Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks … and put $10 on the next pitch to be a strike.
As life continues a hopeful (albeit slow) return to normalcy in 2021, Michiganders have a new way to enhance their sports fandom experience.
Live betting on baseball while at the stadium can add a new wrinkle as fans make their return to venues such as Detroit’s Comerica Park after spending at least a year away.
But can a diligent fan beat Michigan sportsbooks with a quick bet based on what’s happening in front of their eyes? How easy is it to pull off? What kind of in-game options are available, anyway?
I masked up and braved the late April cold to find out.
Pre-game planning for Pirates, Tigers
With those questions in mind, PlayMichigan sent me across the street for the April 22 game between the usually lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and even lowlier Detroit Tigers.
Before leaving for the game, I saw that PointsBet was offering its Home Run Insurance promotion for the series. That means if you wager up to $25 on a player to hit a home run, and he does not homer but his team wins, you get a consolation prize of free bets for your stake amount.
Obviously, free bets are nowhere near as valuable as the equal amount of cash (because you don’t win the stake from the free bet), but this seemed like a fun flier to take on the game.
He’s cooled since his strong start, but trying to capitalize on Akil Baddoo fever seemed like a fun wager to put on before leaving for this one.
I bet on the Tigers outfielder to hit a home run, despite the miserable +500 odds.
Gambling signage is in your face at Comerica Park
PointsBet is still on the right-field wall at Comerica and in other spots.
Right as I walked in, I saw the pre-game and post-game show stage for Bally Sports Detroit. That’s the new television home for the Tigers that is now branded for a gambling operator.
The first beer stand I saw was the Motor City Casino Off Ramp Bar. This gambling motif would extend to the field of play.
Gambling operators fighting for outfield real estate
Last year, MotorCity and its partner, FanDuel Sportsbook, shared an ad on the left-field wall. Now, FanDuel has taken over the whole space.
Bally Sports and BetMGM have added Comerica signage, with BetMGM owning the out-of-town scoreboard digital space (as it does at Little Caesars Arena across Woodward Avenue) in right-center field.
As I took a couple laps around the ballpark to soak up the scene, see what concessions were available and people-watch, Baddoo came up in the second inning.
The rookie drove one to center field, where Bryan Reynolds dove to try for the catch. He missed, and this one was headed all back to the wall.
The speedy Baddoo could run for days at expansive Comerica Park. A run scored, but as Baddoo rounded third, third-base coach Chip Hale held him up.
It was probably the wise move, though the fans booed (or was it “Baddooooooo-ed”?). Either way, a potential $125 payout said it would’ve been nice to see the rookie give it a shot. Maybe next time.
(A Victor Reyes line out stranded Baddoo at third, by the way.)
Who is really ‘Michigan’s Fastest Sportsbook?’
On one of the digital scoreboards behind home plate, PointsBet advertises itself as “Michigan’s Fastest Sportsbook.”
I figured it was time to put that assertion to the test.
PointsBet had 47 “In Play” wagers available with the adjusting spread, total and moneyline on the main score.
Clicking for more, you find categories such as adjusted totals, adjusted spreads, first-seven-innings bets and game props.
There are also totals posted for the next inning. I decided to bet the over on 0.5 combined runs for the fifth.
Heading into the frame, the Tigers were down 2-1, with starters Mitch Keller and Detroit’s José Ureña still pitching.
These guys are traditionally not good, so I’m guessing one cracks in the fifth.
About to place my bet, I encountered the next obstacle.
Comerica Park’s Wi-Fi: Cross your fingers and trust it?
I was operating on cellular data with my Wi-Fi off and was able to access my PointsBet app and scan available wagers.
However, when trying to place the bet, it failed. The app says I was “near a prohibited area.”
I remembered that geolocation technology sometimes only works when connected to Wi-Fi.
At Comerica Park, my public Wi-Fi option is “Tigers” (“Unsecured Network”).
(I later read that free Wi-Fi is a Comerica Park feature enhanced before the 2015 season. I’m guessing this was that network?)
… So, yeah, what could possibly go wrong? It’s not like I’m making sensitive monetary transactions here.
Since COVID-19 restrictions had fewer than 8,000 fans at games, and it was too cold for most people to be on their phones, connectivity was not an issue. I was able to place the bet on over 0.5 runs in the fifth.
Now, if there were 40,000 people here on a nice summer day…
Here are some live-betting options
Given that I was walking around the stadium for the early parts of the game and didn’t do much pre-game research, I am just placing small-money wagers to browse each operator’s markets and see if I can place the bets.
Fox Bet offered 68 live wagers
Going through the Fox Bet live betting baseball options, there were 68 different markets offered.
Of course, you had your moneyline, run line and run totals markets constantly updating.
You also had alternative run lines and alternative totals, where you can pick the amount you want to bet against. There were parlays coupling game result and total over/unders; over/unders for total hits by team; the same markets for run totals per team; and individual inning totals both combined and per team.
There also was a total runs in innings four through six, and a bet on whether the totals runs will be an odd or even number.
I could not beat FanDuel after Tigers’ HR
When canning through the 43 options from FanDuel, I encountered mostly more of the same from Fox Bet. But there was a new one I hadn’t seen: a total runs bet with pairs of two numbers to choose: 5-6, 7-8, etc.
On the field, Ureña got through the top half of the fifth inning unscathed. I’d need the Tigers to score to win my over bet.
Baddoo struck out top lead off the inning, Reyes K’d next, and JaCoby Jones was my last chance to hit the over on runs. Jones drove a home run to right field.
