Underdog Betting Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to Betting on the Underdog

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Published: Mar 12, 2023 - Last Updated: Feb 29, 2024

Betting on the underdog can be a thrilling and profitable way to enjoy betting. While most bettors tend to favor the favorite, betting on the underdog can offer better odds and bigger payouts. Understanding how to successfully bet on the underdog requires a different approach and mindset than betting on the favorite. In this guide, we will explore underdog betting and how it works.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the world of underdog betting and learn how to make smart and profitable bets on the “long shot” teams.

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What is Underdog Betting?

That is a nice simple question to answer. In short, underdog betting is placing a bet on a team or player that has a lower chance of winning.

Underdog betting is just the process of betting on the underdog in a sporting contest, which is one (or sometimes more) selection(s) that has longer odds offered by the bookmaker for that specific market.

Example: If you were looking to bet on a match between Real Madrid and Rotherham United, then an underdog bettor would be looking at the options to back Rotherham to win.

In terms of esports, it’s the same process. If you are wagering on one of the popular CS2 gambling sites and one team is considerably longer odds to win their match, then they would be the underdog.

An underdog betting strategy can be profitable if the underdog team wins since the payout is higher than betting on the favorite. However, underdog betting is not without risk, and it requires careful consideration of the odds and the potential outcomes.

Underdog Betting Odds Explained

When you are betting on an underdog, they will always be the longer-priced option in a chosen betting market and the greater the perceived disparity in class, skill and quality between the two or more betting options, then the bigger the difference will be between the odds offered for each.

For example, if you were betting on an FA Cup tie that pitted Arsenal against Nottingham Forest, then at present Arsenal would be the odds on favorites to win the game, with Nottingham Forest the underdog.

But if Arsenal were playing Notts County instead, who are a non-league team at present, then Arsenal would be a much shorter price than in the first example and Notts County would be a much longer-priced underdog due to the gap in quality between the two teams.

In events where there are more than two competitors, such as golf, horse racing or greyhounds, there tends not to be one single underdog, but the longer-priced options here are generally called ‘outsiders” or “outside bets” and these are effectively the underdogs for these events.

A simple rule of thumb to remember is the longer the odds on the underdog, the less chance they have of winning the fixture.

betting on the underdog

Image credit: Mikalesg/Shutterstock

Follow the link for our handy guide to how to read betting odds.

Underdog Betting Strategies and Tips

Underdog sports betting is not easy. Picking longer odds winners consistently is incredibly difficult and you need to have the mindset that the majority of your bets will be losers. That is true for underdog esports betting too.

However, outlined below are some great strategies and tips you can follow when betting on the underdog:

  1. Thoroughly research your underdog bet – what makes it a credible betting option for you?
  2. Only ever bet what you can comfortably afford to lose.
  3. Remember longer odds may mean a bigger win, but the chances of that bigger win shrink as the odds increase.
  4. Use underdog spread betting options (see below) to help you land more winners when betting on underdogs.
  5. Remember a shorter-price win is always better than a longer-priced loss!
  6. Check around for the best available odds. Especially on big outside bets. You will find that sports books will offer vastly differing odds on big underdogs in games. Similarly, with esports, you’ll find that, for example, Valorant odds on an underdog winning will differ from one site to the next.

Underdog Spread Betting Explored

If you bet on American sports or a number of other sports, you may well be familiar with what is called ‘handicap’ or the term I tend to use; ‘spread’ betting.

The terms are used interchangeably because spread betting employs a handicap which is always weighted in favour of the underdog in the game, with the idea the bookmaker applies a handicap that offers you as close to a 50/50 wager between two options.

How that handicap, or spread, is shown depends upon the sport. In football, for example, the handicap is expressed by whole or fractions of goals (such as +1.5 goals or -2 goals). In American Football or Basketball, the handicap is expressed in terms of points.

So in all forms of spread betting, the underdog selection will be the option that has a positive handicap in their favour.

For example, all the options highlighted below would be the underdog bet in the fixture shown.

However, what does the spread, or handicap, mean in terms of your bet?

Well, it is actually very simple. If you bet on any of the underdogs shown in the trio of bets above, then the handicap stated is applied to the final score of the game before the outcome of your bet is decided.

For example, if you were betting on the underdog and bet on Southampton to win against Manchester City with a +2.5 handicap, and Southampton then go on to lose the game to Manchester City 3-0, then with the handicap applied, the score would be Manchester City 3 Southampton 2.5. So Manchester City would be the winning bet and your bet on Southampton would be a loser.

underdog sports betting

Image credit: Stokkete/Shutterstock

But, if you backed the Tennessee Titans with a +8 points spread against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Titans went on to lose the game 30-35, then even though the Titans lost the real contest, with your +8 point handicap applied, that gives a final score of 38-35, this your bet on the Titans would be a winner.

There are just four key things to remember with betting on the underdog spread:

  1. Underdog spread betting selections will always have a positive handicap, even if it is as low as +0.5 or +0.25.
  2. The outcome of your bet is decided only when the handicap of your selection is applied to the final score and regardless of who wins or loses the real contest, your bet is only worked out on the score after the handicap is applied.
  3. In spread betting, only the handicap of your selection in a contest is applied.
  4. The spread or handicap is applied to give you as close to a 50/50 choice between the two selections and the odds should therefore reflect that.

Spread betting on underdogs is a good way to enjoy wagering on the outsiders in a sporting contest, but with more opportunity of landing a win.

Of course, the handicap does reduce the odds on your underdog selections, sometimes markedly, but it will generally offer you a better chance of a win than backing the underdog to win outright in most sporting contests.

As such, underdog sports betting, and now esports betting too, are popular but you won’t find too much about it in many esports betting guides.

Frequently asked questions on underdog betting

Who’s the underdog in betting?

The underdog is the team or individual that the bookmakers think will generally lose the bet. They have longer odds on the win market than their opponent, sometimes considerably longer.

How does underdog betting work?

Underdog betting works in the same way as any other bet. You back your selection to win and if they win, then you get paid out, but backing underdogs offers you larger returns than backing shorter-priced options, but they are also more likely to be losing bets.

How to tell an underdog from betting odds?

An underdog is always the longest price selection from an event where two individuals or teams are competing. For events with multiple competitors, such as horse racing, any selection that is considerably longer odds than the favourites can be viewed as an underdog.

Is Underdog betting legit?

Absolutely. By mixing your carefully selected outright underdog bets with some underdog sports or esports betting in the handicap markets, you can enjoy your wagering as much, if not more, than backing the shorter-priced options.

Is there a specific underdog betting app?

No. Bookmakers will always offer odds on all selections in a sports or esports contest, but you don’t need a specialist underdog sports betting app, just remember to back the longer-priced options and you will be underdog betting! Mobile apps such as the GG.Bet betting app are a great place to start! (Check out our GG.Bet review here for more information!)


Featured image credit: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

Ian John
Ian John

Since: August 10, 2015

Ian is a regular contributor to EsportsBets. Ian is well-versed in the world of esports betting and casino gaming and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.

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