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Hedging Sports Bets

Hedging Sports Bets: Should I Hedge or Let it Ride?

By Loot, Sports Handicapper,

What is hedging? It’s a way to guarantee yourself a profit when you’re poised to win a big bet, but you bet the other side to make sure you win money. The initial bet, the one you hedge, needs to be a real score. Maybe it’s a big futures bet or the last leg of a parlay, where you are poised to win much more than what you wagered. This doesn’t work for regular straight bets as well, though you could potentially do that. But for the purposes of this article, let’s look at the scenario where a hedge is a very viable move.

In the 2014 college football season, I placed a futures bet on Ohio State after both of their quarterbacks had gone down. While they only had one loss, things looked bleak. They were ranked below TCU and Baylor and it was likely that they wouldn’t even make it into the 4-team playoff. But they were playing well. I figured that even a third-string QB for the Buckeyes was likely a very talented player who just might take the starting gig by the horns. So I put $50 on them to win the championship at 100/1 odds.

With new QB Cardale Jones under center, Ohio State caught fire. A 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game ended up being enough to jettison the Buckeyes past TCU and Baylor, as they made the playoff. It wasn’t without some controversy, as many protested Ohio State making it. Meanwhile, I was in a nice position to win $5000, if only Ohio State could win 2 games, where they’d be underdogs in both games.

Having only invested $50 and looking to get paid off 5K, it was time to see if there weren’t a few moves I could make to guarantee a profit. In the semifinal game, against Alabama, was the first opportunity to hedge the bet. The Crimson Tide were favored. So I could bet on them against-the-spread and still lose on both sides. Alabama was a 7.5 favorite. If I bet on Alabama against-the-spread and they won by a number under 7.5, I would lose my Ohio State futures bet and the bet I made on Alabama. So I made a money line bet, where Alabama simply needed to win the game for me to win the bet. I bet $720 on ‘Bama to win $300.

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The Alabama bet lost, but not to worry. I was down $720, but was looking at a juicy hedge for the championship final. Oregon was a -6.5 favorite, so I made another money line bet. I took Oregon at -220 and bet $2200 to win $1000. I still wanted Ohio State to win, but if they didn’t, I’d still make a profit no matter what. Let’s look at the different scenarios to illustrate how I could not lose.

If Alabama won in the semifinal, I’d win $300 minus the $50 I bet on Ohio State for a profit of $250.

If Oregon beat Ohio State in the final, I’d win $1000 minus the $720 I bet on Alabama and the $50 I bet on Ohio State for a profit of $230.

If Ohio State won, I’d collect $5000 minus the $720 and $2200 I bet on Alabama and Oregon, for a profit of $2060.

On one hand, I cut into my winnings. On the other hand, I had only invested $50 and still stood to make a pretty good score if Ohio State won. But I also managed to make sure I made something. It was only a $50 bet and I put myself in a spot to make money no matter what happened. Looking back, of course I wish that I let it ride. But hindsight is always 20/20. Either winning $5000 or winning nothing was too stark of a contrast, so I made it less of a feast-or-famine endeavor.

There are no rules to this. It’s up to you and how you look at betting and winning. Some people like to take a stand and just let it play out. But if you make a relatively small investment on a wager and are poised to win a lot of money, a hedge can be a useful tool. You won’t win as much as you had hoped if your original bet ends up being victorious. But you’ll be in a unique and enviable position in sports betting--where you simply can’t lose. And that’s certainly a position worth considering. There's always another betting opportunity out there. I'd take the guaranteed money and run.

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