What is Underdog Betting? Underdog Betting Explained

In the sporting world, there are often three outcomes to an event — a win, a draw or a loss. There is usually one side that is the favorite to win, and then there is the underdog, that is expected to lose. Underdog betting is simply wagering on the team or player that is expected to lose by popular opinion.

Such bets have higher odds, which means they offer more lucrative payouts. To bet on an event, simply visit any reputable sportsbook of your choice, choose the event you want to wager on, and test your courage by betting on the underdog.

You stand a chance to score a higher payout from underdog betting than wagering on the favorites. This wagering method gives a new dimension to sports betting and can make for an exciting betting experience for bettors, especially if their wager eventually wins. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what an underdog bet is, how to increase your chances of winning this bet type, historic upsets in sports, and more.

What is Underdog Betting?

Underdog betting is a type of moneyline bet that simply involves the bettor backing the team that is less likely to win the contest. Because this team or players has a lower likelihood of winning, and most bettors are likely to wager on the favorite team, the bookie often gives the best odds to the underdog.

What is Underdog Betting? Underdog Betting Explained

This model of oddsmaking is to entice bettors to wager on the less favorite and lose their bet, meaning more money for the betting operator. But the good news is that you can take advantage of these mouthwatering odds given to the less favorite teams through the underdog betting system.

Underdog wagers boast one of the most lucrative payouts, which makes it one of the most profitable methods in moneyline betting. 

How Does Underdog Betting Work?

The underdog is the team or individual that is seen as less likely to win a contest. Meanwhile, their opponent is regarded as the favorite. You can identify either of these contesting sides by their respective betting odds. The underdog is typically represented by a plus (+) sign next to their moneyline betting  odds, whereas the favorite is represented by a minus (-) sign. For example, in an NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers (-130) and the Memphis Grizzlies (+145), the Grizzlies are the underdog. The team’s negative moneyline odds indicate this.

That said, some bookies display their odds in fractions or decimals. In these cases, the team with the bigger odds is typically the underdog. Meanwhile, the side with the smaller odds is viewed as the favorite.

To calculate the potential underdog payout, you first need to understand how odds work in sports betting.

Odds represent the probability of an event happening and the potential profit if the bet is successful. Underdog picks are represented by a plus (+) sign in front of the odds, and the favorites by a minus (-) sign in front of the odds.

If a team is listed at “+200” odds, it means that a $100 bet would yield a $200 profit if the team wins. We calculated this using the formula:

Potential profit = Wager x (Odds/100)

Despite the odds being against them, underdogs can still produce wins in most contests. For instance, in the last 16 Super Bowls, the underdog won eight of those contests. Meanwhile, the least favorite teams won 32.1% of all games in the 2022-23 NBA season.

Tennis has also recorded some massive underdog victories over the years. Most recently, in 2021, Emma Raducanu, a trembling 18-year-old teenager of great skill, tiptoed into the US Open’s storied stage. Despite being ranked 150th in the world, the Brit recorded a superb run to her maiden Grand Slam win, defeating some big names along the way. A number of bettors who placed their bet on Emma to win the Grand Slam won massive payouts in the end.

Upsets In Underdog Betting

Upsets form a major part of underdog betting. An upset in sports betting means going against all odds to win a contest. So, wagering on an underdog means you are banking on the team or athlete to stage an upset.

Upsets in various sports have always captivated audiences. And in the world of underdog sports betting, they can also lead to pretty massive payouts. Here are some of the most popular upsets in sports betting history:

