When we think about line movement in sports betting, we usually think of NFL point spreads dancing around all week long or an NBA point spread jumping a half-point right before tip-off. Granted, these are perfect examples of line movement.
However, understanding why the line moves is of the utmost importance to sports gamblers. This is especially true for MLB line movement as Major League Baseball betting is not as traditional as other sports.
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How Lines Are Set
In the most basic terms, sportsbooks want two things to happen when setting a line for any sport. They want the line to entice gamblers to wager and make MLB picks, and they want there to be an equal amount of money on both sides of the line.
The juice, or the sportsbooks' take, is always taken from the winning side of a wager, usually about 10%. So, when the game has ended, the sportsbooks will keep the money from the losers and shortchange the winners.
After all, sportsbooks are not in the business of picking winners and losers; they're in the business of taking wagers, collecting the juice as their fee.
Why Lines Move
However, for this to work, the sportsbooks need equal money on both sides of a wager. When bets come in on a particular game, and the money favors one side of the wager, the sportsbook will move the line to entice new bettors to the other side.
If everyone is taking the underdog, the sportsbooks will find themselves in a leveraged position. To get money on the favorite, they move the line.
This is why those NFL point spreads dance all week long, and those NBA point spreads change just before tip-off. Of course, the MLB line movement is a bit different because of the runline.
What's a Runline?
The MLB runline wager is baseball's answer to the point spread. Baseball is a low scoring game, and traditional point spreads just don't work for sportsbooks and oddsmakers.
To address this scoring issue, they created the runline. Think of the runline as a combination of a MLB point-spread wager and a moneyline wager.
With the runline, a spread of 1.5 runs is given to every game, much like a point spread. Then, odds are applied to that spread, much like the moneyline.
This is the runline. Of course, moneyline wagers are also available in MLB betting.
Where's the Action?
The best information we receive from the MLB betting line movement is where all the action is. Of course, with the runline, the 1.5-run spread will never move. However, the odds applied will.
In other sports, like football and basketball, the point spread moves. So, when the sportsbooks are changing the odds, it is because the money is coming in on one side of the wager and not the other.
This indicates to us where the MLB betting public is placing its action.
How Action Changes Odds
For instance, the MLB underdog in a game is getting the 1.5 runs at -200 odds. The favorite is giving the 1.5 at +150. If the public is loading up on the favorite, the sportsbook will move the odds to favor the underdog.
The 1.5 stays the same, but now the odds on the favorite are moved to +130, and the odds on the underdog are -180. If this gets money going to the other side, the sportsbooks will hold it. If not, they can move it again.
Paying attention to the line movement tells us who everyone is betting on, which is good to know before placing a wager.
Is The Favorite The Favorite?
This is where the runline gets difficult. Favorites are giving the 1.5 runs, so the odds they are usually given, not always but often, are actually underdog odds. Dogs get the runs, so they end up giving odds.
It really turns sports betting on its ear. Plus, once you watch the MLB betting line movement come in, those odds can change, making the favorite a direct underdog.
Taking all of this into account can inform your wager for the better.
To Fade or Not to Fade
As the line moves, we can tell where the general public is wagering. If the underdog odds are improving, everyone is taking the favorite. Do we join in? Or do we bet against them?
Betting against public sentiment is called "Fading the Public," and it is a popular sports betting strategy. The logic goes since the house always wins, we should bet with the house.
This may be true in craps, but it isn't in sports betting. As mentioned before, the sportsbooks are not placing wagers, just collecting juice. The logic is flawed.
Look For Steam
What is most important are big MLB line movements. These tell us the professional gamblers are now involved, and they are laying big money on the game. A sudden large line movement is called "steam," and it is some of the best info out there.
These high rollers gamble professionally and do their homework. Looking for steam can inform your wager.
It doesn't always have to be steam though, just remember why the lines are moving, and you'll be getting plenty of information on the likely outcome.