When to Hedge a Bet

Baylor players celebrate after winning the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with an upset against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

Hedging bets is part of every professional sports bettor’s arsenal but even the casual bettor can use this tool to minimize risk.

Let’s discuss when to hedge and what the ramifications are of doing so.

Hedging Can Hurt

Anyone who has been around the sports betting block long enough knows that when a line starts to shift in your favor after you’ve already made the wager, you immediately suspect you are on the wrong side.

Instead of doubling down on the better number, you are instantly looking for a way out. The barroom bettor will say something along the lines of, “Vegas knows something!”

Learn More: What is Smart Money Action in Sports Betting?

Let’s use a hypothetical scenario. We bet the Packers -6 over the Browns for $100 but we soon see the line taking a tumble. The Packers are now down to -4 ½ and our first thought is there must be a late injury to a key player that has caused the shift. We scan all the usual sites including social media for a late-breaking report. Nothing.

Now we’re even more suspicious because if the line is moving down on the favorite, it means there is enough action on the Browns to warrant a line change by the top sportsbooks. The question we all ask ourselves is why are the Browns suddenly the play? Is it a wise-guy move? Are we on the wrong side of the sharp action?

Learn More: Taking Advantage of Line Movement When Betting on Sports

Well, it appears so because the public, aka the squares, rarely get giddy over an underdog, especially one playing a household name like the Packers. Now, what do we do? We can sit tight with the bad number and keep our fingers crossed or we can be bold and bet the Packers again at a better number.

But one thing we will never do is bet the other side to try to get out of this bet. Imagine betting the Packers -6 and then panic-betting the Browns +4 ½. This is called a “moron’s middle” because a five-point win by the Packers will cause you to lose both sides. This is not a hedge situation – ever!

Remember, the wise guys don’t always win so hold onto your wager, sit tight, and hopefully, you’ll be the real wise guy when the game is over.

Futures Made for Hedging

Now that we know what not to do, let’s talk about a few situations where hedging can not only minimize risk but maximize results.

When we think of hedging, we often think of betting each side or total of the same game with our original wager being more than the subsequent hedge bet on the other side. That simply reduces the risk of a particular bet as we can see in this example.

Learn More: What’s a Unit in Sports Betting, How to Use It?

If we bet the Saints -3 over the Panthers for $100 and are getting cold feet, we could reverse course and bet the Panthers +3 for $50. There are three possible outcomes:

  • Saints Cover – We win $45 (100 -55 including vig = 45)
  • Panthers Cover – We lose $60 (-110 + 50 = -60)
  • Saints Push – We win or lose nothing as Saints won by exactly three points.

Now let’s talk about where hedging can truly make sense. Let’s assume you bet the Baylor Bears at the beginning of the season to win the 2021 NCAA Basketball Championship at odds of 20-1. As you may recall, Baylor played Gonzaga for the title and entered as 4 ½ point underdogs.

Assuming we have $100 on Baylor at odds of 20-1 that means we would win $2000 if Baylor prevails. But if they don’t win the game outright, we lose $100, and isn’t that a shame? Well, here is a situation where we hedge our bet. Now we don’t want a “moron’s middle” and hedge by betting Gonzaga -4 ½ because if Gonzaga wins by 1, 2, 3, or 4 then we lose that bet and we also lose our Baylor future.

Learn More: How to Get Value Out of If Bets

Therefore, what we should do is bet Gonzaga on the moneyline which eliminates the point spread. All the Zags would have to do is win the game, that’s it. In this case, the moneyline on Gonzaga was -190 which means we could guarantee a free crack at winning our future on Baylor if we bet Gonzaga -190 for $100 to cover the cost of our initial future bet.

If Gonzaga wins, so sad, too bad but at least the money we won on the Zags ($100) covers what we wagered on Baylor. However, if Baylor wins (which they did, 86-70) then we win $2000 but lose $190 for a net profit of $1810. Not a bad haul even when losing the hedge bet.

Hedging Parlays

We can also apply this to the last leg of winning parlays. Assume we have won the first legs of the parlay and have one final leg to root home.

We know there will be plenty of room to hedge if the parlay wins (assuming each leg is at the standard 10% vig and not inflated moneylines) so why not bet the other side to cover the cost of the parlay, as we did in the futures scenario above?

Hedging can be an excellent way to reduce risk and in certain instances can even allow you to cash both sides.

Learn More: Gambling 101 | Understanding Parlay Bets

For example, if your future bet gets to the finals and the other side happens to be the underdog then you can bet the dog plus the points, root for your team to win the game but hope the underdog stays within margins. This is known as a middle in the sports betting vernacular and hitting one is the dream because you win both bets!

Use hedge betting wisely and if you do, you will see the benefits pay off in all kinds of circumstances. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so bet carefully and hedge wisely. And remember to check back for more betting strategy at the OddsTrader blog. Happy betting!

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