  • Leicester City’s Premier League Title: In the 2015-16 season, Leicester City were given 5,000-1 odds of winning the League title. Guess what? They defied the odds and went on to win the trophy.
  • The Miracle on Ice: In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the US men’s hockey team defeated the heavily-favored Soviet team, which had won every gold medal since 1964.
  • Super Bowl III: In 1969, the New York Jets, led by quarterback Joe Namath, performed what is presently known as one of the greatest upsets in both American football history and in the history of professional sports. They triumphed against the Baltimore Colts, who were favorites by 18 points.
  • James “Buster” Douglas Vs. Mike Tyson: In 1990, heavyweight boxer Buster Douglas defeated “Iron” Mike Tyson, who was considered unbeatable at the time, at memorable underdog odds of 42-1.
  • Greece winning Euro 2004: In the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship, Greece, a team given 150-1 odds of winning, shocked the world in a 1-0 win against the hosts, Portugal, in the final.
  • Appalachian State Vs. Michigan 2007: “The Horror,” as Wolverines fans refer to it. Appalachian State Mountaineers, a team from a small school in North Carolina, defeated the Michigan Wolverines, who were ranked 5th in the country, in a 34-32 thriller.
  • Rulon Gardener Vs. Aleksandr Karelin: In the 2000 Olympics, wrestler Rulon Gardner defeated Aleksandr Karelin, who had not lost a fight in 13 years.
  • James “Buster” Corley Vs. Jose Luis Ramirez: In 1984, boxer James Corley who was given 15-1 odds, defeated Jose Luis Ramirez to win the lightweight boxing title.
  • Holly Holm Vs. Ronda Rousey: In 2015, Holly Holm shocked the MMA world by beating Ronda Rousey, who was undefeated at the time.
  • Villanova Vs. Georgetown: In the 1985 NCAA Basketball Championship, Villanova, who had 8-1 odds of winning, upset Georgetown Hoyas, who were the favorites, in a 66-64 point defeat. This is considered one of the most shocking upsets in college basketball history.

What Are the Advantages of Underdog Betting

While it may seem counterintuitive to place a wager on a team or athlete that is considered less likely to win, there are several advantages associated with this method of betting. One major pro is that underdog betting can deliver much bigger returns than regular wagers. This is because underdog picks typically have higher odds than those for the favorites. And this means that even a small stake can result in significant payouts if the underdog wins.

Picking the appropriate underdogs, in the long run, might result in a profit, which is another benefit of wagering on the underdogs. While it is unlikely for every underdog bet to be successful, if a bettor is able to make the best selection of undervalued teams or athletes and consistently place wise bets, they may be able to score a substantial profit in the long run. This is especially true for sports like MMA and college basketball, where upsets happen more frequently.

It is important to note that underdog sports betting is not a guaranteed path to success, as there is always a chance that the underdog will not perform as expected. Additionally, it is essential to do your research and make informed wagers rather than simply betting on the team with the higher odds, expecting a higher payout.

That said, for those who are willing to take the risk, underdog betting can be a thrilling and lucrative approach to sports betting. 

Underdog Betting vs. Favorite Betting

When it comes to moneyline betting, people make two major types of bets — favorite bets and underdog bets. Favorite betting, as the name suggests, means to wager on the team or an individual that is considered more likely to win. Underdog betting, on the other hand, means wagering on the team that is considered less likely to win. 

While wagering on favorites may seem like the safer option, underdog betting offers more value in the long run. But there is a catch, which is the relatively low success rate. Here, we make comparisons between underdog betting and favorite betting based on the following factors:


One of the main reasons underdog betting can be more valuable than favorite betting is that the odds given to the underdogs by the bookies are typically higher. This means that if you place a wager on an underdog and they win, you will receive a larger payout than if you had placed the same wager on the favorites.

Success Rate

Despite the potential advantages of underdog betting, it is important to note that the strike-rate for underdog bets is typically lower than for favorite bets. This means that you may lose more bets overall when betting on underdogs, but the larger payouts from subsequent successful bets can offset these losses and lead to a profit in the long run.


Another reason that underdog betting can be more valuable is that there is often more room for error. When betting on a favorite, the bettor is more inclined to stake a higher amount as the odds are lower. So, the bettor risks a bigger loss. 

On the other hand, when wagering on the selection with higher odds, the bettor is inclined to stake lower. So, even if the underdogs lose, the bettor risks a smaller loss and could go ahead to make more selections. This means you can afford to be wrong more often with underdog betting and still make a profit.

Bet Selections

When betting on favorites, some bettors tend to become overconfident and underestimate the opponents, and this can lead to miscalculated and impulsive selections, ultimately resulting in a loss.

Meanwhile, wagering on underdogs often involves careful research to ensure you make informed bet selections. With proper analysis, you can capitalize on undervalued teams or athletes and potentially turn in a profit over time.

