Adam Thompson, senior handicapper and analyst for, chatted with PressBox about how new baseball bettors can have fun, the types of bets to target, some futures picks he likes and more.

PressBox: There are five sportsbooks available in Maryland. How would you advise someone new to sports betting to have some fun betting on baseball during the season and not get overwhelmed?

Adam Thompson: The first thing is only bet what you can afford to lose. I tell people all the time, “Twenty bucks on a game makes it infinitely more interesting to watch.” It can be 10 bucks on a game. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make it more entertaining. When it comes to the actual betting, moneyline bets are my go-to. You’re just picking a winner. Obviously the odds fluctuate based on who should win. … There are other bets called the run line where you can either take the favorite minus 1.5 runs or take the underdog plus 1.5 runs. There’s the over-under on total runs as well. Those are kind of the big three. But the moneyline is the most popular one. It’s also the most fun because then you just take a winner.

One thing that I like to do — especially in this day and age of extremely heavy bullpen [usage], and I think this works a lot especially for new people that are getting into it — is the first five innings bet. You can do your own research, and it doesn’t have to be heavy research. You can strictly look at who’s the starting pitcher and how they’ve fared in the past against this team, how are they looking now, how is the offense looking now in certain situations. Then you just have the first five innings. You don’t have to worry about will the bullpen blow it or anything like that. I think that’s good for all bettors, frankly, in this day and age. For new [bettors], if you’re looking to do your own research — not a ton of research but if you’re looking to try to find an edge on your own — that’s a really good spot to start.

PB: When did the first five innings bet become popular?

AT: It was probably about five years ago or so if I had to put a number on it. … Everybody’s pretty much offering it now. I think a lot of people have gone that route. I can speak from a lot of personal experience — bullpens have been the bane of my existence when it comes to MLB betting. I’ve been pretty successful at it — about five years ago was about my career best, around that time. I was doing very well, and now you see starters go about five innings instead of six, instead of seven. It just adds so many extra variables out there. Instead of just having to worry about one pitcher bringing his “A” game that day, suddenly you have to worry about four or five pitchers. You’re up to the whims of the manager on a specific day. It just makes it a lot more challenging, so you can sometimes find even better odds on first five innings as well. I think that’s a really good spot to start for a lot of people.

PB: How should new bettors keep it fun throughout the season so they don’t get burned out or lose more than they can afford?

AT: You don’t want to be sour. You don’t want to have instant regret with a loss, because you’re going to lose often. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose long term or anything, but everybody loses at some point. Baseball’s a grind — six straight months, the only days off basically are the days around the All-Star break. Other than that, there’s always available action, which is always kind of fun but it can be draining. You’re not doing this for a living. You’re just doing this for fun. Just take it easy. There’s no obligation that once you’re in you have to check it every day. It’s kind of like being in fantasy baseball. Do you want to be in the one that you have to set your lineup once a week? Or do you want to be in the one that [you have to] set your lineup seven days a week? … There’s no pressure to it. It’s just to have fun and make some dinner money.

PB: Are there any types of futures picks you like to bet on during the summer months?

AT: I tend to stay away from player futures like MVP, Cy Young. Sometimes you can find something [with a Cy Young futures bet], but there’s just so many risk factors. First and foremost is injury. Max Scherzer dominates for three starts or Jacob deGrom suddenly tweaks something. He’s out for two months. He’s done when it comes to MVP or Cy Young — same thing with batters. It doesn’t take much and it’s impossible to predict. When it comes to player stuff, I tend to not go heavy on that.

When it comes to futures, it’s risky. Only once in the last decade has the preseason favorite won the World Series. When you go to best-of-five, best-of-seven series, the best teams all season don’t necessarily win, and you don’t necessarily say that about other sports, especially the NBA where the favorites are often there at the end. Baseball’s a lot more random. The best teams lose 60 games. The worst teams win 60 games.

You can find value. You don’t want to go too crazy. The Royals aren’t going to win the World Series this year. The Orioles probably aren’t going to win the AL East. But there’s always some upstart who’s going to make the playoffs, and those are things you can bet on — to make the playoffs, to win the division. New things I noticed popping up this year and last [are series winners], like best-of-three series that start on a Monday. There are odds for that. That’s not a long-term future, but that’s something you can play as well.

PB: What are your favorite futures picks heading into the summer?

AT: The Houston Astros to win the World Series. They started slow. Their odds are starting to come down because they’re starting to play well. They’re a veteran team that just kind of knows how to work a 162-game regular season and be there at the end. They’re always one of the final four teams, it seems. They have a veteran presence. But they also have a bunch of young guys that are just getting going that have potential in them to really be great and really step it up at the end. They kind of understand the ebbs and flows of a long season. I like them.

The Milwaukee Brewers, they’re kind of mid-tier. Really, to get through a postseason, you need three legit starters and a good bullpen. Almost no team can match up with Milwaukee when it comes to that. Their hitting can come and go, but that’s kind of with everybody. But pitching-wise they have three studs and they have the two best relievers in the game, practically, for the eighth and ninth inning.

… If I’m going to pick some wild, wild, wild card … [the Boston Red Sox] check a lot of the boxes that you like to see at the end of the season. We’ll see if they can get there, but [+4000 in early June], I think that’s a number that comes down. If you’re looking to put $5 or $10 on a random team that’s way out there right now, you could do worse than Boston.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 275: June/July 2022

Luke Jackson

See all posts by Luke Jackson. Follow Luke Jackson on Twitter at @luke_jackson10