Is It A Good Strategy to Always Bet on The Favourite?

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Why Betting on the Favourite is so Popular in Sports Betting?

Betting on the Favourite

Punters are always looking for a strategy that will help them beat the odds, the bookmakers, and anything else that stands in the way of a big win. If you’re brave enough to turn to Google, then you’ll quickly find hundreds upon hundreds of betting systems that guarantee profits. Just make a small deposit of £/$/€100, and never lose again!

That’s the promise that these systems make, and many of them focus on betting on favourites. Unfortunately, most of these sites will take your hard-earned money, and give you a compiled list of generalised textbook tips. It’s just not worth the expense.

Why are there so many systems that advise players to bet on the favourite, though? This is because it’s usually a pretty solid strategy. You should know that in fact winning betting strategies are those that exploit market inefficiencies and discrepancies. When it comes to favourites, there seems to be quite a few. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that betting on favourites is a great strategy or one that will guarantee you a win by any means.

Before you start betting on favourites or underdogs, there are a few particularly important factors that you need to know about.


Pros and Cons

All betting strategies have both advantages and disadvantages. Listed below are our pros and cons for betting on favourites, although you might notice that the results of our tests are somewhat skewed.

  • Pros
  • The chances are higher that you’ll pick a winner
  • Cons
  • Even if you pick a winner, your profit won’t be that significant
  • Depending on the sport, the favourite stands less chance of winning
  • Losing a wager can be quite costly

Favourites Betting Strategy – The Research

Believe it or not, in the past 20 years there’s been a significant amount of research into the statistics of betting on favourites. There are several published research papers as well, but instead of clearing up the confusion, they often make it quite a bit worse. Some are very pro-favourite, whereas others are solidly against the strategy.

Unfortunately, things just aren’t black or white when it comes to betting on favourites. That said, there are a few key lessons and numbers that the research does give us. For example:

  • Betting on the favourite is usually a good bet, but it’s not a guaranteed win.
  • Favourites with short-priced odds are generally better value than those with long-priced odds.
  • You need to do your research and analytics.

What most punters and researchers have discovered is that betting on favourites might be a good short-term strategy, but it falls embarrassingly short in the long run. Some even refer to it as a strategy that allows you to ‘lose more slowly’. That said, losing slowly when picking the bookies by rating will still leave you a few steps ahead of many punters out there, so we’re off to a good enough start.

If you were looking for a definitive yes or no on the topic of favourites betting as a strategy, we’re sorry to disappoint. However, with the right information, you can still use this strategy – along with others – to give you an advantage.

Top Three Sports for Favourite Wagers
  • European Football (Soccer)
  • College American Football
  • College Basketball
Top Three Sports for Underdog Wagers
  • Baseball
  • Mixed Martial Arts (UFC)
  • NFL Football

Betting on the Favourite

Bets on the Favourite

It might not be the best long-term strategy, but there are still a few benefits to wagering on the favourite. Here are a few of the significant benefits that come with betting on the favourite.

Why You Should Bet on the Favourite

It still gives you the best chance to win

This is probably the most obvious benefit, and we’ve mentioned it before in our pro-section. Betting on favourites should, theoretically, result in more wins than losses. You’re also going with the team that the sportsbook thinks are going to win and, considering how many analytical and sports experts they have calculating their odds, the chances are that they’ll be right.

Of course, it does come with a few sacrifices. You’re rarely going to get the best odds at the bookies, and it’s not the quickest way to make large profits. That said, this strategy is a favourite of beginners, and it’s a relatively safe way for new punters to enter the industry.

Easier to Hedge

For hobby-punters, profit is often just a side-effect of placing a wager on their favourite teams. For serious bettors, however, it’s usually all about the profit. That’s why these punters will often look for ways to hedge their bets, thereby further increasing their chances of making money on their wagers.

You could make a substantial profit if you use a favourite betting strategy in combination with something like an arb betting strategy. You’ll be betting on both the favourite to win, as well as placing a bet against them through an exchange.

It’s important to note that the odds change during a match. If you know your stuff, then you can combine a live betting, arbitrage and favourites betting strategy to up the ante. Remember, it’s not about using one bookie, or even one fool-proof strategy. It’s about using every tool and bit of information available to your advantage.

Why You Shouldn’t Bet on Favourites

It’s not sustainable in the long run

While the popular choice might win more often, they won’t always come out on top. The problem is in this tiny detail:

Betting on the favourite may give you plenty of wins, but that doesn’t equal plenty of profits. Bookies know how to adjust the odds in their favour, and that makes it tricky to make any kind of significant money from using this strategy.

