Three Reasons Not To Bet On Must-Win Teams

When teams are in must-win situations, you know they'll be focused and motivated. (Photo credit: Joe Bielawa / Foter / CC BY)

It seems like we hear about teams in must-win situations all the time.

Most of the time, it isn’t even true. We’ll hear some dim-witted blonde talking about how a team needs to keep its playoff hopes alive, then hear the same thing about the next game after the team loses.

But there are times when the must-win situation is accurate. Whether it’s needing a win to avoid playoff elimination or to stay alive in the playoff chase, must-win teams are guaranteed to be both motivated and focused. It sounds great to us sports bettors, who sometimes need to guess about things like whether the Blues care that much about a mid-season visit to the Sabres.

Must-win teams, however, can be dangerous to bet on.

Here are three reasons why:

1. The Must-Win Team’s Odds Probably Aren’t Fair

When a team is in deperate need of a victory, we tend to expect them to get it.

The oddsmakers are very aware that teams playing must-win games are a popular bet, and they’ll hike the odds accordingly.

Suddenly, a team that should only be a 3-point favourite might be favoured by 5 or 6 points. Just because they need the win doesn’t mean they’ll win by more points than usual.

In must-win situations, the value is almost always on the team that doesn’t need the victory as badly.

2. The Must-Win Team Is Under A Lot Of Pressure

There’s not many situations where teams are under more pressure than when they need to win a game to save their season.

Instead of relaxing and letting their physical abilities take over, players can start pressing. Sometimes, they try to do too much individually, rather than involve their teammates.

In a lot of sports, trying harder actually hurts your chances of success. It’s impossible to hit five-run home runs or sink four-point baskets.

On the flip side, opponents of must-win teams generally don’t have anything to lose. In most cases, they’re even be motivated to spoil the chances of the must-win team.

3. The Must-Win Team Probably Isn’t That Good To Begin With

This point is key, and forgotten by most bettors:

If the must-win team is so good that they can win just because they need to, why are they in the must-win situation in the first place?

Teams fighting to get into the playoffs on the final night of the season are usually around the .500 mark, which means they win approximately half of their games.

Remember that before you jump to the conclusion that the must-win team will just ‘flip the switch’ and automatically rise to the occasion.