Legal NPB Betting Guide
Nippon Professional Baseball, called Puro Yakyū in Japan and simply “Japanese baseball” in the rest of the world, is the top level of pro baseball in the Asian country. Founded in 1950, the league was an offshoot of the earlier Japanese Baseball League, which it is ironically still sometimes called.
The NPB is the most popular and bet-on team sport in Japan, and our legal NPB betting guide is perfect for Westerners looking to get in on the action.
If you’re interested in baseball betting in general, you should definitely give Nippon baseball a swing or two. The sport is different enough from America’s MLB to be unique and engaging, and these differences make for a game that’s both fun to watch and wager on. Read on to learn more about the Nippon baseball league and how to bet big on small ball!
Is It Legal To Bet On Japanese Baseball In The US?
It is absolutely legal to bet on Nippon baseball, provided that you do so using a legal and reputable sportsbook. These can be found in the few US states that have already legalized sports betting, but for most Americans, international betting sites operating outside of US jurisdiction are the best options. These legal online sportsbooks are safe to use and have NPB odds on every single matchup.
For residents of Washington, there are state laws on the books that bar all online gambling. For WA bettors in particular, that’s a real shame, as Japanese baseball is more popular there than in any other state. Fortunately, these laws are unenforced – We’ve never heard of anyone being fined or arrested for gambling on NPB games over the Internet in this state. That said, please proceed only at your own risk.
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What Is NPB Baseball?
Established in 1950, NPB stands for Nippon Professional Baseball, which is the Japanese baseball equivalent of the MLB in the US.
While not quite up to the level of Major League Baseball, there have nevertheless been several legendary Japanese baseball players to break out in the Majors, from the wacky Hideo Nomo to the legendary Ichiro Suzuki. Most scouts suggest that the NPB is somewhere between AAA Minor League Baseball and the MLB in terms of talent and competition, informally calling it “AAAA baseball.”
In the West, the NPB league is sometimes referred to simply as Japanese baseball, while fans in Japan often call it Puro Yakyū. It is even called Nippon pro baseball or the Japanese baseball league. But no matter which terms are used by fans and sportsbooks, they all point to the same organization.
When it comes to the league and the game itself, both are structured similarly to the MLB or Korean Baseball Organization, but there are some key differences that make it even more fun to watch and wager on.
NPB Teams, Leagues, And Schedule
The NPB is comprised of 12 teams – six in the Central League and six in the Pacific League. (The Eastern League and Western League are essentially the NPB minors, but you won’t find betting lines on those outside of Japan.)
All the Japanese baseball teams are sponsored by a national company or corporation (aka NPB companies), and the clubs are spread more or less evenly across the country.
Nippon Professional Baseball is comprised of the following leagues and their respective ballclubs:
- Chunichi Dragons – Nagoya, Aichi, Nagoya Dome
- Hanshin Tigers – Nishinomiya, Hyōgo, Hanshin Koshien Stadium
- Hiroshima Toyo Carp – Hiroshima, Hiroshima, MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima
- Tokyo Yakult Swallows – Shinjuku, Tokyo, Meiji Jingu Stadium
- Yokohama DeNA BayStars – Yokohama, Kanagawa, Yokohama Stadium
- Yomiuri Giants - Bunkyō, Tokyo, Tokyo Dome
The NPB schedule is very similar to the structure of Major League Baseball’s. The sport typically contests its regular season between late March/early April and October, with each team playing a total of 146 games (73 home, 73 away).
Typically, teams play games for six days in a row with Mondays off, which means that there are games – and NPB betting lines – available anytime you visit your favorite legal online sportsbook.
The NPB playoffs take place toward the end of the Japanese pro baseball schedule, and the postseason – starting in October – is formally called the Climax Series.
The two winners of the Climax Series – that is, the Central League champs and the Pacific League champs – play each other in the Japan Series, or Nippon Series. This is equivalent to the MLB’s World Series, and with it typically comes hundreds of betting lines, props, series prices, and other odds at most legal offshore sportsbooks.
