What is Run Line Betting?

New Yorkers have a history of being savvy sports bettors as well as knowledgeable baseball fans. With the New York Yankees and New York Mets the big shows in town, baseball is forefront during the summer months.

If you’re familiar with betting on baseball, you might not need a rundown on the run line. However, if you’re new to sports betting, particularly MLB betting, you might need an overview.

Below we’ll go over what exactly the run line is, where the value in betting the run-line lies, and any specific rules or advantages.

What is the run line?

The run-line is baseball’s version of spread betting. In football, the most popular way to bet a game is through the spread. You can bet whether a team will cover the 3.5 point spread. The same principles apply to run-line betting in baseball.

However, the run line in baseball is almost always 1.5 runs. You can bet whether you think the favored team will win the game by at least two runs, or if the underdog will either keep the game within a run or win it outright.

TeamRun-LineMoneylineTotal
NY Mets-1.5 (+130)-160Over 8.5 (-120)
Miami Marlins+1.5 (-150)+140Under 8.5 (+100)

In the above example, the Mets are playing the Marlins. They are -160 favorites on the moneyline. To win $100 on that bet, you’d need to risk $160. However, they are +130 underdogs to cover the 1.5 runs on the run line. In this instance, you’d win $130 on a $100 bet. You would be out of luck if the Mets won the game by just one run, but you give yourself a better potential payday.

Why is the run line always 1.5 runs?

Baseball balls
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The run line is almost always set at 1.5 runs. This is because baseball is a lower-scoring sport with more variance. In football and basketball, the games are higher scoring. Baseball games usually have between 7-10 runs between both teams while basketball games have over 200 points between the two teams and football games have near 50 points. Each point in football or basketball is worth less than a run in baseball.

Additionally, the discrepancy between the good teams and the bad teams is wider on a game-by-game basis. In football, the worst team might win only a single game or two while the best teams can win 14 or 15 games. In baseball, usually, even the best teams will lose at least 50 games and the worst teams will win at least 50 games.

In some instances, you’ll see the run line set at 2.5 runs. This usually happens when one of the league’s elite teams faces off against a poor team and the pitching matchup is extremely one-sided.

For example, if the Yankees are starting Gerrit Cole and playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles, this is an instance where 1.5 runs might not be enough and the sportsbooks move the run line to 2.5 runs.

If action is one-sided on a run line, it still won’t usually move the spread. The odds associated with the run line will move. For example, if the Mets open as +140 favorites to cover the run line but the action is one-sided, the run line would remain at 1.5 runs but the odds might shift down to +120.

How is the run line different from the moneyline?

The run line is different from the moneyline. When you bet a team on the moneyline, you’re simply betting them to win the game. It doesn’t matter if they win a one-run nail biter of a game or if they blow the other team out by a score of 10-0. Your bet will still pay the same amount.

With a run line bet, you need to account for the margin of victory. If you bet the Mets to cover the run line of 1.5 and they win the game 3-2, your bet is a loser. This same bet would be a winner if you bet the Mets on the moneyline. You are sacrificing the probability of your bet winning in exchange for better odds.

It works both ways. If you bet the Yankees to cover a +1.5 run line as underdogs and they end up losing the game 5-4, you still win your run-line bet. However, if you got greedy and bet them on the moneyline, your bet is a loser. When you bet the underdog to cover the moneyline, you are boosting the probability of your bet winning but sacrificing the higher odds.

Is it better to bet the run line or moneyline?

Both the run line and moneyline have value in baseball betting.

Moneyline betting is simpler. You don’t have to worry about the margin of victory. Simply pick a team to win a game and then sit back and root for it to happen. It’s pure and brings us back to the days of being a young fan who doesn’t care about things like spreads. However, if you are betting favorites on the moneyline, you need to risk more money which requires a winning percentage of well over 50%.

Baseball run line betting offers better payouts if you’re betting on the favorite, or it offers more security if you’re betting on the underdog. If you want to bet on a substantial favorite, it’s smarter to bet them on the run line so you don’t need to risk as much money.

When are run line bets pushed?

Run line bets are rarely pushed. The run line is usually set at 1.5 runs, which makes a push impossible.

Occasionally, oddsmakers will make the run line an even number or offer alternate lines with that option. Additionally, sometimes when live betting the run line will be an even number.

In this situation, if the final margin of victory lands exactly on the set run line, all wagers will be refunded and graded as “no action.”

Does the five inning rule affect run line bets?

