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BETTING ON BASEBALL
 

This article adapted from Bob McCune's top-selling book, REVELATIONS IN SPORTS BETTING
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Very few sports bettors have any idea how to make a VALID LINE in BASEBALL. Without knowing how to make your own power ratings, and being able to establish a realistic value on both sides of a game, it becomes no more than a guessing game. But this doesn't mean that some of you might not be good guessers!

The oddsmaker must make a MONEY LINE on a game that will reflect PUBLIC OPINION. Since public opinion represents no more than an average opinion, mostly by Sports Bettors who do little or no work on the games, he must come up with odds that will be acceptable to all those somewhat guessers, who primarily assess an abstract value to the two starting pitchers and proceed from there. Their process is mostly subjective, resulting in a vague conception of the REAL VALUE of the MONEY LINE put up by the Vegas Oddsmakers.

Though many handicappers use various number values to determine a line, and/or play, most of such numbers do not resolve a realistic disparity between the teams involved. Subsequently, most baseball bettors, or handicappers, call them what you will, resolve unrealistic lines and results from their work. It's the oddsmakers job to assess all this claptrap and come up with a number that will best SPLIT THE ACTION in terms of monies wagered between favorites and dogs. This more or less guarantees that the Books will end up with a profit.

The majority of baseball bettors have established arbitrary limits for themselves as to how much they will 'lay' on a game. The majority will seldom, if ever, lay over a certain amount, say -1.50. These same bettors look for that 'live dog', that is, an underdog that has a considerably better chance to win the game than the line indicates. After many years, a few become quite adept at this approach. It's subjective in the main, but experience can often direct such a handicapper who is aware of pitching and team quality, along with current performances, into rather positive conclusions and reasonable decisions. As long as his emotions don't short circuit his subconscious mind and 'feel', such as, when losing or winning inordinately, he can do quite well, but usually such bettors get lost in the ups and downs that always take place.

Here's another aspect of betting on baseball that any bettor should take into account. The oddsmakers and the Books have a major problem in splitting the action. Let's take an example. Your handicapping discloses that Team (A) today, along with starting pitcher and bullpen, game site, and other values considered, purports to be able to beat Team (B) 3 out of 4 times they'd play this game under similar circumstances. What should the line be? Let's eliminate the juice for starters and compute the line I'd make such a line 3 to 1 in other words, I should have to lay $3.00 to win $1.00. I'd win 3 times and make a total of 3 dollars. I'd win the dog once every 4th try and also win $3.00. In the long run it would be a wash to play such a game, either way against a $3.00 line.

...But you will rarely see a $3.00 line, and seldom a line of even $2.50 Why? One reason is because such a disparity would not be acceptable by John Q Public. Everybody, more or less, would take a shot at the dog. Also, such a line would have to be at least a 30 or 40 cents difference between the favorite and the dog.

Because of the strange nature of baseball and baseball bettors, it would mean that the bookies could get too much lopsided action in such a case. Not one in twenty or thirty bettors would bet such a favorite. Just about everyone would bet the dog. In the long run a bookie could become uncomfortable with too much dog action with a big payout, or else have to wait too long to assure himself of a profit on such games.

This brings up other questions. Why is there a line at all on such lop-sided games? What does the oddsmaker do in such cases? What do the smart bettors do?

These are simple, valid questions with not so simple answers. There's a line on all games because the Oddsmakers and Books know that they can just about always put up and deal a line that would appear to most bettors as realistic. That $3.00 real line might attract some favorite action from the more astute handicappers if the oddsmaker made it $1.90 or $2.00. At $2.00 on a 10 cent line, the pay back would be +180 (books usually convert a 10 cent line to a 20 cent line if the favorite goes over -150). Bigger odds on the favorite can go to 30 cents and much higher. However, this would limit the action too much, so he puts up a $2.00 line on a favorite and figures to win 3 out of 4 of any dog plays. Since he doesn't expect much, if any action on a $2.00 favorite, he knows that most of the players will be 'going to the dogs'. So, why payout +2.70 or more on a dog when the oddsmaker knows that the action with the Books will be predominantly dog money? Instead of paying a realistic +$2.50 or so dog price on a true $3.00 favorite he need only pay out about +$1.80 or less. Where the Book makes it's money is on the shortened pay-off on the underdog. He pays +$1.80 instead of +$2.50 on about the same ratio of dog action. The odds of Team A (the favorite) winning 3 out of 4 doesn't change. So, he pays out +$1.80 once for every $3.00 he takes in action. He makes money. Bookmaking is not a stupid business, but then most sports bettors are not too smart. I've never had a handicapper or sports bettor explain this to me. I don't think I'll be too popular with the Oddsmakers or Books for having made this disclosure. But, I've also written on other subjects where they should have, and probably did profit from my disclosures.

Anyway, sometimes a big favorite can be a bargain, while a low take-back on a dog can be a liability. Remember, you must win a given percentage of your baseball bets, whether you consider favorites or dogs. If you only win 35% of +1.50 dogs you'll lose money because 40% is break even. Conversely, you must win over 60% of -1.50 favorites to make a profit.

     "...A big favorite can be a bargain, while a low take-back on a dog can be a liability."

If I declare that I can make a more accurate and realistic line than the Oddsmakers need to make to satisfy the Las Vegas Sports Books and bookies everywhere, then how and why is this so? Am I just smug, opinionated, and egotistical, or do I have a secret?

Of course, some of these adjectives might have a little merit; but, my baseball line makes me from 7 to 10 percent profit on every dollar I bet over the long haul.* In the meantime, let me give you a rough idea of how I go about making a baseball line. Of course, I'm not about to disclose the subtleties and details and then find myself trying to beat my own line. Anyway, the oddsmaker's lines are very beatable when I compare them with my line, and I want to keep it that way.

Here are many of the factors that I consider, and a rough idea of how I go about evaluating all these considerations in relation to any game to be played.

For my MONEY LINE I look at teams and pitchers separately. I begin by closely estimating a team's percentage chance of winning a game by evaluating that team's overall statistics compared to those of its opponent. In doing so I look mainly at the following areas of performance: Win/loss record overall, W/L home and away, W/L against Right and Left hand pitching, day and night, grass and turf, and batting performance I look at each team's last 10 games, whether or not they are in a losing or winning streak, their position in the home and road schedule, the ball park (its nature and dimensions). I consider the weather, the umpires (plate umpires), and lineups I have a very strong way of factoring in runs scored/runs allowed percentages, and much, much more.

The other half of the game, pitching, I handicap separate from the teams. In pitching I consider the starting pitcher's overall performance, his recent performance and his general performance over a period of time, also as per the ball park in which he'll be pitching. I determine what percentage of the game he'll be pitching and multiply that number by the final ERA number I assess to him. I then combine this number with that part of the bullpen and its contribution that will most likely act as his relief. Next I add the starter and the bullpen factors together for a final pitching factor for each team.

Next, I take my final team factor and mathematically combine it with that team's pitching factor for the game I do this for both the home and away teams, and then compare these on a relative basis. For example, the home team might end up with a composite factor of 300, while the visiting team might end up with a composite factor of 200. Dividing the larger factor (the proposed favorite) by the smaller gives me a money line. In this example that would be 300 divided by 200 equals 1.5. This equates to the favorite being $1.50 on a true, no juice line.

Simple, but a lot of work. Accurate! Well, it usually makes me a net of up to 10 cents on the dollar at season's end.

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This article adapted from Bob McCune's top-selling book, REVELATIONS IN SPORTS BETTING.
Get the book

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