Getting a Line on Baseball Betting

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks

Just as cost is an important consideration when seeing a movie or going to a concert, so too should it be when deciding where you gamble. And just as different movie houses charge different prices for tickets, different casinos set their gambling prices based on the rules and other conditions (e.g., bet minimums) of their games. Sports betting, and baseball in particular, is one game where you’ll find a lot of price variation.

If you want to bet the Dodgers, for example, and one line requires that you risk $110 to win $100 while another requires only $105, the latter is obviously the better option. But how do you know which books are offering the best deals?

One way is by monitoring an online odds service that lists current lines at several casinos. Some of these services charge a fee, while others—including the one I use at—are free. Check the board, identify the best odds, and hustle down to that casino and bet (or wager via an app if that book offers one).

Granted, this “expert” approach isn’t always viable for those who don’t have a lot of spare time. For most, “line shopping” will be reduced to comparing one or two places that are convenient on your way home from work. Or more likely, you’ll just settle for your favorite shop. But even if that’s the case, there’s still something you can do to save some money.

What determines the bookie’s advantage is the spread between a line’s “take” and “lay” prices, with the edge rising as the distance increases. Example: If the Mets face the Braves, and one book deals -120 on the Mets and +110 on the Braves (known as a “10-cent” line) and another deals -125/+110 (15-cent line) or -130/+110 (20 cents), the first book is better for the player.

With effort and practice, you’ll be able to recognize the difference. But you don’t really need to understand it to take advantage. By simply making your default sportsbooks the ones with the lowest spreads, you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting the best line. At the start of the 2015 baseball season, here’s how they stacked up:

20-cent lines: MGM Resorts properties (MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, etc.); 15-cent lines: Caesars properties (Harrah’s, Rio, etc.), Station, Coast, Stratosphere/Arizona Charlie’s; 10-cent lines: GC Technology (M Resort, Venetian/Palazzo, etc.), South Point, William Hill (everywhere), Westgate, Wynn, Jerry’s Nugget, Golden Nugget, TI; 8-cent lines: Aliante.

Does this mean Aliante will always have the best line? No. For a given game, it’s possible that a better number will be elsewhere, even at MGM Resorts. But over time, the better lines will materialize at Aliante, followed by the group in the 10-cent category. So you should consider taking a swing at those books first.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and

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