Sports Betting Strategy: Betting On the Underdog

In online sports betting, a considerable amount of punters look to favourites when placing their bets. Betting on underdogs can be considered something only novices indulge in - a short, sharp thrill that rarely yields results, because "underdogs don't win".

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Here are four reasons why betting on an outsider might not be such a bad punt, if properly thought out of course.

Underdogs Fly Below the Radar

Sports betting is often just one big popularity contest. A named favourite, whether it's in boxing, football or horse racing, will always get more publicity and hype than their competitor.

For this reason, it's easy for bookmakers – and the betting public – to ignore the underdog. If a well respected pundit tells the public that a certain team or horse is going to win, and the public follow this advice - the odds will be quite short, even if their form is comparable to their competitor. Spotting when this happens can help you identify a good underdog bet.

This can be very prevalent in horse racing, especially when a horse hails from a powerful yard such as the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable. Another horse might have very good form to his/her name, but because that individual is trained by a "smaller" stable, the odds can be more generous.

Gavin Cromwell's Espoir D'allen is an example of this - as despite winning nine of his ten races, he went off 16/1 when winning the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in 2019.

In hindsight he was a crazy price, especially when you consider Laurina, trained by the aforementioned Willie Mullins, was a 5/2 shot, despite this only being her 7th race in the UK or Ireland and her first time taking on male horses.

In this instance, taking on the more known trainer paid dividends. It pays to look a bit deeper sometimes, albeit it's not recommended to take on Willie Mullins too often!

Arrogance Aids the Underdog

A successful football team, a seeded tennis player, a Formula 1 race driver on a winning streak: they will all often get over-confident, which makes the underdog perfectly placed to deliver an upset. In Football, the FA Cup is famous for this, because the games are (for the most part) one-off fixtures that will never be repeated.

A club from the lower divisions being drawn against Premier League opposition is never expected to win. Because of this, there is no pressure on the underdog, no expectation and therefore they have nothing to lose.

Bookmakers will always decide odds on stats, facts and form. Magic, chance, serendipity and, most importantly, the psychological arrogance of the favourite have nothing to do with deciding odds, but everything to do with a result.

In 2013, Manchester City were red hot odds-on favourites to win the FA Cup when they met with Wigan, a team who would be relegated that same season from the Premier League. The Latics pulled off the shock of shocks however, with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a stoppage-time strike from substitute Ben Watson who’d come on in the 81st minute.

The same can of course be said for Leicester City in the 2015/16 Premier League season when they shocked the world to take the league title. Odds of up to 5000/1 were offered on them to do the impossible, and their fearlessness lead to them holding on, as the favourites floundered up the run in.

At times, fortune definitely favours the brave!

Psychology Can Work For You

Researching the psychological, as well as statistical parameters of a sporting event, will help identify a good underdog bet. Knowing the head-to-head history of two competitors can give you an edge in identifying a possible upset scenario.

For instance, in football betting, if Manchester City were travelling to Molineux to take on Wolves in the Premier League, the odds would naturally favour Man City.

However, Wolves in the 2018/19 season won two and drew three of their seven league matches against the top six sides in the league, including a draw against the aforementioned Man City in October. They would naturally be outsiders, but this hasn't held them back psychologically at all, making them an underdog to take note of in these matches.

In-Play Betting Helps You Hedge

Live in-play betting makes your bet more exciting. It can also help you salvage a bad underdog bet, or exploit a slip-up by a favourite. For example, in tennis betting, Novak Djokovic might start a US Open match with Marin Čilić as 1/2 favourite, with Čilić at 4/1.

The bettor places £10 on a Čilić win, knowing Čilić has beaten Djokovic before. Čilić breaks Djokovic early, and Djokovic's odds go out to 6/4.

The bettor then places a £10 back bet on Djokovic, to back up his initial underdog bet. So, if Čilić goes on to win, the punter's profit is £30, but if Djokovic turns things around and wins, the punter still profits by £5, thus covering both bets.

The key to 'safe' underdog in-play betting is timing, knowing when to back against your original bet to cover your original outlay is vital, especially should your underdog forget to bite.