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Sports Betting: Everything You Need To Know About Favorites And Underdogs

Posted by Thandiubani on Tue 25th Apr, 2023 -

Sports betting is getting bigger and bigger as it is becoming a global thing, transcending national borders, cultures and geographic limits.

Today, sports betting is one of the fastest growing gambling segments and one of the most prominent industries when it comes to accelerating growth rates as well as projections and forecasts for future profitability. 
Sports betting in South Africa is rising, with demand peaking for sports like football, cricket, rugby and tennis and supply skyrocketing due the numerous betting sites and sportsbooks available in the market. 
Punters generally try to find ways to obtain an edge, beat the house and gain profits on top of everything else that sports betting offers. So, besides having fun, engaging with a game, optimizing experience and increasing adrenaline, sports betting is largely seen as a way to earn some money. 
While sports betting is much more complex than what we will describe below, the basics are all encapsulated in understanding the fundamental concepts of favorite and underdog and what they imply from a betting perspective. 
Favorites and Underdogs
In every matchup or confrontation between teams or players there is always one that stands out in terms of the potential for getting the victory. Think of a big Wimbledon game, for example, where you have Stefanos Tsitsipas against a new kid on the block. Clearly, the chances of Tsitsipas winning are extremely high while the likelihood of the new player getting the victory are extremely low. So, Tsitsipas is the favorite and the other side is the underdog. 
What does favorites and underdogs mean betting wise?
Bookmakers need to express the differential between the two sides with some odds which will reflect the great chances of one winning the game and the lower chances of the other side winning. 
To do so, they give an implied advantage to the one with the greater chances for victory - the favorite. This advantage is expressed with odds. Regardless of the type of odds presented by bookmakers and betting sites (whether American, European -decimal or fractional odds), there is a clear sign that one side is the favorite (and the other side is the underdog).
For example, in American odds the favorite is recognized by the minus sign (-) and the underdog by the plus (+) sign, in European odds the favorite is a number closer to 1, while in fractional odds the favorite will have a denominator larger than the numerator. 
Now, favorites and underdogs are far from being black and white. There are different levels which illustrate different degrees of chances. There can be more than one favorite to win a tournament for example just as there can be many underdogs (other stronger underdogs and other lessers) for the same competition. But in one-to-one confrontation, there will always be the one opposite to the other. 
Betting wise, what do favorites and underdogs mean? 
Well, betting on the favorite is like betting small to win small but with a certain level of security. Although there will never be a sure thing in betting, it is safe to say that when systematically choosing to back the favorite then you’ll at least sustain your initial bankroll level. 
Since the payout is small for a favorite, then either you have to bet a lot of money to get more profits or you have to wait for a very long time to realize some small, incremental profits. But given that nothing is certain and the favorite can eventually lose, it bears some kind of risk, despite the fact that the payout is very small. 
This brings us to the underdog betting. Betting on the underdog is like betting with the hope of getting a big win at some point, when the underdog will eventually stand out and shine. 
Particularly because nothing is certain in sports, there is always a good chance that underdogs get to win. And because they are underdogs, betting on their victory has greater value, given the corresponding odds. An absolute underdog will have an extremely high payout and so if you choose this to bet on, you will eventually win big if it turns out to be an upset. 
It is a matter of value. Favorites and underdogs just represent values in betting. They are there to tell you what to expect if you decide to back one of them. But it all depends on your strategy and your approach. 
If you are looking for more long-term profits then you should not blindly follow either of the two approaches. Sometimes, favorite betting is the most sensible thing to do. Sometings betting on the underdog seems to have greater long term value. And yet, sometimes it might be wise not to bet at all!

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