Betting on the underdog

  • underdog ~

    An underdog is the opposite of a favourite; a competitor that's expected to lose. Betting on the underdog can be part of an effective betting strategy.

Some of the greatest moments in sports history have involved an underdog triumphing against a favourite. Everyone loves an underdog – that is, except when it comes to betting.

Average punters love popular teams and players, and sometimes this creates a “bandwagon” effect that drives odds for the favourites unreasonably low. Similarly, weaker contestants may be undervalued thanks to public memory of recent, significant losses. The result? In betting markets, the odds on underdogs may provide far better value.

That’s not to say that you should always simply back the underdogs in events. However, betting on the underdog can be an effective part of a sports betting strategy.

How to bet on the underdog: hedge with live betting

Underdog status tends to be accompanied by high odds, and the key to profiting from betting on an underdog lies in knowing how to take advantage of this.

Antepost odds on entries in sports events are generally quite stable. However, the live betting markets offered by bookmakers are a different matter. This is because form and dominance tend to fluctuate during the course of sports events, and live betting markets are highly responsive to these fluctuations.

As a punter, you can take advantage of the volatility of odds in live betting markets to hedge the bets you place before an event gets underway. This involves betting on the underdog prior to an event and then backing the underdog’s opponent during the course of the event, in an attempt to guarantee a profit (or at least minimize risk by offsetting the loss you could sustain).

Example of underdog betting


An Australian Open tennis match between Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal sees Cilic priced 4/1 ahead of the match, while Nadal is priced at 1/2.

You believe that Cilic is capable of putting up a stern fight, and decide to implement the underdog betting strategy. You place a bet of £10 on Cilic in the match betting markets and wait for the match to begin.

Cilic begins the match strongly, beating Nadal in the second game of the first set. As a result, the odds on Nadal drift to 3/2. You quickly take advantage of these odds by placing a £10 back bet on Nadal. This means that

  • if Cilic continues to perform well and wins the match, you’ll generate an overall profit of £40
  • if Nadal wins the match, you’ll generate a total profit of £15.

In other words, you’ve effectively guaranteed that you’ll make a profit.

Avoiding a loss

There’s obvious risk inherent in backing an underdog, and you need to take quick action to avoid losses if your underdog fails to rise to the occasion. The easiest way to avoid a loss is to back the favourite with the potential winnings on the underdog as soon as the odds are high enough to cover your initial stake.

Consider the example from above. If Cilic loses the first set, you’d attempt to take advantage of any drift in Nadal’s odds during the second set. Ideally you’d want to bet the possible return on a Cilic win on Nadal at this stage, to avoid an overall loss.

Early in the second set, a minor rally by Cilic sees Nadal’s odds reach 1/4. At this point, you wager the possible profits from a Cilic win (£40 in this case) on Nadal. If Nadal does win, this bet will generate a £10 profit – enough to cover the initial stake. If Cilic wins, the £40 profit will cover the stake you bet on Nadal.

Tips for backing an underdog

To use the underdog betting strategy successfully, you’ll need to bet on matches for which there are only two possible outcomes. For example, the strategy is suited to tennis, boxing and ODI and T20 cricket betting.

Also follow these guidelines:

Ensure that live betting is available. Some bookmakers offer only very limited live betting coverage of sports events. Top UK bookmakers like Bet365 and William Hill offer comprehensive selections of live betting markets, but you’ll still need to check their live betting diaries before you place your first bet.

Do your research. The more you know, the more effective your betting will be. Consider head-to-head statistics for the two opponents, as well as each contestant’s historical performance. Some contenders may have a history of causing upsets, while others have performance that’s more consistent. Although very long odds may be attractive, it’s important to remember that you need the underdog to at least be competitive at some stage of an event. Go for underdogs that will put up a good fight and research form information on your selections before you bet.

Bet fast. Prices in live betting markets can change dramatically from moment to moment. Decide beforehand what odds you want to secure on your second bet and place your bet immediately once these odds become available in a live betting market.

Try betting on an underdog at William Hill now

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