2020 NPB Season Schedule
2020 was a tricky season for NPB league schedulers, given all the delays associated with the coronavirus lockdowns in Japan. As with most sports leagues worldwide, the season experienced a substantial "rain delay," finally getting started on June 19, pushing back the first pitch a little over three months.
As a result, the 2020 Japanese baseball season was shortened to just 120 games, though there have been no hiccups since play got underway, and the NPB campaign is on track to conclude its regular season on November 7. After that, the NPB Playoffs will be held using a modified format.
2020 NPB Postseason Schedule
Usually, the Japanese baseball playoffs are contested via the format outlined above. For 2020, to reduce the amount of time the postseason usually takes, the Pacific League will not be holding its Climax Series. The winner of the regular season (including statistical tie-breakers, if necessary) will automatically advance to the championship round, or Japan Series.
The Central League will take a slightly different approach, bypassing its Climax Series First Stage and going straight to the Final Stage, which will be contested between the top two teams from the regular season. The winner of the CL Climax Series final will proceed to take the diamond against the Pacific League regular season winner in a standard best-of-seven Japan Series.
Thus, while six NPB teams usually make the playoffs, in 2020, only three teams will qualify for the postseason. As soon as the regular season comes to an end, you'll be able to find Japanese baseball betting lines for the entire playoffs, as well as championship futures for the three clubs making the cut.
Japanese Baseball Rules
While there are countless NPB rules that differentiate the game from the familiar feel of MLB baseball, the most pressing ones – for both fans and bettors – are the following:
- Smaller fields
- Smaller, tighter-wound baseball
- Smaller strike zone
- Pacific League uses the DH
- Central League has no DH
- Games may end in a tie after three extra innings
- Six-man starting rotation is standard
- 25-player limit for each game
- Japan Series games may end in a tie, possible necessitating more than seven games to complete the best-of-seven series
Of all these differences, the biggest one for new bettors is the fact that games in the Japanese baseball league can end in ties. This gives bettors one more wagering option on the typical betting lines, and it is an extra variable that needs to be considered for all types of wagering, including NPB futures betting.
Current Japanese Baseball Betting Odds For 2021
Currently, the top Japan league baseball betting sites only offer daily lines on upcoming games. Futures odds for which teams will with their leagues and the Japan Series will be posted as soon as the postseason begins. Typically, these odds would be available year-round. As the season gets closer to its culmination, check back here for updated Nippon baseball betting lines.
How To Bet On NPB Games
If you already know how to bet on Major League Baseball, you can bet on Japanese baseball games today with very little extra research beyond the basic NPB stats, NPB standings, Japanese baseball records, Japanese baseball scores, etc.
However, if you’re brand new to baseball betting, the following are the basic types of lines you’ll find at all the best online sportsbooks operating outside of US borders.
Nippon Baseball Betting Lines
For Japan NPB straight bets, you simply pick a winner and are paid out per the associated moneyline odds. Favorites will always have negative moneylines, while underdogs will always have positive moneylines. At most sportsbooks, you can also place straight moneyline bets on tied Nippon baseball scores.
Runlines are baseball’s equivalents to point spreads. These – as with MLB runlines – are usually set to -1.5 runs for the favorite and +1.5 runs for the underdog, though for NPB games, the attached moneyline (or price tag) is often quite different on either side of the wager.
When betting on Nippon baseball, totals wagers are always offered. Also called over/unders (or o/u bets), totals ask the NPB bettor to make a wager on whether a given Japanese baseball game will have more combined total points scored between teams (“over”) or fewer combined points scored between teams (“under”) than the number set by the book.
Nippon baseball bets that have to do with in-game performances of players or teams are called proposition bets. These player props and team props can be based on anything from the total number of strikeouts a starting NPB pitcher will throw to how many hits or errors a team puts up on the scoreboard by game’s end.
Each legal online betting site will offer their own creative menu of fun baseball props, so you should always shop lines between different sportsbooks to get the most entertaining options and best payouts!
Futures bets are simply wagers that won’t vest until a far-off time. Nippon baseball futures allow bettors to pick the teams that will win the Central and Pacific Leagues, as well as the club that will win the Nippon Series (aka Japan Series) championship.
