Sucker Bets & How to Avoid Them

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.

Example of Betting for Value

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

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

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

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.

Make sure you get “true odds” on your parlays.

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

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.

Remember: When there’s another way to bet the same thing at
better odds, choosing the lesser option is for suckers.

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

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.

The Martingale system appears foolproof, but it’s massively

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.

Wager 1 – Stake $10

  • Lose $10 for a total loss of $10.

Wager 2 – Double stake to $20

  • $20 loss. Total loss of $30.

Wager 3 – Double stake to $40

  • $40 loss. Total loss of $70.

Wager 4 – Double stake to $80

  • $80 loss. Total loss of $150.

Wager 5 – Double stake to $160

  • $160 loss. Total loss of $310.

Wager 6 – Double stake to $320

  • $320 loss. Total loss of $630.

Wager 7 – Double stake to $640

  • $640 loss. Total loss of $1270.

Wager 8 – Double stake to $1,280

  • $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

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!

Recommended Reading

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.