7 Sports Betting Mistakes New MLB Bettors Make

MLB betting is an easy choice for people who are already fans of baseball. But this sport also draws a sizable number of bettors who aren’t fans of the game.

The reason why is because baseball is one of the easiest major sports to beat in terms of wagering.

I use the word “easiest” lightly because no sport is truly easy to beat through betting. After all, bookmakers are very good at setting lines that don’t offer big value on one side or the other.

But it’s easier to beat the MLB than the NFL or NBA, which have shorter seasons. Bookmakers tend to create more soft baseball lines because they’re dealing with so many games throughout the season.

Many new MLB bettors are attracted to this prospect. But these beginners can also fall victim to key mistakes that drain their bankroll.

Keep reading as I discuss 7 of the biggest mistakes that new MLB bettors make so that you can avoid them when starting out with baseball wagering.

1 – Failing to Account for Baseball’s Parity – i.e. Betting Favorites Too Often

Most sports leagues see a large gap between the best and worst teams.

Here are some examples:

2017-18 NFL season: 1st place record (4-way tie) – 13-3 (81.3%); last place record, Cleveland Browns – 0-16 (0%).

2017-18 NHL season: 1st place record, Nashville Predators – 115 points; last-place record, Buffalo Sabres – 62 points (about half of first-place points).

2016-17 NBA season: 1st place record, Golden State Warriors – 67-15 (81.7%); last place record, Brooklyn Nets – 20-62 (24.4%).

Baseball is different, though, because there’s more parity between the best and worst teams in the standings.

In the 2016-17 MLB season, the L.A. Dodgers finished with a 104-58 record (64.2%). The Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants both finished with the worst mark at 64-98 (39.5%).

This is a common trend, where the top team wins around 100 games, and the worst team wins about 60 games.

A 40-game gap looks big on paper. But it’s not as large when considering that MLB teams play 160 games throughout the season.

More importantly, the winning percentage gap between the highest and lowest teams in the standings isn’t as significant as in most sports.

Nevertheless, those who come to baseball betting from other sports carry the favorite mentality with them. This refers to how many bettors like wagering on favorites because they have a higher chance to win.

You feel like a winner when you’re successful on 55-60% of your moneyline bets. But the profit numbers can tell a different story based on the moneyline odds a favorite is carrying.

You need a -150 favorite to win 60.0% of the time to break even. If you increase this to -180, you’ll need to win 64.3% of your wagers.

Contrast this to a +150 underdog, where you only need to win 40.0% of the time to break even. Increase this to +160, and you only must win 38.0% of the time.

The numbers show how MLB bettors can win most of their moneyline bets, yet still, end up a loser. Therefore, you should always keep an eye out for good value in moneyline underdogs.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should completely ignore favorites.  Sometimes you’ll handicap a game and find out that there’s just more value on the favorite’s side.

I suggest following a few rules that will help you bet on profitable favorites, including the following:

  • Start your search with -150 moneyline favorites or lower.
  • Never wager on a -201 favorite or higher.
  • Consider splitting your wager between the moneyline and run line when betting a -151 to -200 favorite.

This helps you break even if the moneyline wins and the run line loses. And you’ll earn a bigger profit (compared to non-split bet) if the favorite covers the +1.5 run line.

2 – Making Too Many Bets before You’re Successful

Another reason why people gravitate towards MLB betting is that there are so many opportunities to make money. The Major League season offers the 2,430 games, which is double what the NBA offers and 5x what the NFL features.

Developing handicapping skills to beat baseball betting really pays off. This is because you have more chances to be rewarded for your efforts. Of course, this can just as easily go the other way, where you lose more money.

It’s hard to keep your focus with MLB wagering when considering that there are 10-13 games on any given day during the season. You might think that several daily lines are juicy and bet on all of them.

But this is a mistake if you’re not already beating baseball on a consistent basis.

If you’re a losing bettor, making more wagers only piles on the losses and doesn’t fix anything

You instead must work on making quality bets before worrying about volume. Focus on key factors when handicapping a game, including starting pitching, pitcher vs. hitter stats, bullpen stats, trends, injury reports, and advanced statistics (covered later).

You’ll have a stronger chance of winning each individual bet as you develop the proper handicapping skills. And you should gradually add more wagers to the schedule when you become successful over a long period.

Keep records on your betting to track your success rate. You need a sample size of at least 200-300 games to begin forming a clear picture of your win rate.

You might also consider developing your own baseball betting system as you become more experienced. I’ll discuss this topic later in the fifth point on advanced stats.

