When it comes to betting baseball totals, a little shopping can go a long ways. Whereas most sportsbooks will have identical lines posted early in the day, that is not always the case as more bets start to come in and books make adjustments based on the bets they accept. As game time approaches, bettors can sometimes find different numbers at different sportsbooks.
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Due to the nature of baseball totals, sportsbooks will generally change the odds first before changing the number. An example would be a total which opens at 9.5 and the sportsbook gets some action on the over. Rather than raising the number to 10, the sportsbooks will shift the odds, so that bettors who take the over will be requested to lay -120 to bet the over and betters can take the under at even money. This is shown as 9.5o-120.
If the sportsbook continues to get bets on the over, it may make one more shift to 9.5o-125,however, unlike hockey, you will see totals like 5o-150, sportsbooks typically will not raise the odds above -125.
Some will eschew the -125 and change the number. But rather than raising the number to a straight 10, sportsbooks will use a number such as 10u-120, where under bettors are now asked to spend $120 to gain $100.
An example would be the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Los Angeles Angels on June 21, 2009, in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game. Sunday afternoon most sportsbooks had the total listed at 8.5o-120, but there were many books which had a total of 9u-120. The secret for bettors is to think about which number to wager.
Having liked the under in the Angels game, it was a quite easy decision to wager the 9u-120, as if the game fell on 9 the wager would be a push, while those betting under 8.5 at even money would have a loss. It is not quite so easy to decide on the over in this example, nevertheless, as the difference between the two numbers is the difference between a win and a push, rather than a push and a loss if the game were to fall on 9. (Those who bet over 8.5 would have a win if the game landed on 9, whereas those betting over 9 at even money will have a push.)
Another factor to take into account is that while the difference in the two totals is just a half-run, the bettors actually need a difference of full run to win the wager, as they would push if the game falls on 9 and only win if it hits 10 runs. So essentially by betting on over 8.5 instead of over 9, the bettor is getting more actual value than just a half-run.
In football and basketball, buying a half-point will cost the bettor an additional 10-cents, meaning if Team A is favored by 10.5 and the bettor buys it down to 10 they will have to risk $12-to-$10, rather than the usual $11 to win $10.
Since baseball is much lower scoring than football or basketball, a half-run should, at least in theory, cost the bettors more, but it actually does not in the example we used above.
In many cases, a bettor is probably smart to go ahead and lay the -120 to get the best of the number. It is almost a no-brainer in the difference between a push and a loss to take the better number and is often the correct call in the difference between a push and a win. Definitely, the bettor will lose a bit more on losing bets, but that should be offset by the reduced number of losses.