Last Updated on August 22, 2023
What is underdog betting? We love the underdog. Their stories make it feel like those players and teams need us to be successful. When positive outcomes occur, a bond develops between them and us because it feels like we've connected. Even if we only witness an underdog succeeding, the outcome gives us hope that something good can happen.
Although it is fun to root for the underdog, it's even better when you place a wager on one to win, and that happens. Not only are the odds giving you a decent payout in that circumstance, but you also gain some notoriety for believing in them in the first place.
Underdogs defy the odds. That's why it's fun to bet on them, but is it a profitable venture? With value betting and other systemic strategies, your bankroll can grow when betting on the underdog.
Table of Contents
- Who Is the Underdog in Betting?
- Betting on the Underdog in Football
- MLB Underdog Betty Strategy Options
- Tennis Underdog Betting System and Strategy
- NBA Underdog Betting Options
- Additional Underdog Betting Tips to Consider
- Is It Profitable to Bet on the Underdog?
Who Is the Underdog in Betting?
The underdog in betting is the team or individual that isn't expected to win. There are several ways to tell this designation from a sportsbook perspective.
Your payout option is the most obvious way to determine what team or individual is the underdog. Bookmakers offer a more significant return if you place bets on those not expected to win.
If you're looking at a betting spread, the team with a minus or negative sign before the line (-110) is the favorite. That means a plus sign (+100) indicates the underdog for that situation.
Top Betting Sites for Underdog Betting
You can also see this plus-minus strategy used for specific score lines. Unfortunately, it is the opposite when looking at decimal odds.
If Liverpool is favored to beat Manchester United, the odds might say they're 1.75 to win. If the line said 2.0, it'd be an even money option. Manchester United is the favorite if you see them listed at 2.5. Anything larger than 2 is an underdog bet.
Fractional odds place the underdog betting in a different format. For example, if you bet on Lucky Horse #3 with 40-1 odds of winning, you'd be better on the underdog. However, should the line shift to 2-5 or 1-2, you'd be betting on the favorite.
There is one exception to fractional odds. If a team gets 3-1 instead of 10-1, it would be the favorite compared to the other one. Some bookies like bet365 offer bonuses exactly for the underdogs.
Betting on the Underdog in Football
An NFL underdog betting system focuses on placing wagers on a team with substantial market odds. Unfortunately, there isn't a more straightforward way to approach this strategy, but it can be enhanced by looking for arbitrage or value betting opportunities.
The outcome of any NFL game is never 100% certain. You can find some underdogs not only winning a game outright but they're dominating the affair. Even if the team hasn't won all year, there's still a reasonable chance they can pull through the net week.
NFL teams don't care about the spread or the other betting options you can find with a sportsbook. They keep fighting to the end, trying to win, giving your underdog betting strategy life from the opening whistle to the end of the contest.
Although you can find several underdog types and designations in the NFL, the best one for betting tends to be the home underdog. These games tend to be the best for your bankroll because the power of the local crowd cannot be overestimated.
Home players can rest more, stay in their daily routine, and get pumped up from the energy in the stadium.
Most NFL upsets tend to be home underdogs. If you handicap these games to find value, you'll find the best bets to make. You won't always win, but a more significant stake in these matches tends to support improvements in your long-term results.
How Can I Improve My NFL Underdog Betting?
Here are some other underdog matchups you can find in the NFL.
- Road Underdogs. Most teams in the NFL are favored to win at home, so there are plenty of underdogs in this category to consider each week. Even great teams don't always play as well on the road as at home. When the adjustments are too strong, you can find some value betting opportunities to consider.
- Situational Underdogs. These teams don't always have the situation built into the odds created by bookmakers. Does a team have a history of success after a road loss? Is a teammate pushing toward an MVP award? These factors can sway results and create some unique betting opportunities.
- Challenge Underdogs. It would be best if you never ignored value. When the public favorite gets a lot of momentum, you can find a spread bet that makes a lot of sense – and money. Also, it will be impressive if you are using some kind of a free bet for that kind of betting.
You'll find plenty of NFL games where the favorite offers excellent value. When you can balance those opportunities with the underdog bets, you'll find a lot more long-term success likely headed your way.
MLB Underdog Betty Strategy Options
In Major League Baseball, it's not unusual to see the square bettors wanting to ride the favorites. Although this game does have some unique quirks, the team that should win typically does.
The key to success with baseball wagers is finding an MLB underdog betting system that works for you. You'll find better options when you find value, defined as the difference between the chances of a team winning and the odds you get.
Imagine that you believe a team has a 50/50 shot of winning a game. If you get +120 odds on that game, you've found a decent wager and should bet on the result. However, when it's -120, you'll have negative expectations to manage and should avoid it.
How Can I Improve My MLB Underdog Betting?
