Underdog In Sports Betting

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What Is An Underdog
How To Recognize An Underdog
When To Place Bets On Underdog

Competition is simple, two sides face each other, one wins, one loses. Most of the time, there is a favorite, and an underdog. Teams or players don’t have evenly matched attributes or talents.

So, if the no.1 seed the Chiefs face the 10th seed the Raiders, the people—and the odds—expect Kansas City to win. Hence, the Raiders are the underdogs for that game.

The ‘underdog’ term is very popular, and it is not hard to understand.

However, when it comes to betting, it is vital to know underdogs and when they represent a real value to the bettor.

What Is An Underdog?

Straight up, an underdog is a team or player projected to lose a game or competition.

In the example above, the Raiders are the underdogs. The popular opinion—and statistics—expect them to fall short to the Chiefs, who are the favorites.

Oddsmakers have two ways of putting a number to explain how big an underdog is. One is the moneyline, and the other one is the spread.

How Do I Know Who Is The Underdog?

Using American odds, the underdogs will have a plus sign in front of the odds number. This applies for both spread bets and moneylines.

Point Spread Underdog

The spread is the handicap number oddsmakers put to the favorite. They set it according to how superior they are to the underdogs. It’s a difference in scores expected in a game.

This allows bettors to wager on how close the game will be, contrary to flat-out betting on who wins the game. The bigger the spread, the bigger the underdog.

Let’s see an example:

Brooklyn Nets -11.5 (-110)

Minnesota Timberwolves +11.5 (-110)

As you can see, the Nets projection for this game is they should win by 12 or more points. So by betting on the underdog, the Timberwolves would need to either win or lose by less than 12 to get the payout.

You’ll notice both spreads have a minus moneyline attached.

That would represent the vig the sportsbook gets. Basically, in any of the two bets, you have to risk $110 to win $100.

In some specific and rare cases, the teams will come as even matches. The spread will be zero points, also called a pick’em. In such cases, if the vig is -110 on each side, there is no projected underdog.

If one team’s vig was lower, like a -105 vs. -115, that team is a very slight underdog. The lower vig means a $105 bet wins $100 for the underdog, as opposed to a $115 risk for the favored side.

Moneyline Underdog

Moneyline odds is like reading the vig. The only difference is moneylines aren’t set at a standard -110 or in negative odds. In this type of bet, is more than usual to see them go far from the even standpoint.

Moneyline bets are common in sports like soccer, baseball, hockey, or combat sports. For you to win the bet, pick the outright winner of the event. 

The score lines or winning methods don’t matter, as opposed to prop bets or spreads. You only need to get the winner right.

Let’s look at the following example:

Dustin Poirier -300

Conor McGregor +260

In the fight above, the +260 shows that McGregor comes as the underdog for this fight. A bet of $100 would win $260 if the “Notorious” wins.

In this case, McGregor is quite a big underdog.

Sometimes you’ll come across fights, games, or events in which both sides have a minus sign (-115 vs. -105, for example).

In these situations, the team listed with a smaller number (-105) is the underdog.

Should You Bet On Underdogs?

It’s not an easy question to answer. If it was, no sportsbooks would exist as they would lose money in flurries.

At the end of the day, the underdogs have that label for a reason. They don’t win as much as the favorites. However, that doesn’t mean they lose the bettors more money than the favorites, though.

For example, the NFL betting underdogs record against the spread from 2003 to 2020 is 2224-2169-135. That’s 50.6% of the games where the less favored team wins the spread bet.

Because of the vig, that still equals a loss of money, but it is less money lost than if you bet on the favorites.

Looking at the MLB, moneyline underdogs record is 15,683-21,231 from 2005 to 2020. Once again, there is a net loss, but not as high as if bettors only took favorites.

This doesn’t imply that you should only take the underdogs. It does show the oddsmakers have the betting markets well studied.

Before making any crazy underdog bets, do your research. Search if they somehow have an edge and analyze trends to see if you can profit off them.

Just don’t go into an underdog betting frenzy that will make you lose money.

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