Win More by Avoiding Sucker Bets
For us, betting is a means of income; we take it very seriously! This isn't how everyone views betting though, and we completely understand. Some people bet for recreational purposes only. They love watching their favorite sports on TV and think having a little money on the game makes it even more worthwhile. The appeal of betting just for fun is obvious.
Those who enjoy betting leisurely don't take the time to understand all the math involved or try to learn other skills required to become an advantage gambler. This is totally understandable, and it's one of the main reasons why we wrote this article in the first place. This is designed to assist recreational bettors who want to focus on enjoying their betting, while avoid becoming suckers at the same time.
Before we can help, we must define what sucker bets are, and offer some advice for avoiding them. Don't worry, we aren't trying to ruin anyone's fun. We just want to show you how to win more money (or at least lose yet) by making some minor changes to your betting habits.
What is a Sucker Bet?
A sucker bet is just what the name suggests. It's basically a wager only a sucker would place. Many people assume that the term refers to any wager that has very little chance of winning, but it's not quite that simple. A longshot can be a good bet if the odds are right. On the other hand, a wager that is very likely to win CAN be a sucker's bet when the odds are too short.
The term isn't actually related to how likely a wager is to win at all, but rather to how much value a wager has. Value relates to how profitable a wager should be in the long run, relative to the amount staked.
Imagine placing a series of $10 wagers on the toss of a coin. You've got a 50/50 chance of winning, so fair odds would be even money. With those odds, you'd win $10 every time you guessed right. You'd also lose $10 every time you guessed wrong. Over enough tosses of the coin, you should win roughly the same amount of times as you lose. This means the expectation is neutral value.
Now suppose you were offered odds where you won $100 for a $10 stake. This would create positive expected value, as you should win money in the long run. And now suppose you were offered odds where you had to stake $100 to win $10. This would create negative expected value, as losing money in the long run is seemingly impossible.
Any wager that has negative expected value is essentially a sucker's bet. The term is generally used to refer to specific types of bet though, where the value is especially bad. If you placed a wager at higher odds than you would have gotten by betting a different way, then that would be considered a sucker's bet too!
Common Sucker Bets
The three sucker's bets we most commonly see can be found below.
Sucker Bet Parlays
In our article on basic strategy for parlay betting, we explained parlays in a nontraditional way. We suggested imagining you are sitting down at a blackjack table with one single $100 chip. You bet it and win. Now you have two chips ($200), go all in again, win, and have $400. You repeat the process of going all in successfully six-times and have $6,400. Since your starting stake was $100, you'll make a profit of $6,300.
Now imagine doing the same sequence of betting on point spread wagers with a bookmaker, at odds of -110 each time. With six consecutive bets, and each one winning, you'd end up with a profit of around $4,740.
Interestingly, 6-team parlays, using only point spreads and totals priced -110, have far lower payouts at most sports betting sites. They can be as high as +4,500, but as low as +3,500. Even at the highest odds, of +4,500, your profit on a $100 stake would "only" be $4,500. At +3,500, it would be $3,500.
This means that placing a successful parlay would produce payouts that were way less impressive than they could have been. You'd be much better off betting on games individually and then rolling your payouts over on to subsequent wagers. However, betting sites get away with effectively lowering their parlay payouts as most recreational bettors are suckers and don't know any better.
We have to point out that we would never recommend betting parlays in the first place. They very rarely, if ever, offer any kind of value. A lot of bettors do like to place them though, and often on games that start at the same time. With games starting at the same time, there's no way to wager on them individually and also roll the payouts over. This means there's only one solution.
Some betting sites do offer fairer odds on their parlays. For example, they might offer 6-team parlays that payout at 47.4. In these cases, a parlay wouldn't be a sucker's bet.
That doesn't necessarily mean they are good wagers though. True odds in the context above is something of a contradiction. The odds you'll be getting are not true odds in the sense that they accurately reflect the chances of winning. They just return the same amount as if you successfully bet all in at -110 six times in a row.
Since the focus of this article isn't about parlays, let's move on.
Sucker Bet Pleasers
Pleaser bets, in general, are sucker bets regardless of which teams are selected. If you're not familiar with this form of wagering, please read our article explaining how pleaser bets work.
A specific example we frequently see on betting forums is a pick where the poster pleased two small underdogs by taking two point-spreads +3.5 and pleasing them to -2.5. The foolishness here is that most 3.5 point underdogs in football have a moneyline around +170. If you parlay moneylines of +170 and +170 together, the payout is 6.29 to 1. Meanwhile, the pleaser only pays 6 to 1 (less) and you have to cover -2.5, whereas in the other case, you just had to win.
A Wager Placed Without Shopping Around
Most recreational bettors stick with one betting site only. If this is something you do, we urge you to change your habits. By not shopping around for the best odds and lines, you are inevitably making sucker's bets.
Why would you back a favorite at +6 if another site had the same team at +7? Why would you place a wager at +150 if another site was offering the same wager at +165? There are no valid answers to these questions. Shopping around hardly takes anytime at all, but it can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
The Martingale Betting Mistake
A major mistake that many recreational bettors make, and one that's definitely a sucker move, is following the Martingale system. This is the oldest gambling system in the book, but unfortunately over the past decade all sorts of modified Martingale systems have been introduced. These are often disguised as progressive systems or doubling systems.
The idea here is to make a bet and, if you lose, you double your stake. If you lose again, you double your stake again. As soon as you win one bet, you'll be in profit.
Let's go back to our earlier example of flipping a coin at true odds of even money. You should win half of your wagers over enough spins, but losing eight in a row is also possible. If you started with a stake of $10 and doubled up after every loss, you'd have lost $2,550 after just eight consecutive losses. Don't believe us? Here's how the wagers would have gone.
- Lose $10 for a total loss of $10.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $30.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $70.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $150.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $310.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $630.
- $20 loss. Total loss of $1270.
- $1,280 loss. Total loss of $2,550.
The Martingale is simply awful, no doubt about it. When you win, you win small. When you lose, your entire bankroll could easily be wiped out. We suggest avoiding this system altogether. By betting the same amount on each game and by riding through the ups and downs, you'll stand a good chance of winning. The Martingale system almost guarantees a devastating blow to your bankroll.
How to Avoid Suckers Bets
The best way to avoid sucker bets is to steer clear of parlays and pleasers, and make sure that you shop around for the best odds and lines. You should also ignore the Martingale system completely, and any other progressive betting systems for that matter. These recommendations aren't only easy, but they're simple too!
Our beginner's guide to sports betting includes an article on common sports betting mistakes. This is another great read for recreational bettors who want some simple advice to help them achieve better results. You should also keep in mind that one of the best things a recreational bettor can do to boost their bankroll is to take advantage of the bonuses and rewards offered by sports betting sites.
If you're happy to remain a recreational bettor then you can leave it there, and just continue to have fun and hopefully win some money. If you want to start working on improving your skills though, then you might benefit from taking a look at our section on sports betting strategy.
Author: Jim Griffin
Updated: June 2016
Related Sports Betting Articles