First Five Innings (F5) Betting in Baseball

Picture this. You’ve broken down a few games from the upcoming MLB slate. Afterward, you walk away feeling confident about the outcome of one contest, such as the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees are sending ace hurler Gerrit Cole to the mound, while the Red Sox are countering with Nathan Eovaldi. While Eovaldi is a pretty solid arm, he’s just no match for Cole. Additionally, you just feel that much better about the way New York is swinging the bats in comparison to Boston.

As such, you walk away feeling confident of a Yankees win. You place a baseball bet and sit down to enjoy the game. Just like you expected, Cole pitches lights out and he takes the rest of the day off with a comfortable 3-0 lead. Then the bullpen gets involved.

What looked like a surefire win for New York goes in the opposite direction. Boston tees off on the relievers in the latter innings and walks off the field with a 5-4 victory. Instead of a winning ticket, you walk away wondering if you’re somehow jinxed.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get in your action on MLB games while also protecting yourself from the potential risk and unpredictability of the later innings? Thankfully, there is a way, and it just so happens F5 betting is growing in popularity.

An MLB first five innings bet allows you to focus on the early stages of the game and better pinpoint potential profit opportunities. We’re going to walk through everything you need to know about betting the first half right here. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at how it works.

MLB moneyline betting explained

To fully understand the alternative, it’s important to have a good handle on betting the moneyline. Here’s what you need to know.

The moneyline bet is one of the standard offerings for MLB games at legal mobile and online sportsbooks, right alongside the run line and totals. For a moneyline wager, you’re simply picking which team you think will win the game.

There will be odds listed for both teams. The favorite will have negative odds, while the number is positive on the underdog side. As a general rule of thumb, the closer the range between the lines, then the closer the game is expected to be. Here’s what a moneyline might look like.

  • Chicago White Sox -140
  • Detroit Tigers +120

In this case, the White Sox are favored, as indicated by the negative odds, while the positive number for the Tigers makes them the underdog. You can place your bet on either side, and the potential return will vary based on the odds.

If you bet $100 on the White Sox at odds of -140, you’d be looking at a total of $171.40 coming back, which is the initial stake plus a return of $71.40. For winning $100 bets on the Tigers at odds of +120, the return is $220, the amount of your wager plus a profit of $120.

Moneyline bets are very popular for MLB betting, which is thanks in part to their simple and straightforward betting nature. Of course, ease of understanding doesn’t necessarily translate into simple bets to cash tickets on.

What is a first five innings bet?

This is a bet that simply revolves around the first five innings of an MLB game. Just like many other bet types, this was once a niche offering that could be found here and there at some sportsbook operators.

However, interest in first five innings betting, which is also known as F5 betting, has grown tremendously in recent times. We can certainly point to the explosive growth of the legal sports betting marketplace, including right here in Michigan, as being one of the catalysts.

As opposed to betting on the entire game, you’re simply focusing on the first half or 1h. If the team you select has the lead at the end of five innings, you have yourself a winning ticket. When your 1h baseball betting selection is on the wrong side of the score, then it’s a loser, while a tie ball game after five will result in a push.

As you break down the games to find potential first five innings bets, you’ll be looking at many of the same things as you would for a moneyline bet. Also, one of the biggest areas of focus becomes that much more important: the starting pitching matchup.

Since top starting pitchers will at least hit the five-inning mark more often than not before hitting the showers, it should come as no surprise that the matchup of the two hurlers is a big driver in the MLB first five innings lines.

If we go back to our Tigers vs. White Sox matchup with the former sending Lucas Giolito to the mound and the latter rolling with Matt Boyd, then the line for the F5 bet might look something like this.

  • Chicago White Sox F5 -115
  • Detroit Tigers F5 +105

Since the pitching matchup is pretty close to this one, the line is tight. As you would expect, a proverbial mismatch on the hill would lead to an even bigger span between the two numbers.

The F5 bet has evolved into a top option to consider for many MLB handicappers. It’s simple and straightforward like a moneyline while also taking the concerns inherent in the latter portion of games out of the equation.

Differences between MLB F5 and moneyline bets

The main difference between the two bet types has to do with the range of perspective. For the F5 bet, the focus is on which side will have the lead after five innings are in the books, while the moneyline revolves around the entire game.

