Is It Smart To Hedge Your Bets?

Hedging your bet on the last leg of a parlay is usually chickening out, not being smart. (Photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] / iWoman / CC BY)

A popular sports betting strategy is to hedge your bets in order to guarantee a profit.

While it’s true that hedging your bets can be a smart sports betting strategy, it can also cost you money when not done properly.

What does hedge your bets mean?

To hedge your bets basically means reducing or eliminating your risk on a wager, typically by betting the opposite of your original bet.

Let’s say the Raptors are playing the Bulls and you bet on Toronto -2.5. The Raptors get off to a fast start, taking an early 10-point lead, and you see Chicago as +5.5 on the NBA live betting lines. You take Chicago +5.5, meaning you no longer are at risk of losing your entire wager if Toronto does not win by 3 or more. If the Bulls lose by 3-5 points, you can even middle your bets and win both without much risk.

Don’t cost yourself a winner

The problem with choosing to hedge your bets in this case is that you might be costing yourself money.

When you bet on Toronto to win by 3 or more, you obviously expected the Raptors to play well. To hedge your bets after the Raptors get out to a big early lead is basically contradicting your own opinion from before the game started, and doing so after your original bet has a better chance of winning than before the game started. If Toronto ends up beating the Bulls by more than 5 points, you would have cost yourself a winning bet by hedging.

The same is true with parlay betting. For example, let’s say you bet a 4-game NFL parlay and won your first 3 games. If you hedge your bets on the fourth game, you guarantee yourself a profit on the parlay, regardless of the result of the fourth game. But if you don’t think the fourth game on your parlay will win, why did you bet it in the first place?

So when does it make sense to hedge your bets?

There are two main situations where choosing to hedge your bets makes sense.

The first is when you feel the likelihood of winning a wager has decreased since you made the bet. This can happen when there is an injury that you didn’t know about, or you discover a handicapping angle you hadn’t considered before you made your bet. If you have the Raptors -3 -110 and then change your mind, you can bet on the Bulls +3 -110 and swallow the small loss on the juice.

The second is when you make an original bet with the intent of hedging. A good example of this is in playoff series betting. If you bet on the underdog in the series at +300 and then they win the first game, you now have an opportunity to bet on the favourite to win the series at lesser odds (maybe -150 or so). This allows you to cash in on your underdog bet, regardless of whether they win the series or not.

Only hedge your bets with good reason

Basically, the rule of thumb for hedging your bets is to have a good reason for doing it. If you think the hedge bets have a better chance of winning than the odds suggest, it’s a smart move to hedge your bets. But if you’re simply scared about losing your original bet, you’re just burning money to bet against yourself with a hedge.