True Odds vs. Implied Odds – Will Underdogs ever Win Again?

Written By @Hookslide23

There comes a point in every bettor’s life when losing streaks happen.  At those times, all you can do is look yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a grown adult, I have a long-term plan, and I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.”  Then you sit down and, because you’re a grown adult, you eat your body weight in Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey.”

Two of my three coin-flip picks lost last weekend.  Thankfully, I’m betting underdogs with a plus sign in front of the moneyline, so even that paltry 33% win rate still cost me less than a full betting position (-0.8, to be exact).  My strategy at least has that going for it — and with proper bankroll management this downswing is just part of the game

Still, this is my third losing week in a row; it’s always good to take a step back and evaluate the approach and see if adjustments are needed.  Ah!  I see one major flaw in my strategy immediately: I’m betting underdogs, and an underdog hasn’t won a game since (this is an estimate) the Nixon Administration.

[ BetOnline.Ag Bonus Codes: 75BTB first time deposit (75% Bonus); 50BTB for reloads (50% Bonus) ]

But seriously, folks, the numbers aren’t good.  One reader on Twitter asks, “Will underdogs ever win again in the NFL?”


Why am I so certain?  Because this beer gives me extra confidence, and also because the statistics are just screaming for natural regression.  Since Week 7, less than two out of every ten underdog teams have won their games.  That’s a 17% win rate the last three weeks, and that’s just not sustainable, especially when we’re betting coin-flip games.

So keep on grinding.  Remember that Dick Nixon guy I spoke of earlier?  He once said, “Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does.  A man is not finished when he’s defeated.  He’s finished when he quits.”  Hell, yes!  I’m going to underdog moneyline my way through the rest of the season with a positive, confident mindset.  That’s what Dick would do.  

Another reader wants to know what I mean when I talk about “true odds.”  For instance, I had the Panthers pegged at about 53% true odds to win last weekend.  When I say “true odds” I am referring to the actual probability of a win, as opposed to the “implied odds” of a moneyline.

Yes, a moneyline does imply a probability of winning.  A lot of bettors don’t fully understand this, and since I haven’t littered the pages of this column with math formulas yet, now is a good time to dive into this subject briefly.  To convert a moneyline into implied odds, use this formula:

Positive moneyline: 100/(moneyline + 100)

Negative moneyline: moneyline/(moneyline + 100)

Carolina was +113 when I wagered on them, and Atlanta was at -133, so the formula works out to:

Carolina: 100/(113 + 100) = 100/213 = 46.9%

Atlanta: 133/(133 + 100) = 133/233 = 57.1%

Through my research, reading, and handicapping I deemed the Panthers actually had better than a 46.9% chance of winning, so I placed my bet.

Using the Super Bowl coin flip prop bet is an easy way to understand this.  When BetOnline.AG takes bets on the coin flip, they set the moneyline at -110 for both “heads” and “tails.”  Using our formula, 110/(110 + 100) = 110/210 = 52.38%, so whichever side of the coin you bet, the moneyline implies that you have a 52.38% chance of winning.

Of course, that is false.  You only have a 50% chance of winning, which is what makes this proposition a losing bet no matter which side you take long-term.  But notice that oddsmakers aren’t setting moneylines on the coin flip, so that they imply a 60% chance of winning (-150), or a 30% chance of winning (+230) — they want to keep implied odds fairly close to true odds.

To recap; true odds are what you, the bettor determines a line should be after your handicapping.  Implied odds are the percentage chance a team wins based on market price offered by your sportsbook.  Like any market, sports betting prices are fluid based on a number of factors but the most important factor is money wagered.

There’s more to be said here, especially about “the juice,” but I’ll save that for a future column.

For now, here are the quick and dirty tips:

  • Check opening moneylines, not just current pricing, and calculate the implied odds
  • Pay attention to those opening implied odds, because they are telling you something about reality
  • A radical discrepancy (i.e., you think you have 70% true odds, but the opening moneyline says 30% implied odds) is a red flag
  • A reasonable discrepancy in your favor (i.e., you have true odds of 55% and the moneyline implies 50%) is a green light, so take the bet
  • A discrepancy in the sportsbook’s favor is a losing investment, so you should probably pass

Hang in there, underdog bettors.  We’ll be back in the black in no time.

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