more.
You could also be in a position where you don’t think the underdog will necessarily win, but you’re fairly certain it’ll be a close one. In that case, betting the runline on the original underdog can be a great strategy.
Indeed, you’re getting lower odds (+100 to -160), but you are also increasing your chances of cashing the bet. In our scenario, the Yankees are a slight underdog. However, when we’re adding 1.5 runs to their final score, the whole dynamic changes.
Should I Bet The Runline?
Historically, baseball bettors have done marginally better on the moneyline than the runline. This, at least in part, is because most sportsbooks take a larger vig on the runline than the moneyline. That being said, the runline is a betting option to keep in mind, especially when you’re betting on a blowout by the favorite or a close game by the underdog.