This has been one of the most incredible weeks in recent memory for anyone betting on Major League Baseball.
As if playing in front of no fans wasn’t strange enough, we saw exhibition games end in ties, teams walking off the field after just two outs recorded, and extra innings being played on purpose. Then, Juan Soto of the Nationals tested positive for COVID-19, and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw got scratched only hours before his scheduled Opening Day start.
If you don’t know the house rules of your favorite sportsbook, you should read them after this week.
The cherry on top of this crazy sundae came on Thursday, when, just hours before the start of the season, the MLB announced that they had come to an agreement with the players to change the postseason format for 2020. Now, instead of 10 teams making the playoffs, we will have 16 teams in the tournament.
This sent a shockwave through the sports gambling world.
Teams that are in first and second place in their division will automatically qualify for the playoffs. In addition to those 12 teams, four other teams with the next best record will also qualify for the postseason. However, there are no byes in this one-year format. Instead, division leaders will be seeded No. 1 to No. 3. Then, the second-place teams will be seeded No. 4 to No. 6, and the next best teams No. 7 and No. 8.
Commissioner Rob Manfred explains the 2020 expanded playoffs structure: "It's going to be 8 teams from each league: The 3 division winners, the 3 second place teams, and the next two teams with the best record. There will be no first round byes. It will… https://t.co/RnD8z3nTcq
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) July 24, 2020
After that, the format will be No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, and so on, in a best of three series. There will not be a wild card game this year. Every team that makes the playoffs is guaranteed to play at least twice.
Immediately after the news broke, every gambler who had placed a futures bet on a team to win the World Series asked the same question: “is my bet going to be voided and refunded now that the playoff format has completely changed?”
Some also ask the question the other way: “why isn’t my bet going to be voided, since the path to winning the World Series is now unquestionably more difficult?”
For instance, a bet on the Dodgers to win it all in June under the old format has to be seen much differently with the new bracket. Los Angeles must now win two more games and use an unknown number of arms to get those wins. Countless more at-bats will happen, and an upset in an early round of playoffs is more plausible.
However, in Las Vegas, the sportsbooks have no plans to refund anyone’s future wager.
“All future wagers are considered action, and our house rules say ‘for betting purposes, future wagers winners will be the winner/champion as determined by the governing body, chairman, office, etc. of a particular sport,'” said Matthew Metcalf, Sportsbook Director of Circa Sports and The D.
When pressed on the topic about how the conversation went inside the risk room about the massive change in baseball’s postseason format, Metcalf said they treated the news like they have with other changes in the past.
“We definitely adjusted our odds, and we will continue to do so based on any format changes. We took them down for a little while until we understood the format completely.”
The decision to not refund any future wagers in baseball after the playoff format change was also made at Westgate SuperBook.
“It’s all action,” said Jeff Sherman, Vice President of Risk at the SuperBook. “It’s based on who wins the pennant and the World Series. Simply put, we will adjust some odds to account for the appropriate number of teams that come into play (but not refund any bets).”
Sherman compared what baseball has done with their playoffs to the change in the postseason for the NHL, where the league added several teams to the postseason for their restart in Canada.
“We have to honor the bets based on our house rules,” said Sherman. “We can’t change midstream, and it’s the same thing as the NHL playoffs this year. More teams in, we just grade the winners.”
If you are holding a ticket on a team to win the World Series, your bet is live and that ticket is still good. While some will benefit with better odds after betting on a long shot, if you bet on a favorite, you’re in a worse position.
To the sportsbooks, this will all even out eventually, but there is no debate that it will be more difficult for teams like the Yankees and Dodgers to win the World Series. The loser here seems to be the gambler who placed their bets on a favorite before the format change.
However, all current bets are “action,” and we will wait to see which team gets handed the Commissioner’s Trophy later this fall.
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