What is the Run Line in Betting?

MLB fans have plenty of choices to consider at legal online Ontario sportsbooks. The regular season is jam-packed with games, and there’s a whole host of bet types to consider for each contest. Among the featured offerings is the run line bet.

The run line is part of the main MLB game listings for online sports betting, right alongside the moneyline and total. All three have their own strategy components to consider. For the run line, you have to go further than just trying to figure out which side will win.

It can be a little confusing at first glance, but we have you covered. By the time you’re done reading this guide, you’ll be ready to place some MLB run line bets at the best sportsbooks in Ontario with confidence.

Best MLB betting odds  

Legal Ontario sportsbooks prominently feature odds for all MLB games. After the lines come out, they won’t standstill. Our live odds feed is the place to turn for a real-time look at the whole market. You can use the dropdown menu to find the bet you want. When you’re ready to wager, just click on the odds to claim the bonus offer.

What is a run line bet?

Run line bets are one of the big three pregame wagers for MLB games along with moneylines and totals. You can find it by clicking on the MLB or baseball tab at legal online sportsbooks. Odds for all three bet types will then be displayed in the main betting lobby.

When betting the run line, you have a choice to make: the favourite minus the runs or the underdog plus the line. The run line is set by oddsmakers with 1.5 runs as the default.

In order to win the bet, the side you pick has to cover the run line. If you go with the favourite minus the 1.5 runs, that means they have to win by two runs or more. For the underdog plus the run line, you’ll need a one-run loss or an outright win to cover.

Is the run line the same as a point spread?

In leagues like the NFL and NBA, the point spread bet is one of the featured pregame offerings. The run line is basically the MLB’s version. The main differences come in two spots: the line size and the odds for the two possible choices.

The standard baseball run line is set at 1.5 runs. There will be alternative lines available, but this is what you’ll see on featured listings. In the world of football and basketball betting, spreads can be all over the map and rise into the double digits.

As for the odds, spreads in other sports start at -110 on both sides. That’s not the case with the run line. You may come across a listing here or there in that tight range, but the majority of run line odds will be vastly different on the two sides.

How to read MLB betting lines

Once you have the upcoming slate of MLB games in front of you, you’ll see all of the contests listed in order by start time. Each game will carry odds for the three big pregame wagers right next to the two team names.

 MoneylineRun LineTotal
New York Yankees+120+1.5 (-150)Over 9.0 (-110)
Toronto Blue Jays-140-1.5 (+130)Under 9.0 (-110)

All three bet types bring in lots of action. Here’s what you need to know about the MLB odds and how they work.

  • Moneyline: Just pick the team that you think will win the game. Moneyline odds are negative for favourites and positive for underdogs.
  • Run line: You can take the favourite minus the runs or the dog plus the number. There are two components to read: the run line and the actual odds for the bet. A negative run line points to the favourite, while the number is positive for the underdog.
  • Totals: This is a bet on the total runs scored in the game. Oddsmakers list an estimate and odds for the two possible choices: over or under that amount.

While the listings work the same at all legal sportsbooks, that doesn’t mean they’ll all have the same odds and lines. You should always take the time to shop around to find the most appealing prices. Our live odds feed above is a great tool for doing just that.

MLB run line odds explained

Spread bettors in other sports are used to seeing odds of -110 used as a starting point on both sides. The numbers will adjust from there in response to market action, but the numbers typically don’t deviate by an overwhelming amount.

Run line betting odds don’t follow the same script. The main bet for this wager is locked in at 1.5 runs, whereas a spread may rise or fall due to betting volume or other developments. For MLB, the number is what it is. As such, the odds can vary widely.

  • Detroit Tigers +1.5 (-130)
  • Toronto Blue Jays -1.5 (+120)

Using the above line as an example, you can actually see positive odds on the favoured side in a run line bet. Baseball is pretty low-scoring by nature, so it can take some doing for a two-run win. Bettors looking to take that chance can be rewarded for their efforts.

Meanwhile, teams being spotted the 1.5 runs will generally see negative odds, with the exception of when a clear paper mismatch is on tap. Remember to take the time to line shop for the most appealing odds whenever it’s time to bet.

What are the payouts for run line bets?  

Before you place a bet at a legal sportsbook, the potential return will be displayed on the betting slip. There are also online handicapping calculators that take the guesswork out of the equation before you actually place your wagers.

That said, it’s still helpful to assess your possible winnings just by glancing at the odds board. As long as you know the odds on both sides of an MLB run line bet, you can figure out the potential return. Here’s the formula to do it.

  • For negative odds: Wager Amount/(Odds/100) = Return
  • For positive odds: Wager Amount * (Odds/100) = Return

If you plug in your bet amount and the odds in the above formulas and work them through, you’ll have the answer. For another even simpler way to figure it out, just remember the following based on the direction of the odds.

  • When the odds are negative, the number equals how much you have to bet for a $100 return, such as $140 at odds of -140.
  • When the odds are positive, the number equals how much you’ll get back on a winning $100 bet, such as $120 at odds of +120.

Since the odds for run line bets can vary widely, knowing how to figure out the potential returns quickly and easily can help you spot value on the board.  As always, bets should be made based on confidence level and not on the potential return. 