Most Popular Sports for Underdog Betting

Underdog sports betting is a popular strategy among sports bettors, as it allows them to take advantage of the higher odds offered on teams or athletes that are not expected to win. Here are some of the most popular sports for underdog betting.


This sport is well suited for underdog betting, as it often features big upsets and surprises. Boxing matches are often determined by one knockout punch or a fatal mistake, and even the best fighters can be defeated by prestigious opponents. This unpredictability makes boxing a popular choice for underdog betting, as the odds for the underdog can be very attractive.


This is another popular sport for underdog betting. It features a long season with a long calendar of games, and the underdog can stage an upset on any given day. In baseball, even the best teams can lose to the worst teams, and the odds for the underdogs can be very favorable.


For instance, Kansas City Royals, with the moneyline odds of +233, are the underdogs in the baseball contest above. Their opponents, the Minnesota Twins, are expected to win the game, hence the -260 odds. Placing a $100 wager on the underdog in this game would yield a $233 profit.


Betting on soccer is a popular category for the best underdog picks, especially in international competitions, where it is common for underdogs to shock spectators. For example, Argentina losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup was one of the biggest upsets in the competition, as the latter team were huge underdogs. Therefore, bettors who placed bets on the Saudis to win earned massive payouts.

Besides betting on teams in soccer, you can also bet on individual players to perform certain unlikely actions in a game. For instance, betting on certain players to score, such as defenders, can be considered a form of underdog wagering. 


This is another sport well suited for underdog betting, as it features a fast-paced game that can change quickly. Upsets are common in NBA betting, and the odds for the underdog can be quite alluring, especially in the early rounds of the tournament.

The NBA playoffs are on and firing in the usual fast-paced style. In the example below, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to beat the Memphis Grizzlies to proceed to the next round. This makes the Grizzlies the underdog in this game, with a moneyline of +170.



Underdog bets are common in football, particularly during the early rounds of the playoffs and sometimes in the Superbowl. Upsets are common in football, including college football odds where the underdog can often win outright or cover the point spread, making it a favorable option for bettors. 

Underdog NFL picks are quite profitable and easy to identify. Just take a look at contesting teams and their corresponding odds; the team with the positive moneyline odd is typically the underdog.

There are several other sports that are well suited for this type of wagering, as unpredictable outcomes often occur in most sporting events. 

Is Underdog Betting Legal?

The legality of underdog betting depends on the specific laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which the bet is placed. In many countries, betting on sports is legal, and therefore, underdog betting is also legal. However, in some countries, betting on sports is illegal, and so is underdog betting.

In the United States, sports betting is not legal at the federal level, but it is allowed in over 30 states, including Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arkansas, New York and Iowa. The likes of Indiana, Oregon, New Hampshire, Montana, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Wyoming, Arizona, South Dakota, Louisiana, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin also permit wagering on sports.

In these states, underdog betting is legal as long as it is done through licensed sportsbooks or online betting platforms that operate in compliance with state regulations.

In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, sports betting is legal and regulated by the government. Hence, underdog betting – or backing the outsider, as it is more commonly known in the UK – is also legal and widely practiced. In fact, many online betting platforms offer their customers a wide range of underdog betting options.

It is important to note that even in jurisdictions where sports betting is legal, there are often restrictions on who can place bets and how much they can wager. For example, in the United States, sports betting is restricted to individuals who are 21 years or older. Meanwhile, there are limits on the amount that can be wagered on a single bet or in a single day.

Whether underdog betting is legal or not depends on the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which the bet is placed. Bettors should always ensure that they are betting in compliance with applicable laws and regulations to avoid legal troubles. 

Tips for Underdog Betting and Strategy

As stated earlier, underdog betting is one of the most lucrative options for bettors looking for a big payout. However, it is a high-risk-high-reward type of betting, as the chances of losing your bet is on the high side. Fortunately, with strategic planning and careful research, you can find a good level of success betting on underdogs.

Below are some tips and strategies for planning your underdog wagers in order to increase your chances of winning.

Do your research

Before wagering on a less favorite in a contest, it is essential to conduct extensive research. Look at the team’s or individual’s performance history, including their recent wins and losses, their record against the opposing team, any injuries, and other factors that could affect their performance.

