Without a point spread or a way to calculate a point spread, betting on sporting events would be much more difficult. Without a point spread, betters would have to bet on the exact outcome of a game, making winning a bet exceptionally hard.

Point spreads build in a margin of error that gives better leeway to miss the exact score. In baseball, the spread is called a run line. A baseball run line (called also RL) is the margin of a victory or loss that a team has against another competitor. Here is how it works.

How Does the RL Work in Baseball?

It is the amount a team will win or lose against another side. Betters place wagers on a team covering the run line either positively or negatively. One team will have a positive number with any game, and the other will have its opposite.

So, for instance, the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox, and the run line is the Yankees, -1.5. That means they would have to beat the Sox by more than two runs. For the Sox to win, they would have to do so outright or lose by less than the run line.

The following are the possible outcomes:

  • If the Yankees won 1 to 0, then the Red Sox would cover the RL, and anyone that bet on the Yankees would lose
  • If the Yankees won 2 to 1, then the Red sox would cover the RL, and anyone that bet on the Yankees would lose
  • If the Red Sox beat the Yankees, then anyone that bet on the Yankees would lose
  • If, however, the Yankees won by a margin that exceeded two runs, then the person that bet on the Yankees would win the bet

How Is It Different From Money Line Bet?

A money line bet is a bet on the game’s outcome, regardless of the score. So in our example above, if you took the Yankees to win and they do so, you win. If they lose, you lose. The reverse is true of the Red Sox in this example.

A money line bet is different from a run line bet because the margin has no bearing on the outcome. The Yankees could win by 1, 2, or more runs, and if you side with them, you win. If you designated the Red Sox to win, they could win or lose by less than two, and you would win.

How Does a RL Differ From Other Sports?

Baseball seldom has more than five or six runs per team per game. There are blowouts, but there are far more games decided by two runs or less throughout a season. Because of that, the run line will never be very large.

A team that was a clear favorite would have a run line of a few runs at most. It is tight because baseball scores are not usually that high, and the sport is highly unpredictable. Yet one thing that probably will not happen is one team blowing out the other team.

For example, if the starter for the Yankees was a late scratch, the run line may reverse or tighten up, but I would not expand to Boston’s favor in a way that would indicate a blowout by the Red Sox because the Yankees pitcher could not pitch.


This type of a spread can be tricky because they are not straight up betting on a margin or whether a team will win or lose. Here are some common questions those learning about run line betting often have.

Why are baseball lines so tight?

Baseball is more of a game of strategy and positioning than racking up high scores. Because of that, even an outstanding side will not blow out many lesser teams. A four or five-run win is often considered a big margin of victory. That means most lines will be a lot less than that.

Are there alternative options?

Yes. If you do not want the Yankees at -1.5, you can check out alternatives. There are multiple lines offered for every game.

Why is the run line the standard?

Run line betting pays more than a straight money line bet because it is more difficult to pull off. Betting on the Red Sox is simpler than betting on them to win by two or more runs. 

What if a game is postponed?

It depends on who you are betting with, but in most cases, a postponed MLB game carries over if the game is the next day. Most bets are refunded if it is delayed by weeks or months. 

You should check to see what the policy is of the organization you bet with regarding postponed or suspended games.


The run line is the margin of victory a team must achieve to win a bet. Conversely, the other team must win outright or lose by less than the line to win. The team with the negative number is the favorite, and the team with the positive number is the underdog. 

To learn more about different spread betting types and and how to calculate them, check out this free course.

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