A baseball betting underdog system works best when you can avoid places where heavy favorites influence the odds. Here are some examples to consider.
- If a team is given a -400 money line, that means they have an 80% chance to win the game in the bookmaker's view.
- Although five-point changes reflect .2% increases in reductions of a win percentage, that stops at +235 for the underdog. It goes to .5% updates, then 1% updates as you get closer to +110.
- Updates to the money line can happen at any time. It helps to pay attention to the injury reports and starting lineups released before game time. A star player suddenly not taking the field can result in a massive switch.
In most sports, the goal is to start betting on the underdog as soon as possible. But, of course, you'd prefer to get there as soon as the line opens. Baseball is a bit different with its uncertainties.
Although you don't want to wait until the last second because the bookmakers will be hedging their risks, it's possible to get burned by jumping the gun. So instead, find a happy medium where you're comfortable with a few chances by having more information about the game.
Tennis Underdog Betting System and Strategy
An underdog betting strategy for tennis matches can be lucrative because there are plenty of opportunities to make money. Numerous tournaments are held throughout the year, and the media covers most of them to some extent.
When you develop a strategy for this sport, you'll want to focus on the following areas.
- How Is the Player's Current Form? Although a player's overall quality is a critical component of the underdog betting system, you'll see individual surges where the heart can beat skill. Check the latest results often, review health, and think about how that person's history of matches could play a role in the current one.
- What Is the Player Ranking? Review the current WTA and ATP rankings to see where a player stands. You'll also want to check their career record, head-to-head record, tournament winds, and preferred style of play.
- Are There Surfaces They Prefer? Tennis gets played on several different surfaces. Each one suits a different style. You'd want them playing on grass if you support an aggressive underdog. Counterpunchers do well on concrete, while those on the baseline tend to win more on clay.
- What Playing Conditions Are Expected? Although tennis isn't an all-weather sport, it's pretty close. You'll find extreme heat and cold, wind, or rain forecasts for some matches. Some players perform better in these circumstances than others, giving you a chance to look for some value bets.
- Do They Stay Motivated? The best tennis players in the world tend to overperform during significant tournaments and underperform in smaller contests. There could be a massive value betting option if you can find a considerable underdog with a history of winning against a top contender.
Statistics Support Underdog Tennis Betting
Tennis is also a game where stats are necessary, even more so than baseball, football, and basketball in some circumstances. You'll also discover that momentum can significantly impact player performance.
If you have a player with a high first serve percentage against an underdog who struggles to return, the odds aren't in your favor for a bet. You'd also want to avoid contests where the underdog has numerous unforced errors.
The relevant stat is the “percentage of return games won.” How often does a player win when they're serving? If you have an underdog with a high percentage, there could be an upset brewing if the odds look good.
As a final option, you can look at correct score betting. It isn't available in every sportsbook, but you can try to predict the outcome to deliver a more significant return.
NBA Underdog Betting Options
Underdog sports betting in the NBA can become a significant grind, especially if this is the only sport your system addresses. With 30 teams covering 82 games, not including the playoffs, you will be spending hours on research.
Since the NBA is a significant market, the underdogs get plenty of action since any team can beat any other each night. As a result, trying to beat the point spread set by the oddsmakers is more challenging than in other sports, minimizing the ways you can get an edge.
Although it is difficult to bet on firm underdogs in the NBA, that doesn't mean it is impossible. Here are some essential strategies that can help you have a positive experience.
- Track the Home and Road Win Rate. The Utah Jazz has one of the best home-winning rates in the NBA at nearly 70% when rated as an underdog. Seeing a team on a streak with a stat like that and good odds creates a value-betting opportunity.
- See Who Doesn't Come Through in the Clutch. The Houston Rockets win about one out of every four games where they're rated as underdogs historically. The Detroit Pistons are only one percentage point higher.
- Avoid Teasers in the NBA. The average NFL game has about 12 possessions, so the teasers make sense. You can have more than 100 in the NBA, so that's not an excellent option for the average situation.
Winning Percentage of Underdog Betting
Since 2017, the NBA underdog has won about 32% of the time.
Home favorites are slightly better than those on the road, but it's still a comparable statistic at 69% vs. 64% respectively. In 2021-22, the teams were virtually identical in the win rate for the Moneyline favorites.
Tracking underdog betting strategies for the NBA helps to look at individual performances and overall team history. For example, since the 2017-18 season, the most successful underdog team is the Boston Celtics, winning 43.9% of the time they were put into that position.
Even with that fact, the Miami Heat made value bettors more money in the underdog role, returning 26 times the betting amount to the average person.
NBA underdog betting often focuses on the superstar players, but the strategies that look at the supportive cast tend to provide more consistent results. LeBron James doesn't win games by himself. What is the player quality around him? How will that affect the odds?
