While there’s no shortcut to picking winners each time you put money at risk with a sports bet, there are strategies that can help in certain situations. The concept of hedging falls into that category.
In short, hedging means securing a profit and mitigating your bet’s risk. But naturally, there’s a whole lot more to it. Here’s a complete guide to hedging in sports betting and some help to decide if it’s a good fit for you.
What is hedging in sports betting?
In online sports betting or any arena in which you’re risking something in hopes of good fortune, the phrase “hedging your bets” is pretty common. But what does it mean? In sports, hedge betting essentially means that you’re trying to cover multiple bases by securing a profit or limiting a loss.
A hedge could be as simple as making an initial wager followed by making the opposite call on the same outcome. Thanks to the efficiency of sports odds, the chances of profiting in this fashion are slim. But you can limit some losses in the right circumstances. We’ll cover the reasons for all of that in a bit.
As with any other strategies in sports betting, it’s important to keep the following point near and dear: there are simply no guarantees. Anything can happen on the field of play, regardless of how finely tuned you think your betting approach is.
Is it legal to hedge your bets at the sportsbook?
Yes, you can employ hedging strategies at sportsbooks. But there are limits. For example, you may arrive at the light-bulb moment of wanting to place bets on two sides of the same coin and adjust your stakes to lock in profits.
This is easier said than done, not to mention a practice that is highly frowned upon by sportsbook operators. Customers who attempt to game profits in this fashion run the risk of having their accounts flagged. They could be asked to take their business elsewhere.
For an above-board hedge, such as switching course when live betting begins or attempting to lock in a profit from a futures bet, that’s not the case. If you want to try hedging out, be sure to stick to the rules of the road.
How do you hedge live bets?
Also known as in game betting, live betting continues to grow in popularity. This is real-time betting after the games get underway. You’ll see a whole host of different offerings from start to finish, with odds based on the choices and what’s happening on the field.
While live betting can absolutely be treated on a standalone basis, it also sets up hedging opportunities quite well. For example, let’s say that you place a simple moneyline bet on the Maple Leafs in advance of an NHL game.
- Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs
- Canadiens +155 or 2.55
- Maple Leafs -190 or 1.53
You kick back to enjoy the game and log in to your sportsbook to monitor live betting markets. After the first period is in the books, the underdog Canadiens have surprised and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The real-time moneyline odds reflect this.
- Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs live betting
- Canadiens -200 or 1.50
- Maple Leafs +170 or 2.70
For a hedge, you could place a new bet on the Canadiens to win the game to protect at least part of your stake if they pull out the win. As an alternative, you could double down on the Leafs at favourable odds if you think that a comeback is in the cards.
Live betting gives you the chance to react in real-time. It can be a valuable hedging tool, as a result. That said, there’s a lot to be said for trusting your initial instincts. It’s best to hedge when you feel you completely misread the contest initially.
How to hedge your futures bets
Hedging can also work well when betting on futures. In advance of the season, oddsmakers will release odds on various season-long outcomes, including the winners of the next Super Bowl, Grey Cup or Stanley Cup.
The markets stay active throughout the season. Your goal is to pick the winner at the best betting odds possible, a feat easier said than done. However, when your call looks like it’s not too far away from becoming a reality, hedging can come into play.
For a quick example, let’s say that you check out the CFL Grey Cup futures in the offseason. None of the favourites are jumping out at you, so you set your sights on a dark horse. After you research, you place the following bet.
- $50 on Calgary Stampeders to win Grey Cup
- Odds of +700 or 8.00
- Total return of $400 if they win – $50 stake plus $350 profit
The season plays out and the Stamps qualify for the playoffs. They managed to continue their strong play and advance to the final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. You’re one step away from a nice payday. Oddsmakers set the following Stamps moneyline odds for the game.
- Calgary Stampeders vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
- Stampeders -140 or 1.71
- Tiger-Cats +120 or 2.20
While you can absolutely go with your original choice and let the chips fall where they may, you also have the chance to lock in a profit no matter the outcome. Say you place the following bet.
- Bet $50 on the Tiger-Cats to win the game;
- If they win, you get back $110: your stake plus a $60 profit;
- You’ve bet $100 in total between the future and game bet;
- A Tiger-Cats win means you make at least $10;
- A win for the Stamps leaves you up $300, a total return of $400 less your initial $100 outlay.
For this example, you haven’t locked in a massive profit if the Tiger-Cats win, but it’s better than a total loss. Naturally, you can adjust the stakes to your comfort level. But the ultimate goal is to calculate your outlay and the odds correctly to turn a profit no matter what.
