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Betting Alternate Run Lines

T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions

If you like betting baseball run lines but want even more variety to your wagering menu, then know you have other options. Actually there are a couple of alternatives - the two different varieties of alternate run lines. A traditional run line is essentially a moneyline with a point spread of 1.5 - the favorite has to win by two or more runs for a bet on them to pay off, while the underdog can lose by one and you will still win your bet. Alternate run lines work in the same way, only they allow you to bet on different spreads.

The first alternate run line, offered by online books including Bodog, Pinnacle and SuperBook, essentially turns the tables on the traditional bet. Instead of laying 1.5 runs, the favorite takes 1.5 runs. The favorite becomes the underdog. Obviously, that means that the original favorite in the game will be facing a much lower payout, and the original underdog will pay off much better than it otherwise would.

If you don't have that much confidence in the underdog, or you like the favorite more than that, then the other alternative will be more attractive. Instead of laying 1.5 runs, it is possible to lay 2.5 runs. The risks are higher, but the bet has the advantage of turning even a heavy favorite into an underdog with a much nicer payoff.

The alternate run lines, like traditional run lines, are obviously not for every situation. They are a tool to be pulled out in the circumstances in which they make the most sense. There are at least three such cases:

1. Exploiting a mismatch for the favorite. The only thing better than winning a bet is winning a bet on the same team at a much better price. In some cases your handicapping will lead you to believe that the favorite is not only going to win the game outright, but that the margin of victory stands a good chance of being fairly significant. Factors that could lead you to that belief could include a team with hot bats, a starting pitcher that is almost unhittable according to recent form, a starting pitcher for the opponent that doesn't match up well or an opposing bullpen that has been beat up in recent games. In those cases, the risk of laying 2.5 runs may be worthwhile given the extra reward. The reward can be significant, too - it is not uncommon to see a team that is a -160 favorite on the moneyline at -2.5 (+170) on the alternate run line. If the team were to win by three or more runs, then, a $100 bet would net $170 on the alternate run line instead of $62.50 on the moneyline. The chances of losing are much higher, but your winning percentage doesn't need to be nearly as high to make a profit.

If you think a team stands a solid chance of winning by three or more, yet you aren't comfortable risking a whole bet on that belief, then you can use the alternate run line in combination with the money line to reduce your risk while increasing your potential payout. Using the above scenario it could, or example, make sense to bet $55 on the money line and $45 on the alternate run line. If your team loses, then you lose your whole bet, but you were going to do that anyway. If the team wins by three runs or more than your profit would be $34.38 from the money line and $76.50 for the alternate run line, for a total of $110.88. That's much less than the $170, but it's much more than the $62.50 of the straight money line bet. The advantage of betting this way, though, comes if your team wins by just one or two runs. On the straight alternate run line bet you would lose $100. In this case you would still collect the $34.38 from your money line bet, so your loss would be just $10.62. You have sacrificed some upside to protect some downside.

2. Exploiting a strong dog. If your handicapping leads you to believe that the underdog stands a chance of not only winning but winning handily then the alternate run line can help you maximize your income. A +145 dog could be expected to be about -1.5 (+210) on the alternate run line. That's almost 50 percent more return, and that could certainly be attractive in a situation in which you are confident that your team could win handily anyway.

As above, you could combine this scenario and the money line to increase the payout while accepting less risk. You could, for example, bet $75 on the money line and $25 on the alternate run line. In that case, the profit would be $161.25 if you win by two or more runs, and $83.75 if you only win by one run. In other words, you are accepting odds of about -120 if you only win by one run, but you are getting +161 if, as you expect, you win by two or more. You could increase your payout by more than 10 percent. That could be worth the extra risk in some cases.

3. Providing a cushion for well-priced favorite. This would certainly be the most conservative use of the alternate run lines, and as such wouldn't make a lot of sense in most cases, but it could have its place. If you have identified a favorite that you are fairly confident is going to win and it is a lukewarm favorite, then you may look to the alternate run line to increase your winning percentage while lowering your potential payout. Since more than a quarter of all games are decided by just one run, you will boost your winning percentage significantly if your favorite can also lose by a run. A -110 favorite could be expected to be about +1.5(-210). This could be especially attractive if you think that -110 was a better payout than would have been fair. That lower payoff for lower risk may be attractive by itself, or it could work when blended with a money line as above.

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