One of the most commonly asked questions by sports bettors, trying to improve their betting success rate, is: ‘Is it a good strategy to always bet on the favourite?‘ Numerous professional bettors swear by this strategy for success. A quick Google search will fill your screen with mentions of this approach.
On the other hand, there are equally as many that believe that betting on the underdog is also best practice. Therefore, the results are often contradictory. You’re then left nowhere close to finding the answers to these questions.
Below we’ll explore why this conundrum has sparked many debates and has even been the focus of academic research. We’ll also detail the facts, as well as instances in which the favourite sports betting strategy has gone wrong.
While there’s no clear cut answer, this article aims to educate you about the topic. You can then make an informed decision about which side of the fence you sit.
The Favourite Vs the Underdog Debate
Over recent decades, several research papers have explored the favourite-longshot bias. Evidence found that a stark number of punters prefer betting on long-odds (underdogs).
Reportedly, punters believe that they’re getting better value for their bet. Plus, they enjoy the thrills of the high risk vs high reward. Bookmakers have since caught onto this phenomenon. As a result, they’ve adjusted their odds to encourage risky betting to pull in a profit.
In comparison, other research surrounding risk-taking in gambling has found opposite evidence. They’ve unearthed the view that many punters will place money on the favourites out of fear of losing. Favourite bias primarily takes place during significant games and televised sports. If celebrity players are in a team, this also has a significant effect on this bias.
Both theories contradict one another and, therefore, mean that neither are reliable. What it does proves is that there are different types of bettors and other influences to consider. Every game is different, and whichever way the bias falls causes an odd disparity. The bookmaker will then balance the odds. Their aim is to create equal profit margins from both sides. However, this only further displaces the truth behind the implied probability.
The Facts About Betting on the Favourite
It’s proven that betting on the favourite will accumulate you more potential returns. Logically, the better team will come out on top more often than not. A favourite bet is, therefore, a ‘sure bet’. In return for this type of wager, you’ll receive a small payout in correlation to your initial stake. To some punters, this minimal payout is counterintuitive to their opinion of value and is, therefore, a pointless wager.
Furthermore, when you bet on the favourites to win, you’re trusting the bookmakers’ judgement. You’re relying on their knowledge of which team is stronger than the other. They make the odds using a myriad of information, alongside their need to generate a profit. In some instances, which we’ll highlight further below, relying on the bookmaker isn’t always a good idea.
Bookmakers will sometimes need to entice punters to place risky bets and follow. Odds get moved on the underdog’s side to draw in more punts and profit; this means that the favourite odds are generally closer to the ‘true odds’.
Historical Instances When it All Went Wrong for the Favourites
One of the most famous blunders in sports betting history occurred when Japan destroyed South Africa at 1/100. The controversy occurred during the Rugby World Cup. South Africa had only lost eight international matchups in their history. This was a massive sting for thousands of favourite bettors. What they had failed to do is look beyond the South Africans team’s success and evaluate Japan’s rising momentum.
Another prime example of when bookmakers get it wrong was during the 2014/15 Premier League. Manchester City were the firm favourites over Burnley. The fact that Burnley had drawn with City earlier in the season and City was lacking form throughout previous matches. As a result, bookmakers offered high odds for a win from Burnley. Punters made it okay when Burnley took home the win and bookmakers held their heads in their hands.
These examples support why you shouldn’t blindly follow favourites. Instead, research and cross-checking statistics before placing a wager is key.
A Strategy Made of Compromise
A solid strategy to sports betting, which is a compromise of the two methods, relies on independent research. As mentioned previously, blindly placing bets on online bookmakers calls or gossip isn’t going to support your sports betting long-term.
The key to success is betting on favourites when the underdog has no chance of succeeding, based upon their stats. These small wagers will support your bankroll. The secret to somewhat less risky success is through finding ‘Value bets’.
Value bets are when an underdog team has a real chance of getting the edge over their opponents. In our article on how to find good sports betting matches, we talk more about this question. You can notice a value bet when there’s a discrepancy between the bookmaker’s and public opinion. If the payout is higher than 2x your stake, then the bet is valuable and worth the risk. Again, like the bookmaker, you can’t rely solely on public opinion; make sure you cross-check facts.
The thrill of sports betting is the lack of a guarantee. You can spend hours researching a team, and on the day, the results are the opposite to your predictions. It’s this element of surprise that makes sports so entertaining after all.
In answer to the primary question, always betting on the favourite team to win is both a good and bad strategy. How you view, it depends on what you want to achieve from sports betting. In the long-term, it will help keep your bankroll afloat and will see you take home more wins than losses.
On the other hand, the money you accumulate will be small after the bookmaker’s vigorish. Hitting a loss may wipe out our account entirely if you don’t have the occasional hit from a high stakes, underdog wager.
Remember, when placing a wager that many factors influence the odds, and they will always result in the bookmaker making a profit. Don’t always trust the maker’s figures, the public’s opinion or biases. Take time to research the probability of a score and cross-reference your findings with the bookmakers implied probability. By doing this, you’ll have a higher chance of being successful.