Oftentimes, you’ll find that the odds and lines paint a similar picture on both bets. If a team has a distinct advantage in the starting pitching matchup, then there’s a real good chance they’ll be favored for both F5 and moneyline bets.

However, the range of the odds between the two sides might be even greater in one over the other. We’ll walk through some specific examples for F5 bets in a bit so you have an understanding of what you may see based on the matchup.

Beyond the pitching matchup, you also have to consider the relative strength of both teams in several areas. You’ll be looking at the respective offenses and how they may fare in both cases, but you need to go a little deeper on the F5 side. Specifically, you’ll want to explore the kind of starts that the offenses are typically getting off to and how they have been performing of late. For example, a team that has had hot bats for a few games in a row could at least see that carry over into the opening part of the next contest.

The same holds for squads whose bats have been cold in recent times. When you add in how the two sides have fared against the opposing pitchers from a historical perspective, you have plenty of nuggets to glean which can be useful for both bet types.

On the opposite side, handicapping for the moneyline means you have to spend some extra time on the bullpens in terms of overall strength and recent performance. That’s not something you have to concern yourself too much with on the F5 side.

If the starting pitcher on your side gets shelled or has to leave early due to injury, then you could be in trouble. However, if the same unfortunate things were to happen to the side you bet against, then you could be in line for a winning ticket.

MLB first five innings lines and odds

Just like with the odds and lines for other bet types, the numbers for F5 wagers will vary based upon the situation at hand. However, we can safely assume that they’ll fall in one of three ranges depending on the matchup.

  • Big favorite: This is either a game in which a powerhouse squad is facing off against a cellar dweller or a contest with a big mismatch in starting pitchers.
  • Slight to medium advantage: One side is at least noticeably better than the other overall or just playing better, and the same may carry over to the pitchers involved.
  • Toss-up: This looks like an even matchup overall that’s almost too close to call, and the same may apply to the players who will be stepping on the hill.

We’ll walk through an example of each to further demonstrate what you might see. First up, let’s say it’s a matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers are sending out Clayton Kershaw, while the Giants have Kevin Gausman in the starting role.

Since Kershaw is one of the top hurlers in MLB while Gausman is not at that level, this is a situation in which we’ll likely see a big favorite.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers F5 -200
  • San Francisco Giants F5 +180

Moving down the list, let’s say it’s a next-tier matchup in which there’s an advantage on one side, but not one that’s quite as pronounced as our previous example. Let’s say it’s the Chicago Cubs and Kyle Hendricks on the mound as they get set to face the St. Louis Cardinals and Dakota Hudson.

In our fictitious scenario, the two clubs are pretty even, but Hendricks is pitching that much better than Hudson recently, while the Cubs are at home and also hitting well of late. That may result in a line that looks something like this.

  • St. Louis Cardinals F5 +120
  • Chicago Cubs F5 -140

While there’s still a clear favorite for the F5 bet, the range is much tighter than for the projected mismatch we walked through up above. Last but not least, let’s look at an example for a game that looks like it’s almost akin to a coin flip.

In this game, it’s the Atlanta Braves taking on the Washington Nationals, a meeting of two teams that are expected to battle for the National League East crown. The Braves are starting Cole Hamels, while Patrick Corbin will be going for the Nationals.

On paper, the matchup looks to be about as close as it can get, and there’s no major edge in starting pitching. That could lead to a line that looks like this.

  • Atlanta Braves F5 -105
  • Washington Nationals F5 -115

The tight range of odds aligns with our projections as this game looks to be a toss-up as a whole, not to mention through the first five frames.

As you scan through the daily matchups and try to zero in on early-game scenarios that look like they’re worth exploring further, take the time to visualize how the matchup will translate into F5 odds. By doing so, you’ll have not only a good sense of the general range to expect, but also place yourself in a position to quickly spot value opportunities.

How to place an F5 bet

At legal online and mobile sports betting sites in Michigan, the standard listing for MLB games will show the three main bet types for each game on the docket. Here’s what an example listing looks like.

