If you want to bet on a particular game and aren't entirely sure which way it'll go, hedging your bets is a great strategy to ensure you make a profit, regardless of how the matchup plays out.
There are a multitude of scenarios in which hedge betting comes into play. If you're just starting out, you can take advantage of sign-up deals through our partners at major sportsbooks and often have either a deposit match bonus or an outright free-money bet once you join. Hedging is highly recommended in these instances, but there's much more to it than that.
Continue reading to discover how to hedge a bet, what it actually is, and how hedging can offset some of your potential losses.
Hedging a bet involves placing money on two or more different outcomes. In an individual game, for example, you pick both teams or sides of the bet to win. How you hedge depends on your confidence level in each of those respective bets.
What a hedge is designed to do from a betting strategy standpoint is either lessen some of the hit you take when you lose a bet, or curb your winnings just a bit with some insurance in case your bet doesn't win.
If you're just signing up for a sportsbook, you have the opportunity to hedge right out of the gate. If your deal for joining is no-risk matched betting, take advantage of whatever the offer is and bet on whichever team you expect to win. Don't wager on a heavy favorite, though, because it limits the upside of having the free bet.
Next, go ahead and bet a little bit on the other team to win, but not a ton of money. That way, if your big, free bet that can boost your bankroll in a hurry goes awry, at least your initial foray into the sports betting landscape with this particular sportsbook account won't all be for naught.
Beyond the initial sign-up deals, there are plenty of situations in which you can profit off your bets no matter what thanks to hedging. Let's break down what those are in the following subsections.
This is the most common type of hedge betting, and although there are a variety of approaches, some lead to a higher profit than others. You must submit separate betting tickets for single-game hedges, because sportsbooks won't allow you to combine together interdependent outcomes. For example, you can't pick a team's moneyline and spread on the same betting ticket. You'd need to scroll to that matchup's betting props page to look for something like that, if it's available at all. More often, you'll see combo bets of spread and Over/Under, or moneyline and Over/Under.
Back to the subject at hand: The first and most logical way to use hedging is to bet on either side of the spread, and then take the underdog's moneyline to win. Since it's in the news at the time of this writing, how about we look at the NFL's Week 4 action featuring the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys:
As you can see, Dallas is favored by 4.5 points on the spread, but its moneyline presents too short of odds on its own to merit a sizable bet. If you feel pretty confident about the Cowboys' chances to cover, go ahead and take Dallas -4.5. Should you like Cleveland to at least keep things close, take the Browns at +4.5. But either way, go in for the underdog's moneyline.
Scenario #1: Browns +4.5 ($20 bet to win $16.67); +190 moneyline ($10 bet to win $19).
Scenario #2: Cowboys -4.5 ($20 bet to win $16.67); +190 moneyline ($10 bet to win $19).
If the Browns win, they cover. Your $30 investment turns into a $35.17 profit. If you pick Cleveland to cover and they do but lose, it's still a $16.67 profit. There's almost a guaranteed profit in the initial scenario. As long as Cleveland covers, you've ensured finishing in the positive already.
It's audacious to pick Dallas to win by five or more, so more than doubling your money on a moneyline payout in case of an upset is going to make up for your initial spread bet. The only outcome that crushes you here is a Cowboys victory by fewer than five points.
OK, maybe you're feeling ambitious and want to get a big payday off a small parlay bet. In this instance, we'll say it's a four-team NFL parlay, and just for the sake of creating circumstances to most clearly illustrate an example, we'll have the Seahawks -6, Ravens -13.5, Bucs -7 and 49ers -7, per DraftKings' odds.
For purposes of simplicity, we made the first three legs of this parlay from 1 p.m. ET Sunday games, while San Francisco's matchup with Philadelphia starts at 8:20 p.m. ET. The same principle applies if you're using all 1 p.m. kickoffs. You just have to pay very close attention to what's going on.
But here we are, in an ideal world where you may have a golden chance to hedge. Say the Seahawks, Ravens and Bucs all cover before the 49ers' game begins. Instead of cashing out early and possibly making some profit, you want to ride out the parlay to see if it hits. Maybe you start sweating about San Francisco's barrage of injuries and figure the Eagles might be due for a huge bounce-back performance.
Instead of getting your spirit completely crushed when the 49ers fail to cover, why not hedge a little bit on Philadelphia? You stand to make a $119.58 profit on the parlay if you nail it, so how about a $10 to $20 wager on the opposite side of the spread? It's just the smart route to go if you want to break even, or even make a slight profit, in the event the 49ers let you down.