Online sportsbook rules for run line betting

When betting at legal sportsbooks in Ontario, there are rules of the road attached to each bet type. Known as house rules, they provide cover for the shop while also letting bettors know what to expect. For MLB and baseball, here are a few of the more important ones.

  • If you bet on the listed pitcher option, any changes in starters will lead to bets being cancelled and refunded.
  • Bets will remain live for slight weather delays but be voided for a complete postponement or cancellation.
  • All wagers are settled based on official league data and statistics. No disputes on results you disagree with will be entertained.

Many rules are standard across the industry, but there are occasionally some quirks. Take the time to review the rules wherever you play to avoid any surprises down the road.

MLB run line example

As with any other bet type, the run line can take some practice. But taking the time to understand all of the ins and outs can work wonders. To that end, let’s run through some examples. Let’s begin with an AL East rivalry game.

  • Tampa Bay Rays +1.5 (-180)
  • Toronto Blue Jays -1.5 (+140)

For this matchup, the Jays are favoured by 1.5 runs. If you take them minus the run line, that means you’re hoping for a victory of at least two runs. A 7-4 or 5-3 win gets it done, but a 6-5 or 4-3 decision in Toronto’s favour does not.

Bettors on the Rays’ side are looking for them to keep the margin to one run or pull out the upset. A 5-4 loss works fine, but an 8-2 pounding means that they’ve failed to cover. Tampa Bay also covers if they manage to win the game by any score.

How about another example?

  • Atlanta Braves -1.5 (+150)
  • Toronto Blue Jays +1.5 (-130)

In this example, the Jays are the dogs on the run line. If you take them plus the cushion, you’re looking for the club to either lose by a run or to pull out the victory. A 6-5 win for the Braves will mean Toronto covers, but a 7-5 defeat for the Jays doesn’t work.

For Atlanta bettors, the goal is a two-run win or greater. The 7-5 win works just fine in that case, but a 6-5 squeaker does not. If the Jays manage to pull out the victory at any score, they’ve covered the run line.

When considering run line bets, just view the number as an estimated margin of victory. If you’re confident that your chosen team will cover, then bet away. When you can’t make heads or tails of which side might cover, there’s nothing wrong with taking a pass.

What’s an alternative run line?  

Bettors like choices, and Ontario sportsbooks aim to please. While the generally accepted standard for run line bets is 1.5 runs, many shops will offer up what are known as alternative lines. As the name suggests, they vary from the originals.

For game listings, most shops have a direct link to more wagers by clicking through. Once you do so, you’ll see all of the available props for the game, as well as alternate run lines and totals. For example, you might see this.

Odds will be adjusted accordingly. If you’re taking on more risk, you’ll be compensated if the bet breaks in your favour, while those who take on more of a cushion will see less of a return than normal. Alternate lines can run from a simple half-run adjustment to several more.

Many books will have all of the available choices in list form with the odds attached to the possible selections. You can certainly explore the alternative run lines for games that you have a great feel for, but resist the urge to chase great returns in exchange for lots of risk.

More run line articles: First five vs. full game betting

Strategies for betting the baseball run line

As you gain experience with run lines, it can become an integral part of your overall MLB betting strategy. In the interim, there is a learning curve that needs to be navigated. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world, but make sure that you learn from them as you move forward. Here are three tips that can help you progress that much quicker.

  1. Keep it simple: Which side will cover? That’s your concern with the run line. Nothing else matters. To help figure out the bets that make the most sense, scan through the upcoming slate and circle a few appealing options. From there, dive in and research the teams involved. Look for some clear trends on recent runs scored and allowed, as well as wins and losses. If you have some appealing candidates from there, dig deeper until you find a great bet. If not, take a pass and look for other MLB betting opportunities.
  2. Study the odds board: You should treat the odds board as a free research tool. Oddsmakers take great care in setting the numbers before they’re released to the betting public, and they have a great deal of data at their disposal. That doesn’t mean they’re always right, but it does mean that the odds serve as a pretty solid guess on what to expect. For you, the bettor, take advantage of that free research and factor it into your thinking. When you find appealing numbers that align with your thinking, it’s time to pounce.
  3. Know your history: Teams in the same MLB divisions or leagues do battle quite often. That leaves behind a ton of intel for you to analyze. There’s no need to dive in and study every matchup they’ve ever had, but recent trends for the last 10 games can be very useful. Which side has had the upper hand? How many average runs are we seeing when these two clubs square off? Little nuggets and patterns can open doors to some profitable run line betting opportunities.

Finding long-term success with run line betting in baseball can take some doing, but the effort you put into it can be well worth it. There’s no one magic answer; just finely and gradually tune your personal approach. The above three tips can help you get there, but always be open to learning and improving as your journey continues.

Key takeaways on run line betting  

The run line is one of the main pregame bets for MLB and other baseball leagues, along with the moneyline and total. It’s the baseball version of a spread bet, meaning the side you choose has to cover the run line to win.

Unlike the spread used in other sports, the run line is typically set at 1.5 runs, but many books offer alternative lines with the odds adjusted accordingly. Run line odds don’t use a baseline of -110 like the spread, and they can vary widely based on the matchup.

As a result, line shopping is crucial. There’s not always great value to be found on the games you’re interested in, but the stars can align just right at times. If you add the run line to your strategy, you’ll be ready to jump into action when it happens.