What is NRFI Betting and Is It Worth Making?

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob DeGrom (48) throws to the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park.
Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As sports betting continues to become more common with increased legalization around the United States, bettors have continued to expand the ways they wager on the games they love. 

One method of wagering that has grown in popularity is no run in the first inning betting, or NRFI betting. But is the NRFI bet one worth making from a bettor’s perspective?

What is a NRFI bet?

The NRFI bet stands for no run in the first inning.

This is where bettors are asked to predict whether or not there will be at least one run or more scored in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game. The NFRI bet is graded as a loser if a run is scored in the top or the bottom of the inning. The NFRI bet is graded a winner when there is a scoreless top and bottom  in the first inning.

Does it matter how the run is scored in a NRFI bet?

It does not matter how a run is scored for the purposes of this wager, as any run will cause a NRFI bet to lose. The run could come via conventional means like a home run or RBI single, or it can come from a series of errors that results in an unearned run. All that matters is whether or not a run scores in the first inning.

Why are no run in the first inning (NRFI) bets so popular?

There are a couple of main reasons that NRFI bets have exploded in popularity over the last couple of MLB seasons. 

  • Instant gratification –  Instead of more traditional nine-inning or five-inning baseball bets, the NRFI bet spans only the first inning and is typically settled within 15-20 minutes.
  • High-level of competition – The NRFI bet pits the two starting pitchers for a game against the best bats from the opposing lineup. There is no need to worry about how a number nine hitter is going to impact this bet, or whether an obscure reliever will blow a lead.

How to place a NRFI bet at DraftKings Sportsbook

To place a NRFI bet at DraftKings Sportsbook, bettors must go to the MLB betting section of the site. 

From there, they can select the Innings tab, where the props pertaining to smaller portions of games reside. 

There, bettors will see the first inning totals available, with the over 0.5 representing the YFRI (Yes Run in the First Inning), where you bet that at least one run will be scored in the first inning, and the under 0.5 option representing the NRFI bet.

Once a bettor has selected which side of this market they wish to bet, they can click or tap that option to add it to their betslip. 

Bettors will then select the amount they wish to wager on this bet and can confirm their wager after double checking to make sure everything is satisfactory.

Example of a NRFI bet

As an example of a NRFI bet, let’s use the Nationals vs. Dodgers game in the screenshot above. In that example, the under 0.5 runs option for the first inning is listed at -110, meaning that a $110 bet is required to turn a $100 profit. Of course, bettors can wager more or less than $110, with the payout being adjusted proportionally based on the amount they choose to bet.

If we take the NRFI bet in this example, both the Nationals and Dodgers would need to go scoreless in the first inning for our bet to hit. 

If either team scores a run by any means, the bet is graded as a loss and we lose our stake.

Are NRFI bets good bets?

From a numbers perspective, a NRFI bet is an iffy bet.

It has been almost 50/50 in runs scored in the first inning and no runs scored in the first inning, looking from the start of the 2013 MLB season to this point in the 2022 campaign.

It should also be noted that the sub-.500 win percentage for the NRFI bet is more costly than these numbers show, as bettors are required to pay the juice or vig on the majority of these bets. 

In the example above, the vig on the NRFI market is limited, but these bets have the potential to carry a much harsher price tag in many cases.

There is also the disproportionate distribution of NRFI bets that makes this wager worse than other markets that are typically split down the middle, such as point spreads and totals. 

Whereas bettors regularly bet both overs and unders or favorites and underdogs, betting in this market is heavily skewed toward the NRFI option with many influencers in the sports betting space making the NRFI bet a daily recommendation.

The key to picking a NRFI bet

Bettors who are proponents of this market claim that the key is to pick your spots when betting on NRFIs, and that is true of any betting market. There are even some bettors that turn a profit betting on NRFIs. But in a market where the action is typically one-sided, the numbers state that there is very little value here in the long run, given that many bettors rarely pick the other side.

The small sample size of a one-inning bet also puts bettors at a disadvantage when wagering on this market. Even the best pitchers in the game of baseball can throw one mistake pitch that gets blasted for a solo home run. While the argument of proponents of this wager is that they only need one scoreless inning to cash their ticket, the small sample size of this market can dull the advantage that pitchers have over hitters across a larger pool of at-bats.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park.
Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Can I parlay NRFI bets?

While the numbers suggest that betting on NRFIs is risky even when placing straight bets, it is possible to parlay NRFI bets if a bettor is so inclined. This can increase the potential payout for a series of NRFI bets in a big way. However, the last decade of first inning data in Major League Baseball suggests that flipping a coin multiple times would result in a greater success rate than parlaying NRFI bets.

In general, parlay bets require a greater degree of risk than straight bets, given that a bettor needs multiple outcomes to pan out for their bet to win. (Read our article to learn more about parlay bets.) Even one losing leg of a parlay results in the whole parlay being graded as a loss. In the case of NRFI parlays, that means just one run can tank an entire ticket. Instead, those who wish to bet on the NRFI market would be best served to place all of their wagers as single bets.

NRFI betting strategies

While the NRFI bet is a difficult one to win across a large sample of bets, there are some strategies bettors can use to maximize their chances of winning. 

These revolve around studying the matchups between pitchers and hitters (using the Elias Game Plan app!) in each game and identifying where the pitchers should have the upper hand. As we mentioned earlier, the small sample size of the NRFI bet market can work to neutralize those advantages for the pitchers, they are still worth seeking out for those who are intent on betting this market.

Bettors should also consider the way that differences in each ballpark can impact scoring. 

Park dimensions and weather can be beneficial to certain types of hitters and detrimental to others in each game. Figuring out where each game and each hitter falls on that spectrum is a must for anyone who bets on NRFIs with the intention of turning a profit.