No Run First Inning (NRFI) Bet Emerges As Popular Prop
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. Pictured: Clayton Kershaw
It is the perfect bet for our time — a quick cash out or loss ideal for our increasingly wandering and multi-tasking minds.
Among the new type of bets that the public has fallen in love with, No Run First Inning (NRFI) has made its way to the top along with same-game parlays and first-basket scorer.
And while sports books have attempted to replicate how much fans are betting for baseball in the NBA and the NHL, it hasn’t come close.
At DraftKings, betting on the first inning in an MLB game has nearly four times the handle of betting on if there will be a goal in an NHL game in the first 10 minutes and nearly 60 times the handle of 3s made in the first three minutes of an NBA game.
Johnny Avello, now the director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, has spent five decades in the sports gambling world. He says betting on the first inning started years ago, but only during playoffs.
“When I was in Vegas, we didn’t have the staff to do it every day,” Avello said. “At DraftKings, we are putting up things we used to put up only a few times a year, every single day.”
Does it really take that much work to handicap a first inning?
“Obviously the pitchers and the teams matter,” Avello said. “The Orioles, Tigers and Marlins are particularly terrible starting out games. The Angels are actually likely to score a run in the first inning.”
Avello says the money being thrown on the No Run First Inning is not small. On May 9, a bettor threw down $145,000 that there wouldn’t be a run in the first inning of the A’s-Tigers game.
The A’s scored one run in the second and third and won 2-0. The bettor netted $100,000.
Perspective: The winning A’s pitcher that day, Paul Blackburn, gets paid $710,000 for the season.
Shayne Trail covers the NRFI space for Action Network. He believes that while some think it’s a degenerate bet, it’s actually one you can use a lot of research.
“If you blindly bet on the under or the over you’ll be right around 50 percent of the time this year,” he said. “But you can study pitchers, how teams do in the first inning, how hitters have done in the last week and how hitters have historically done against that pitcher.”
The saying goes that “Life is too short to bet the under,” but No Run First Inning is an exception. Most usually do bet the under, which is technically 0.5 runs.
The top-five biggest first inning payouts at DraftKings were all for games in which there were no runs in the first inning.
Caesars lead baseball trader Eric Biggio says that while the public likes the under, the sharps like the over.
Odds for the prop vary based on who is playing and who is pitching. Think the Angels and Rangers won’t score a first inning run on Wednesday night? You’ll get +100 odds. Think they will? It’s -130. For the A’s and Mariners, you’ll get +120 for them to score a run and -160 for no runs.
The prop has been so popular that some sportsbooks have now offered first two innings. But the juice is so high on the under that it’s not as appealing.
There’s also the option of taking half innings of stronger pitchers and parlaying them.
“You can take Aaron Nola, Walker Buehler and Stephen Strasburg on a given day, parlay them and actually get plus money,” Trail said.
Entering play on Thursday, the Baltimore Orioles are the ‘best’ NRFI team in baseball, with the bet hitting in 63.6 percent of their games. The Boston Red Sox are second at 61.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies are the worst team when it comes to NRFI, hitting just 41.9 percent of the time.
When Major League Baseball first started embracing sports gambling, its commissioner Rob Manfred said that, for the first time, the slower speed of the game would be advantageous to the bettor and the bookmaker.
But the bet that has caught fire is the one that relies on either winning or losing in mere minutes, with 89 percent of the game still left.
At Caesars, Biggio says that the NRFI prop is only behind the book’s “first five innings” market, sometimes surpassing pitcher strikeouts and home runs.
At a recent game, Trail’s first inning under hit, and he disproportionately cheered.
Sign of the times? He wasn’t the only one.