Hedging Bets in Sports Betting

Sports bettors use a variety of strategies. One is hedging bets. Learn more about what this means and how it can extend your bankroll.

Most sports gamblers make bets and wait to see if they win or lose. However, some gamblers try hedging bets. Sometimes, this can save you money. While other times, a hedge can lock in a profit. Before you finish this page, you will know the best times to use hedge betting and when you should avoid it.

This page is part of our new sports betting strategy section. We also cover strategies for live betting, loss rebate bonuses, parlay wagers, and the best overall strategies.

Boulder Station sportsbook
Boulder Station Sportsbook in Las Vegas – Photo credit: John Mehaffey

What Does Hedging Bets Mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, hedging one’s bets is “to do things that will prevent great loss or failure if future events do not happen as one plans or hopes.”

In terms of sports wagering, it involves placing a second bet that works in conjunction with a first. The second wager either limits your losses or locks in a win. The following two sections show examples of using hedge bets to lock in wins or limit losses.

Examples of Locking in a Win

You make a future bet on the Rams to win the Super Bowl before the season starts. You bet $100 and get 10 to 1 odds. If you win the bet, you win $1,000. Then, the Rams reach the Super Bowl and face the Bengals. You can bet on the Bengals and get 2 to 1 odds. You bet $105 on the Bengals to win.

After making the second bet, you lock in an overall win. If the Rams win, you lose your $105 bet on the Bengals, but you win the $1,000 return on the Rams. If the Bengals win, you lose your $100 bet on the Rams, but you win $210 on the second bet, for a $110 profit.

Another way you can use hedging to lock in a win is using live betting during a game. You bet the moneyline on an underdog before the game, and if the moneyline on the favorite hits a certain number during the game, you can jump on it and lock in a win on either side.

The problem with hedging bets to lock in wins is that there’s always a cost. You have to determine if paying the cost of the hedge is worth the price in comparison to letting your original wager ride.

If you’re a winning handicapper, you’re usually better off sticking with making straight bets than worrying about hedging your wins. But using hedges to limit losses is a good play whether you’re a professional gambler or wager for fun.

Examples of Limiting Losses

You make a moneyline bet on the road team before the game at +300. You bet $100 to win $300. The game reaches the half and it’s clear you’re going to lose the bet. You place a moneyline bet on the other team at –1,000. You bet $500 to win $50. When the favorite wins the game, you lose $50 instead of $100. Of course, you have to be right when you place the hedge bet.

And if you are sure you are right, you can bet $1,000 to win $100 and break even on the game. But if you lose the $1,000 bet, you lock in a loss of $700. Here’s how the math works. You bet a total of $1,100 between the two bets. You get $400 back if you win the first bet. $1,100 minus $400 is a $700 loss.

But, if you are wrong and the underdog comes back to win, you lock in a loss by placing the hedge bet. The other option is making the second wager at $300 to win $30. If the underdog comes back and wins, you break even. And if the favorite wins, you only lose $70 instead of $100.

Basic Hedging Bets Strategy

You can find many different combinations for hedging bets. But every hedge bet carries risk, so start small. Make small wagers and then look for opportunities to hedge your bets.

A basic sports betting hedge strategy is wagering on football or basketball games. These two sports work well with this strategy because they have a break between halves. Make sure you have accounts at sportsbooks that offer live betting.

Handicap the game and place a moneyline bet before the game starts. Watch the first half of the game with your handicapping hat on. At halftime, determine your odds of winning your original bet. If the odds are high of winning your original bet, sit back and enjoy the rest of the game.

If your odds of winning aren’t good, look at the moneyline on the other team. Calculate all of the possible outcomes based on how much you bet. If a hedge works to limit your losses, take advantage of it.

Focus on limiting losses first. Once you learn how to limit your losses safely, you can look for opportunities to lock in wins. However, you might decide to never pay the price required to do this.

Should You Hedge Your Bets?

If you decide you never want to hedge a sports bet, it’s not going to stop you from being a successful sports bettor. As long as you are handicapping games well enough to make a profit, you don’t need to be hedging bets.

However, if you are a good handicapper, you can use it to increase your profits. Anytime you can reduce your losses by hedging bets, it increases your overall profits. It’s the same idea that businesses use to increase their bottom line by reducing expenses.

You have to decide if using hedge betting is profitable or not. But you should consider using hedge betting to reduce your sports betting losses.

Contests are another opportunity

Many sportsbooks have pick’em and survivor contests. These are often winner-take-all. Participants who run deep in these contests may want to guarantee a win. That is when hedging comes into play. The Circa Survivor contest is one example of these events.

In 2023, the Circa casino was willing to discuss credit agreements for players to hedge their bets as the field dropped to a handful after starting with 9,267 entries. The winner takes home $9.2 million. An attempt to make a deal when it was under 20 players failed.

To hedge in a contest like this, one bets against their survivor pick. In most instances, the other side will be an underdog. The bet protects against an upset that knocks the entrant out of a contest with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity when it runs deep.

Circa Sportsbook
Circa Sportsbook in Las Vegas. Photo credit: John Mehaffey

Can You Hedge Bets at the Same Sportsbook?

Many sportsbooks take hedge bets. In many situations, you’re betting on both sides of the same game. But many sportsbooks treat each bet individually.

However, it is always smart to see if your sportsbook has an issue with it. And if you are making bets in online sportsbooks, you must be more careful.

The reason some online sportsbooks frown on hedge betting is that they give deposit bonuses. Deposit bonuses have play requirements. The sportsbooks don’t want you to make bets on both sides of games to clear bonuses.

But don’t worry if the sportsbook where you usually place bets doesn’t allow hedge betting. It’s easy to work around this. The answer is in the next section.

Using Different Sportsbooks for Hedging Bets

Even if your regular sportsbook accepts hedge bets, there are a couple of good reasons to use different sportsbooks to place hedge bets.

When you place a hedge bet, it’s a lot like placing a regular wager. You are still looking for the best lines. The best way to find the best lines is to have access to lines at several different sportsbooks.

Another reason why you should use multiple sportsbooks is that you can exploit bonus offers and loss rebate offers. If you receive a $1,000 deposit bonus from an online sportsbook, it’s great. But aren’t two $1,000 bonuses better? Or what if you can get a loss rebate at a different sportsbook?

Few things are better in sports betting than using a loss rebate wager to hedge a bet at another sportsbook. Accessing more betting lines and using bonus offers makes using multiple sportsbooks for hedge betting a smart move.

Do Professional Sports Bettors Use Hedge Betting?

Some professional sports bettors use hedge betting, and others don’t. So, there’s no right or wrong answer if you’re wondering if you should use hedge betting or not. Most pros who use hedging use it to reduce losses. Using hedging to lock in wins is okay, but it’s always at the expense of winning less.

Professional sports bettors focus on maximizing their wins and minimizing their losses. Using hedging to minimize losses fits. But minimizing wins isn’t what the pros are trying to do.

It doesn’t mean you can’t be a profitable professional sports bettor if you hedge your winning bets. But you need to keep a close eye on your overall profit before hedging wins.

Is Hedging Bets Illegal?

Hedging bet is NOT illegal. Not only is it legal, it’s often a sensible sports betting strategy. Ensuring that you get to keep some of the money you win and mitigating the risk of losing money always make sense, and it would be hard to point to a statute that makes being sensible illegal.