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Described by one famous US writer as 'the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America', baseball has long been one of the country's most cherished sports. Its unpredictable nature makes it the perfect topic for a lively discussion, but not so ideal for the casual punter looking to make an easy buck. Knowing where to look is key to making this passion profitable - follow this easy guide to get up to speed.
Understanding the key specific baseball markets will give you an edge as a newcomer. The 'money line' refers to the outright winner market, and you'll notice that the odds are expressed slightly differently to other sports. See here for further explanation on the typical betting markets available within the sport.
Betting on the 'game totals' is slightly higher risk and you'll have to weigh up a range of factors, but it works like a standard over/under market with the bookmakers setting a likely runs total based on form. It's the closest thing to a 50/50 bet when it comes to baseball, but looking into teams offensive and defensive records can help you make an informed choice.
When a team with a great offensive record lines up against a team with a poor defensive record, or vice versa, you'll gain a better idea of the likely runs total. There are also opportunities to bet on whether the final points of one of the teams will be odd or even, and on which team will take the first inning.
More than with any other team sport, the focus of baseball is on the individual players. Punters do best when they research the team and try and guess the starting line-up - a single injured player can turn the tide of the game. Look into stats such as whether the pitchers perform better in daytime or nighttime conditions, and which batters struggle with curve balls. Unfortunately, coaches often wait until moments before the first pitch to announce any issues, so the punter can be left guessing along with the opposing team.
A factor that is often overlooked when placing a bet is the park hosting the game. Some noticeable trends in pitching types can be picked out for specific stadiums. For example, flyball pitchers tend to perform better in Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, whereas groundball pitchers fair better at Rangers Ballpark and Coors Field. This is not an exact science, but baseball fans who recognise these trends will be in a better position to place a bet than those who don't.
Sports fans do not have to stick with America’s Major and Minor leagues either. The game is also played competitively south of the border in Mexico, and is a popular sport in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. The latter country now has two leagues: Central and Pacific.
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