What is an underdog in sports betting?
You must get familiar with two key terms in sports betting: favorites and underdogs. Surely both terms are usually used in regular sports coverage, but sportsbooks are labelling a favourite and an underdog in pretty much every game. If the favourite is the team expected to win, the underdog is the team that is not expected to win or is expected to lose. It is as simple as that. In sports betting, there are several ways to find which team is the underdog.
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If you look at moneyline bet, which is the market that allows you to bet on the winner of the game regardless of the score, the team that has higher paying odds is the underdog. If you are looking at spreads, the team with the minus sign in front of the line is the favorite, while the team with the plus sign before the line is the underdog.
Underdogs in American odds
In American odds, similarly to what we have seen with spreads, odds with a plus sign are underdogs, while odds with a minus sign are favourite. This is true for moneyline bets, while with spreads, it is the line that tells us which is the underdog and which is the favourite. For instance, you might have the White Sox as -1, which means that they are favored by a run. Their odds, however, could be +107. Despite the plus sign in front of the odds, the White Sox are still considered the favourite as there is a minus sign before the line. Likewise, underdogs will have plus sign in front of the line in spreads markets.
Should You Bet on Underdogs?
This is an excellent question, which is difficult to answer. If it were easy to figure out, bookmakers would quickly be out of business. Clearly, underdogs statistically lose more games than favorites, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be worse for bettors than the favorites. In fact, if we look at NFL stats, underdogs have covered the spread 50.6% since 2003. So, in this case, you would have lost more money by taking every favorite. Obviously, this is just an example and cannot be used to say that you should only bet underdogs, but it is important to look at the circumstances and make educated decisions based on knowledge and form to try to find an edge against sportsbooks.
Why is it called an Underdog?
The word comes from the dog-fighting back in the 19th century when a fight winner was called the top dog and the loser the underdog. The term has since been used to identify a team that is expected to lose.