What the heck does a hedge have to do with sports betting? A row of bushes or small trees planted close together that sometimes forms a fence or boundary seems to have very little to do with wagering money on a game. Well, by this definition, it has nothing to do with sports betting. Unless maybe some prop bet is being placed on the Stanford Cardinal mascot.
Discussing shrubs is a lame way of introducing hedging in sports betting, but it doesn’t take from away its importance. Hedging is a massive part of becoming a successful sports bettor.
What is hedging?
It is critical to understand what hedging a bet actually means before even thinking of profiting from it. Hedging a bet means placing a bet or bets on a different outcome or outcomes, subsequent to an original bet, in order to create a situation where there is a guaranteed profit whether the original bet wins or loses.
For example, say a $100 bet with even odds was placed on the Green Bay Packers to win vs the New England Patriots. A Packers win would net a $100 profit. The Patriots may have started as slight favorites to win, hence the Packers having even odds. But, say the Packers hop out to a nice 17-0 halftime lead. All of a sudden, the odds are going to swing majorly in the Packers’ favor.
Now, the bettor could ride out the original bet. Conversely, the bettor could decide to hedge. Facing a 17-0 deficit against a good team, the Patriots are sure to be underdogs. Maybe the line has gone up to +300 for the Patriots to win. Under this scenario, the bettor could now place $40 dollars on the Patriots to win. A $40 dollar bet would net a $120 dollar profit. So, if the Packers won, this bettor would win a $60 dollar profit. If the Patriots won, the bettor would win a $70 dollar profit, creating a win-win scenario.
Hedging can be incredibly profitable and risk-reducing. The Packers and Patriots example is just one easy way to explain what it is. Many more effective examples of hedging exist.
When to Hedge
Sports betting never stops. Sports betting never stops for expert bettors, that is. The old adage that “you should bet it and forget it,” is far from the truth. So, when are the best times to hedge a bet?
Future bets are the perfect opportunity to hedge a bet and limit risk, yet still profit. Quite simply put, a hedge bet becomes more logical as the original futures bet gets closer to winning. Take, for example, a bettor placing a $100 bet on the Los Angeles Rams to win the Super Bowl before the season starts. This type of bet would obviously have a high risk, but would also have a high payout. (In reality, in 2018, a preseason $100 bet on the Rams to win the Super Bowl would net about a $1,500 profit.) If the Rams don’t make the playoffs or lose early in the postseason, the bettor is out of luck. But, if the Rams make it to the NFC Conference Championship or the Super Bowl, it’s time to consider a hedge bet.
With about a $1,500 profit on the line, the bettor has some wiggle room. Say the bettor decides to wait until the Super Bowl to hedge. The bettor can then take any money from that potential $1,500 profit and place it on the opponent, knowing that one of the two teams has to win. Especially if the Rams are favorites, this guarantees the bettor a very nice profit, regardless of the outcome.
Parlay bets are the next most common type of bets to hedge. A parlay bet is a series of single bets that link together and is dependent on all of the wagers winning. A much higher payout is received if all the wagers are won than would have been received if the bets were placed individually. They also might be the easiest type of bets to explain hedging with.
The higher the risk/reward for a parlay bet, the more likely a bettor should be to use hedging. Most small, low-risk parlay bets should not be hedged. On the other hand, hedging should always be taken into account with a high risk/reward parlay.
Obviously, the further along a parlay bet reaches, the higher the odds of winning become. Take a four-bet parlay, where the first three bets win. The bettor now has to win only one more wager to net the whole parlay profit. Under this scenario, a hedge bet placed on the opposite outcome than what the parlay needs to win makes sense.
With a Change in Opinion
Changes in opinion can also constitute a time to hedge. The next bettor who has a change in heart will be far from the first, or the last, to have ever done so. Especially in long-term bets, opinions, preferences, and even players and teams change. Sometimes, these elements change before the odds do. A hedge bet is not smart if the odds are so bad that the bettor is still guaranteeing themselves a large loss either way. Again, things can change quickly in sports. But, if the odds are still there, hedging a bet based off of a change in opinion can be useful.
Live, In-Play Bets
Live, in-play bets are one final way hedging can be used. Any live, in-play bet just means a wager on a game that is currently taking place. The Packers and Patriots scenario from above was a perfect example of this. Any point in a live game wager where the odds of a hedge bet can guarantee the bettor a profit, hedging should at least be taken into consideration.
There isn’t always a right or wrong way to use hedging, and that’s why it’s tricky. It’s perfectly acceptable to let a bet ride all the way to its completion, win or lose. It’s also perfectly acceptable to hedge a bet and guarantee a profit, albeit a smaller one. Tools and calculators exist to help figure out the best times and opportunities to hedge. Some experts will say to hedge when a certain amount or percentage of a profit can be guaranteed. What’s possibly the best advice? Judge each and every situation by its own characteristics. A bettor could hold off on hedging if she has the utmost confidence in her bet. On the flip side, a bettor could pounce on an opportunity to hedge if he feels as if he’s gotten lucky. Each and every bet has its own unique characteristics and should be treated as such.
Regardless of the situation, the most experienced sports bettors always have hedging as an option on the table. With almost any type of bet, hedging is a strategy that can not only help net a solid profit but can also alleviate all risk.
Alex Altmix is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive.