When and How To Bet on the Underdog? Sports Upsets Explained!

Taking a good hard look at underdogs vs favorites before placing a bet is a good habit to adopt. Often the public’s adoration of favorites will skew the line in an underdog’s favor, and even though it is more difficult to place your hard-earned money on a “lesser” team, every week there are some valuable underdog bets on the board.

what is an underdog in sports betting?

Marked with a (+) at sportsbooks, the underdog is a team or athlete that is projected to lose. If an underdog were to win, this is considered an upset. 

basic of underdog odds

The higher the number, the less likely an underdog comes out on top. These odds will have payout a better, more enticing profit. 

odds and implied probability 

Using tools like our odds calculator, you can check the implied probability of an underdog bet. For example, if the Buffalo Bills were +250 'dawgs, oddsmakers are giving them an 28.57% probability of winning outright. This will help you visualize betting on the underdogs in a different way. 

should you bet on the public underdog?

Yes and no. Sometimes, underdogs are a little too far-fetched. For example, the Georgia Bulldogs, back-to-back college football national champions, are -10000 favorites against an FCS opponent in Week 1. So, chances are, the Bulldogs will take the dub easily.

At OddsShark, we supply underdog betting reports for all major leagues like MLB or NCAAF. So, based on that data for each season, you can see how probable and profitable the underdogs have been. But, there's underdog betting tips you should consider before placing your wager.

Advantages of betting on the underdog 

I mean, this is obvious but the profit is the best part about an underdog bet. When a team carries plus-money odds, you're guaranteed to earn money. The thrill of hitting these bets is also a massive bonus. 

disadvantages of betting on the underdog 

The odds are stacked against the underdogs so the biggest disadvantage is trying to predict an upset. So, the likelihood of a favored group being defeated is the problem. But, stranger things have happened right?

are odds for underdogs generally better than for the favorites?

Definitely. Like we mentioned, the underdogs usually always are tagged with plus-money odds which means you will be up money if the bet hits. 

when should you bet on the underdog?

There's a lot of factors and underdog tips for deciding when you should hammer the 'dogs, especially if the odds are hugely skewed. For example, do the underdogs play better at home? Did they just sign a player to help boost their chances? Or maybe they just fired a coach and are starting fresh? There's so many things to consider and that's why research is so important. 

what are some underdog betting strategies and tips?

Did you think we were going to leave you hanging? No way! Here's a list of things you should think about when betting on the underdog. 

be patient and wait for the lines to move

Line movement is when the spread or moneyline for a game will shift after it's released. Now, sometimes these will start to adjust against the favorite which could lessen underdog odds a tad, but will increase the implied probability and reassure you an upset is possible. 

If you do decide to go with an underdog, as a general rule, it isn’t a bad idea to wait a little while to see if the line moves. If you expect the line will move against you, obviously grab it; but in many cases, favorite bettors will move the line to give the underdog an extra half or full point, which you can then grab.

On the flip side, a spread could get bigger. For example, the New York Jets could jump from +8.5-point to +14.5-point underdogs. With that movement, it's a lot easier for them to lose within 15-points than nine points. So, there's a little gap of security there for you. 

betting against the public

Sportsbooks know who the crowd favorites are and the odds will definitely reflect it. Think about it, how many Dallas Cowboy fans do you know? Plenty I'm sure. So, bettors have a tendency to ride with their team. Be aware of that when looking at skewed lines because maybe the underdogs aren't as bad as the odds suggest. 

Sportsbooks don’t give money away. When the public loves a side, it loses more often than it wins, and that is because the sportsbook is enticing the public to take a certain side because they might lean toward the other side. This is more commonly the case with the public loving favorites, but it can happen with underdogs too; when it does, you should either steer clear or consider a wager on the favorite.

moneyline bets on the underdog

The moneyline underdog bets are a bit more difficult to hit as you need the lesser team to win outright. So, yeah that +700 ML may be tempting. But, how likely is it that team will win?

moneyline underdog example

Say the Kansas City Royals are +850 on the moneyline to defeat the Minnesota Twins on the road. If we look, we know that the Twins sit first in the AL Central while the Royals sink to the bottom. Our odds calculator suggests Kansas City has a 10.53% probability of winning outright. Not exactly what we want. 

point spread bets on the underdog

A point spread is basically guessing how much the underdog will lose by. To cash these bets, the 'dogs either need to lose within the spread margin or less, or they could win outright. These bets are much more likely. 

don't believe the hype

We've all done it. It's so easy to fall into the media spiral of the rebuild of a team and how they're expected to improve significantly after an offseason, a trade or new management. Just remember, the underdogs are underdogs for a reason. Don't just buy the hype because a sportsbook or media outlet said, "trust me".

do your research

Safe betting is important and no bettor should be impulsive. So, whether it's searching for trends on our database, reading our previews, examining our computer picks and staying up to date on the underdogs ahead of gametime -- doing your research before putting your well-earned cash on an underdog bet should be a priority.  

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