Say you want to bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. They're the favorites after all, and in our NFL futures odds, they're as high as +450 to repeat as champions. If you're really feeling Patrick Mahomes and Co. to get the job done and hoist the Lombardi Trophy yet again, maybe you throw down $50 to earn a $275 payout:
But what if K.C. gets tripped up along the way? Since odds for an entire-season outcome are much longer than a single game, it's worth hedging your Chiefs bet with a dark horse you think has a chance to surprise everyone with a championship run. Wild Card teams have gotten hot before and gone deep in the postseason.
So, let's see. How about the Pittsburgh Steelers at +1800? Ben Roethlisberger is back at quarterback. That defense looks straight-up nasty. The AFC North features another heavy title favorite in Baltimore, but the Ravens have playoff demons to overcome and face the greater weight of expectations. Cleveland and Cincinnati aren't real threats. What a bargain! Here comes the hedge:
If you really wanted to, you could wager on, say, four teams to win Super Bowl 55 at a similar discount cost to what you spent on the Steelers ticket, adjusting your bet amount based on what the odds are. To keep things rather simple, we'll stick with two teams with similar odds to Pittsburgh: the Buccaneers (+2000) and the Titans (+3000). If we do the math for each possible outcome, you can see the benefit to hedging in any of these instances:
Outcome #1: Chiefs win. $50 to win $275. $225 profit - $30 on PIT, TB & TEN = $185 total profit.
Outcome #2: Steelers win. $10 to win $190. $180 profit - $70 on KC, BUF & GB = $110 total profit.
Outcome #3: Bucs win. $10 to win $210. $200 profit - $70 on KC, PIT & GB = $130 total profit.
Outcome #4: Titans win. $10 to win $310. $300 profit - $70 on KC, PIT & BUF = $230 total profit.
Now, if you're wrong here, well, that's tough luck. You bet on 12.5% of the NFL teams to win the championship and got struck with some bad fortune. That'll cost you $80, yet that's better than forking over the same amount and putting it all on the Chiefs, hoping that they pull through. Hedging with the other teams greatly enhances your chances of a potential profit.
By the way, if you earn winning tickets this year for either of those four teams by following this exact betting strategy, throw us a cut of your earnings! Just kidding. But seriously. Do it.
Wanted to cover the primary cases where it behooves you to hedge before dwelling on the dangers. As a callback to the aforementioned NFL parlay with the 49ers, that is a prime instance of when you'd want to hedge in a live betting situation.
This section could save you some serious grief. When you're betting live on a spread, moneyline or Over/Under, don't bother hedging too often, unless you're hedging against a single, main-line bet you made before the game, or against the last leg of a parlay you need to hit. That's about the only case that'll be consistently acceptable.
Lines are in constant flux in live situations, so it's hard to keep track of everything. Even if you're studied up on the particular matchup, the game is evolving before your eyes and anything can happen. Hedging pre-game is much easier to do as opposed to live.
Over/Under is really tricky here. You'll see some experienced bettors work themselves into a frenzy, getting as granular as betting the Under for a quarter of basketball, seeing a few baskets go in, and then overreacting by hedging with the Over later in the quarter. This is how things can spiral out of control. Live prop bet hedges are a little scary, simply because there's so many of them and so many places to go wrong.
Bottom line: Live hedging is designed to draw in sucker bets. Don't fall prey to it. Limit yourself to the big lines in live hedges. Limit yourself to a single-game, single-bet ticket hedge. If you're shaky about the last leg of a parlay, go against whatever you need to hit with a similar or slightly higher wager than what you initially put into the parlay. By going against this advice or taking on too much at once, particularly at the beginning of your betting experience, you risk getting in too deep and succumbing to emotional (read: irrational) bets.
Every now and then, bettors will lament hedging too much money on one side of the matchup or the other. But as long as you bet proportionally to the odds and bear in mind losses tend to even out over the course of a budget-strict, savvy gambler's life, a hedge bet is never really something that will get you into a ton of trouble.
Especially if you're dipping your toe into betting on a sport you're not as familiar with, hedging can help you offset some of the early mistakes and losses you'll inevitably take while getting your footing on a new frontier. It'll help keep you afloat and mitigate the possibility of losing your confidence in the event you aren't doing so well to start out with said new sport.
One principle of hedging applies to most things in life: moderation is a good practice. Easier said than done to cultivate that skill, of course, but hedge too often, and you'll start second-guessing and limiting the upside to some of your strongest gut-feeling bets. Being too active with hedges can really cost you. On the other hand, it's often way less expensive than doubling down almost every time and thinking your intuition and expertise will never fail you.
Think of sports betting almost as one giant hedge. Wins and losses are generally going to be split pretty evenly as long as you budget wisely, and if you continue learning and have a good head about you, it's possible to even make a steady profit over the course of time with years of practice.
For more of abe's content to help you become a better bettor, visit our "How to Bet" hub and keep an eye out for links throughout this article, as we've linked out to other basic sports betting pillars that are key to unlocking your full potential in this exciting, emerging industry.
Back to top