Now that Massachusetts online sports betting is here, it’s time to examine the many sports fans in the state can legally wager on.
One of the most fascinating, fast-paced and little-known is Pesäpallo, a ball and stick game that seems like a third-cousin twice removed from baseball. And just like your weird cousins, Pesäpallo is both puzzling and engrossing. Once you see it, your eyes won’t be able to look away.
In this guide, PlayMA tells you what Pesäpallo is, and how to wager on it now that sports betting in Massachusetts is live.
What is Pesäpallo?
You want entertainment? With Pesäpallo you’ve come to the right place.
As CNN wrote in a feature on the sport in 2019: “For those who may find baseball’s sluggish pace of play a drag to watch, the Finnish alternative offers a welcome change: non-stop action.”
Pesäpallo is also known as “Finnish Baseball,” because the sport was invented and popularized in Finland. How important is the game to the Finns? Pesäpallo is the national sport of Finland.
Like baseball, each team has nine defenders, and there are three strikes and three outs, as well as “innings” to determine when each team gets to bat.
But Pesäpallo has many rules that are different than baseball.
- The pitcher stands next to the batter at home plate. This is the biggest difference you’ll notice in Pesäpallo compared to baseball.
- The pitcher tosses the ball straight into the air, and the batter must strike it while it comes down.
- The pitch must be tossed at least 1 meter above the pitcher’s head.
- If a pitch lands on the plate, it is a strike. If it does not, it’s a ball. A batter gets three strikes.
- If a batter hits the ball into the field of play, they can run to first base, but they do not have to (as long as they have strikes left). They can choose not to run, or swing at a subsequent pitch.
- If there are no runners on base, one bad pitch (ball) can result in a walk. The batter is allowed to run to first and become a runner. Due to this rule, pitchers have pressure to make good pitches.
Batter controls the offense
- The batter can choose whether to run on a hit they make into the field of play. As a result, they have an option to keep trying to hit the ball where it best suits them and their team. They can only do that twice before they must take the result of their hit ball.
- The field of play is narrower than a baseball field, extending in a straight line out from third base and second base, which makes for a smaller area of “fair” territory.
- As a result, hitting the ball far is not usually a good strategy, as it’s harder to control whether the ball stays in field of play the harder you swing. The defense has many fielders in the “outfield” area of play, so a deep hit ball is not a strategically good idea.
- The batter must hit the ball within the area of play. If they hit it outside the area of play, it’s ruled a foul ball.
- If the batter hits a foul ball on the third strike, they are out.
Difference between being caught and being put out
- If a defender catches a ball in the air, the batter and any runners attempting to advance on the hit are “caught” — but not “out” yet. They must attempt to advance to the next base after the ball is caught, and …
- … runners are only “out” when the defending team throws the ball to the next base and tags it before that runner can get there. This is the only way to remove a runner from the game. If the runners successfully reach the next base, they return to home plate without any consequence.
The unusual base path
- There are three bases plus home plate in Pesäpallo, just like in baseball. But the Pesäpallo bases are laid out in a zig-zag fashion. After the batter strikes the ball into the field of play, they run to their left to the first base, then diagonal to the second base, before going back across the field to third base and back to home.
- Each base is further apart from the previous one. Therefore, the distance from home to first is shorter than the distance from first base to second base, and so on.
The game of Pesäpallo is played in two periods of four innings each. A team must win both periods to win the game. If both teams win a period, an extra period is played to determine a winner.
How to bet on Pesäpallo in Massachusetts
The best Pesäpallo league is Superpesis (also known as SM-sarja) in Finland, and it’s the only league approved in the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Catalog. The league has both men’s and women’s divisions. The league season begins in April and runs for three months, culminating in playoffs and a championship.
Consult your Massachusetts sportsbook app for odds on professional Pesäpallo. Six MA sportsbooks are now live: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, WynnBET and Barstool Sportsbook.
More will be added to the mix soon, and 10 sportsbook apps will be up and running by January 2024.
When creating your sportsbook account(s), don’t forget to claim the many Massachusetts sports betting promos that are available.