Very rarely –if ever – is there such thing as a ‘sure thing’ in sports betting. If there was then there would be plenty of rich bettors about. Unfortunately to become a successful bettor what separates the winners from the losers is often a great deal of knowledge and betting nous, coupled with a bit of luck along the way.
A strategy you can adapt to your betting arsenal is that of hedge betting. Adopting this strategy successfully will be the closest you can come to a certain bet by making a positive return on investment from any given result.
What is Hedge Betting?
Hedge betting is strategy used to ensure that no matter what the outcome of an event you will make money. It requires you to place two or more wagers on that event increasing the chance of earning a profit from a number of (if not all) scenarios.
Hedge betting can be known throughout the sports betting scene under many different names including ‘arbing’, ‘laying’ and ‘greening up’. With each comes a slight difference in the process of the strategy, with all basically managing to conclude the same result. The concept of hedge betting is to reduce the risk of the market we are betting on, but this comes at a cost of which we will explain later in this article.
Before we continue it’s going to be easier to look through a working example so you can increase your grasp on the subject.
Hedge Betting Example #1
Let’s say we place a £10 wager on Liverpool to win the FA Cup at odds of 6/1 prior to the tournament starting. As the tournament progresses Liverpool happen to make the final against Portsmouth with the match odds for Portsmouth to win the game being at 2/1 and the draw also being at 2/1.
At this point we decide we want to hedge our bets and make sure we make a profit on each result, or at least break even. So we place £10 on Portsmouth to win and £10 on the game ending in a draw. Let’s look at the numbers.
- Amount wagered = £30 (£10 on Liverpool to win at the start, £10 on Portsmouth on match day and £10 on the draw also on match day).
- Potential Return = If Liverpool win we would get £70 in returns (£10 @ 6/1 inc. stake back)
If Portsmouth win we would get £30 in returns (£10 @ 2/1 inc. stake back)
For a draw we would get £30 in returns (£10 at 2/1 inc. stake back)
So at no point would we receive less than the £30 wagered overall no matter which result comes in with our profits essentially coming from that of a Liverpool victory.
Why it’s Not Always a Good Idea to Hedge Bets
One of the biggest reasons why many punters are discouraged when it comes to hedging bets is that it reduces their overall return. As you can see from the above example if we had let our original bet of Liverpool to win the cup ride, then we would receive a much larger payday if we hadn’t hedged.
Profit is profit I hear you say. And yes, whilst this is certainly a valid point you have to bear in mind that any sports bet you place should be on the back of a string of research into that specific sport, market, team, and whatever other variables you can think of. By hedging you essentially doubt your initial judgment on that market and your research.
Another reason not to hedge is the added ‘juice’ or commission you will have to pay to bookmakers. As you make more bets then the online bookmaker will be skimming their share with each bet. This means it’s actually costing you more and reducing your overall profits. This plays an especially important role if you are betting for smaller stakes due to the hit in profit amounts – essentially percentages stay the same, but this is a numbers business and when numbers are already small then it becomes less of an incentive to win.
When it’s Best to Hedge Your Sports Bets
You can look at this section as a counter-argument for the above if you wish.
Hedging bets guarantees you a profit. Never forget that! If you make a successful hedge then you will be receiving money back into your betting account. It may seem obvious but many bettors forget this when chasing that big payday. If for whatever reason you don’t feel as comfortable about your bet from the moment you first placed it then there is no shame in getting out for either a reduced profit or even a small loss if you think the time is right.
There are simply tons of variables that can affect your bet from the time to placing your wager to the time in which your window opens and you can hedge your bet. A lot are sports-specific but carrying on with football as our example, say the star striker falls ill before the game and he’s basically been carrying a team then this will likely have an effect on the outcome of the result, and more importantly the odds. If you can hedge, then there will ALWAYS be another market to bet on.
Hedging Live Bets In-Play
Hedging live sports bets is a term used when you place more than one wager on the same game to either guarantee a profit on all results, limits losses on each result or breakeven on one or even several results in the market.
You can look at hedging your live sports bets in one of two ways. The first being that you are limiting your exposure and hence limiting the likelihood you will lose money on a plat of results. The second factor being that you are limiting potential winnings by spending more money on other bets.
