Ready to Win Some Won?!

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

You don’t have to worry about the exchange rate (currently about 1,228 Korean won per one American dollar). But you do need to focus on sound strategies if you’re going to bet professional baseball from Korea.

The KBO regular season begins at 10 p.m. Monday Las Vegas time with five battles waging from Incheon to Daegu. You’ve been hearing for weeks that the season starts Tuesday (May 5). That’s true in Korea! Because of the time difference, opening day will be a late-night betting opportunity Monday in Las Vegas (or, very early in the morning at 1 a.m. on the East Coast). 

Many investors will be tempted to jump right into action because they haven’t bet a major team sport since college basketball was halted in early March. If you’re planning to bet the only games on the board throughout May, spend some time learning what you can about the KBO so you don’t dig an early hole. 

Ron Flatter introduced VSiN readers to the league in his April 22 article covering Asian baseball. Please take a second to re-read that outline to refresh your memories.

When flying blind into a new handicapping challenge, it’s good to review where teams left off the last time they were in action. 

2019 KBO Final Standings

Doosan Bears 88-55-1 (eventual champs)

SK  Wyverns 88-55-1

Kiwoom Heroes 86-57-1

LG Twins 79-64-1

NC Dinos 73-59-2

KT Wiz 71-71-2

Let’s stop right there for a moment. Those were the six top contenders in the 10-team circuit, meaning the sides recreational bettors will be most interested in backing. Doosan has won three of the last five league titles. The winning percentage for the Bears’ 88-55-1 record is .615 (if a game is knotted after 12 innings, it counts as a tie), which would be 99-63 over 162 games. Think of both Doosan and SK (a Wyvern is a dragon with diamond-shaped tip on its tail) as 100-win powers. Third-place Kiwoon was noteworthy last season for its massive run differential of 217 (counting the postseason), suggesting a tendency to run up the score against poor pitchers. 

Just below, LG equates to a 90-win team against a 162-game slate…a wildcard in a power division or the winner of a softer group. NC and KT are .500 caliber. 

Now, the four stragglers….

Kia Tigers 62-80-2

Samsung Lions 60-83-1

Hanwha Eagles 58-86-0

Lotte Giants 48-93-3

Also-rans like this should may only offer value initially with their top pitchers, or against the worst pitchers of favored opponents. Though, you should obviously be looking for improvement out of the gate just in case one catches the market napping. (If you’re having trouble remembering the names, it’s easy to recall that Lotte did a lotta losing.) 

Best Opening Day Matchup: Doosan vs. LG. Two winning rivals from last season, and they happen to share Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, making it a neutral site affair. 

Stragglers Visiting Contenders: Hanwha at SK, Lotte at KT

Contenders Visiting Stragglers: NC at Samsung, Kiwon at Kia 

Note that all opening series will be three-game sets. Second and third stanzas will start much later. First pitches Wednesday and Thursday gets tossed at 5:35 a.m. ET, 2:35 a.m. PT. New three-game series begin Friday (highlighted by KT/Doosan and LG/NC) with those same early morning starts US time. Saturday’s encounters will begin earlier at 4 a.m. ET, 1 a.m. in Las Vegas. Closing matinees will be 1 a.m. Sunday on the East Coast, 10 p.m. Saturday night in Las Vegas. 

VSiN will do its best to cover the KBO from a sports betting perspective this month and beyond as the U.S. sports schedule works itself out. Check with your favorite sports book to see if it’s offering odds. Watch our daily programming for discussions with oddsmakers and guest handicappers who are looking forward to this unique challenge.  

Some strategic reminders:

  • Don’t assume there won’t be any “home field advantage” just because stands are empty to protect citizens from the corona virus. Recreational bettors (and play-by-play announcers) tend to place too much weight on loud crowds, and not enough on the challenges of travel. Study early lines to get a sense of how much the most important market forces are weighing home fields. 
  • Note which starting pitchers are getting respect from oddsmakers and sharps, and which are treated as generic innings munchers. Market influences will teach you very quickly who you should be paying attention to. At first, it will be easier for new handicappers to categorize hurlers’ price impact rather than memorizing every pitcher’s name.
  • If you’re the type of better that’s constantly cursing bullpens for blowing leads, a change in hemisphere’s probably isn’t going to change that frustration! Be sure you study which teams do the best and worst jobs of protecting leads in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. 

We’ll dig deeper as the season progresses. In the meantime, “Hwaiting!” (good luck!). 

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