  • Minnesota Twins +1.5 (-110) +110 O 7.5 (-110)
  • Houston Astros -1.5 (-110) -130 U 7.5 (-110)

From left to right, the numbers represent the odds and lines for the three main bet types: run line, moneyline, and totals. The listing is telling us that the Astros are a slight favorite over the Twins and that a potentially low-scoring affair could follow.

What about the F5 odds and how do we find them? On the individual game listings, there’s generally a link that’s labeled as ‘more wagers.’ Once you click on that, you’ll be directed to all of the other bet types available for the game.

There, you’ll see a range of prop bets and other wager types, one of which will be the F5 for the game. After you locate it, you’ll see selections that resemble this.

  • Minnesota Twins F5 +120
  • Houston Astros F5 -140

After you have made your choice, it’s just a matter of clicking on the box that corresponds with your selection. The F5 bet will be added to the wagering slip right away. Next, just add in your wagering amount and confirm everything is good to go before clicking submit.

First five inning betting examples

Practice makes perfect when getting a handle on bet types, and it’s no different from the F5. Let’s walk through a couple of more examples to gain even more comfort with these intriguing wagers.

For a game in which two aces are on the mound, there’s a real good chance you’ll see a tight range in the odds on both sides. If the New York Mets and Washington Nationals are set to face off with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer on the hill, the F5 odds could be a complete toss-up upon release.

  • New York Mets F5 -110
  • Washington Nationals F5 -110

Just like other wagers offered at online and mobile sportsbooks, the odds will move based on betting action. As such, it can be helpful to look at projected starters for upcoming matchups and make note of the ones that look particularly appealing.

When it’s the proverbial mismatch between a strong team and a lesser foe with a solid pitcher facing a questionable arm, the odds range will be much wider. If the Houston Astros and Justin Verlander were about to take on Iván Nova and the Detroit Tigers, the odds could look like this.

  • Houston Astros F5 -220
  • Detroit Tigers F5 +190

While a mismatch on paper and according to the odds, there’s also an outstanding profit potential for betting. Keep in mind that upsets do happen, so keep your eyes peeled for situations in which you spot something that others may have missed.

How to handicap first five innings bets

You can follow similar handicapping principles for F5 bets as you would for breaking down the game as a whole. You’ll want to analyze the matchup and keep your eyes peeled for important news and notes, for example. Here are some other specific first five innings betting strategies and tips you can keep in mind while considering the possibilities.

  1. Study the odds and shop around: The odds board gives you a quick sense of the lay of the land and points you to the most likely outcome, at least as far as the oddsmakers see it. Keep your eyes out for lines that move substantially upon release, as this could be an indicator of where the money is flowing. Also, shop around for the best prices on your bets. The difference between -130 and -140 might not seem like much, but it certainly adds up.
  2. Do a deep dive into the pitching matchup: The starting pitching matchup is a big factor for MLB first five innings betting, so you should be spending a good amount of time here. Beyond the overall strength of the two pitchers, you’ll also want to examine things such as how they’ve been throwing as of late and what the opposing side has been able to produce off of them in the past. It’s all about finding nuggets you can use, as well as spotting things that others may miss.
  3. Be on the lookout for live dogs: Upsets happen in MLB, and games can get off to starts that not many were anticipating as a result. Consider this: an average team with a .500 record is winning 50 percent of their games, while even one of the league’s also-rans can be expected to win 30 or 40 percent. In short, don’t automatically look at previous big underdogs. Instead, look for spots in which you feel confident that a surprise could follow.

Key takeaways on MLB first five innings betting

The MLB first five innings bet continues to grow in popularity. This is a wager in which you simply have to choose which side will hold the lead after five frames are completed.

Just like an MLB moneyline bet, there will be odds for both sides. There will be times when the span is large, sometimes when the odds are in the middle and other times when the range is real tight.

A big driver of the odds in F5 bets is the starting pitching matchup, so you should spend extra time examining it in full detail. This is also part of the appeal of MLB first five innings bets, as it allows you to take bullpens out of the equation.

Having a bet that looks like a sure thing fall apart in the latter innings can be frustrating, but the F5 wager helps to make that a non-issue. It’s a bet type that’s worth taking the time to explore while picking your spots for potentially profitable opportunities on the daily MLB slate.