How to Avoid a Sucker Bet

With the legalization of sports betting in a growing number of states, including Ohio, new sports bettors likely will want to know about the best bets to place. You will find plenty of guides on this site covering that topic. Here, however, we will break down some of the worst bets you can make, aka sucker bets.

If you have done any research on sports betting or have already dabbled with it in some capacity, you will know how difficult it is to turn a profit. This is because sportsbooks design the process to put themselves at an advantage and you at a disadvantage. With this in mind, it’s important to weed out the wagers that are unlikely to provide you with long-term success.

In this guide, we will take you through what a sucker bet is, along with some examples.

What is a sucker bet?

Basically, a sucker bet is a wager that is heavily geared toward the sportsbook. You might also say that it aims to take advantage of a bettor who doesn’t know any better. A sucker bet can come in many different forms — both in terms of the type of bet and the odds. A sportsbook promotion may even end up being a sucker bet.

Common sucker bets

While sucker bets are open to interpretation, there are a few types of wagers that have widespread reputations as sucker bets. One example of a common sucker’s bet would be just about any moneyline bet with an overwhelming favorite. If you need a quick review, a moneyline bet is simply wagering on which team will win a particular game. Correctly betting on the underdog will pay more than correctly betting on the favorite.

If one side is a significant favorite on the moneyline, you would need to risk a significant amount of money in order to return much of a profit if you bet on that side. And the chance of a massive underdog pulling off a huge upset is so unlikely that you’re almost always throwing your money away by taking that side.

One of the most popular sucker wagers in sports betting is a parlay. Why are parlays bad? In order to win a parlay, you need to get multiple picks correct. If you bet on 10 NFL point spreads in a parlay and are correct on nine of them, your parlay would be a total loss. Therefore, parlay bets are incredibly hard to win consistently, which is what makes them a sucker’s bet. It’s hard enough to get one outcome correct. Needing multiple outcomes to be correct is even more so the case.

Parlays continue to gain traction, however, due to the potential — no matter how slight — for a big return. Media personalities may offer their five-leg parlays for the day, and sportsbooks will leak information about a bettor who risked a small amount but cashed out big via a massive parlay. Do you know why sportsbooks want that information out there? Because it will drive more bettors to bet with parlays, aka sucker bets.

NFL sucker bets to avoid

Let’s take a look at an example of what you might see when betting on a Sunday NFL matchup that shows the Cincinnati Bengals as heavy favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s what the moneyline odds might look like:


By looking at the odds, you can tell Cincinnati is the favorite, but the Bengals are not worth that type of risk. With -2000 odds, you would need to bet $2,000 just to earn a profit of $100. Backing Cincinnati here involves a lot of risk without much of a reward. Conversely, Jacksonville is highly unlikely to pull off the upset according to the oddsmakers. With +1000 odds, you would stand to make $1,000 with a $100 wager. That sounds nice, but you’re not coming close to getting the true value, and more than likely, the Jaguars will not win, and you’ll have a losing bet.

NBA sucker bets to avoid

We’ll go to NBA basketball betting for our parlay example. Parlays are attractive because they give bettors the idea of winning a lot by risking very little. While that can be true in some cases, parlays are not recipes for long-term success because you’re not getting true odds in return. Let’s say you combined three point spread wagers involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers — all getting the standard -110 odds.

When you combine them, your parlay has odds of +595, meaning you would win $595 with a $100 wager if you get all three legs correct. That sounds great, but as mentioned earlier, it is difficult to hit on more than half of your wagers consistently, and going 3-0 is tough to rely on. Additionally, the odds generally favor the sportsbook more and more with each parlay leg that you add.

Other sucker sports bets to avoid

There are other bets to watch for, as well. A lot of them are betting options that have more than two outcomes. A popular example is with futures betting when you’re wagering on something like which team will win the World Series prior to the start of the season.

A bet like that is fun to wager on and think about, but a lot can happen over the span of several months. Even if you win the bet, you may not be getting close to the value that you deserve.

Other examples include betting on long shots in golf tournaments or other random prop wagers that have a low chance of winning, like which hockey player will score the last goal of a game.

How to spot a sucker bet

Sucker bets can be difficult to identify, but it’s easy to see the examples above. A moneyline bet where one side is a heavy favorite is probably not worth placing a wager on — for either the favorite or underdog. When you see the option to combine wagers into a parlay, it is best to stay away from that. If you look at the sports betting lines and come to the conclusion that the potential payout is not great enough, look for a different bet to try.

While promotions and odds boosts can provide some additional value, sometimes they can be sucker bets, as well. For example, a sportsbook could offer enhanced odds that changes the odds from +600 to +700. Whether the number is +600 or +700, oddsmakers are suggesting there is an extremely small chance of the wager cashing. You are likely throwing your money away regardless. That’s why it’s important to not go after every promotion you see on your sportsbook app.

How does line shopping help?

One of the most important concepts for new sports bettors to learn is line shopping. In addition to helping you find the best numbers for each wager you want to place, it can help you identify sucker bets.

To try line shopping, you can open accounts at multiple sportsbooks. If there’s a wager you want to place, it’s smart to check the odds at all the Ohio betting apps that you have access to. This will show you the highest possible payout. And you can also find which sportsbooks are offering the sucker bets if one has drastically worse odds than the others.

Understanding/calculating implied probability

Additionally, understanding how to calculate implied probability is important when looking for a bet to place. Ohio sportsbooks will use American odds — aka moneyline odds — as their default format. Other options are fractional odds and decimal odds, but American odds will be the norm if you’re betting in Ohio.

Here is the formula for implied probability when the odds are negative. When calculating the formula, though, you remove the minus sign:

  • [Negative odds / (Negative odds + 100)] * 100 = implied probability

If we are dealing with the standards point spread odds of -110, here’s what that formula would look like:

  • [110 / (110 + 100)] * 100 = 52.4%

And here is the formula for positive odds:

  • 100 / (positive odds + 100) * 100 = implied probability

If the odds you are looking at are at something like +250, here’s what the formula would look like:

  • 100 / (250 + 100) * 100 = 28.6%

These numbers are important in identifying what may be a sucker bet.

How to mitigate the risk of sucker bets

Especially when you’re just getting started with sports betting, it’s possible you see a wager that is too good to pass up. Maybe you go ahead and place the bet without putting a whole lot of thought into it. Sometimes people get caught up in the moment. It happens, but it’s always important to have a full understanding of what you’re doing before you even consider placing a wager.

If you recognize before the game that you may have placed a sucker’s bet and the payout is not worth the risk, a simple way to mitigate that risk is to bet on the other side. You will lose one bet and win the other, but at least you realized you made a mistake, and you can protect yourself better. This will not always be possible depending on what type of wager you made, however. For example, if you put together a complicated parlay with too many legs, it’s probably best to not go through the headache and just move on and learn from it.

Limiting the vig

The vig is a sports betting term that has a few different names, including the juice. Basically, however, it’s the main reason why sportsbooks have a big advantage over bettors in the long run. With standard odds of -110 for most point spreads and point totals that essentially have a 50/50 chance of hitting, the sportsbooks take a small percentage of your winnings even if you pick correctly. With -110 odds, you’d need to bet $110 to win $100 in return.

A good way to limit the vig is to participate in line shopping as mentioned above. While -110 is the standard vig, some sportsbooks could have odds of -105 for the side of the bet you want to place, leading to a larger payout for a winning wager. It sounds like a small difference, but earning a profit is all about finding small advantages over the sportsbooks for long-term success.