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KNOW THE BETTING RULES

Know the rules. Ignorance is an asset in very few endeavors, certainly not in sports betting.

Weird events can burn you, but your odds are better if you are aware of the stipulations ahead of time. Your chances should be 50-50 in most circumstances, but that percentage could drop drastically if others were entrusted with the decision after the fact.

Most sporting events are considered official for betting purposes if they are played to within five minutes of their scheduled conclusion. Football and hockey games must go at least 55 minutes, NBA contests 43 minutes and NCAA ones 35.

A premature celebration in the final minutes does not affect the result, but a half-time protest that halts the game, like one at Rutgers a couple of years ago, results in all wagers being returned.

Baseball of course employs no clock, so different rules apply. Generally, for betting purposes, a game must go at least five innings, four and a half if the home team is ahead. For totals, and for run lines like 1.5-2, 2 runs pick or 1.5 -60, the game must go the full nine (or eight and a half if the home team wins.) Some stores insist that total bets reach a decision, so a game called at 16-16 in the 16th is no play.

In some cases, major league baseball rules differ from baseball rules. If a game is suspended in the middle of an inning, it seems only fair that it be continued at a later date. Bet makers and bet takers, however, want their wagers resolved sooner than later.

A game suspended in the first four innings is no bet, period. A couple of years ago the Marlins led the Yankees 5-4 in the first inning when the rains came. Guys who bet over 7.5 were crying too, because their astute picks were useless.

This April 12 play was suspended in San Francisco just as the Dodgers took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Since the score was 2-2 after five, and the Giants had no opportunity to come back in the bottom of the sixth, all wagers were returned. The game was completed the following day, with LA holding on for a 6-5 victory, but that was meaningless to all bettors.

However, when the April 23 contest between St. Louis and Colorado was halted after six and a half innings, the Cards got the money for their 6-3 lead. Of course all over-under action was void.

As Yogi Berra noted, it ain't over til it's over. It's true that once a game goes over, it cannot go back under, but it may not pay off. Last October 17 in the playoffs the Braves were 40 and 7.5 over the Mets, while the Yankees were 20 and 9.5 over the Red Sox. A guy who bet both overs was probably not happy when the National League game went into extra innings at 2-2 and the Yanks took a 4-2 lead into the ninth.

But miracles do occur; after Atlanta took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 15th, the Mets tied it and loaded the bases for Robin Ventura. His blast over the fence could have made the final score 7-3, but when he passed Todd Pratt on the base paths, the rules of baseball dictated only the necessary runs would register, making the final score 4-3, an under.

The Yankees, meanwhile, exploded for five runs in the top of the ninth to swell that score to a comfortably over 9-2. But Fenway fans, upset at several umpire calls, vented their displeasure by showering the field with such various and sundry items as beer containers and batteries. The umpires removed the players from the field for safety's sake, threatening to call the game. This also posed a major threat to our over players, since totals plays only count on completed games. The game was resumed, avoiding a doubling damning evening for the over guys.

Another stipulation unique to baseball involves the starting pitchers, who constitute the major component of the betting line. Larger bettors usually specify hurlers, as in "Cone over Oliver." Some players may stipulate one or both starters; guys who always want the listed starters play "as is," while those who want to play regardless of pitchers call "action."

Smaller players, or guys laying a 20 cent spread, usually have a bet regardless of the starting pitchers. Larger players, however, are a different story. A pitch out, a change of starters, results in no action for those who specified at least one pitcher or played "as is," and a possible adjustment in prices for those who played "action."

Sometimes bettors do not even realize the adjustment until the following day. Although pitch outs can wreak havoc with wagering, the adjustments protect both sides. You don't want to be laying Pedro Martinez prices on Ramon.
Here again the major league rule may differ from the betting rule. For betting purposes, the starting pitcher must throw at least the first pitch. For major league records, he is the guy written into the starting lineup card.
The difference may seem negligible, but on April 23, 1997, Tim Davis of Seattle was 55 and 11 over Jason Pittsley of Kansas City. A bettor might have picked the underdog Pittsley, whose 2.57 ERA was more than four runs less than that of Davis, who had been shelled by KC the previous year. The bettor probably would have been pleased by the Royals' 12-10 victory, maybe even checking the boxscore to see Pittsley and Davis listed as the starters. He would have been much less pleased to learn that Davis had been injured during warmups and Bob Wells had thrown the first pitch, constituting a pitchout negating all bets specifying pitchers. Davis was the recorded starter for baseball historians, but not the official starter for bettors.

The switch could have been beneficial or detrimental to your bankroll, but the shock would be less is you were aware of the rule. Letting others decide for you after the fact is probably not advantageous.
Your bookmakers probably have posted rules and regulations. If not,or if they do not cover some potential incident, ask. If they have no stipulation, suggest your own. Knowing the rules in advance can avoid some bitter and expensive battles down the road.

Written by Len Toth

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