You can also place futures bets on the top Japanese baseball players to receive year-end awards, like the NPB MVP, NPB Rookie of the Year, the Eiji Sawamura Award (i.e. Japan baseball’s Cy Young), and others.
The sooner you place these NBP baseball picks in the offseason or early season, the better your payout will be.
NPB Live Betting
You don’t have to place all your Japanese baseball bets before the start of each day’s NPB games. Instead, with live betting, you can wager on Nippon baseball throughout the entire game, with odds and lines that shift to reflect the action on the diamond.
However, please note that the best legal betting sites do not actually broadcast Nippon Professional Baseball games, and to wager on live NPB bets with any success, you should have access to live Japanese baseball scores.
Fortunately, there are ways for fans all over the world, including in the USA, to enjoy Japanese live baseball play-by-play action. All you need is access to a Japan NPB live stream, and you’ll be able to make informed, real-time bets. Please visit the links at the bottom of this page for more information.
NPB Mobile Betting
Everyone in Japan uses mobile phones for everything. And everyone in America uses mobile phones for everything. Thus, NPB mobile betting is a necessity for those who want to wager on Nippon pro baseball without missing a beat, no matter where they are.
Of course, Apple and Google don’t actually allow legal offshore sports betting sites to release native apps on the App Store or in Google Play, which might make some bettors think mobile wagering with these top operators is not possible. But think again!
Not only is mobile betting on NPB action possible regardless of the phone, tablet, or mobile platform you use, it’s actually even easier than downloading a native sports betting app could ever be.
All you need is access to the Internet, an up-to-date mobile browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.), and you can get a customized, dynamic, and seamless web-app experience that mimics the best features any native iPhone sportsbook or Android sportsbook can offer. With one-tap controls, responsive design, and easy-to-browse NBP betting boards, these web apps are a home run!
Famous Japanese Baseball Players
Nippon Professional Baseball has – over the last generation or two – generated some of the top stars in Major League Baseball. To date, there have been 61 Japan-born baseball players to suit up in the Big Leagues. The following is a brief list of the most notable players who have made their marks in both pro baseball leagues.
For bettors, it’s especially important to keep abreast of Japanese baseball highlights and NPB/MLB trade rumors, as a superstar that moves from Japan to America can have major effects on the betting lines and futures odds for both leagues across all the major legal online betting sites.
As the first Japanese baseball player to play in the MLB (1964, San Francisco Giants), Masanori Murakami was ultimately not allowed to continue his career in the US and was sent back to the NPB in 1965.
Hideo Nomo was the second Japanese baseball player to play in MLB, and he was famous for his contorted pitching delivery. Nomo “retired” from the NPB in 1994 and was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995. Nomo won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1995, and his maneuvering to the Bigs led to the current “posting” process used by most emigrating Japanese players since.
Arguably the greatest position player in baseball history, Ichiro Suzuki spent nine years with the Orix BlueWave before joining the Seattle Mariners.
Ichiro won ROY in 2001, had 10 straight 200-hit seasons, and has the most hits all-time (including those accrued in Japan and the US). Ichiro also won 10 Gold Gloves in right field, three Silver Sluggers, and the AL MVP in his rookie year. Notably, Ichiro holds the MLB single season record with 262 hits in 2004.
When he is eligible for induction into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2024, Ichiro will be the first player to ever be enshrined in both Cooperstown and the Japanese baseball hall of fame (aka The Golden Player’s Club).
After spending 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants, slugger Hideki Matsui was signed by the New York Yankees in 2003, where he played for seven seasons and was named MVP of the 2009 World Series.
Currently playing for the Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani came over from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2018. Ohtani is an ace pitcher and a slugger – an extremely rare combination.
Unfortunately, the Angels have largely limited his bat and have opted to send him to the plate far less often than he was used to in Japan, arguably wasting his talents and leading to an early career-threatening injury.
Nippon Professional Baseball Resources
You can watch the NPB online via several different streaming platforms, which are collected at this helpful NPB reddit page. These resources should help you make the best Japan NPB baseball predictions possible at the betting boards.