Look for value

The key to successful underdog betting is finding value. Value means that the odds offered by the sportsbook are higher than the team’s actual chances of winning. Look for situations where the odds are stacked against the underdog, but they still have a decent chance of winning.

Consider the point spread

In many sports, especially sports like basketball, the point spread is used to level the playing field and make betting more challenging. If the point spread is high, it may be worth considering an underdog bet, as the less favorite team may be able to cover the spread even if they don’t win the game outright.

Bet selectively

When it comes to underdog betting, it is essential to be selective and not sporadic. You need to understand that you can’t wager on every underdog team or individual that catches your eye. Instead, focus on specific situations where you believe the underdog has a good chance of winning.

Avoid emotional betting

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of underdog sports betting, but it is critical to avoid staking based solely on your emotions. Don’t let your emotions guide your decisions; instead, it is best to base your bets on logic and research.

Manage your bankroll

Like any form of betting, managing your bankroll when wagering on underdog teams is critical. Set a budget for yourself, and never bet more than you can afford to lose. Stick to your budget and avoid chasing losses.

Know when to use handicap betting

Whether you are choosing tennis picks or MLB picks for handicap betting, it remains a popular strategy in underdog staking that involves adding a virtual handicap to the favorite team’s score. This makes the game more even and profitable for the underdog bettor. Handicap betting is most effective when there is a clear favorite, and the underdog has a reasonable chance of winning or covering the spread.

If you believe the underdog has a good chance of pulling off an upset, handicap betting can be a great way to increase your potential payout while mitigating some of the risks associated with betting on underdogs. 

However, it is still important to do your research and carefully consider your options before making a handicap bet, as the strategy can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the odds and the teams involved.

By following the tips and strategies outlined above, you can increase your chances of success when betting on the underdog. In essence, with careful planning and execution, underdog betting can be a great way to add excitement and massive gains to your sports betting experience.

Best Underdog Betting Sites

  • All
  • Crypto
  • Telegram Betting

50% Welcome Bonus Up to $1,000

50% Welcome Bonus Up to $1,000

  • Earliest moneylines - odds available before the event
  • High rollers can bet big with high limits
  • Live in-play sportsbook with multi-view options
5 Stars BetOnline Sports
Claim Bonus

Grab Your Supersized $750 Bonus

Grab Your Supersized $750 Bonus

  • In-depth prop markets for NFL and NBA
  • No KYC or credit checks required
  • Instant deposits via Mastercard, American Express, Visa
5 Stars Bovada Sports
Claim Bonus

125% Deposit Bonus Up to $1,250 to Bet on Sports

125% Deposit Bonus Up to $1,250 to Bet on Sports

  • No withdrawal fees for Visa, Mastercard, Skrill & PayPal
  • Extensive markets - parlays, player props, futures & spreads
  • In-play sports betting with live streaming
5 Stars BetWhale Sports
Claim Bonus

First Deposit Bonus Up To $1,000

First Deposit Bonus Up To $1,000

  • Exclusive NFL & NCAAF contests for life-changing paydays
  • Very low minimum deposit of $20 for cryptos including Bitcoin
  • Watch live games in high streaming quality
5 Stars MyBookie Sports
Claim Bonus

125% Sign Up Bonus + Up to 30 Risk Free Bets

125% Sign Up Bonus + Up to 30 Risk Free Bets

  • Free sports contests to enter - Ironman, Gridiron Guru and 12th Man
  • Exclusive sports blogs and previews
  • No deposit fees for crypto deposits
5 Stars BetUS Sports
Claim Bonus

200% Deposit Match Bonus Up To 10 ETH

200% Deposit Match Bonus Up To 10 ETH

  • World’s first licensed Telegram-based sportsbook
  • Free, instant withdrawals using over 10 cryptos
  • Live in-play betting for all major sports
5 Stars TG Casino Sports
Claim Bonus

First Deposit Bonus of 50% Up to $1,000

First Deposit Bonus of 50% Up to $1,000

  • Exclusive SMS sports offers sent to your phone
  • Live betting with multi-view options for more events
  • Receive a bonus for each qualifying deposit
5 Stars Everygame Sports
Claim Bonus

200% Crypto Bonus

200% Crypto Bonus

  • Very low minimum deposit of $10 with Bitcoin & Bitcoin cash
  • No.1 for sports reload bonuses - up to 200%
  • 10% weekly rebate for horse betting losses
5 Stars BetNow Sports
Claim Bonus