Additional Underdog Betting Tips to Consider
Once you've implemented the sport-specific strategies to find value betting options, some additional ways to concentrate on the underdog can help your bottom line.
Bet Early in Tournaments
Most sports have tournaments or playoffs that give you unique underdog betting opportunities. If you look at the futures odds, some of them are available several weeks or months before the event.
Try to place your bets early to ensure you get a decent rate. Bookmakers play it safe, offering lower odds on the primary favorites. A rising underdog with plenty of talent could represent an excellent value bet in this situation.
If you can beat the closing line consistently, you'll find that your win rate can rise significantly. This is one of the best ways to win on bet365, because the bookie is famous with the high early odds for every big tournament.
Set Notifications for Injury Reports
The impact of injuries on underdog betting cannot be overstated. It's less important in some sports than others, like in the NFL, where over 50 players are on the roster. You've only got five on the court with the NBA – and possibly a shallow bench.
It helps to check the injury reports in shifts during the week. Try to bet early when you can, but then come back in the afternoon to see if some information is available where a value bet would be possible.
In basketball and baseball, it's not unusual for a star player to sit out multiple games in a row. Based on recent play, betting activities, and league news, you'll need to anticipate when this could happen. Unfortunately, some sportsbooks are slow to react, so you can gain a potential edge this way.
Think About Scheduling Advances
Most leagues try to allow teams and players to rest and recover between games. However, the NFL, NBA, and MLB also have spots where long road trips or short turns can create unique underdog betting opportunities.
In the NBA, the average team gets 12 to 14 back-to-back contests with no rest between the games. Some teams have a Sunday afternoon and a Thursday night game for the NFL.
If you like to bet on baseball, look for opportunities where a favorite is at the end of a long road trip of eight days or more.
In most sports, the team that loses the first game or the short-turn matchup goes over 65% against the spread.
Play the Possession Game
The pace is a significant factor when making some underdog bets. For example, the number of possessions in football or basketball can determine how many points get scored – or if some of the odds could be a little off.
An excellent example of this issue that is crucial for underdog betting involves the Washington Wizards from the 2021-22 season. Although they ranked 18th for total offense, they scored the third-most points per game because they had the fastest pace in the league.
Another example is the St. Louis Rams from the team's “Greatest Show on Turf” seasons. From 1999-2001, this NFL team set numerous offensive records. For example, in 1999, they scored 526 points, breaking their roster in 2000 with 540 points. In addition, they were first in the league for passing offense, total offenses, and yards per pass attempt.
Knowing that a team can put up big stats can let you see if value bets are available if they'd be in a traditional underdog role. Those powerhouses can also create home underdogs that could provide some excellent opportunities to consider.
Capitalize on Live Betting
Live wagering has become one of the world's most popular betting options. It allows fans and savvy bettors the chance to make some money after a game starts.
In-game odds can change frequently, so it's best to look for volatile matches where middling and arbitrage are possible. You can even find options to hedge previous bets.
The best ways to approach live betting are to find pricing mistakes, calculate possessions, and bet when injuries occur. Try to place a wager during a planned stoppage or commercial break.
Practice Your Line Shopping
Have access to multiple sportsbooks whenever possible to make strategic picks. Although most platforms play off each other to limit hedging opportunities, you can still find some decent options. A half-point difference can change your win rate in some surprising ways.
Every sportsbook likes to say they have the most updated lines and odds. Don't believe the marketing hype! Instead, try to source information from a few different areas, including at least one location in Las Vegas. That'll help you see how consistent things are – or how inconsistently the oddsmakers track a potential underdog.
Be Persistent with Value Betting
Everyone takes a bad beat occasionally. You might take three or four in a row one week. But that doesn't mean your decisions were poor when supporting an underdog.
It's important to remember that underdog betting strategies focus on long-term results. If you're only playing for short-term profits, you will likely leave that scenario feeling frustrated and broke.
Stick to your strategies whenever possible. Although instinct can be a powerful tool, it must be implemented without an emotional response to be effective.
Is It Profitable to Bet on the Underdog?
It can be profitable to bet on the underdog when you follow a system or strategy consistently. Although you might want to let instinct guide you in some situations, your bankroll will do better when using the information as your primary decision-making force.
Try not to over-extend yourself on a single betting opportunity. It never fails that a “sure thing” turns out to be anything but that. So instead, stick with your strategy, limiting each stake to about 1% or 2% of your total bankroll.
It's crucial to remember that some underdogs are better than others. Just because the odds look good doesn't mean there is value to be had. Be careful with your research, follow the tips in this guide, and be patient as your wins build.
There are never any guarantees in betting. However, when you take a logical approach to each wager, you'll find it possible to dominate when focusing on long-term results.