With so many options, MLB bettors need discipline

June 5, 2022 02:53 PM
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Grab your phone and open up any sportsbook app, then select a random MLB game. Swipe through all of the betting options. 

Keep going … keep on looking … keep scrolling. 

Eventually, you will reach the bottom of the page. 

Within one MLB game, there are usually more than a hundred different ways to make a wager. And once the game starts, here come all of those live-betting options. 

During the current boom of legalized sports gambling across the nation, sportsbooks are offering consumers what they want from any type of retail shop: plenty of aisles to stroll through. 

All of these choices, though, could present unintended consequences. Bettors might have to deal with information overload or, perhaps even worse, the potential to spread their bankroll too thin. 

From the start of the handicapping process, bettors can basically take two different routes, either establishing a set of defined parameters or treating the MLB slate like a buffet. 

We talked to experienced MLB bettors on how they approach the sport from a wagering perspective. They provided insight on the pitfalls that may occur when there are so many options and had some recommendations for others to follow. 

Numbers before dollars

Bill Krackomberger (@BillKrackman), a dedicated professional bettor who takes pride in educating others, will spend the next few months with an intense focus on baseball. Not necessarily because of his love for the game, but mainly because he can find reduced prices on baseball games.

“I can go to a sharp shop like Circa and get a -105 for a baseball game when football games are usually -110,” Krackomberger said. “So right there is a 50% reduction in juice, and when you do this for a living, not just for fun, every difference like this matters a lot.”

Being in the racket for so long has given Krackomberger a better understanding of the significance juice plays. He doesn’t believe most bettors have enough understanding of how much the vig should play into their decision-making. 

Looking at the prices different sportsbooks use is the first step in betting baseball, Krackomberger says. 

He pointed out that a number of books skew their lines toward teams that play in major markets, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, since the public tends to back them more often. 

“You better not bet on baseball, or any sport really, if you don’t have multiple books open at once to shop around.”

Noted bettor and handicapper Jason Weingarten (@Spreadapedia) agrees that big-picture thinking before putting down any money is a fundamental aspect of baseball betting. 

Bettors should not even look at the main betting points on the MLB board, let alone the deeper options, until they have created a game plan regarding where they want winning bets to eventually take them. 

Just like a client sits down for an initial consultation with a financial advisor, bettors must have this type of conversation with themselves. What MLB bets to make? Well, that is secondary. 

“Someone first needs to determine why they are betting,” Weingarten said. “Are you trying to win $500 or $5,000? Having this dollar amount in mind is important because there is a difference between gambling just to gamble or gambling to win money. 

“Being good at gambling and winning money aren’t always the same thing.” 

When it comes to analyzing all of the different betting options for an MLB game, the quantitatively driven Weingarten is not all that concerned about sticking only to sides or totals. For him, it’s all about identifying discrepancies that may exist between his handicapping and that of the books. 

“I look at what bets I make from a risk-reward perspective. If my number for any baseball bet says it should be + 110 but I can get an edge when the book posts it at + 135, that is what I’m betting.”

If a go-to MLB bet does exist for Weingarten, it would be a Run Scored in the First Inning. The immediate satisfaction of the result is far from his motivation, though. The “Yes” bet cashes around 52% of the time, and Weingarten thinks the public perceives it hitting a lot less than it truly does. Therefore, he often finds odds in his favor since the books are making a public-based line. 

Weingarten does not take a dogmatic approach to this type of baseball bet. Occasionally, he plays the “No” when he sees value. 

Five is the new nine

VSiN’s Jonathan Von Tobel, who prioritizes his NBA handicap but is still a consistent MLB bettor, uses what he calls a “basic approach” to focus on a defined set of data points.

“I bet sides or totals with an emphasis on First Fives because so much of my process is focused on handicapping the pitchers,” said the host of “The Edge,” referring to bets on only the First Five Innings. “That will lead to the occasional team total or run-line wager, but that is usually the deepest I will go on the menu.”

