Every sports bettor is faced with the same question: should you bet on the favorite, or should you bet on the underdog?
Only one team can come out on top at the end of a game, and successfully predicting a winner is what sports betting is all about. Wagering on either the underdogs or favorites can result in profit. But based on the unique circumstances of each game, one may be more advantageous.
How can you tell which team is the favorite? Take a look at the American odds listed for both teams. The underdog will have a (+) symbol in front of their odds, while the favorite will have a (-).
Should you side with popular opinion or bet on the underdogs instead? Which strategy is more profitable? We’re going to explain why you might choose favored teams or underdogs in different situations:
What is an Underdog in Sports?
The underdog team is perceived to have a disadvantage. Most people expect that their opponent will beat them in the game. A team may be considered an underdog if:
- They’re playing an away game
- They tend to lose against the other team
- Their current season record isn’t great
- Some of their strongest players are injured
- The other team has a strong season record
On the other hand, a favorite is a team that most people think has a higher chance of winning. The underdogs aren’t necessarily a “bad” team—they’re just perceived as less likely to win than the favorite is.
To help you weigh your decision, here are a few pros and cons when betting on either side:
Advantages to Betting on the Favorite Team
They say that everyone loves to root for an underdog—however, in sports betting, most people prefer to side with the favorite!
Most people feel a lot safer betting money on the favorite team. Betting on the underdog carries a higher risk of losing, whereas the favorite is more likely to succeed and reward the bettor.
In some cases, it doesn’t matter what kind of value the underdog offers—the favorite is almost certain to win, and that’s where you should bet your money.
Disadvantages to Betting on the Favorite Team
Favorite teams are expensive to bet on. In American odds, the favorite team is indicated by a (-) symbol. If a team has the odds of (-300), that means a bettor must wager $300 to win $100. Even though the favorite team is considered a safer bet, you’ll need to invest more capital to turn a profit. This means that if you place a large wager on a favorite team that ends up losing, it can set you back by a lot.
Since favorite bets are seen as more likely to pay out, sportsbooks offer slightly worse returns on them. There’s a lot more value to be had when you bet on the underdog.
If it always paid out to bet on the favorite, everyone would do it. Evidently, that isn’t the case. Upsets are known to happen in all types of sports, at all levels of play. There’s always a chance that the underdogs will come out ahead.
Point spread bets use favorites and underdogs in a unique way. The odds are typically set to the same for both the underdog and the favorite. This is a way of leveling the playing field and encouraging bettors to wager on both sides. With a point spread bet, the favorite isn’t necessarily more likely to win.
Advantages to Betting on the Underdog
It takes more than guts to bet on a team that’s expected to lose—it also takes a deep knowledge of the game and all the factors at play. The value of an underdog is simple: when you bet on teams that are expected to lose, you win more per dollar that you spend.
Since most people will side with the favorite (it’s seen as the “safer” bet), there are often valuable opportunities that go overlooked when it comes to underdogs. People get lost in the hype of a team and miss where the real value is at!
If a sportsbook doesn’t account for an advantage that the underdog has, you can make a tidy sum even when wagering a small amount of money. Handicapping games allows you to spot opportunities where the underdogs are underestimated.
Some strategies revolve around betting on the underdog exclusively due to the higher value that it can provide. You can potentially double or triple your bet if the underdog wins!
The winner of one game is determined by more than their match history. At times, oddsmakers can be too quick to overlook other factors at play. Underestimating an underdog is an expensive mistake.
If you’re placing point spread bets, underdogs pose a unique advantage. For your bet to pay out, the underdogs either need to win the game or lose by a specified number of points.
You know that the underdogs will work hard throughout the game to catch up to the favorite. But on the other side, the favorite team may only feel motivated to win the game. Winning by a specific margin of points isn’t as pressing to them—all they want to do is win, not cover a point spread! Therefore, underdogs might be more motivated in this type of wager.
Disadvantages to Betting on the Underdog
Let’s get the most obvious disadvantage out of the way: when you’re betting on the moneyline, the underdogs are more likely to lose. They might have any number of factors working against them, whether they’re playing against a particularly strong team or they’re fatigued from traveling.
Bettors who are looking for consistent, steady profits may be reluctant to bet on underdogs. The ratio of bets that hit and ones that miss may result in frequent losses and fewer wins. Be careful not to get wrapped up in the chance of winning big—other factors could make it more likely that you lose money.
In some cases, it’s simply more advantageous to bet on favorite teams, despite the higher capital that’s required to profit from the odds.
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to sports betting. To grow your bankroll, you have to think critically about each matchup and consider all the factors that affect the outcome.
Upsets happen more frequently in some sports than others, especially at high levels of play. Take the NFL for example—nearly every team is stacked with top-quality players. There isn’t much that separates an underdog from a favorite. On the other hand, upsets occur more frequently in baseball; there is considerable variation in how players perform.
At the end of the day, sports betting is about finding the most valuable picks, whether that means betting on the underdog or the favorite. No matter what strategy you prefer, you’ve got one goal in mind: win your bets!
You can’t blindly rely on the favorite teams to make money, nor can you always risk it with an underdog. What you need is picks from a sports handicapper. With sports betting picks from Kyle Covers, you can boost your win rate and increase your payouts. Use his picks to identify opportunities where betting on the underdog will pay out handsomely, or whether you’re better off sticking to the favorite. If you’re interested in sports betting, use our professional picks for higher profits.