3 – Betting on Famous Teams Too Often

Many fans like to bet on their favorite teams because they know the coaches and players. Having these insights gives them an inside track to making a good wager.

But this isn’t always a great idea in baseball when dealing with historically favored teams. The reason why is because sportsbooks realize that famous teams will draw more betting action on average than small-market clubs.

According to ScholarBlogs’ Mike Lewis, the 5 most popular MLB teams are as follows:

Place Most Popular MLB Teams
1st New York Yankees
2nd Chicago Cubs
3rd Boston Red Sox
4th San Francisco Giants
5th Los Angeles Dodger

These rankings are based on how much the national/international fan base supports these teams, their brand, and when they’re playing on the road.

Bettors from the US and other countries where baseball is popular are more likely to bet on these 5 teams. And some beginners don’t account for the famous-team factor when making bets.

Sportsbooks do, though, which is why you must always price this in before betting on a team like the Cubs or Red Sox.

This doesn’t mean that you should always fade popular teams, because it’s possible to find value with the Yankees or Giants. But your odds of finding a juicy line on one of these clubs are lower.

You might even consider becoming an expert on less-popular teams that don’t have heavy national fan bases. The lowest 5 teams in West’s rankings are as follows:

Place Most Unpopular MLB Teams
1st Miami Marlins
2nd Cleveland Indians
3rd Oakland A’s
4th Los Angeles Angels
5th Chicago White Sox

Nothing is ever a given in MLB betting. But you should begin with these 5 clubs as an anchor when starting your search for the best value.

4 – Betting on Baseball Parlays

One of the most-thrilling bets in baseball or any sport is a parlay. These wagers involve betting on multiple teams so that you can win a larger payout.

The best part is that you can make a small bet and win big. The catch is that each team in your parlay has to win/cover for a successful bet.

Parlays are like the lottery of MLB betting because you’re exchanging low odds of winning for a big potential payday.

Below you can see the odds and the potential profit on a 10-team parlay.

Parlay Types Odds Profit
2-team parlay 13:5 odds of winning $260 profit
3-team parlay 6.5:1 odds of winning $650 profit
4-team parlay 13:1 odds of winning $1,300 profit
5-team parlay 25:1 odds of winning $2,500 profit
6-team parlay 50:1 odds of winning $5,000 profit
7-team parlay 100:1 odds of winning $10,000 profit
8-team parlay 180:1 odds of winning $18,000 profit
9-team parlay 400:1 odds of winning $40,000 profit
10-team parlay 825:1 odds of winning $82,500 profit

Most people don’t bet parlays this big, because there’s such a small chance of winning. But a 10-team parlay shows just how much money you can win.

I’ll occasionally make a parlay bet just for fun. But I don’t suggest making a habit of doing so, because it’s hard enough to win one bet, let alone multiple wagers.

Furthermore, your chances of gaining a long-term edge with parleys are next to nothing. This makes these wagers more like slot machines than sports betting.

5 – Ignoring Advanced Statistics

Handicapping common factors like starting pitching, bullpen pitching, hitting, and injury reports is a good place, to begin with, MLB betting. But you’ll eventually want to start learning advanced statistics to take your game to the next level.

You can find discussions on advanced statistics in sports betting articles and on forums. But a better way to take control and find numbers that not everybody knows is by using MLB betting software.

These programs allow you to compile advanced statistics and come up with useful trends. You can either purchase advanced baseball betting software or use free programs.

Using these programs helps you develop a betting system that can be used across many games. And this is helpful because it allows you to place more bets without having to handicap in-depth factors on each individual game.

You’ll find no shortage of potential systems that you can use to win with. But a simple example includes looking at umpires’records for home teams.

All MLB umpires have the ability to call a good game. But one ump can also see the strike zone differently than the next

Some will call a tight strike zone that benefits the pitcher, while others are more liberal and give the batters a better chance.

Another way that umps differ is how they call home games. Whether consciously or subconsciously, some umpires seem to give the home team a break.

I’m not saying that umpires try to favor home teams. But statistics they show that home clubs have a better record with certain umps.

Here’s an example using a betting software filter that looks at umpires’records.

WRITING GOES HERE 1

Umpires’ moneyline records with different umpires from 2005-2017.
Home teams are 245-178 under Ted Barrett.
Betting these games would yield a 6.6% return on investment (ROI).

The only problem is that umpire home records are a commonly known trend among those who look for advanced statistics. Sportsbooks are also aware of this trend and will shade lines accordingly if they feel that certain bettors are profiting big from it.

