Betting on Underdogs: Risks, Rewards & Strategy

Rooting for the underdog has long been an integral part of sports culture, and in the world of betting, it can offer some enticing advantages. 

Betting on Underdogs
Published by NYSB Staff
Last Updated: 12. Dec 2023.

In the thrilling realm of sports betting, wagering on underdogs holds a special allure. In this guide we’ll explore the risks and rewards of betting on underdogs, offering both novice and experienced bettors valuable insights and strategies.

Risks Of Betting On An Underdog

Betting on underdogs can be an exhilarating experience filled with the promise of high returns. However, it's crucial to approach this kind of wagering with a balanced view. 

Understanding the risks involved will help you make more informed decisions and safeguard your bets against unnecessary losses.

Unfavorable Statistics

Underdogs earn their status primarily because of unfavorable statistics or past performances. When you bet on an underdog, you're inherently taking on a higher level of risk due to their statistical disadvantage.

These odds are reflective of past performances, matchups, and other factors that give the favorite a statistical edge.

Emotional Betting

It's easy to get swept away by a Cinderella story or a sentimental attachment to a team. For instance, if you're a fervent supporter of a perennial underdog like the New York Mets, letting your emotions guide your wagers can be risky.

Inconsistent Returns

While the payoff for a winning underdog bet can be substantial, the inconsistency of these bets makes them a volatile option for a long-term betting strategy. In other words, the high rewards come with high risks.

Rewards From Betting On An Underdog

While betting on underdogs comes with its share of risks, it also offers a set of unique advantages that can make it a profitable venture for savvy bettors. 

High rewards often accompany the high-risk nature of these bets, offering an irresistible allure for those looking to strike it big.

Higher Payouts

The potential for higher payouts is the most compelling draw of betting on underdogs. New York’s top sportsbooks typically offer higher odds for underdogs to balance the betting pool, making these wagers financially appealing.

Less Public Money

Popular sentiment often tilts heavily in favor of established teams. This tendency can skew the odds, creating opportunities for discerning bettors to capitalize on undervalued underdogs.

The Thrill Factor

There's something innately satisfying about an underdog victory. Historic wins, like the 1969 "Miracle Mets," add a layer of emotional gratification to a successful underdog bet that simply can't be matched.

Strategies for Betting on Underdogs

Once you've weighed the risks and rewards, you might decide that betting on underdogs is a strategy you'd like to pursue. But how do you go about it in a way that maximizes your chances for success? 

Whether you're a novice bettor or have years of experience, these tactics can add depth to your betting game.

Meticulous Research

A sound betting strategy starts with comprehensive research, and this is especially true when it comes to betting on underdogs. 

When it comes to underdogs, it's often not enough to look at broad statistics like win-loss records; the devil is in the details. Here's how to make your research more meticulous:

Analyze Player Metrics

Examine key performance indicators for individual players. Stats like shooting percentage in NBA markets or ERA in baseball can give you a nuanced understanding of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Individual matchups are also crucial; for example, an underdog team might have a player who performs exceptionally well against the star player of the favored team.

Situational Factors

Don't underestimate the impact of situational variables. Consider the venue, weather conditions, and even the time of day when the game is played. Some teams perform better in specific conditions, making them prime candidates for an upset.

Recent Form

A team’s or player's recent performance often provides the most accurate indication of their current form. Even if a team has a poor overall record, a recent winning streak could signal a turnaround that makes them a strong underdog pick.

Injuries and Suspensions

Always check the latest sports news for updates on injuries or suspensions. The absence of key players from the favored team could level the playing field, offering the underdog a better chance at victory.

Historical Data

While past performance isn't a guaranteed predictor of future outcomes, patterns do often emerge. Look for trends, such as a lower-ranked team that has a history of upsetting certain rivals or performing well in specific settings.

Expert Opinions

Take advantage of expert analyses and predictions, but always cross-reference this information with your own research. Experts can offer valuable insights but remember that they are not infallible.

Identifying Value Bets

One of the keys to successful sports betting, particularly when wagering on underdogs, is the ability to identify value bets. A value bet occurs when the odds on offer from a bookmaker reflect a probability that is less than the actual probability of that outcome occurring. 

Essentially, the idea is to find bets where you think the payout outweighs the risk involved. Here's how to pinpoint those value bets when considering underdogs:

Market Discrepancies

Sportsbooks adjust odds based on where the money is going; this often favors popular teams and overlooks underdogs. The more the public bets on favorites, the higher the value you can sometimes get on underdogs, especially if you believe the market is undervaluing them.

Look for 'Motivation Factors'

Certain games have added significance for underdogs—like revenge games against a team that previously defeated them, or 'trap games' for favorites that might be looking ahead to a more important matchup. These scenarios can motivate underdogs to outperform expectations.

Shop Around for the Best Odds

Different sportsbooks offer different odds. Make sure to shop around to get the most value for your chosen underdog bet. A slight difference in odds might not seem like much, but it can add up in the long run.

Take Advantage of Promos

If you’re thinking about backing the underdog in a fixture, take a look to see the latest sportsbook promos that are available. You might find special offers running for a certain league, or sign up promos that will reimburse you with free bets should your wager lose, which can be a great way of minimizing the risk of betting on the underdog.

Timing is Everything

Odds can fluctuate based on various factors, including injuries, weather conditions, and even rumors. Try to place your bet when the odds are most in your favor. For example, if early weather forecasts suggest conditions that favor the underdog, it might be beneficial to place your bet before the sportsbooks adjust their odds.

Specialize in Specific Leagues or Sports

Each sport and league has its own dynamics, and understanding these can provide valuable insights. Specializing allows you to accumulate in-depth knowledge that can be leveraged to identify value bets more easily.

Assess Risk and Reward

Always balance the potential payout against the risk involved. For instance, an underdog might be a good value bet if the potential payout is high and your research suggests that the perceived disadvantages are not as significant as the odds suggest.

Types of Bets to Consider

Moneyline Bets

These are straightforward wagers on the winner of the game.

Spread Betting

In this type of bet, the underdog can still make you money even if they lose, as long as they don't lose by more than the spread.

Prop Bets

These are bets on specific events within the game. Underdogs can offer great value in this category.

Totals Bets 

These bets involve wagering on how many points or goals will be scored in a game. They can be useful when betting on underdogs if a team will attack or defend better than expected.

Seasonal Trends

Certain seasons or events in sports are known to be fertile ground for underdog victories. For example, early-season games in the NFL or March Madness in NCAA basketball can offer value bets on underdogs.

It’s worth taking a look at the best NFL betting sites early or pre-season, for example, where you might find some favorable odds on underdog teams in football.

Hedge Your Bets

If you've placed a significant wager in an underdog and they're not performing well, consider hedging your bet by placing a smaller wager on the favorite. 

This strategy minimizes potential losses and could guarantee some profit.

Do You Enjoy Betting On Underdogs?

Whether you're new to the betting world or a seasoned veteran, the allure of betting on underdogs adds an element of excitement and challenge to the experience.

Ultimately, this betting strategy all comes down to your level of risk tolerance, and the amount of research you’re prepared to carry out in order to best identify good value wagers that you think have the potential to pay off.

When betting on underdogs, it’s unlikely that you’ll win every time. However, because odds can be attractive, achieving a certain number of wins may help to offset losing bets over time with this strategy. When used alongside other less risky bets, it can be a valuable way to reap additional benefits from your bankroll.

Though it comes with its own set of risks, the potential rewards make it an intriguing strategy worth considering. Remember to always bet responsibly, and may your underdog picks bring you both thrill and profit!

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