In cases of inclement weather, baseball games can be deemed “official” games once the visiting team has made 15 outs (5 innings), and the home team is leading or once the home team has made 15 outs, regardless of the score.

Batter for NY YankeesIf a game you bet on has been shortened, only your moneyline bets will be valid. All total, team total, and runline bets are refunded. This is because a shortened game unfairly affects the bettor. It takes away scoring opportunities for teams to score. It also takes away the opportunity for a team to score more runs to cover the run line.

Can I bet run line parlays?

Sports bettors love parlays. A parlay means that you pick two or more separate bets, and combine them into one bet. All of the bets must win individually for you to win your bet. If even one of your bets loses, your whole bet loses. Parlay sports bets are harder to win, so they offer increased betting odds and higher payouts.

Run line parlays are a valid option and can offer a tremendous payday if you win every leg. However, picking multiple games correctly is tough enough, and if you include the run line, it becomes even harder.

Check the run line betting rules of your sportsbook. Some sportsbooks have a maximum amount of legs you can include in your parlay or a maximum amount of underdogs you can include in your bet. Almost all sportsbooks and sports betting sites will allow you to parlay baseball run lines.

Can you live bet MLB run lines?

You can bet a run line after the game has already started and well into the game. However, the odds and lines will change based on what has already happened in the game. For example, if the Yankees have a 5-0 lead on the Red Sox in the fourth inning, the live run line would be -4.5 or -5.5 rather than the normal -1.5 it usually is pregame. This is because the Yankees are already winning the game handily.

Usually, when betting the run line live, the new run line will be right around what the score differential is in the game at that time. In the above example, Yankees -4.5 might be a -160 favorite since they already have a five-run advantage. On the flip-side, the live line might be -5.5 as a +150 underdog. They would become an underdog in this situation because they would need to expand their lead rather than maintain it.

Does the run line change much for the Playoffs and World Series? 

Even in the playoffs, the run line will mostly stay consistent with a spread of 1.5 runs. The difference will come in the vig.

During the regular season, you will see a lot of good teams playing against a lot of bad teams. In those games, the run line might become overly inflated. For example, if the Yankees play the Orioles, the Yankees might be -150 favorites to cover the run line.

In the playoffs, there are no bad teams. Therefore, games are expected to be closer in score and you will get better odds on the run line. If the Yankees play the Astros in the playoffs, they’ll likely be plus-money to cover the run line if they are the favorites.

You will not have to lay much juice on a run line in the playoffs. Games are usually closer. For the most part, betting the favorite to cover the run line in the playoffs should be a plus-money bet. That’s not always the case in the regular season when we see larger mismatches on a nightly basis.

Are there systems for betting the run line in baseball?

There are betting systems for almost every type of bet. There are plenty of different systems to try and gain an advantage over the sportsbook, and the run line is no different. Each bettor needs to find their preferred way to attack a game.

A popular run line betting strategy is to bet teams getting +1.5 runs on the run line at plus-money. There’s a contrarian mindset at play here. If you are an underdog to keep the game within two runs, you are most likely a bad team playing against a good team. The public loves betting on good teams, and going against the public is a good way to be contrarian. Even bad teams win games in baseball.

Another run line betting system is to bet teams to cover the +1.5 runline in games with low totals. The logic is simple. If a game is projected to be low-scoring, runs will be at a premium and the likelihood of a team winning by only one run is much higher compared to a game where there are a lot of runs expected. It’s hard to cover multi-run spreads if the game doesn’t have many runs to begin with.

Other bettors like to combine run line bets with moneyline bets. For example, if you think the Mets will win a game, you bet them on both the moneyline and the run line. This way, if the Mets win by multiple runs, you’d win two bets and increase your winnings. This is a riskier proposition as you can lose both bets, but the payoff could be worth it.

What other sports have spreads similar to the run line?

When betting on hockey, you can bet the puck line. It’s almost the same thing as run line betting. Baseball and hockey are similar in that they are lower-scoring sports with a lot of variances. Like baseball, hockey favorites to cover the puck line is usually a plus-money bet.

Soccer has similar spreads in their games. Soccer games have handicaps such as half a goal. There are other markets called Asian handicaps where your bets can be refunded if a team wins by only one goal but you win your bet if they win by multiple goals.

In more one-sided matchups, there are spreads in soccer. For example, if Spain is playing Saudi Arabia in the World Cup, the spread might be 2.5 goals as the Spanish National Team would be large favorites to win handily.

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