Emotional Hedging 101: Five Rules for Betting Against Your Team

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 19: In this handout provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, the Mirage Resort Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas is shown crowded with basketball fans during NCAA March Madness Tournament March 19, 2010. in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – MARCH 19: In this handout provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, the Mirage Resort Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas is shown crowded with basketball fans during NCAA March Madness Tournament March 19, 2010. in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images)

We love betting on sports.  Absolutely love it.  The thrill of shoving your winning ticket in the cashier’s face, the agony of going 5 of 6 in a parlay.  The whole enchilada.

But I’m also a fan of the emotional hedge.  This is when you bet against your team so that you at least make some money in their defeat.  Some people would call me an asshole for doing that, and you know what, they’re probably right.  But that’s kind of the point of the emotional hedge.  It has nothing to do with how much you love your team, or being someone who says, “Wahh, I’d never bet against my own team!  NEVER!”

Nope.  It’s that I legitimately love my team so much that watching them lose without at least getting something in return would be crushing.  I’d gladly lose my bet if that meant watching my team win a playoff series or rivalry game.

With all that said, I figured I’d put together a couple of rules to live by when going the emotional hedge route.


1.  Don’t bet on meaningless games.

I’m not going to define what a “meaningless game” is for everyone, since individuals perceive meaning differently.  So if you only care about your team’s playoff games (true for me with the NBA), don’t put down the emotional hedge during the regular season.  Likewise, if every single game your team plays, including the pre-season, means something, then consider putting some money down.

Here’s the beauty of the emotional hedge: you’re going to discover, pretty fucking quickly, which games are meaningful.  Chances are, you will learn not to bet against your team for most games of the regular season.  This is especially true in MLB, where your team plays a million games a week and your bankroll can disappear in an instant.  However, if specific games have more meaning, i.e. a game against a rival, etc., then you might want to put down some money on that game.

As an example, I don’t emotionally hedge on most Angels games during the regular season.  However, since I live in the SF Bay Area, if they’re going up against the A’s, I’m definitely putting in an emotional hedge.  If the Angels lose, at least I have my winnings to keep me company as everyone around me talks some shit.

2.  For individual game bets, always go with the moneyline, regardless of the odds.

The entire point of the emotional hedge is that it makes your team’s loss slightly less depressing.  The worst thing that can happen is not only watching your team lose in an important game, but also watching your bet go to shit.  So when putting in that emotional hedge, you absolutely have to take the moneyline bet.  Imagine taking the opponent -1.5, only to watch your team lose by 1?  Might as well just kill yourself at that point.

And again, it doesn’t matter what the odds are.  If the opponent is -300, you still take the ML.  Don’t get tricked into putting money down on a cover because you like the little plus sign on the odds.  ALWAYS TAKE THE MONEYLINE.

3.  Don’t ignore bets for series outcomes (especially true for regular-season baseball).

When it comes to betting baseball, you can obviously bet on each game in a series individually.  If that’s more to your liking, then feel free to roll with it.  But definitely consider putting money down on the series outcome vs. each individual game.  Saves time, saves effort, and has the same effect on your sports soul.

Rather than having to place a bet on each game individually, with varying odds, you can take a look at the series outcome odds.  Depending on when you put your bet down, you might get some favorable odds on the opponent through this bet, too.  Series bets are also key during the playoffs.

4.  Put enough money on your bet to have it actually mean something.

This one is important.  If you’re actually going to do this shit, then don’t half ass it.  From experience, I can tell you that it sucks balls to watch your team lose and then realize that your shitty $3 emotional hedge paid out $3.50.  “Great, my team just got bounced out of the playoffs, so let me make myself feel better by buying one mediocre beer.”

Nope.  Gotta come in strong with the hedge.

“A strong hedge prevents a jump from the ledge.” – George Washington (probably)

5.  Live bets are great (and also kinda dangerous).

Live betting is a great tool for the degenerate hedger, but definitely tread carefully.  Live bets demand that you have a strong understanding of your team’s strengths and weaknesses.  If your bullpen is the worst in MLB, and you’re up 2, you’re definitely going to want to put in that emotional hedge, especially when the odds for the opponent’s moneyline sit at +200 or more.

It’s also real easy to get caught up with the live betting for the sake of putting in a live bet.  Think these bets through, and don’t risk extra dough for the sake of risking extra dough, especially when you’ve already laid some money down before the game started.

Happy winning (and losing)!

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I like to watch sports, drink beer and draw things, often at the same time.

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4 Responses

  1. Ryan says:

    Something I do regularly. I disagree with the always moneyline argument though, when your team is favored I like to take the points. That still allows for the hedge and also a range where your team wins but the opponent covers the spread so you win both ways!!!!

  2. Mike says:

    I love this article! I’ve done this for years, betting against my team and betting on our rival, and everyone calls me a terrible fan. I’ve had a difficult time explaining why I think it makes me more of a fan. I don’t need to get a profit when my team wins – I need to make the pain less when they lose.

    • Mike says:

      Also not to mention that I think my team is cursed and our rival is incredibly lucky, so I’m taking advantage of that.

    • Mike says:

      And one more thing 🙂 I’m a huge believer in jinxes, so betting on my team will no doubt result in their loss.

      When I bet on the enemy I put Fate in a tough spot – you gonna let me win a bet, or you gonna give those lucky SOBs a loss?

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