Getting to the point of focusing on a limited set of MLB bets is part of the maturation process most bettors must reach. That is, finding comfort both financially and psychologically when presented with an abundant amount of options that can morph into a net-negative distraction. 

“I think an area of focus is important for bettors,” Von Tobel said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean focus on sides and totals and First Fives like I do. But I do believe if you’re new to any sport, finding an area to focus on until you get comfortable with your process is important.”  

The MLB handicapping process can be agonizing now that analytics play such a vital role, not to mention factors such as travel, ballparks and home-plate umpires. 

Krackomberger says he is open to making a wide array of baseball bets and will often play game lines, run lines and totals. He is much more willing to wager on sides in MLB compared to the NFL or NBA.

“I don’t know anyone who can win long term playing sides in the NFL.” 

Like Von Tobel, Krackomberger has found some compelling reasons to make First Five Innings wagers. 

“First Five bets are good ones because you can focus on the good starting pitchers and what they can do,” Krackomberger said. “There is more stability when looking at First Five bets because of the starters compared to what can happen when the bullpen gets involved.”

Where have you gone, Nolan Ryan?

Deciding what baseball bets to play is often predicated on understanding MLB trends. 

So far in 2022, the emphasis on pitching velocity is impacting starters who are expected to throw gas on every pitch. That means that around the fifth inning, the tank is often close to empty. According to FanGraphs, starting pitchers are averaging just five innings this season in a sample of more than 1,200 starts.

All of these seasoned bettors agree, to a certain degree, that the best commodity an MLB bettor can have is information and data regarding starting pitchers. 

Longtime sports bettor Tommy Lorenzo feels there is more value on sides over totals these days. He bets totals less frequently than he used to.

“The books have gotten tough on totals. They are becoming harder to bet,” Lorenzo said. “The opportunities are there but much more scarce day to day.”

As a result of a changing marketplace and how the game is being played on the field, bettors such as Lorenzo and Krackomberger are gravitating toward props, in particular, pitcher strikeout totals. 

“There are a lot of resources available, both paid and free, where one can extract strong analytical information on pitchers and projected outcomes,” Lorenzo said.” Personally, I’d advise any MLB bettor to take a close look at pitcher strikeout props and add to their wagering plate.”

The most important word in that aforementioned quote is “add.” When books are offering more than 100 bets within an MLB game, it’s very easy to add on, and then add on some more. 

Don’t think the books are offering all of these MLB betting choices out of kindness. They are well aware that the more choices they offer, the more bets they will take. 

Shooters like to shoot and there’s an abundance of targets during the MLB season.

Another issue when bettors get too prop heavy: Weingarten says books will quickly put limits on prop bets and could cut them off entirely for some players. 

Pace yourself

The bettors we talked to were almost universal in saying that understanding bookmakers’ motivations is vital. 

“This happens to a lot of recreational bettors or semi-pros,” Weingarten said. “They get their one good bet for the night, and maybe they’re feeling good because they’re ahead of the line. Then they start adding on because they saw someone on Twitter recommend these baseball prop bets. All of a sudden then they have too many bets.” 

Weingarten isn’t saying this from a holier-than-thou perspective. 

In his early betting days, he too often made this mistake after making most of his wagers late at night and early in the morning. That left a large gap of time before the first pitch, and there was a temptation to keep on firing throughout the day.

“I have heard bookmakers say baseball is their biggest money maker,” Krackomberger said. “With so many late games, bettors tend to chase, chase, chase, and you cannot do that.”

While always stressing the importance of bankroll management, Krackomberger contends it is even more imperative during the long baseball season.

Even for someone such as Lorenzo, who has seen many afternoons turn into early mornings inside a sportsbook, baseball betting is an ongoing learning process. 

“I compare it to a busy college football Saturday,” Lorenzo said. “You can’t bet every single game. It’s way too easy to spread yourself thin, especially since baseball is a daily exercise. I have been betting baseball for 30 years and only until recently have I focused on the starting pitcher strikeout prop.

“With all of the new offerings on the betting menu, bettors should stick to picking an appetizer, main dish and dessert. You can’t order everything on the menu."

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