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What is a Betting Underdog?

by February 16, 2022
Tee Higgins

Unless a game is lined at even odds, there is a favorite and underdog for every game or event. The underdog is the team or player that is not expected to win, and in betting on that team, the payout will be more than if you bet on the favorite.

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When betting moneylines, American odds will show the underdog with a plus in front of the number. For example, the Bengals were +170 on the moneyline for Super Bowl LVI. That means the sportsbook, and bettors, are expecting the Bengals not to win the game. The lower the probability of the underdog winning, the lower the moneyline odds get. If a team is expected to win the game about 40% of the time, the sportsbook will set their line at around +150. If a team is expected to win 20% of the time, those odds will rise to somewhere in the +400 range. The lower the probability of the underdog winning, the lower the odds, and the higher the payout if they do win.

Point Spread

Point spreads are similar to moneylines, but instead of betting on the outright winner of the game, you bet against the spread. Different sports have different point spreads. For example, hockey games usually are lined at 1.5 goals while football games can be lined anywhere from one point to dozens of points. In point spread betting, the line is set at what the sportsbook/bettors expect the favorite to win by. So now, instead of just praying that New Mexico State can upset Alabama, you can bet on them to lose by less than 55 points at much higher odds. Let’s go back to that Bengals Super Bowl example. The Bengals were 4.5 point favorites heading into Super Bowl LVI. That means that bettors expected them to lose by about 4.5 points. So, you can either bet the Bengals on the moneyline at +170 odds, or you can bet them to lose by 4.5 points or less at around -110 odds. In this case, it was better to bet the spread instead of the moneyline, as the Bengals lost the game but only by three points, which covered the spread.

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