Double Your Money Twice Welcome Bonus

Double Your Money Twice Welcome Bonus

  • Ideal for high rollers - Bet big with high limits!
  • 25% sports reload bonus
  • Live sportsbook with multi-view options
5 Stars Sportsbetting.ag Sports
Claim Bonus

100% Welcome Bonus + Free Contest Entry Kit

100% Welcome Bonus + Free Contest Entry Kit

  • Props Builder for all major sports
  • Exclusive racebook welcome bonus
  • In-play betting and live streaming
5 Stars Jazz Sports
Claim Bonus
Show More Offers+

Underdog Betting – The Pros and Cons

As with any other betting type, underdog betting has its own set of perks and drawbacks. For example, underdog picks have a higher potential payout relative to favorite betting, but also they have a higher risk of loss. In this segment, we will explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of underdog betting.

Pros of Underdog Betting

Higher odds

As previously mentioned, one of the biggest advantages of underdog betting is that it offers mouthwatering odds. This means that if the underdog does win, the payout can be quite substantial.

For example, if you place a $100 bet on an underdog with odds of “+300”, you stand a chance to win $300 in profit if the underdog wins. In contrast, a favorite may have odds of “-300”, meaning that a $100 bet on them would only yield a profit of $33.33.

Small losses

Because underdogs are considered less likely to win, the bookies typically offer them higher odds than the favorites. This can be appealing to more risk-averse bettors who are not willing to take on high levels of risk. In addition, betting on an underdog can offer a more affordable entry point into sports betting, as you can make good profits with small wagers.

Emotional investment 

Betting on an underdog can create a strong emotional investment in the outcome of the event. This can make watching the game or event more exciting and engaging, as you now have a rooting interest in the underdog. This can be particularly true if the underdog is a hometown team or a team that you share a personal connection with.

Hedging opportunities

Betting with the sharpest sportsbooks on an underdog can also create opportunities for hedging. For example, if you place a bet on an underdog and the underdog takes an early lead, you may be able to hedge your bet by placing a second bet on the favorite. This can help to mitigate the risk of losing the original bet, while allowing you to potentially profit from the underdog’s strong performance.

Value betting

Underdog betting can be a good strategy for value betting, which involves finding bets with odds that are more favorable than the true probability of the event. If  an underdog’s odds are higher than the true probability of them winning, then betting on the underdog can be a smart value bet.

Cons of Underdog Betting 

Lower probability of winning

The biggest disadvantage of underdog betting is that the team or player being bet on is less likely to win. This means that the actual odds of winning the bet are lower, which can result in a loss of money.

Less predictable

Underdogs are often unpredictable, and it can be difficult to accurately gauge their chances of winning. This can make it challenging to make informed betting decisions. In addition, the odds offered by sportsbooks are a reflection of the sportsbook’s perception of the underdog’s chances of winning rather than an accurate assessment of the team or player’s actual chances of winning.

Limited information

Since underdogs are often not as popular as their opponents, there may be limited information available about them. This can make it challenging to make informed betting decisions, as you may not have access to the same level of analysis and data that you would for a more prestigious team.

Emotional bias

Betting on an underdog can also lead to emotional bias, which can cloud your judgment and lead to poor decision-making. If a bettor becomes too invested in the underdog winning, they may ignore important data and analysis that suggests that the favored team is more likely to win the contest.

It is important to carefully consider the pros and cons before making any bets and to base your decisions on a careful analysis of available data and information about the teams or athletes in your selection.

Conclusion: Best Site For Underdog Betting

While all our recommended sportsbooks provide exceptional sports betting services for all kinds of sports bettors, there is a clear consensus that BetOnline stands out as the top choice for underdog wagering. From its diverse payment options and slick user interface to the competitive odds on offer and seamless betting experience, BetOnline is unarguably the best site for underdog betting.


What is the underdog in betting?

Is an underdog good for betting?

Does the underdog have positive or negative odds alongside them?

Is underdog betting real?

What is an example of an underdog bet?

Do I win more with an underdog bet?

Are greyhounds involved in underdog betting?

Arrow to top