If you spend any amount of time around the world of gambling, you’re bound to hear the phrase “sucker bet” every once in a while. You can probably tell that it’s not exactly a positive phrase, so hopefully, you don’t hear it too often.
Of course, that raises the question: What is a sucker bet? More importantly, how can you avoid being the victim of a sucker bet?
What is a sucker bet?
The technical definition of a sucker bet is when the potential return of a gambling wager is significantly lower than the odds of winning. Whether you’re playing casino games or betting on sports, you’re rarely going to receive odds that are completely even or fair.
This is how casinos and sportsbooks always end up making money. However, when there is a drastic difference in the probability of an event happening and the money you’ll make by betting on that outcome, that’s a sucker bet.
Some people may think that a sucker bet is anything that has low odds of happening. However, that’s not always the case.
As long as the payout is consistent with those odds, there’s nothing wrong with the bet. For instance, if something has a 10% chance of happening, the payout should be close to 10 times your initial bet. It won’t be quite that much, but it should come close.
But if you bet $10 on something with one in 10 odds and only get $20 back, that’s a sucker bet because the payout simply isn’t worth the risk, based solely on probability.
The sucker bets to avoid in sports betting
Unfortunately, potential sucker bets in sports gambling are sometimes difficult to spot. Betting against the spread in games is usually fair because the payout is usually around 90% of your wager, and the point spread is usually set by oddsmakers in a way to encourage equal betting on both sides.
With straight-up moneyline betting, you’re more likely to find sucker bets in games that have a clear favorite. For example, an underdog in a college football game might have a moneyline of +500, giving you five times your wager if that underdog wins the game.
But that moneyline only makes sense if that team has a 20% chance of winning. If the probability of that team beating a heavy favorite is only 5%, and a bookmaker only offers to pay five times your wager, that might be a sucker bet.
A parlay is another common sucker bet in sports gambling. The biggest reason why parlays may be sucker bets is because they are typically difficult to win.
They require making the correct pick on multiple games, and if one pick is wrong, the entire parlay fails, and you lose all of your money. Of course, many bettors take a chance on parlays because the payout can be massive if all of the games are picked correctly. The potential for such a high payout is what sometimes drives bettors to take a chance on parlays and get duped by parlays.
The trick to avoiding a sucker bet with parlays is to avoid them unless you get fair odds. For example, let’s pretend that you are considering a five-game parlay during college football season.
If you bet $100 on each game individually, you would earn $90.91 in profit for each game you pick correctly. If you were to win all five games, your total profit would be $454.55.
At the same time, you have to consider the odds of picking all five games correctly, which would need to happen in a five-game parlay. In theory, the odds of a five-game parlay are 22 to 1, meaning the profit on a successful one is $2,200.
Anything less than a $2,200 profit for a five-game parlay could be a sucker bet, especially if it’s well under that value. Of course, getting fair odds on a parlay doesn’t make it a good option, especially for inexperienced bettors, even if it’s not technically a sucker bet.
In addition to being careful with parlays, sports bettors can avoid sucker bets by considering different sportsbooks before making their wager. Granted, most oddsmakers will place identical odds on the same game, but that’s not always the case.
For instance, one book could have the point spread for a game at 2.5 points and another at 3.5 points. It’s a small difference, but if you want to bet on the favorite, covering 2.5 points is easier than covering 3.5 points. In a way, it’s a sucker’s bet if you don’t look around to find the best odds possible.
Common sucker bets at the casino
Outside of sportsbooks, casinos are full of games that can trick gamblers into making sucker bets. Keep in mind that the house always wins, and it’s because it gets people to play games that don’t have good odds for the player and don’t offer a fair payout based on the probability of winning.
Of course, many gamblers like to play blackjack because it involves a certain level of skill. Bettors think that if they play the game the right way and make good choices, their odds of winning will improve, and they can end up on top.
However, some casinos are moving away from paying out at 3:2 when a player hits 21 and gets a blackjack and are starting to pay 6:5 for blackjack. It may seem subtle, but it adds to the advantage that the casino already has in an inherently unfair game.
While a 3:2 payout is acceptable, casinos that offer 6:5 walk the thin line between acceptable and sucker bet at blackjack tables.
Over at the poker table, players would be wise to stay away from casinos that take too large of a rake from each pot.
When the casino takes a big rake, players have to win even more hands to turn a meaningful profit. The higher the rake, the closer the game gets to being a sucker bet, because even in a game of skill, the chances of winning aren’t worth the potential return if the pot is a few dollars light.
The best bets to make instead
It’s difficult to say with any certainty what kind of bets a person should be making. After all, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. But there are ways you can avoid making sucker bets as much as possible.
The first step is only betting on sports you understand. If you don’t follow a sport closely, you’re just asking for trouble if you start placing bets on it. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in sports betting just because you watch a lot of games.
However, knowledge is always power, especially when it comes to betting. The more you know about a particular sport, the teams involved, and the traits that help a team win, the better off you’ll be.
Naturally, the same applies to casino games. Don’t start betting money on a game you don’t understand. When you try playing blackjack or poker without much experience, it’s like betting on a sport you don’t follow.
The same principle works in reverse, too. It is not uncommon at all for skilled poker players who routinely succeed at the tables to lose their winnings betting on sports without any knowledge or strategy regarding how to do so.
If you don’t have the skills to play casino games, stick to the slot machines where it’s all luck and no skill involved. If you’re interested in casino games, try playing online or with friends with nothing at stake until you’re more familiar with the game.
Another good way to avoid sucker bets is to avoid betting based on your emotions. Any bet you place should be based on knowledge and probability. It’s all about looking at numbers, understanding them and finding value.
For sports betting, that means taking off your fan hat. Try to avoid betting on teams you like or even teams you hate. In either case, your emotions are bound to cloud your judgment.
Obviously, it’d be great if your favorite team wins and you make money at the same time, but rooting for a team doesn’t make that team a good bet. You have to keep those two worlds separate to avoid making a sucker bet.
You also have to be careful not to bet too frequently or risk too much money. Odds are, you’re not going to have much success as a bettor by wagering on every game possible.
Oddsmakers are typically smart people who are good at what they do, meaning they don’t make a lot of mistakes. The trick is to look for games where the point spread or the moneyline is a little off. You need to find games that present value based on the information at your disposal rather than betting your hunch on every game.
At the same time, you don’t want to bet more than a reasonable amount on any game. Remember, there are no sure things in sports betting.
You also can’t be in a rush to earn your money back after a couple of losses. That’s no different from betting based on your emotions. Any time you’re placing bets just for the sake of placing bets, you’re likely to find a sucker bet.
The best way to earn your money back after a couple of losses is to make smart bets, not more bets. Think of betting like a marathon and know that you have time to make up ground. If you don’t, you’ll tire yourself out and fall even further behind.
The final say on sucker bets
In the end, there will rarely be a neon sign pointing out sucker bets to sports bettors and casino gamblers. However, bettors of all experience levels should always remember that they exist.
Betting is an inexact science, and there will be times when the potential payout is not worth the risk. These are the kind of sucker bets that you must detect and avoid.
The best way to avoid sucker bets is to remember they exist and know what they look like. From there, patience is key.
If bettors take their time, avoid getting emotional, and gather as much information as possible before making a wager, they can avoid making sucker bets. If you put in the work and make sound, rational choices, you’ll never be a sucker.