The Art of Betting Against Your Favorite Team

nervous sports bettor

We all know (or at least we all should) that there is danger in betting on your favorite teams at the sportsbook.

There are, however, a few myths surrounding the practice.

The dark fairy-tale (or Twilight Zone) scenario imagines a guy who is so obsessed with fandom that he picks the home team to win the biggest prize, wagering an ungodly amount of cash only to wind up in the gutter.

I mean, it happened to Billy Brown in Buffalo ’66, right? When did a movie ever use stereotypes?

But in truth, it’s not blood-and-guts hometown fandom that poses the biggest risk to the bettor.

Fans are skeptical of their very favorite teams. Sometimes too skeptical.

For instance, the Russia National Team has contended for medals at pretty much every Ice Hockey World Championship and Winter Olympics since the dawn of time, or at least since the Soviet Union – which was also dominant in hockey – folded like a flan in a cupboard. Yet I have never seen such a band of naysayers and grumpy-groans as Red Machine faithful on the internet. In 2019 the Russian squad will feature Nikita Kucherov and Evgenii Malkin along with at least 6 or 7 other amazing All-Stars.

“Same old,” says one fan on Twitter. “I give Russia a bronze medal at best.”

Don’t expect a lot of “homeland” wagering on Team Russia at the Worlds. In fact, more Ruskies might be prepared to bet against them.

Fanatics often resort to absolute pessimism to deal with the emotional stress of cheering a team. If you always expect the Dallas Cowboys to lose by 28 points, then when it happens it’s no big deal, and when it often doesn’t happen it’s a pleasant surprise.

Nobody likes to hear a whining nag carry on about how the team sucks, though. I think I can speak for most of us that we’ve heard fans get carried away about how a coach, a quarterback, a starting pitcher is the source of the team’s problems and needs to be fired. Sometimes when a crazed supporter has a major issue with her franchise, she appears to be rooting against the club, hoping to be proven right.

So the more polite human beings among us prefer to keep their sports pessimism a secret, or express it in other ways.

What is one such way to deal with the dark side?

Bet against your boys.

The Win-Win Loophole of Betting on the Enemy

We’ve proposed a few alternative ways of looking at the online sports betting industry on the blog, including “Stock Market” models and “Entertainment” models.

As I’ve said before, it’s important to A) understand that the sportsbook is indeed selling you entertainment, and B) if you purchase your action wisely, you can actually get a refund on your fees that puts you all the way in the black. The goal shouldn’t be to hunt for million-dollar lottery-style sports bets but rather to “scheme” a way to have rich amounts of fun while staying above water.

But the concept of a betting site as “fun broker” is never more true than when people gamble on hometown teams. Some folks think it’s good luck to wager on their beloved school or national colors, and that’s absolutely fine so long as they’re responsible about it.

I’m more interested in the opposite tactic – betting on the hated rival. Here’s how it works to the gambler’s advantage.

Have you ever wished that you could throw something at the field and make your team play better? How about a $50 bill?

None of us know how to win 75% of our sports wagers. If we did, we’d have to take it easy or the sportsbooks would no longer allow them.

The gambler who runs about 50-50 on her picks knows that when she’s betting on an outcome, everything seems to go wrong for that outcome. The “Over” bet on a basketball game succumbs to coaches calling for stall-tactics in halfcourt. The moneyline favorite at Wimbledon sprains her ankle in the 2nd set. Manchester United plays lousy all at once and must fight to rebound in the Premier League…again. It’s Murphy’s Law!

Psychologically speaking, betting against dear old alma mater can feel like a “weaponizing” of Murphy’s Law against the opposing rivals.

What team do you wish to watch in glee as they fumble, miss shots, fall down on the ice, and struggle to get a shot on the keeper? Why, the team you’re desperately rooting against, of course. A bettor’s perceived “bad luck” is finally turned on its head.

2 Ways to Win, 2 Ways to Lose

If the beloved hometown team loses, those gamblers using the Murphy’s Law principle to “hurt” the opponent (remember this is all really a paradox, because the outcome would still be the same if we didn’t gamble on it) are paid-out with a “winner” for having bet against the squad. The fresh stake money is compensation for emotional damages.

Meanwhile, if the team wins, then all is right with the world even though the wager has been lost. I would pay $500 to watch the Navy Midshipmen win the Orange Bowl. Man, that would so be worth it. Too bad the laws of reality prevent me from doing that. But what can I do instead? If the Middies ever win the AAC and go to a major bowl game, I can bet against them. Now I’m either getting paid for watching the team lose, or “purchasing” an experience I’ll never forget.

Yet in the #2 scenario, who’s actually laughing all the way to the bank? The bookmaker. Vegas benefits from the psychology of betting against the home team. People who play the markets in novel ways in which a loss of cash isn’t a big deal to them are a sportsbook’s best friend.

When we handicap a random match against the public, we’re sportsbook clients. When we pick against the USWNT and they win the Women’s World Cup, thereby busting our reverse-psychology wager, we’re sportsbook customers.

Men From the Boys, Women From the Girls

The more emotionally invested a fan is in a club or college, the more he is tempted to wager against the home team. There’s no “risk” in the traditional gambling sense because there’s a “win” involved in either of the 2 moneyline outcomes.

(Actually, there are 3 moneyline outcomes in a soccer match, making it a source of black comedy when a punter bets 50 pounds vs Liverpool trying to get the Reds to win and the score winds up in a draw, taking his money while also not producing the desired outcome.)

Instead the sum of cash wagered is totally up to the fan’s investment and level of caring.

If it’s life and death that the Hornets beat the Tigers in Anywhereville, then he might venture a big chunk of change knowing that he’ll want to party his sorrows away if the Hornets are stung.

But a guy who is casually following a UFC fighter and suffering a losing streak at the sportsbook might bet against his new pet favorite a couple times, hoping to “use” the losing streak to advance a career, or at least break the dad-gum losing streak. Those are likely to be much-smaller wagers.

How to Use the Murphy’s Law Gambit

My advice is to use the bet-against tactic when your team is favored to win. If you’re gambling on a steep “+” moneyline the payoff will be excellent on a modest wagered amount.

For instance an Oklahoma fan somewhere probably “bought” this OT win over the Army Black Knights – a mispriced underdog at something like 15-to-1 – in Norman last fall for a discount bargain of $25.

Yet if Army had won, she would have gotten a check for Emotional Damages in the range of what, 300 to 400 bones?

Of course the bookmakers know that gamblers are going to be extra-bummed out if their team loses to a perceived cupcake, which makes the low-risk, high “compensation” tactic a little shaky at times.

Remember, though, that the sports fan with perspective and a sense of fairness can appreciate a great upset even if it’s against his “own.” Army beating Oklahoma would have been a watershed for service academy football in America, and Kyler Murray proved that his team could have an imperfect regular season and still beat Texas when it counted anyway.

A loss isn’t always the end of the world, even when the losing team is big part of your world.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.