The Basics
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MLB spread betting, also sometimes referred to as ‘runline’ betting, involves sportsbooks applying a run handicap as a means of levelling the competitive difference between the favorite and the underdog. serves the notion that no two NFL sides are equally matched when they step on the field and there will always be factors that increase the likelihood of one team defeating the other.


Unlike spread betting in the NFL, NBA, and other sports, baseball runlines almost never vary. Sportsbooks will consistently set runlines at -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog. As a result of this, you’ll see a greater variance in runline odds (e.g., +140, -150) than NFL or NBA point spreads odds, which usually hover around the -110 mark.


Most MLB games are incredibly tight contests, with nearly a third decided by just a single run. It’s for this reason the runline almost never varies from the standard 1.5 mark. 


Sportsbooks consider a number of different factors such as starting pitchers, team performance, and home field advantage before deciding which team has the higher probability of winning the game.


By applying this handicap, the sportsbooks a more equal amount of wagers on the favorite and underdog, as opposed to the overwhelming majority of wagers being places on the moneyline favorite and costing the sportsbook a fortune!






To understand how MLB spread betting works, let’s take a look at the above example from the 2021 NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.


In this instance, we can see that the Dodgers are projected as -1.5 favorites, as indicated by the negative number. The Braves are the +1.5 underdogs, as indicated by the positive number. This essentially means that the oddsmakers have given the Braves a +1.5 run head start, because they believe the Dodgers are more likely to win the contest outright.


In basic terms, if you bet on the Dodgers to cover the spread, they would need to win the game by 2 runs or more for your wager to be successful. If you bet on the Braves with the spread, they would need to lose by a run (or win the game straight up) for your bet to hit.


With MLB runline betting it is important to note the odds accompanying the -1.5 and +1.5 handicaps for each team. While the runline is designed to make the contest between the two teams more even, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee both outcomes are equally likely.


In the example above, the -113 odds for the Braves at +1.5 indicates the sportsbook believes this outcome is slightly more likely than the Dodgers covering a -1.5 spread at odds of -113. As a result of this a $100 bet on the Braves +1.5 would return $188.50 ($88.50 in profit plus the $100 outlay), while a $100 bet on the Dodgers -1.5 would return $194.34 ($94.34 in profit plus the $100 outlay).


The odds accompanying MLB spreads will often fluctuate in the lead up to the opening pitch and this is something for bettors to keep an eye on. The odds are designed to encourage a relatively equal level of betting on both sides of the ledger and will be adjusted for this purpose. For a more detailed explanation on how to calculate MLB odds, click here.


Most sportsbooks will also offer additional runline odds for MLB games, which allow bettors to select varying runlines (e.g. -3.5 and +3.5) that are different to the usual 1.5 mark offered. Similarly, during live betting runlines may be adjusted by the sportsbook. It’s not uncommon to see runlines of -1 and +1 in live odds in these instances.


For more hints on what to look out for when gambling online to win real money on MLB, check out our Bet Basics tips and strategies for MLB betting.



The San Francisco Giants were the most successful MLB team against the spread during the 2021 season, covering the runline in 59.9% of their games. The Minnesota Twins were the worst team, only covering the spread 40.7% of games.


To help you cash in on the odds fluctuations that occur around runline markets in the lead up to MLB games, we recommend having accounts with multiple sportsbooks from our list of Bet Basics list of 100% licensed and regulated legal sportsbooks. Jumping on the juicy odds offered by leading sportsbooks such as BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, 888sport and Bet365, is a great way to keep growing your bankroll long term.

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