Michael Tradford
Last Update:
October 6, 2021
This author was thoroughly tested and approved by the experts at before joining the editorial board to ensure a high content quality.
Author Bio:
Michael was Marketing Director in Atlantic City and worked in the casino industry for several years before shifting over to numerous newspapers in New York and Chicago working his way up to Editor-in-Chief. His focus areas are mainly in the fields of sports, gambling, and politics. He has a Marketing Degree, visited Columbia University during his time in New York and is now Editor-in-Chief at AmericaGambles.
Michael was Marketing Director in Atlantic City and worked in the casino industry for several years before shifting over to numerous newspapers in New York and Chicago working his way up to Editor-in-Chief. His focus areas are mainly in the fields of sports, gambling, and politics. He has a Marketing Degree, visited Columbia University during his time in New York and is now Editor-in-Chief at AmericaGambles.

Betting Favorites 2021: Strategy, Tips & Top Betting Sites

In the world of sports betting, betting favorites is often regarded as a safe and steady approach. The theory behind it is that by doing so, you’re taking a cut on the odds but you’re going with a safe bet, i.e. you’re likely to win way more often. At first glance, this idea makes perfect sense but there is more to it than meets the eye. In this article, we’ll try to explain all the basics as well as the pros and cons of betting heavy favorites. At the very start, you should keep in mind that a sportsbook will never give you the kind of odds for any game that they don’t believe are realistic.

Some facts you should know about Betting favorites highlights
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  • Bet to win less money but more frequently

  • Odds on favorites are closer to true odds

  • Betting underdogs is riskier but may be more profitable

  • There is no such a thing as a “sure bet”

Betting favorites fundamentals

Even not very experienced sports bettors can understand what this betting type is all about. Namely, you bet on a favorite to win and accept low odds provided by the sportsbook in exchange for the apparent safety on betting the team that’s likely to take the victory. One extreme example would be a game between the Team A and the Team B, with odds of:

  • Team A to win: -714 odds
  • Draw: +220 odds
  • Team B to win: +570 odds

In this scenario, the Team A is clearly big favorite to win the game and the sportsbook is of the opinion that they’re very likely to win (which is apparent from the odds). Therefore, if you bet 100 units on the Team A to end up victorious, you’d only profit 14 units. On the other hand, if you bet on the underdog, which is the Team B in this case, you’ll make 67 units with the same bet line in the unlikely event they win (much longer odds).

So, the whole idea of betting on huge favorites has to do with the risk and reward concept. More risk-averse bettors often tend to stick to favorites, especially in major sports like football, NBA, NFL, MLB, football, etc. The reasoning behind this is that surprises just don’t happen that often in these sports and a favorite team does tend to win more often than not. However, this isn’t as simple as it seems.

The trap of betting heavy favorites

When a bookie sets the line at -900 on a favorite team, it simply feels like a great bet for the game. Even if the odds are low, as long as you put enough money on the line, you can turn up a decent profit. And with the odds being so low and the other side standing at +650, how can you even lose the bet? It seems like placing a bet on the favorite team just makes sense and doing anything else would be lighting money on fire.

Therein lies a fine trap that many bettors, especially less experienced ones aren’t aware of. It goes back to the way a sportsbook sets up their betting odds. Namely, sports operators use available information about teams’ form (in team sports like football and basketball) or about individuals (in sports like golf) and other statistical data to come up with realistic bets odds and within these odds, they’ll try and incorporate their edge.

The truth is, sports betting operators are much better at setting odds for favorites. They have more information at their disposal and they simply can make better predictions, which means that odds on favorite bets are usually very close to true odds. On the other hand, it is much harder to set the real line for underdogs as there are so many factors to consider and a sportsbook can often overlook some of them or simply not know how to account for them, resulting in skewed bet odds.

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Slow death for your betting bankroll?

