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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Top-10 betting games for baseball

4 April 2011

At some point, most guys learn that going on a date to a baseball game is much safer play than going on a date to basketball or football game (unless the girl really likes those sports). At basketball and football games, there's a significant risk that -- outside of buying beer and snacks -- we'll ignore our dates and focus strictly on the game. Basketball and football feature lots of action with little room for interesting (read meaningful) conversation.

Baseball, however, is a much more social sporting event. Instead of squeezing in conversations into two-minute media timeouts, baseball's leisurely pace allows for lengthy conversations to be interrupted by the game. This allows guys to pay attention to their date while still watching the game.

The same dynamic applies to groups of friends attending baseball games. The nature of attending a baseball games allows for a great deal of socialization. And one of the great social activities of all time is gambling.

There are all sorts of ways to bet on a baseball game that you're attending. And betting on the game is a great way to keep everyone in the group both engaged in the game and the social dynamics of the group. The wagers provide the string that connects the group throughout the game, while separate conversations spring up between individual people.

The key to successful baseball betting games is making it sure it's degenerate enough that everyone will get a kick out of it, and easy enough that everyone will participate. With that in mind, here are my top-10 betting games for baseball.

10. Will there be a wave?
The wave is an 80s relic that fans at some major league ballparks insist on performing. It's cheesy. It's annoying. And when fans choose to focus on the game instead of joining the wave, they get booed. It really needs to crawl back to the 80s where it belongs. But that doesn't seem to be happening, so instead we might as well bet on it. At it least it will be entertaining then.



9. Will a beach ball reach the field?
Baseball’s slow pace of play feels like an anachronism during an era of instant connection, communication and gratification. And as result, some fans get restless and bored during the game. So they bring a beach ball to the game to entertain themselves. They start hitting back forth within their section, and eventually, they lose control of the ball and it eventually ends up on the field. It doesn't happen every game. But it happens just often enough that it's fun to bet on.

8. Strikeouts in a game
One of the reasons to bet on the game is to stay engaged with the play on the field. And rooting for strikeouts is a great way focus on the game. The rules of this bet are simple. Everyone predicts how many strikeouts there will be during the game. The closest with out going over the total at the end of the game wins.

7. Will there be a streaker?
This is just a silly bet. There's hardly ever a streaker. But it's a fun bet to make. And if you're going to bet on a streaker showing up, insist on 10-1 odds.

6. How many coaching visits will there be to the mound?
This is always an interesting one. Some managers will send in pitchers to face just one hitter late in the game, increasing the count. Some pitching coaches can come out a few times a game to settle down their pitchers. Some pitching coaches only come out to give the bullpen time to warm up. And sometimes, the pitchers can't get anybody out, so there's a parade of coaching visits. This wager works like the one on strikeouts. Everyone makes a prediction, and the closest to the prediction without going over wins.

5. Strike/ball
This one is for the true degenerates. Bet on every pitch and see what happens.

4. How many stolen bases will there be?
This is one usually requires a little bit of research. Some teams like to run a lot (the New York Mets led the National League with 130 stolen bases last year). Others don't like to run at all (The Cubs and the Giants had just 55 last year). So you have to take that into account when placing the bet. You also need to consider the fact that the National League averaged .56 steals per game in 2010, according to Baseball-Reference.com. In 2009, the league average .55. In the American League, the 2010 league average was .66 steals per game. In 2009, the AL average was .68. Other factors involve how good the opponents are at throwing out runners, and how good the pitchers are holding runners. There's room for a lot of fun on this wager, and as always, Price is Right rules apply.

3. Length of game
A pitcher’s duel can run two hours. A Yankee-Red Sox game can last longer than four hours. And there's a wide range in between. This is a fun one because you actually start rooting for players to stall to extend the game (if you're on the high side), or you start yelling at them to speed up if it's getting close to your number. Once again, closest without going over wins.

2. Shattered bats
Over the years, most players have shifted from ash bats to maple bats. But maple bats are about 3 times as likely to shatter as ash bats, and bats are breaking at such a regular pace that it's no longer a surprise when it happens. But predicting how many will happen in one game? That's a different. And don't forget to factor in if Mariano Rivera is coming in to close a game. He's always good for breaking one bat.

1. The Beer Cup
This is easily the best game on the list. Here are the basic rules:

Everyone drops a dollar into an (empty) beer cup.
A person is selected to hold the cup for the first at bat of the inning.
If the player gets a hit, the person holding the cup gets all of the money in it. Everyone donates another dollar to the cup. The cup is passed one person to the right, and the game begins again with the next batter.
If the player makes an out, the person doesn't win any money, and the cup is passed to the right, giving someone else a chance to win the money (if the next player gets a hit). The cup keeps getting passed until a player gets a hit.

The beauty of this game is you can make all sorts of modifications. Like if a player strikes out, the person holding the cup has to put in another dollar before passing it. Or if a home run is it, everyone has to donate an extra dollar to the cup.

And because something is at stake every at bat, the friends you are with are paying attention to the game the entire time, which is more than you can say for most baseball games.
Recent Articles
Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.