There are many different scenarios that can develop over the course of an NFL weekend, and if you are ever playing some of the more exotic wagers such as teasers or parlays, the concept of a “hedge wager” has to be discussed. So what exactly is a hedge? This is when you place a wager that actually goes against an original bet. To a casual observer, this seems extremely counterproductive: Why would you ever want to bet both sides of the same game? On rare occasions, this is actually the smart play and can guarantee a winning wager, one way or another – if you can properly determine how to place that second wager.
Allow me to explain with an example. Let’s say that you played a 6-game teaser bet over the weekend, with three college games and three NFL games, including Sunday Night Football. By the time the late slate of the NFL games are completed, you have won all of your first five games and now you just need to win the last contest to cash a ticket that wins you about seven times your original wager. That would mean a $700 profit on a $100 bet if you nailed the right side of the final game. But then, a thought crosses your mind. What if you bet on the other team for that last game? Spending the right amount, on the right wager, could lock in most of that profit regardless of the outcome of the final contest, and you can go to bed early knowing that you are waking up a winner on Monday morning. A lot can be said for playing things that way, and this is the attraction of a hedge bet.
Let’s say that the Giants and Eagles are the last contest for that same 6-game teaser, and you had Philadelphia as a -7 favorite, teased down to -1, essentially making the ticket a winner as long as the Eagles win. Let’s assume again that this is a $700 winner if Philadelphia is victorious, while a New York victory results in a $100 loss. If you notice that the Giants are getting +200 on the money line, a $200 bet on that will net a $300 profit ($200 x 2-1 odds (the +200 money line) minus the $100 on the losing teaser ticket), while an Eagles win nets $500 ($700 win on the teaser, less $200 spent on the Giants to win). This second wager reduces your profits overall, but “hedges” being 100% invested in winning only if that last pick (Eagles win) is successful. With the help of that hedge bet, a $300-$500 win is guaranteed, so while you are more profitable if the original pick (Eagles win) is correct, covering both sides of the game on the off-chance that the underdog pulls off the upset yields a $300 profit as a nice consolation prize.
This situation does not come up every day (or week), but it is important to understand the criteria where the hedging play may be the right play. While there are numerous possibilities for when this makes sense, the most common reason to make a hedge bet is to secure a big winning ticket with longer odds that is just about to win. The reason to bring up this topic is the exact situation that occurred this past week in “For The Win”, where four big teasers are about to all cash on Monday Night Football if the Saints beat Washington at home. If New Orleans wins, four multiple team teasers (6-team, 7-team, 8-team and a 9-team) all “hit”, netting a $4,100 win for a $100 wager on those four teasers. Would it not be nice to secure those wins, even before kickoff? Here is how to analyze this situation, and what can be done to lock in profits and just enjoy the Monday night game.
First, a little math is needed. What are the odds for “hedging” your original wager? In this case, the 6-point teaser calls for New Orleans to just win (Saints -0.5, to be exact), so the right hedge play steers you not to just look at Washington, but to take them to win the game as well. Thankfully, Las Vegas makes this an easy thing to look for, as it is just Washington’s Money Line, or a simple odds bet on whether or not they will win the game. Washington is a +230 underdog against New Orleans, which means every $100 wagered will win back $230 if Washington pulls off the upset. Finding the right mix of a bet on the underdog will secure a big profit, but what is the right way to play it?
Looking at a Money Line Conversion Chart can tell you that a Washington team getting +230 implies a 30% chance that an upset will happen. So, simple math can tell us the Expected Value of that 41-win teaser combination:
Expected Value =
(wins * odds to win) – (losses * odds of losing) =
(41 * 70%) – (4 * 30%) =
28.7 – 1.2 =
That number - 27.5 - means that any “hedge” that can secure 27.5 wins or more is still worth taking if it reduces the risk of not winning anything – or walking away a loser. That’s an extremely important point, and must be understood here. Securing wins is key to being a long-term winner, and that is the plan this very week.
Special note – Washington was as high as a +265 underdog on Sunday, so finding these hedge bets as quickly as possible is also extremely important, as odds can and do often change.
Finally, figuring out how much to use for a hedge bet we can start with an example of “10 units”, or $1,000 (since the original teasers are assumed to be at $100 – but it all scales if you stick with “units”). The math is nearly the same for every case – just take the expected wins (41) and subtract the number of units placed on the hedge bet. As long as that number is greater than the Expected Value, a hedge wager is in play for that amount. This means that 41-27.5 = 13.5 is the maximum hedge wager on Washington. Here are the results if $1,350 is placed on the Washington +230 Money Line:
- Hedge wager on Washington “For the Win” @ +230 for $1,350
- Teasers get $4,100 if New Orleans wins
- If Washington wins, net profit of ($1,350 x 2.3) - ($400 in lost teasers) = $3,105 - $400 = $2,705 profit
- If New Orleans wins, net profit of ($4,100 in teaser wins) – ($1,350 hedge) = $2,750 profit
So placing a $1,350 hedge bet on Washington secures a $2,700+ profit REGARDLESS OF THE RESULT OF THE LAST GAME. But is that the best approach? After all, the original wager expected the Saints to just win, and Las Vegas has New Orleans winning this contest 70% of the time. Targeting a 70% payout for a Saints win and 30% for a Washington win feels appropriate, which implies less of a hedge wager. Going to just “6.5 units”, or $650 on Washington results in:
- If Washington wins, net profit of ($650 x 2.3) - ($400 in lost teasers) = $1,495 - $400 = $1,095 profit
- If New Orleans wins, net profit of ($4,100 in teaser wins) – ($650 hedge) = $3,450 profit
Taking a smaller hedge – 8 units in this case, 6.5 units instead of the breakeven 13.5 – yields about a 30% profit of what would happen if the Saints win as expected (30% of $3,450 = $1,035, close to the $1,095 above).
So the bottom line is that there is no exactly perfect play, but taking Washington’s Money Line and hedging to secure a big win is the right play this week. If you followed along with For The Win this week, I would strongly recommend making the following hedge bet:
- 6.5-STAR HEDGE + WASHINGTON (“FOR THE WIN” +230) at NEW ORLEANS
Lastly, as pointed out above, the Money Line odds are likely far better on Sunday than on Monday, so having a rule of thumb would be nice to have to place a wager quickly. That is a very tough ask, but the recommended place to start would be at 15% of expected wins and then do the math quickly to see if the numbers look acceptable. In this case, 15% of 41 wins yields 6.15 units for hedging, so that is pretty close. Ideally, you can do more math, but time may not permit and a spreadsheet may not be available, but a phone with a calculator usually is. In these somewhat rare cases, taking both sides of the final game of the week can secure big profits and give you several good nights of sleep.
Best of luck this week!