Since I was already checking out the FanDuel app for their odds, I tried to beat the app by placing a quick Tigers moneyline bet with favorable odds.
However, the odds were already locked when the ball was put into play. By the time odds were posted again, the Tigers were back adjusted to -135 favorites, with the game tied 2-all in the fifth inning.
Sportradar, the exclusive distributor of real-time statistics for Major League Baseball, had beaten me to the punch.
More of the same at BetMGM, William Hill
The market options were beginning to get repetitive as I went through BetMGM (51 markets) and William Hill (47).
One bet I saw on BetMGM was a “Will there be extra innings in the game?” market, which seemed like decent value at +195 for “yes” in a tie game with four innings to play.
I bet $2 on it, but the app wouldn’t accept my wager at first.
Since I had already logged into BetMGM before connecting to WiFi, I had to log out and then log back in for the locator to work.
This process doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’re trying to make split-second bets, it’s another hindrance. Plus, it’s annoying when your hands are just about frozen.
At William Hill, there was a bet where you choose which team would “Race to 3 Runs” first (or 4, or 5, or 6, or 7).
Although William Hill has “Americanized” its app some since I’ve been following along these past few months, there are still European flavors. For the game, it referred to the “Total Match Runs Odd/Even” line.
DraftKings puts the ‘micro’ in micro-betting
Live betting and micro-betting are sometimes interchangeable terms. Live betting is the more common term in the United States.
But when I opened up the DraftKings app, the term “micro-betting” came to mind, as you can make some live bets on this game that seemed remarkably specific.
The Pitch-by-Pitch tab under “Popular” brings up the most unusual wagers I’d seen so far.
“Result of Pitch — DET Tigers: Batter 1 of Inning 7, Pitch 1”
Now, this is what I would consider “micro” micro-betting. Pitch by pitch.
Strike/Foul, -121 odds; Ball/Hit by pitch, +130, In play, +750.
The first- and second-pitch markets are already posted for the current batter, and the next batter.
As at-bats go on, markets usually aren’t posted for each subsequent pitch. The placement and creation of markets is probably too fast for DraftKings, which makes sense.
There are also markets for each batter getting a hit or a walk (excluding a hit-by-pitch). I bet a buck on Niko Goodrum to get a hit or walk in the sixth inning at +330 at some point during his at-bat. He struck out to end the frame.
It seems like there could be some value here if you can find an aggressive hitter who is a first-pitch free-swinger. That said, I suspect operators have those tendencies figured in and temper the “ball” markets for those hitters.
Baddoo inches away from making me a winner
Baddoo led off the seventh inning with another chance to make my home-run bet a winner.
On the fourth pitch, there’s a drive. Deep left field.
It looks like it hit off the top of the wall, inches from a home run.
Baddoo cruises to second base for a stand-up double, but as they head to replay, maybe there’s a chance to make money here.
Could instant replay give a leg up?
If I can spot that replay will likely reverse this moment and call it a home run before it’s actually confirmed as such, maybe I can get a favorable moneyline wager down when I know the Tigers are taking a 3-2 lead before the official stats do.
After one look at the slow-motion replay on the scoreboard, it’s actually clear the ball was headed over the fence, but left-fielder Phillip Evans reached over with his glove and brought it back to the field of play. As his glove (with the ball inside) hit the wall, it flicked the ball back to the field of play. The call eventually stood, correctly.
And Baddoo was doing everything to tease my home run bet for the day.
The live moneyline market was open during this time at DraftKings. But this was not a home run. Plus, had I misinterpreted the replay, I would’ve possibly made a foolish bet. The punchless Tigers would strand Baddoo that inning.
Be careful to count your batters when micro-betting
You’ll have to be very careful to make sure you’re wagering on the right batter. As innings drag on, without the player’s name listed on the bet, make sure you are wagering on the correct “fourth batter,” for instance.
I messed up that count in the seventh inning. I wagered on a ball to be the result of the first pitch against batter No. 7.
Well, the sixth hitter of the frame was batting, and Detroit’s Willi Castro made the final out.
It worked out well, as Castro swung at a pitch out of the strike zone that would’ve lost my intended bet. With no batter No. 7 in the inning, my actual bet was voided.
Pitch-by-pitch betting could be fun, that’s all
My first thought upon reflection of pitch-by-pitch betting is: “Who would do this?”
This seems like the ultimate game of chance, basically buying a lottery ticket for dumb luck.
Then, I pictured myself going to (non-working) games with friends in the summertime, drinking a couple beers and often not paying much attention to what’s going on.
I could see us getting fired up about a random pitch in the sixth inning and celebrating the outcome. The folks around us would likely be wondering what the fuss was over, but this could be a sideshow to an otherwise meaningless game during another lost Tigers’ season.
All that said, I can’t see how there’s much money-making value there.
Plus, all this work of being on your phone to make multiple bets kind of takes some of the fun out of being at the ballpark.
Not to mention the added stress.
Nobody seemed to be betting on this day
Now, there’s a lot of factors to consider here, but I didn’t see one other fan making live bets during the game. Not many fans were on their phones at all.
Sports betting is still new here, so people aren’t used to it. Since it was cold, most people have gloves on or can’t easily operate a phone otherwise.
Most fans are socializing with the people they came with, too: They’re eating hot dogs and enjoying live baseball for the first time in many months.
Also, with social distancing, I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask fans what they were up to every time I saw a phone pulled out.
But I’ll keep an eye on it this summer at the ballpark. When the weather gets nicer and socializing becoming more acceptable, we’ll see if live betting on baseball is catching on at Comerica Park.
Especially as another season of losses wears down the fan base.