Dead Heat Rules in Golf Betting: What to Know, Examples, And How Each U.S. Book Handles Them

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Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele

The term dead heat — when two participants finish exactly even — got its name from racing.

But it comes up far more often in golf betting.

A dead heat usually refers to ties in finishing position bets like Top 5’s, Top 10’s and Top 20’s, plus others like first-round leader bets.

When tied, your stake is usually cut by how many players are tied for those spots.

If a golfer ends up tied for 10th with three other golfers and you had him to finish top 10, you won’t get paid the full amount. In some instances, you might even lose money.

If you’re in Colorado, New Jersey, Indiana or West Virginia, you should bet finishing positions at BetMGM, which is the only U.S. book we can find that pays all ties in full for finishing position bets.

So what exactly is a dead heat, and how are the payouts calculated?

Here’s an example from the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge, with dead-heat situations on both Top 5 and Top 10 wagers.

Dead Heat Example

Place Golfer Score
1 Daniel Berger -15
2 Collin Morikawa -15
T-3 Justin Rose -14
T-3 Bryson DeChambeau -14
T-3 Jason Kokrak -14
T-3 Xander Schauffele -14
T-7 Bubba Watson -13
T-7 Patrick Reed -13
9 Gary Woodland -12
T-10 Sungjae Im -11
T-10 Jordan Spieth -11
T-10 Justin Thomas -11
T-10 JT Poston -11

This event had four players tied for third. They occupied positions 3-6 on the leaderboard.

Therefore, if you bet any of them to finish Top 5 at a book that applies dead heat rules (which is pretty much all of them in the United States), your stake was cut to 75% of the original bet.

That’s because there were only three spots for four tied players in the Top 5.

A $40 bet on Justin Rose at +900 to finish Top 5 becomes a $30 bet. You lose the other $10.

Stake Bet Total Return
Pre-Tournament: $40 Rose Top 5 (+900) $400
Result: $30 Rose Top 5 (+900) $300

Tenth-place at the Charles Schwab also had dead-heat rules apply, but because there was only one spot available for four tied players, your stake would take an even bigger hit.

Justin Thomas to finish Top 10 before the tournament was around +200. Your stake would be cut by to 75%, with only the one spot available for four players.

So a $100 bet on Thomas becomes a $25 bet at +200. That means you profit $50 and you lose the other $75 originally wagered, resulting in a net loss of $25.

Stake Bet Total Return
Pre-Tournament: $100 Thomas Top 10 (+200) $300
Result: $25 Thomas Top 10 (+200) $-25

How Is the Money Split?

At most sportsbooks, your stake will be cut by the number of tied golfers relative to the spots available. Some others will cut the odds. And there could be a big difference in money depending on the bet.

MGM doesn’t have dead-heat rules at all, and will pay ties in full. PointsBet cuts the odds. Most others cut the stake.

You won’t notice a difference between the stake and odds getting cut when betting $10 on a 100-1 first-round leader longshot, but when betting Top 5’s, 10’s and 20’s at lower odds, you can lose money on a dead-heat result, like the Thomas example above.

But you almost always want the odds cut, not the stake.

Let’s say Rory McIlroy is +200 to finish top 20, and he finishes in a two-way tie for 20th. In this case, it’s clear you’d rather have the odds cut to +100 than the stake cut to $50.

  • $100 at +100 = $200 total return
  • $50 at +200 = $150 total return

Even if you’re betting longshots, where the stake is small and the payout is large, you usually want to have the odds cut.

Let’s say Jason Kokrak is 24-1 to finish Top 5, and he ties for fifth with two other players.

  • $100 at +800 = $900 return
  • $33.33 at +2400 = $833.33 return

Of course, you’d rather have no dead-heat applied at all. So bet at MGM if you can.

Which Books Do What?

No dead heat is a tremendous advantage for bettors, assuming the prices are comparable to other books. (It’s really difficult to put exact math on it, but if the prices are far worse at a non-dead heat book, it’s not worth the hopes of getting paid in full).

Legal U.S. books with no dead heat for finishing position bets: 

Some of MGM’s odds for finishing position are worse than the market, but others aren’t.

Typically, dead heat books will offer slightly better odds overall, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have the best odds on every golfer.

Here’s how much each book held from their Top 20 market for the 2020 RBC Heritage.

Book Hold Grading
PointsBet 26.4% Odds Cut
BetMGM 26.7% No Dead Heat
Bet365 22.05% Stake Cut

Odds are cut, not the stake:

 Books where the stake is cut:

Bet365 will cut the odds, not the stake, for certain bets like first-round leaders.

FanDuel, on the other hand, will cut the stake for FRL bets.

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