So, it is not uncommon at all that long shots are, in fact, a better bet in the long run. When it is all said and done, some studies indicate that it is hard to come out ahead if you stick to betting heavy favorites only. In fact, it may be a sure way to slowly kill of your betting bankroll, one wager at the time, especially when betting within major basketball, football, or baseball leagues like NBA, NFL, or MLB,

Keep in mind that bookies are good at what they do (setting bets odds) and they’re not in the business of giving free money away. They’ll always take full advantage of all the information at their disposal when setting the line and it is much easier for them to do their job almost perfectly with game favorites, as these are usually major sports teams from leading football, soccer, and other sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB).

What is betting chalk?

If you’re new to sports betting or just aren’t up to date with the lingo, you may have come across the expression “betting chalk” and stopped to scratch your head. This is definitely a bit of a niche term used by experienced bettors to describe what this article is all about, i.e. betting on favorite teams or individuals (in horse races, golf, etc.).

To be more precise, this expression is usually used to describe betting on huge favorites, i.e. sports teams or runners (when talking about horse races) that are heavily favored by the sports betting operators. We’re talking about odds of like -900 for horse races or something similar when talking about soccer betting.

Like most peculiar terms, this one didn’t appear out of thin air and has its origins. It came about during the early days of sports betting, when bookies had to constantly update the odds for the favorites, erasing old bet odds and writing new odds as they changed. They’d have to do it so often that, after a while, the name of the favorite would eventually disappear from the board, turning into nothing but chalk dust.

Can you make money betting on favorites?

At the end of the day, the real question isn’t how does betting favorites work but rather how can you, and can you even, make money using this strategy? After all, whether you bet tennis, soccer, football, or whatever else, you’re likely doing it to try and win some money. And with so many different options out there, is this really the best one to adhere to?

According to the statistical information out there, it doesn’t seem like betting favorites is the right way to go if you’re looking to build your bankroll and make some money along the way. We’ve already explained some of the reasons for this and now we’ll talk about it a bit more. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should never wager on favorites, but you should be careful about it.

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The number one problem with this strategy is that requires a big bankroll if you want to make any kind of meaningful cash. For most people, betting 10 or 20 units on a game just to get 1 or 2 back doesn’t really do it. Not only that the cash amount isn’t particularly interesting, but this kind of potential reward isn’t really enough to give you that adrenaline rush that many casual bettors are looking for.

The second issue that ties into the first one is the volatility. When you stick to betting favorites NBA, soccer, football, or other sports, you win a bit at the time. When you string together a few losses, though, these can be quite substantial. To recover, you’ll need to have a really good series of wins if you stick to the same strategy as odds on any of your individual games are quite low.

Just blindly wagering on favorites without doing much research or looking into other options is, simply put, lazy. It is an approach that you might want to adhere to because it seems safe and doesn’t require any effort, but you need to understand that bookmakers are never trying to make things easy for the punters. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it and printing money.

When deciding between betting favorites or underdogs, you really need to do some research. Sometimes, it will make sense to back the favorite but sometimes you’ll be better off going with the long shot. Ask around, check sites and forums like the one we have here, get some free information, and don’t rush into anything. These types of bets do have their place in your overall repertoire, but they aren’t something you should be doing exclusively.

Start building your betting roll today

Betting favorites is just another type in a sea of different ways to bet. Use this text to decide whether this approach is right for you and how it ties in with your overall strategy. It will depend a lot on what sports you keep up with (football, basketball, golf). Keep in mind that nothing is black and white and you should always stick to your instincts as well as the free advice of those with more experience. And, of course, to give yourself the best chance at winning a bet, pick a reliable and trustworthy bookmaker from our comparison!

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seemingly safe but not quite
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Whether you prefer to bet on favorites or long shots, you should know pros and cons of both approaches and that’s what this article tried to provide. Hopefully, you know now much more about this topic and you’ll be able to make better decisions and continue to grow your bankroll. Don’t be afraid to experiment and do some digging either way as this is the best way to make the right choice most of the time!
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