Sucker Bets And How To Avoid Them

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While the majority of people who bet on sports do it casually, there is a small percentage of people that take it very seriously and wager large amounts of money. Those are the professional handicappers that bet on sports for a living. They can’t afford to make the type of routine mistakes that casual bettors will make.

While the casual fan will make the mistake of getting caught by a sucker bet, the best in the world are constantly looking out for them in order to avoid making those same mistakes. The oddsmakers will make their best effort to suck you into a line. It's your job to define whether there is value or not. With that in mind, here is a look at sports betting sucker bets and how to avoid them.

Defining Sucker Bets

A sucker bet is exactly what the name suggests: a wager that only a sucker would place. The sucker is thinking that it is worth it. Many people will assume that the term refers to any wager with a low chance of winning. The reality is that a long shot can be worth betting on if the value is there. It’s when the value isn’t there that there is a problem.

The term isn’t actually related to the likelihood of winning, but rather to how much value the wager has. Value relates to how profitable a wager should be in the long run, which is relative to the amount that is being staked. Any wager that has negative expected value is essentially a sucker bet.

The Sucker Bet Philosophy

Let’s use the idea of a coin toss as an example of a sucker bet.

Imagine that you placed $10 on the toss of a coin. That means you should have a 50/50 chance of winning. With those odds, you would win $10 every time it hit on the side you chose and you would lose $10 every time that you guessed wrong. The probability indicates that over the course of enough tosses of the coin, you will likely win roughly the same amount of times as you lose. This means that the expectation for the coin tosses should be a neutral result. Does it really make sense to continue to risk $10 on a 50/50 chance over and over? Especially when you realize that your potential winnings will be capped by the likelihood each side of the coin comes up 50-percent of the time?

Now, let’s pretend you were offered $100 for every $10 wager on the coin toss. This now creates a positive expected value since for every $10 you risk you could make $100. Suddenly the positive value makes it worth taking the risk. However, if you had to risk $100 to win $10. Then the value would shift dramatically the other way to become very negative. Therefore, it would become a sucker bet.

Sportsbooks will put all sorts of odds up on props that to reel customers in. Bovada is known for posting betting lines on all sorts of extracurricular fun stuff. You can read about them in our Bovada review. It's your job to evaluate whether the odds make sense. If the expected value is there, then you can bet. If the odds are painfully bad for you and significantly in the house's favor, that's a sucker bet.

Common Sucker Bets

Despite the fact that the coin toss example provides an obvious illustration of why it doesn’t make sense to chase negative value wagers or sucker bets, they still happen all of the time in sports betting.

For example, if the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Atlanta Hawks four times then they would probably win three of them. However, the risk that you would require to bet on the Cavaliers to win those four times probably outweighs the loss you would be hit with if the Hawks won just one time. While Cleveland appears to be a lock on paper the potential for them to lose even once in four matchups means betting on them is a sucker bet.

This happens in every sport when casual sports bettors risk large amount of moneys for small potential rewards. While it might seem like a good idea to bank on tremendous favorites, it actually doesn’t make nearly as much sense when you consider the lack of value.

Avoid Sucker Bets To Protect Your Bankroll

Every single sports bettor should take caution when it comes to where they risk their money with a focus on where the best value is and how to build up their bankroll. Making a substantial sports betting profit usually has more to do with managing your money than it does picking winners. Make sure you remember that.

The casual bettor will get lured in to the sucker bets over and over again without catching themselves. Make sure you don’t get caught making the same mistake when you can focus on positive values instead and really build up your bankroll.