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How to Spot an Upset

How to Spot an Upset: Super Bowl LV - Tom Brady & Rob Gronkowski - Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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Unexpected winners are frustrating for sports bettors who prefer to play it safe. Bettors can feel duped by the hype that informed their wagers. However, long-shot winners can be insanely profitable. Remember, +900 odds pay out $900 for every $100 wagered. Anyone who can call an upset early on can take advantage of some great odds. 

What Makes An Upset? 

There’s no single way to call an upset with certainty. But there are factors bettors can look for to help them consider which underdogs are worth putting money on. Today we’ll dive into our two biggest factors – Experienced Underdogs and Troubled Favorites. 

Experienced Underdogs 

There are a few ways to catch an upset. Sometimes, bettors and media figures simply underestimate the underdog. Normally, we can watch a fight and figure out how the underdog came through in hindsight. We did that when Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor. McGregor had public opinion on his side going into the fight. But anything can happen during the match, and Poirier came prepared with a strategy. He whittled McGregor down until he could land enough hits to take McGregor down. 

However, we also guessed that he had a chance. Both men fought each other before, and we figured Poirier might learn something from that fight. It appears that he had, which leads us to our first lesson: 

Here’s our first lesson – trust an experienced underdog. If an underdog has gone against the favorite before, it’s possible they learned something.

Troubled Favorites 

While the underdog may have prepared themselves for a competitive game, the favorite may have an “off” day. It’s impossible to predict a favorite who just botches their own performance just because of an “off” day. But other favorites have outstanding circumstances in their own lives that could put them off their game. 

One of the more tragic cases was the Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite Tom Brady’s leadership, the Buccaneers were underdogs and the Chiefs were the favorites. Many commentators felt secure in the knowledge that the Chiefs would bulldoze the Buccaneers. However, a few outside factors sowed doubt early on in those who paid attention. Andy Reid’s son and assistant coach, Britt Reid, was involved in a drunk driving accident days before the Super Bowl. 

That’s not the only reason the Chiefs lost the Super Bowl. Chiefs players were continuously flagged for unsportsmanlike behavior, and the effect of those flags seemed to infect the team. Tom Brady’s initiative before the end of the second quarter gave the Buccaneers another touchdown. There was a lot going against the Chiefs to begin with. 

But Tom Brady’s skill was evident before the start of the game, too. The Buccaneers’ offensive performance had been on full display leading up to the Super Bowl. But the Chiefs’ tragedy involving a man who’s both a coach and the head coach’s son could’ve tipped the scales against the Chiefs from bettors’ points of view. It should’ve cut through the noise enough to signal bettors to look more closely at their Super Bowl wagers. 

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Picking Upsets Early 

The two things to watch for are experienced underdogs and troubled favorites. Bettors should expect elite athletes to learn from previous competitions. So, if an underdog and favorite have faced off before, consider putting money on the underdog. Similarly, if there’s reason to think the favorite will be distracted or off their game, consider putting money on the underdog. 

This isn’t a perfect system. Elite athletes and their coaches routinely overcome hardship. But if hardship is sudden and surprising, it has a better chance of derailing a favorite. It’s nothing to gloat about. It’s just a way to gauge the likelihood of an underdog coming through. 

However, there’s an irreducible amount of uncertainty in sports. Underdogs can prevail through sheer luck. Both competitors will be highly trained. Both have a chance at winning, even if one is greater than the other. But catching upsets before they occur can be incredibly rewarding. Bettors can make a lot of money and earn bragging rights. It won’t work on every line, but it could help tilt the odds in your favor on a group of wagers. But a little risk is worth some bragging rights, right? 

Now that you have a better idea of how to predict a potential upset, check out our other Gambling 101 articles at The Odds Factory.

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