Other ways you can hedge for sports betting
There are several other strategies you can employ for hedging your bets. But there are naturally no guarantees on the ultimate effectiveness and success rate. Let’s take a look at three different options, two of which are realistic and easy to implement.
- Middling: In a nutshell, this is betting on both sides of the coin, such as a bet on the Green Bay Packers -7 at one book followed by taking their opponent +7 at another. In order to turn a profit here, the odds and your stakes have to be completely on point. It’s possible to grind out small returns in this fashion. But it’s unlikely to be worth it based on the time commitment of continually shopping and calculating.
- Early cash out: This is an option that’s readily accessible at many of the top legal online sportsbooks, including on the Caesars app and the FanDuel app. After games get underway, you simply keep an eye on the open bets section of your account. At times, the book will offer you early cash out option where you can either take some profits off the board early or cut your losses on bets that have gone against you.
- Edit my bet: You’ll find this feature over at BetMGM Sportsbook. After your bets are officially in action, you may have the option to edit it further, as in adjusting your stakes. It’s similar to an early cash out. Your initial bet will be settled at the current value, while you place another. Constantly second-guessing your decisions is not a recipe for long-term success, but this can fit in at times.
For all of the above, bet hedging can work in the right circumstances. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s the answer to all of your betting problems and the road to easy scores. Instead, use it as part of your overall approach when all of the stars align just right.
Can you make money from arbitrage betting?
If you spend enough time researching sports betting strategies, you’ll come across the concept of arbitrage. It’s essentially the same thing as middling, as the strategy calls for attempting to profit by spotting inefficiencies in the market.
As an example, one book may have odds for the Jays as big favourites over the Boston Red Sox. When you begin shopping around for the best odds, you notice that other books have the odds a bit tighter. The arbitrage theory suggests that if you lay down the right stakes on both sides at different books—and at the correct price points—you’ll profit no matter the outcome.
On paper, this could work, but reality tells a different tale. It’s incredibly time-consuming, and the potential for slip-ups and generating flags on your account increases. You can always round your stakes up or down to even things out, but that increases the error margin, as doing so could impact the profit potential.
In short, the theory of arbitrage is out there, and we can assume that plenty of bettors will continue to try it out as a result. That’s certainly your prerogative, but you can also devote the same time to improving your skills instead.
When should you hedge your sports bets?
The answer to this question ultimately comes down to two factors: your goals and instincts. If you have a sound overall strategy in place, are winning more than you lose while covering the sportsbook’s vig, and turning a profit, hedging bets probably shouldn’t be your top priority.
For bettors who haven’t gotten to that level of consistency just yet, hedging isn’t the magic ticket to help you turn the corner. That said, it can help you lock in profits or mitigate some damage in the right circumstances. There are three cases in which hedging a bet is definitely worth considering.
- If you’re live-betting on a game that has turned out differently than your initial projections;
- When you have a long-term futures ticket in play and are down to the wire;
- When you receive a viable early cash-out offer from a sportsbook that lets you lock in a profit or take a minimal loss.
Outside of the above, racking your brain to find the optimal hedging scenarios isn’t necessarily the most productive use of your time. Instead, work toward improving your overall skills to the point where you are betting only on what you view as optimal plays. Prioritize consistency and profitability.
Incorporating hedging into your sports betting strategy
We’ve covered all of the spots in which hedging bets makes the most sense. When used in these fashions—live betting, futures, early cash outs—it can easily fit into any sports betting strategy. As you work toward implementing it into your routine, work through the following steps as well.
- Review your overall betting strategy: Hedging can help to lock in some profits or limit losses, but it’s not a fail-safe for sports betting. If you’re not finding consistent success, take the time to review your overall approach. Is there anything you’re missing? Where can you improve? Are you focussing on the bet types that work best for you? By answering those three simple questions, you should have a good idea of where you can tweak things.
- Define your ultimate goals: First and foremost, sports betting should be fun and entertaining. Naturally, we all want to turn a profit at the end of the day, but that can be challenging. Take the time to assess where you are on an overall basis. Do you bet regularly or only occasionally? What are your long-term goals? If you can define the answers to those two questions very clearly, you’ll have even more clarity on where hedging fits for you.
- Know when to hedge: Hedge bets can make a world of sense at times, while they can amount to a big time-waster in others. As you gain experience with the concept (and betting in general), your instincts will begin to take over. In the interim, take the time to really dig into the spots where you think hedging makes the most sense. If all of the bases are covered, it’s time to hedge a bet. If not, take a pass and deal with the results.
In the right circumstances, hedging can be a great tool in the belt, but remember that it’s only one piece of the bigger sports-betting puzzle. If you can learn to use it wisely without leaning on it all of the time, it’ll become that much more valuable a part of your overall betting strategy.