What Is Run Line Betting?

Iowa is one of many states with legal sports betting. You have a significant amount of betting options because mobile wagering is legal in Iowa, and those markets cover a wide range of sports on Iowa online betting apps.

Despite the state not hosting a major league team, betting on pro baseball is still wildly popular in Iowa. There are a variety of baseball betting options that can be lucrative, one of which is the run lines market. Betting run lines involve a team needing to win or lose by a certain amount of runs in order to win the wager.

Below, we’ll tell you all you need to know about how to bet on run lines in baseball at Iowa sportsbooks.

Best Iowa sportsbooks with run line bets

What does run line mean in baseball betting?

The run line is a figure set by oddsmakers that tells bettors how much a team needs to win or lose to be a successful bet. Does that sound familiar? Because it should, even if the term “run line” is not as well known as some others among bettors.

One way to understand the run line bet is to find its counterpart in other sports. When betting on basketball and football, the main bet types are the moneyline, point spread and total. Think of the run line as baseball’s version of a point spread.

The process of betting on the run line isn’t all that dissimilar to wagering against the spread in other sports, such as the NFL and NBA. But at the same time, there are other elements to the run line that make it unique.

How do run lines work in MLB betting?

At Iowa sports betting sites (and indeed all sportsbooks), you’ll find the run line is almost always set at 1.5 runs. The favorite will be -1.5 runs and will need to win by two or more to be graded as a successful bet. The underdog is +1.5 and will have to win the game or lose by just a single run to earn a payout.

The biggest difference between run lines and conventional point spread betting is that in other sports, the spreads vary wildly based on the quality of the two teams. For an NFL or NBA game, if the favorite is -7 (-110), the other side is +7 (-110). The spreads are the same on both sides and on most occasions, the prices that come with those spreads are very close, if not identical.

This is where run lines stray from the point spreads we see in basketball and football. The run line is the same for every game at 1.5 runs. To account for the difference in the quality of baseball teams, the potential risk and payout are what varies, rather than the line itself.

There is no better teacher for how to bet on run lines than an example, and we take the following one from FanDuel Sportsbook in Iowa:

Point SpreadMoneylineTotal
Baltimore Orioles+1.5 (+120)+230Over 9 (-108)
Tampa Bay Rays-1.5 (-142)-270Under 9 (-114)

In this matchup, the Rays are the favorite at -1.5 (-142) and the Orioles are the underdog at +1.5 runs (+120).

A wager on the Rays’ run line means that Tampa Bay must win by two or more runs to “cover” the line and earn the payout. A bet on the Orioles’ run line would require Baltimore to win the game or lose by just a single run to be a winning wager.

As is the case with betting the moneyline or most other wagers, the payouts accompanying the run line should be thought of relative to the number 100. This is the easiest way to calculate potential risks and losses.

When betting favorites, bettors are risking the number next to the run line to win $100. You must stake $142 to win $100 or $14.20 to win $10 on the Rays at -1.5 runs.

With underdogs, the run line is what the bettor stands to win if staking $100. A wager on Baltimore at +1.5 means a $100 bet would win $120, or a $10 bet would win $12.

We can tell how big of a favorite or underdog one team is by looking at the moneyline. The Rays are huge favorites at -270, and the Orioles are sizable underdogs at +230. Checking out the moneyline, even if you aren’t betting on it, will help put the price of the run line into context.

When betting run lines on favorites, the price drops dramatically and the payout is better. When taking run lines on the underdog, the extra run provides some cushion but the payout is considerably worse.

This is because runs can come at a premium in Major League Baseball, making each bet valuable.

What is an MLB alternate run line?

Remember when we said that all run lines are 1.5? While that is the standard line you’ll see when you open up your Iowa sportsbook apps, that statement is only partially true.

While standard run lines do begin at 1.5, most sportsbooks also offer alternate run line betting options for MLB games. These are exactly what the name suggests: run lines with an alternate spread.

Depending on the sportsbook, you may be able to take favorites at -2.5 runs, -3.5 runs, or more if they are expecting a blowout. This strategy involves selling runs in exchange for higher odds. The bigger the spread on the run line, the larger the payout.

Using our FanDuel odds from above, the Rays are -270 on the moneyline when they only need to win by a single run, but they are -142 when they need to win by two or more. Those odds will continue to become more favorable with each increased run the bettor gives away.

On the other side, underdogs are available at +2.5, +3.5 or more. But it should be noted that the more runs the bettor buys, the worse the payout becomes in exchange for the security those extra runs provide.

The Orioles are +230 on the moneyline in our example when they need to win the game to cash the ticket. But at +1.5, the sports odds lessen to +120, and they’ll continue to lower with each additional run added to the run line.

Best strategies for betting on MLB run lines

Gambling on run lines in baseball isn’t the same as wagering on point spreads in other sports, so it helps to have a plan of action. Keep the following baseball run line betting strategies in mind when putting your money on baseball:

  • Target road teams on the run line: This goes especially if you’re going to chase a large payout with favorites. If the home team is leading the game, they won’t have to bat in the bottom of the ninth and this can be the difference between getting that extra run you need to cover the line. When possible, bet on the road team to guarantee yourself nine at-bats and the most chances to rack up runs.
  • Don’t be afraid to take the run: You’d be surprised to know that even though giving away 1.5 runs offers a larger payout, many sharp (professional) bettors go the other way and take the underdog at +1.5 runs. This can be a profitable strategy, especially in the instance of heavy underdogs. As evidenced by our example above, it’s possible to take the underdog on the run line and still get plus odds and if not, you may still be able to do so without paying too steep of a price.
  • Shop around: As is the case with any type of betting, you want to get the best odds possible. Thanks to there being so many betting sites to choose from, this is easier than ever. Sportsbooks will offer many of the same markets but are likely to have odds that vary, so shop around for the best possible line to get the most for your money.