Sometimes it pays to be bad – at least over the long haul.
Betting moneyline sports like baseball is often more about long-term payback than individual results. For this reason, professional gamblers often place their money on baseball’s worst teams.
Sharp bettors understand the odds and know that teams like the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals or Tampa Bay Devil Rays aren’t going to cash their bet at the same rate as the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.
But they also know dogs will often win at a higher rate than oddsmakers predict.
“I always look underdog first from a value perspective,” says professional handicapper Erin Rynning. “Right now I believe Major League Baseball is the most competitive of all the major sports. The worst teams still win close to 40 percent of their games, so anything +140 or higher you have to take a look.”
At 18-28, the Royals aren’t going to win the World Series this year, but they can certainly pad your bankroll in the right situation.
The Royals have won seven of their last nine games heading into Wednesday’s action, with all seven wins coming as an underdog. Kansas City has earned 9.58 units over that span, meaning anyone who bet a dollar on each of those nine games would be up $9.58.
Lam Banker, considered by many to be the World’s Most Famous Sports Gambler, once quipped, “I’ve had more luck with the ugly ladies than I have the pretty ones.” Teams like the Royals attract action from the wise guys because no one else is willing to bet them. Public bettors prefer the “sure thing,” and will lay heavy juice on the other side of baseball’s worst teams. That mindset forces oddsmakers to shade the favorite.
Line managers say the sharp bettors will often chime in only after the line has had some time to marinate with the betting public. The masses' preference for a heavy favorite will drive up the line even further and create an even better number leading up to game time.
“Let’s says the Royals are playing the Yankees,” says Shane Catford of BetCRIS.com. “The line will open at (Kansas City) +200, but we won’t get a bet on the Royals until it reaches +230, +240. At that time we have guys calling in asking how much we will let them bet on the Royals.”
Washington is another team that has shown it can be profitable in the right spots. On May 10, the Nationals were 9-25 and had lost eight straight games, but went on to win six of their next seven games, all at home, and all as an underdog.
The Nationals have cooled off a little bit since then, but their league-worst 17-29 record is still drawing long odds. Washington is now 8-5 overall dating back to May 10 and has still been an underdog in every game it’s played and earned 5.74 units over that time.
Like the first seven games of the Nationals’ streak, success usually starts at home for these teams. Last year's 61-101 Tampa Bay team, for example, earned 10.19 units at home, but lost 28.91 units on the road.
The Royals, Nationals and Devils Rays were all profitable at home last season despite holding three of the five worst records in baseball.
“The Devil Rays play .500 baseball at home, but rarely win on the road,” says Rynning. “Situations like this become even more profitable when a team struggles on the road because it carries over some into their home line.”