I suggest developing your own system when you become more experienced with MLB betting. You can combine several factors to create a winning strategy.

An example off the top of my head includes betting on road teams, coming off a loss, with their staff ace pitching the third game of a series.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing if this system will be successful without any data to back it up. This is why backtesting – where you test your system overall range of previous games with the same parameters – is a good idea.

You can use software to backtest your system or do the calculations by hand. But keep in mind that the latter will involve far more hours.

The bigger the sample size you use, the more confident you can be that your strategy either works or doesn’t. Keep in mind that most betting systems don’t work, which means that you’ll likely have to test multiple strategies before finding a good one.

6 – Failing to Set Up a Good Bankroll Management Plan

Bankroll management is key to beating any skill-based form of gambling like MLB betting. Nevertheless, many novice bettors completely ignore bankroll management and place wagers based on feeling.

New Baseball Bettor Example

Start with a $300 bankroll, for example.
Bet anywhere from $30 to $60 on a game.
This only gives them 5 to 10 total betting units.
They eventually hit a losing streak and lose their bankroll.

The same bettors often use the defense that they thoroughly handicap games and only make quality wagers. But the key thing to understand is that nothing is guaranteed in baseball betting.

I don’t know how many times I’ve meticulously handicapped a game, only to have something going wrong in the eighth or ninth inning and lose my bet. And when you lose several of these wagers in a row, you’ll start to seriously doubt your abilities.

Bankroll management is crucial because you need to protect yourself against short-term volatility. Even the best MLB bettors go through losing streaks, which means that beginners are due for even more downswings.

But you won’t be as affected by these losing streaks if you’re properly prepared. Here’s a quick example on how you can create an MLB betting bankroll:

  • You make $3,500 per month after taxes.
  • You have $1,500 in monthly bills and living expenses.
  • You take the $2,000 and use it as a starting bankroll.
  • You plan to add $500 to your bankroll over the next six months ($3,000 total).
  • $2,000 + $3,000 = $5,000 bankroll.

This example begins with a $3k bankroll and creates plans to add more money each month. As long as this plan is upheld, then you’ll have a $5,000 bankroll.

The next step is to break your bankroll down into units, which are easier to deal with than dollar amounts.

Here’s an example:

You want 100 betting units.
You divide 5,000 by 100.
Your unit size is $50.

Professional MLB bettors usually don’t risk any more than 1-3 units per game. And they tend to stay closer to 1 unit because this ensures that the short-term volatility won’t affect them much.

You can’t follow the same plan if you only have a $100 bankroll. But regardless of how large or small your funds are, you should bet conservatively.

I don’t recommend betting any more than 5 units on a single game.  Again, it’s preferable to stay as close to 1 unit as possible.

7 – Not Shopping for Lines

One more mistake that beginning MLB bettors commonly make involves failing to shop around for lines.

Most online sportsbooks are relatively close in terms of the lines they offer. In fact, many of these bookmakers copy what the biggest Vegas sportsbooks do.

Regardless, you’ll still find better lines by looking around different internet sportsbooks. The reason why is because the Vegas sportsbooks that are copied by online bookmakers can vary on lines.

Here’s an example:

You want to bet on the Cleveland Indians at +125.
You look around different online sportsbooks and find them at +135 on another site.
You now stand to gain an additional 9.3% by taking the +135 line.

A 9.3% difference isn’t huge for small bets. But just think about how much more you stand to win by consistently finding the best value with moneylines and run lines.

The easiest way to shop around sportsbooks for the best value is to open accounts at several sites. You can also spread your bankroll equally amongst these sportsbooks.

Having multiple accounts with funds available saves you time. And this is important because you want to catch favorable lines in case they shift during the day.

Even been able to add 1% to your ROI can make the difference between being a winning and losing MLB bettor.

Conclusion

Few people jump into baseball betting and immediately begin winning profits. Instead, the average person makes several of the mistakes that I’ve covered here.

Nobody expects you to be a champion bettor right away, but you also don’t want to donate your bankroll in the beginning either. That said, keep these mistakes in mind and avoid making them.

Of course, becoming a winning MLB bettor is about more than just avoiding mistakes. You also need to improve your handicapping skills and/or develop systems that’ll help you win more money over time.

The latter gives you a successful strategy that can be used across a wide range of bets. This is more important in baseball betting than anything because you only have so many available games to profit from.

The road to becoming a winning baseball bettor isn’t an easy one. But it’s still possible if you put the work can and keep improving your abilities.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.