Here’s a practical example:
In the 2014/15 Premier League football season, the favourites clearly had the leg up and won more games. For every £/$/€1 you wagered, you would have made an average of £/$/€4.85 profit. If you stuck to betting only on the favourite every match, you would have had a pretty good season.
In 2015/16, however, things took a different trajectory. If you stuck to betting on favourites, you would have lost about £/$/€13.75 for every £/$/€1 wager. As you can see, this strategy has its ups and downs, so it’s best not to stick to it exclusively.

Losing a ‘sure-thing’

There’s another big problem with sticking to favourites. There are times when a bet on a favourite can completely wipe out any profits you’ve built up if they lose. It’s one of the primary reasons why this isn’t a good strategy for long-term betting. We’re going to use a real-life example to illustrate the point.

In 2015, the rugby union experienced a minor miracle, and one of the most significant upheavals it’s seen in years. South Africa was set to play against Japan, and the Springbok team were the clear favourites to win. The odds were 1/100 that the team would beat Japan, and no one expected them to lose to the Japanese team.

In one of the most shocking turn of events in rugby history, Japan won.

The signs were there, of course, for those who were smart enough to spot them. The South African team hadn’t been performing well, and the Japanese team had been steadily improving. Instead of looking at recent events, punters were caught up in historical information, and the fact that the SA team was almost guaranteed the win.

This is the exception and not the rule, of course, but it does illustrate the point that a bad bet can wipe out a large portion of your profits.


Betting on the Underdog

We all love a good underdog story, but that doesn’t mean that we like to take the risk of wagering on them. It’s a gutsy move, but if the underdog comes out on top, then you can make a considerable profit. Now that we’ve covered the good and the bad points of betting on the favourites, let’s take a look at betting on the underdog.

Why You Should Bet on the Underdog

Just a few wins can be profitable

You may win more often if you bet on favourites, but you’ll be sacrificing your profit. You won’t win as often when betting on the underdog. When you do win, however, your wins will be significantly bigger.

According to statistics, you can only miss one in four bets if you want to make a profit with favourites. The reverse is true for betting on the underdog. To end up in the green, you only need to hit one win out of four wagers. You can still make a profit with this strategy, because of the way the odds are set up, and even if you lose more than you win.

Media hype can skew the odds

If you’re the kind of punter that does serious research before placing a wager, then this might be a golden opportunity for you. There are times when the media can get carried away, creating a certain amount of hype. In other words, the media influences public opinion and this may turn a legitimate opponent into an underdog.

If you’ve done the research, you can spot the opportunity that this creates. The odds will be against the ‘underdog’, even though it has a genuine chance of winning the match. These opportunities are rare, but finding them can result in a significant pay-out.

Why You Shouldn’t Bet on the Underdog

You need to know what you’re doing

As we’ve mentioned above, there are times at which discrepancies, while determining the odds, can create an unbelievably valuable opportunity. However, if you don’t have the experience, or if you don’t do the research, then you won’t be able to spot that opportunity at all.

If you want to make betting on the underdog profitable, then you’ll need to put in a considerable amount of time and effort. You’ll also need nerves of steel because you’re going to lose at least once.

If you’re a beginner or hobby-punter, then we suggest that you avoid this strategy.


In Conclusion

The hunt for the perfect betting strategy will, unfortunately, live on. While betting on the favourite has certain benefits, it can’t be called a fool-proof strategy perfect as a guide to beginner punters by any means. Yes, there’s science and studies, tips and strategies, but sports betting is gambling. Gambling is a game of chance and risk, and there are absolutely no guarantees.

Should you bet on the favourite every time? No, we wouldn’t recommend it. You might win in the short term, but you’ll lose eventually, and probably a pretty penny at that. It’s better to do your research and build a betting strategy from that.

Betting on the favourite would occasionally be the smarter move to make. Other times, betting on the underdog will afford you unique and profitable opportunities. It comes down to how well you can spot the discrepancies that’ll give you the edge over your bookie, and then using it to your advantage.

You shouldn’t shy away from or depend on either favourites or underdogs. Instead, focus on finding the most profitable and valuable bets. There’s no one best strategy, so find what works for you. Good luck, punters!

Javia Alex
Javia Alex is an expert-level Copywriter/Editor with a wealth of experience in the iGaming scene. A self-described player advocate, Javia’s player-first mindset, “tell it like it is”, has earned her an oft-cited voice across gambling circles. She frequently works late nights and long hours, fact-checking reviews and pages for accuracy.
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