If Bets & Reverse Bets

If bets and reverse bets are two of the more complex sports wagers you can place, but they aren't actually too difficult to understand once you're familiar with the concept. Although we consider these to be advanced wagers, we do think it's worth beginners learning how they work, because they do offer some notable advantages.

These bets are similar to parlays, in that they involve making multiple selections, but they are lower risk and can still offer a return even if you don't get every selection right. They can be great options if you want to bet on the result of more than one match without risking too much of your bankroll.

We've explained more about these wagers below, and provided some examples of how they work in practice.

How If Bets Work

An if bet is a combination of two or more wagers, where the result of each wager determines whether or not the subsequent wagers are actually placed. This actually sounds a little more complicated than it is. Basically, you make multiple selections at whatever stake you choose. Your stake is then placed on your first selection. If your first selection loses, you lose your stake and the rest of the wager is cancelled.

If your first selection wins you get paid out, but with an amount equal to your initial stake deducted. This amount is then placed again on your second selection. If the second selection wins you get paid out minus the original stake which is then placed on the third selection. If the second selection loses, then the rest of the wager is cancelled.

The number of selections you can include in an if bet will vary from one bookmaker to another, but it's typically between two and six. The basic principle is always the same regardless of how many selections you make. If you make two selections, then the second selection only comes into play if the first selection wins. If you make three selections, then the third selection only comes into play if the first two selections win.

The best way to show exactly how if bets work is to use a simple example using real betting markets.

Example If Bet

In this example we'll use an if bet using two selections, based on point spread betting in football. Take a look at the following two betting markets.

If Bet Example 1

Now let's say that you decided to place an if bet on the two favorites (the Steelers and the Broncos) to cover the spread, staking $110. You make the Steelers your first selection and the Broncos your second selection. $110 is deducted from your account.

In this scenario, there are four possible combinations of results, as follows.

  • Steelers Cover, Broncos Don't
  • Both Teams Cover
  • Neither Team Covers
  • Steelers Don't Cover, Broncos Do

Let's look at what would happen to your wager for each set of results.

Steelers Cover, Broncos Don't

At the point that the Steelers cover, you are due $100 in winnings. You don't get your initial $110 back though, because that is rolled over to the Broncos. With the Broncos not covering, you lose that $110. You still get the $100 return from the Steelers selection though, so your net loss is just $10.

Both Teams Cover

The Steelers covering gives you $100 in winnings, with your initial $110 stake rolled over to the Broncos. The Broncos covering gives you another $100 in winnings, plus your initial stake back as there are no more selections. You've made a $200 profit.

Neither Team Covers

At the point that the Steelers fail to cover, the rest of the bet is cancelled. You are out your initial $110 stake. The fact that the Broncos also fail to cover is irrelevant, because you have no money riding on it.

Steelers Don't Cover, Broncos Do

Again, the rest of the bet is cancelled when the Steelers fail to cover. Therefore the Broncos result is irrelevant again. Even though they've covered, you have no money riding on the game so you are still out your initial $110.

Order of Selections

The example outlined above not only illustrates how an if bet works, it also highlights one fundamentally important aspect of them. The order of your selections can affect the outcome of the wager. In the last scenario listed above (Broncos covering, Steelers not), you've lost your entire initial stake even though one of your selections was a winner. This is because the second selection didn't come into play.

Had you picked the Broncos as your first selection, you would have got the $100 winnings from that selection. You would still have had an overall loss of $10, as you would have lost the $110 being rolled over to the Steelers, but that's significantly better than losing $110.

Please note that even though the Broncos were playing after the Steelers, you still could have picked the Broncos as your first selection. The order in which the matches are played doesn't matter for the purposes of an if bet, because the final outcome of the bet is calculated once all relevant matches are played.

The fact that the order of selections can affect the outcome of an if bet brings an extra element of luck to these wagers, which can be avoided by the use of reverse bets.

What Are Reverse Bets?

Reverse bets are if bets that work in all possible directions. They are essentially a combination of each of the possible if bets on any given number of selections, and as such they eliminate the possibility of losing out on returns due to the order of selections.

In the if bet example we just explained there were two selections. The first selection was the Steelers, and the second selection was the Broncos. If the Broncos covered the spread, but the Steelers failed to do so, we showed that you would have lost your entire wager.

This could have been avoided by placing a reverse bet instead of a single if bet. In this instance, a reverse bet would have basically combined an if bet with the Steelers as the first selection and an if bet with the Broncos as the first selection. This would have guaranteed you some money back if at least one of your selections won.

Please be aware that when you place a reverse bet, your initial stake is multiplied by the number of if bets it combines. A reverse bet with two selections, as we've just shown, is two if bets. One with Team A as the first selection and Team B as the second selection, and one with Team B as the first selection and Team A as the second selection. So, if you placed a $55 reverse bet you would be staking a total of $110 - $55 on one if bet and $55 on the other.

The following table shows how many if bets are included in a reverse bet based on the number of selections. Note that the number of if bets increases exponentially as the selections increase. It's worth bearing this in mind when placing reverse bets, because it means your stakes increase exponentially too.

Number of Selections

Number of If Bets

3 6
4 12
5 20
6 30

If bets and reverse bets can be very useful if used in the correct way and for the right reasons. They are particularly attractive as an alternative to parlays if you are willing to sacrifice some of the potential returns for a lower overall risk.

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