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Gambling 101: What is an Underdog?

Our Gambling 101 series continues with an explanation of the sports betting term “underdog." How do bettors read underdog odds and is it wise to wager on longshots?

Bookmakers set underdog odds to level the playing field in competitions where one side is deemed more talented than the other. Simply stated, an underdog is viewed as less likely to win a competition than the favorite. Two-way betting options, which are posted with odds greater than EVEN, always feature an underdog and a favorite. Also known as a longshot, underdogs receive points (+6.5) on spread betting options and positive pricing (+155) on moneylines and juice.

What is Underdog Point Spread Betting?

Since the odds are always posted with a plus sign, point spread underdogs are easy to recognize. Point spreads vary from as low as +0.5 to upwards of +17 points or more. In the NFL odds example below, Tennessee is visiting Denver and the Titans are +1.5 longshot against the Broncos. If Tennessee wins outright, or loses by just one point, bettors cash tickets with the Titans as a short underdog. As these odds illustrate - shopping for best priced odds is important.


Players betting on Tennessee, with (-105) juice at FanDuel, receive added value over the (-114) juice posted at DraftKings. Bettors need to wager $105 to earn a $100 profit with the (-105) price while the same return requires a $114 bet with (-114) juice. To be fair, the reverse was true for those backing the Broncos, as the juice on the favorite was lower at DraftKings. Having an account at more than one sportsbook is part of a proper bankroll management plan.

What is Underdog Moneyline Betting?

Underdog moneyline odds range from (+101) to upwards of (+10000) and beyond. Hockey and baseball underdogs are often priced between (+101) and (+300) while the line might be (+1000) or more on basketball and football games. Since a point spread is not involved, players cash winning tickets if an underdog side wins outright. In the example above, Tennessee bettors earn a $110 profit on $100 wagers at FanDuel. That is slightly better than the $108 return at DraftKings.

Underdog Prop and Parlay Betting Options

Team and player props are often posted with favorites and underdogs. UNDER was a heavy longshot in the 2020 NFL preseason Le’Veon Bell prop option below. Bettors can also create parlay tickets that consist of underdogs only or they can mix in some favorites. Since underdog juice is more expensive on MLB and NHL point spreads, bettors can tie two or more teams together to create better value. SI features underdog wagering, and much more, across a variety of sports.


Why is a Side Tagged With Underdog Odds?

There are many reasons why a team or individual is posted as an underdog. While caliber of talent is the primary reason, bettors need to dig deeper to find the root of a longshot. Current form and injuries, plus venue and scheduling, also have an impact on underdog odds. If a team is getting a star player back from injury, or showing signs of snapping a losing streak, a longshot bet may be the way to go. With proper research – underdog betting can be profitable.