I am an underdog bettor by nature. I find it easier to spot value in lines on underdogs than I do on favorites. The reason is pretty simple. Most bettors tend to gravitate towards favorites because they are the better team in most cases and are expected to win. That’s why I believe finding value in underdogs is the way to go.
When betting underdogs, you start out the game winning. Now, with small underdogs this isn’t as big of a deal, but when you start out winning by roughly 20 points you usually like your chances. That being said, I don’t blindly bet on heavy underdogs just because I’m getting a lot of points. I have to have reasons for it, and I’ll detail a few of those reasons below.
Oddsmakers set their lines based off of public perception as much as anything. If a team is receiving all the headlines recently for good performances, then that team is going to get a lot of public backing in its next game. It’s usually hard for these teams to live up to the hype because they likely played their best possible game last time out. The chances are that they aren’t going to be able to match the previous performance, and thus they’ll fail to live up to expectations while not covering a big spread. Players tend to let hype get to them mentally as they are being told by the media that they are better than they really are. This especially happens with college players. Once they start believing the hype is when they are likely to feel like they just have to show up to win, which is not a good mental state to be in.
This is probably my favorite reason for taking heavy underdogs. I like to look for spots where the favorite is in for a letdown or a hangover. If a favorite is coming off a big win in its previous game over a rival, it is likely not to be as motivated to face a bad team in its next game. Also, if a favorite has a huge game on deck against a rival, then it it could be looking ahead to that game instead of putting in the necessary focus to beat a bad team and cover a big spread. With most heavy underdogs, they’re almost always going to be motivated to play a good team. As long as they haven’t already quit on their season, they will be laying it all on the line to try and pull off the upset while using the motivation that comes with being a big underdog.
I tend to like underdogs that get after it defensively. If they can defend, they have a chance to win on a given night. If they don’t defend, the chances of them getting blown out is much greater. The fewer points a team gives up, the better chance they have at covering a big spread. In football, good defensive teams that run the football certainly make sense as underdogs. They will shorten the game with their rushing attack and won’t give up a big number defensively. Yes, it’s possible that they won’t score many points, but I’d much rather back a good defensive team than one that scores points but does not play defense.
I also like to check the head-to-head history. If a team is a big underdog of say 20 points, but the last 10 meetings were all decided by 20 points or less, there’s a good chance that the underdog is going to cover the spread. In baseball, if a big underdog has hit left-handed pitching well of late while the favorite has struggled against lefties, and both have south paws starting, there could be some value in backing the dog. There are all kinds of different matchup factors that could favor the underdog, but the list is too long for this one article.