It’s important to work out which you want to do before placing an in-play bet. Hedging live bets in the long term will be a smart move. The unpredictability of sports markets makes even the safest bets vulnerable, whereas if you manage to hedge, then you completely remove that risk.
Why Does ‘Hedging’ Work Well With In Play Markets?
Live wagering occurs at an alarming pace and is often tough to predict. Sports events make every second worth their weight in gold giving you increased opportunities to place your bets at favourable odds. As time is of the essence it increases our exposure or variance, if you will, to bets going wrong in a very short space of time. Hedging our bets in the live markets allow us to vastly reduce these two factors and hence make more profitable decisions.
The downside to hedging bets from in play a market is one of the reasons we have touched on, time. Finding the right amount to bet on each action can take some doing, even with a hedging calculator and often bets can be tough to find. That being said, the times that you do find in-play sports bets that can be hedged will result in a guaranteed profit, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort put into making these bets successful.
It’s also worth keeping an open mind to using more than one bookmaker to hedge. In fact, in some cases it’s almost impossible to do this without the use of multiple bookmakers so more than one account is essential. Some of the most successful and richest online bettors will have dozens of accounts spread around online and they will likely flip between a few to find the best prices for their markets. Hedging will require exactly this!
In-Play markets are a great way to hedge bets. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Example 1 – Let’s say that we backed Manchester United to win the Champions League before the tournament started at 6/1 and we bet £1 on the outcome. Manchester then makes the final and we decide that we want to lock in a profit and hedge our bets hopefully making all scenarios a profitable one. The odds on our opponent to win, let’s say Bayern Munich for arguments sake is 2/1 and the draw is also at 2/1. We now place £1 on both the draw and a win for Bayern Munich, bearing in mind that we still have our bet of Manchester United to win the competition from the start.
So we have a total stake of £3.00 and we will receive returns of £7.00 if Manchester United wins, £.300 if the game ends in a draw and £3.00 if Bayern Munich wins. This results in us breaking even over two results and profiting £4 on a Manchester United victory.
Whilst we have reduced our possible winnings in this scenario, we have also guarteed that we will make a profit, which as a punter, should be very appealing.
Example 2 – In this example we will switch sports to live tennis betting and look at a single game rather than a tournament. We have two players; Rafa Nadal is the favourite before the match at even money to beat Roger Federer who is 2/1. Nadal looks good value at even money so we place a £10 bet on him to win. Let’s assume this game is best of three sets.
The first set does not go to plan and Federer ends up winning the first. The odds now switch in Federer’s favour who lies at even money, whilst Nadal drifts to 2/1. But Nadal holds his nerve in the second to claim a set back and go into the final set with the momentum in the match.
The odds switch again, this time Nadal is now 1/2 favourite whilst Federer is at 3/1 to go on and win. We decide that this is a good point to hedge our bets. If we bet £3.34 on Federer at 3/1 we know that if he wins we will receive £10.02 profit, which will cover our initial bet on Nadal. If Nadal goes on to win we make £10 profit minus our hedged bet of £3.34 equalling £6.66.
We can see that for each bet we are going to make a profit at this point no matter what the result, it just depends on which result for how much we will consequently make.
Keep A Calculator Handy
Hedging bets takes time to work out and also takes a good maths brain to calculate. It’s exactly for this reason that we highly suggest you have one of the many free hedging calculators on hand when you’re sifting through your live betting markets. These things will allow you to quickly bash in your numbers and for it then to not only tell if you can make a hedge at those odds, but how much exactly you need to wager on each result to turn a profit.
Online Hedge Betting and Wagering Tips
- Never rule out the possibility of hedging your bets – Don’t feel that you will be ‘chickening’ out if you hedge. We’ve mentioned it earlier but hedging will mean a guarteed profit (or small loss) on all results, meaning no sweat.
- Don’t be hasty – If you’ve done your homework on a specific market or event then trust your instincts and back your knowledge especially if you find yourself in a favourable position early on.
- Bigger is better?- Hedging is definitely a strategy that works best the more money you wager. We aren’t suggesting that you need to increase your bet sizes – your bankroll should determine this – more that the larger your wagers the more beneficial hedging becomes.
Mike Murphy is the founder of OnlineBettingSites.com and has over 10 years of experience in the legal online betting industry. A regular attendee of industry trade shows and conferences, Mike is a strong proponent of regulated markets and responsible gambling policies.