You can’t argue with maths boffins applying rigorous statistical analysis to betting data: horse racing punters consistently undervalue the potential returns of bets on the favourite, while overvaluing those on horses being offered at long odds.
The numbers prove it. If a bookie is offering 2/1 on the favourite, its true odds of winning are probably closer to 3/2; in other words, the favourite is even more likely to win than the odds suggest.
Conversely, whether you call it a long shot, outsider or underdog, a horse offered at 100/1 probably stands a 200/1 chance or less of winning. 100/1 is still a nice big return, but you have almost no chance, statistically, of winning it.
This favourite/underdog bias in the odds exists across all sports betting, but there is a case to be made that the maths doesn’t matter to punters. Here are three reasons why, if you choose to, you should bet on long shots over favourites without guilt:
Is Playing Safe A Rush?
It’s called gambling, for Pete’s sake! You’re risking your stake for the thrill of betting, and hopefully a windfall. Will playing according to actuarial tables increase that adrenaline buzz?
Is “Come on, Baby! Daddy needs to raise his chance of consistent returns by 3.7%!” something you hear yelled at the racetrack?
Or are you betting because you trust in Lady Luck, who, by definition, makes the maths meaningless? And if you are, don’t you want to give her the chance to deliver big, when you catch her eye?
Betting small amounts on chances with unlikely outcomes is part of the thrill, with amazing rewards if your ship does come in.
Keeping You Betting For Fun
Everyone enjoys having a flutter, but no one wants to fall into problem gambling. To keep your betting strictly recreational, placing small wagers on underdogs, not big bets on favourites, will help you keep the pastime in perspective. You’re not risking much, and no matter what the odds, the results could be a satisfying win.
Contrast that with making constant large bets trying to turn a profit off favourites, when one squall of wet weather or an in-game injury could spell disaster. The stress-to-endorphin ratio of the two activities just does not compare. Betting big because you need to win is the route problematic habits, compared to the frisson of taking minor risks you can afford, with an outside shot at a bonanza.
It Is Much Quicker
Betting on the long shots just saves time. A quick glance at form and odds before you bet will do, rather than hours of study and second-guessing. Searching for racetracks hit by rain, then checking the racing form for outsiders that do well in the rough, counts as long-shot research. So does finding teams rated favourites but missing key players, then backing their underdog opponents.
If you want to make serious money betting on favourites, you need equally serious dedication and study, plus a serious bankroll, to turn a consistent profit from the slim margins that favourites deliver. At that point, you’re no longer betting recreationally: it’s time to turn professional.