Betting Basics

What is Hedging a Bet?

Hedging is a betting strategy that can benefit your bottom line. Discover our guide on what hedging a bet is and how to do so effectively.

March 5, 2024

At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard the expression “hedge your bets.” Well, it’s not just an old saying — it can be an important strategy.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, hedging your bet means “to do things that will prevent great loss or failure if future events do not happen as one plans or hopes.” When actually betting, this can be a very good idea.

Basically, hedging means to place a bet on the opposite side of your original bet either to mitigate a potential loss or give yourself a better chance at some kind of win. Typically, bettors will hedge when they aren’t confident that their wager will win.

Hedging can be a solid move for either wagers on individual games or futures.

Examples of Hedging Bets

Let’s look at how you might hedge a bet with an example from one of Tipico’s NBA lines. Say you’re confident the Detroit Pistons will defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers even though the Pistons are +325 on the moneyline. You know that if the Pistons win, your payout will be $325 for a $100 wager.

But maybe, for whatever reason, your confidence in Detroit starts to decline a bit. You then decide to put $200 on the Cavaliers, who were -400 on the moneyline. If the Cavs were to win, you would get $50.

So, if the Pistons win, you get $325 plus your original $100 bet back but minus the $200 hedge bet that you placed on the Cavaliers for a total net gain of $125. If the Cavaliers win, you win $50 but lose the $100 on the bet on the Pistons for a smaller net loss of -$50.

So, you could wind up down $50, but that’s better than being down $100. You can apply the same principle to all sorts of bets with all sorts of odds.

Let’s look at the recent Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. At one point, the Niners were -3 on the spread. Say you got really pumped up by SF’s chances and put down $1000 on the 49ers to cover, i.e. win by more than 3 points.

Then later, you read some analysis about why KC was going to win, or you got nervous about SF trying to beat Patrick Mahomes. You can’t retract your Niners bet, so you put $1,000 on the Chiefs to cover. In that case, you’ll basically break even, and your bankroll will live to bet another day.

In every case, you’re restricting your possible net payout, but also limiting your losses.

The Best Time to Hedge a Bet

There are many times when you should considering hedging:

  • Your original bet starts looking shaky
  • The odds shift enough on the team you didn’t bet on, which makes a hedge look favorable
  • You decide the other team is looking like the better bet and you’re unable to cash out your original bet
  • During live betting or with a parlay (discussed below)

How to Hedge a Bet Effectively

Hedging a Futures Bet

This is one of the more obvious areas where you can benefit with hedge bets. Let’s look at Tipico’s futures odds for the 2025 Super Bowl winner. Maybe you have a lot of faith that new coach Jim Harbaugh can transform the Los Angeles Chargers and QB Justin Herbert despite the +2500 odds. You place $100 on LAC to win Super Bowl 59, and you stand to win $2,500 if they do.

But you could also put $100 on the Kansas City Chiefs (+620), thinking that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes will complete the first three-peat in NFL history. If KC wins the title, you get $620 minus the $100 you put on the Chargers for a tidy net of $520. You might even throw $100 on the 49ers (+520), and if they were to win in 2025, you’d get $520 minus the $200 you placed on the Chargers and Chiefs.

That’s still a $320 net. Hedging on futures can still be tricky, though — none of these teams could win the Super Bowl, which would leave you out $300. That’s why it may make more sense to hedge on futures at different times as a season progresses. Odds will shift and teams will perform better or worse than expected.

You might even consider doing more hedge bets, depending on what happens in the NFL draft, free agency or trades. Maybe the Jaguars (+3000) tip the scales with a great draft pick, or maybe the Rams (+3000) sign a free agent that makes them look like a possible contender.

These same principles apply to other sports, such as Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and NCAA basketball — you name it.

Hedging through Live Betting

If you make a bet on a game and that wager starts looking shaky, you can make a hedge bet on the other team at some point during the game, as long as the sportsbook allows it. At some point, betting is locked out on a game. The odds are usually set so that you likely won’t get a net gain, but at least you won’t take as big a bath if you hadn’t hedged your bet.

Or … maybe as the game progresses, you get an intuition that the opposing team is going to win. You might take a big leap and put a bunch of money on them and then you could very well get a net payout with that hedge bet.

Remember, hedge betting doesn’t necessarily have to be on the moneyline or the spread. You might do a player prop hedge bet on an opposing player, like will he top a certain number of rebounds, points, touchdowns, base hits, whatever. But be sure to double check your numbers. You don’t want to get caught in a situation where you can lose twice, if the goal is to minimize losses.

Hedging a Parlay Bet

Hedging a parlay gives bettors the best option for net wins. Say you have a five-leg parlay and you hit on the first four legs. You still have to win the fifth leg to win the parlay outright, but you could do a hedge bet on the other side of that last leg.

Depending on odds, you may come out ahead either way. For instance, a $10 parlay may pay off $200 if the last leg hits. But what if you can put another $10 bet on the team of the opposite side of that leg to win $30? This way, even if your parlay loses, you end up $10 ahead —  the $30 win minus the $20 you wagered.

The Final Word on Hedging

Not everyone believes in hedging. Some bettors believe it’s best to take whatever the outcome is from your original bet — win or lose. You won’t be mitigating any risk, but it also means your potential bigger payout won’t be reduced by another bet.

But whatever your stance is on hedging, be sure to bet safe. Check out our tips for Bankroll Management for Sports Betting and Choosing a Unit Size That’s Right For You. And if you’re betting over your head and need help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.

Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.