The derogatory term underdog has its origins in the dog fighting of the late 19th century. Back then it simply meant the dog that lost the fight. These days, with our more politically correct attitudes, such barbaric sports have of course been abolished, but the word has survived – a remnant of our past. The word now means the team or individual that is expected to lose the match. In a world of perfect predictions the favourite would always defeat the underdog, who would slouch away, its tail between its legs.

The betting odds will always be lower for the favourite of course, since the bookmakers expect the underdog to lose, and the favourite to win. Psychologists state there is a kind of ingrained mentality to root for the favourite, since we want to avoid the shame of losing – along with losing our money one would assume. The bookmakers are well aware of this phenomenon, so they adjust the odds even more to the favourite. Because of this there is great value in betting on the underdog. Obviously they are less likely to win, but with such competitively high odds your takings may well be substantial. If the favourite wins you might pocket what you bet, and very little more – but if the underdog wins you may do very well indeed. Besides, it is always more fun betting on the underdog – and there is a kind of honour and integrity supporting the side no one expects to win!

For sports like NFL football, or with Asian Handicaps, where spread betting is widely employed, the points presented can result in good news even if the underdog loses. For those skilled in handicapping – a technique every betting enthusiast should have mastered – this can be very advantageous.

Vigorish is the peculiar term meaning the commission the bookmakers charge on all winning bets – typically around 5%. If the player makes a pair of equal bets on the favourites, which have odds of around 1.8, and only one is successful, then their overall result will be a loss. It is necessary to choose correctly more than half the time, typically between 55% to 60%, in order for you to make a profit by choosing favourites.

The situation is different when employing this tactic with underdogs – indeed it will actually sound a far more attractive betting technique. If the player chooses two underdogs, with one winning at odds of about 2.1, then the payout will be substantial enough to cover not only the stake, but also the vigorish – not forgetting of course a profit! If this tactic is employed over time, a success rate of merely 40% to 45% in choosing the underdogs correctly will result in a theoretical winning strategy.

The season gambler who employs the tactic of betting on underdogs will always be on the lookout for something called “home dogs.” These are weak teams, who have a distinctive home advantage, which is overlooked by the bookmakers. The theory is that the emotional security of playing at their familiar ground boosts the confidence, allowing for performances that defy the odds.

There are many betting techniques and systems that incorporate the underdog. Many players swear by these techniques, and even find some honour and decency in always rooting for the side that everyone else expects to lose. It certainly makes the experience more fun, and the chances or huge wins are far more likely. Those who bet exclusively on the favourites, or even those high up the scale, can never expect to have big payouts, for the simple reason that the bookmakers are protecting their own money by restricting the winnings on these players, who are of course very likely to succeed. Players who always bet in this way are often looked on scornfully by those who root for the underdog. They will never know the absolute thrill and excitement of seeing the participant, the one you have money riding on, that no one expected to succeed – that everyone was sure would come last, come tearing round the corner, and to everyone’s astonishment, win the race!