Stuckey: To Hedge or Not to Hedge Super Bowl Future Bets: It Depends!
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: George Kittle
To hedge or not to hedge? That is the question posed by bettors all over since the beginning of time … err beginning of betting.
That question gets asked more frequently in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl than almost any other time of the year, so we decided to field questions from bettors who are struggling with the existential question of to hedge or not to hedge.
You may hear some say: “Hedging is for gardeners” — implying that one should never hedge. Meanwhile, you may see others constantly hedging parlays and/or futures to lock in some profit.
So, what is the correct approach? Well, like many questions in the finance field, which is where the concept of hedging originated, it depends.
Before we get into some specific questions we received, I’ll share some of my general thoughts on the concept of “hedging” a future in the way that bettors understand the term.
Most of the time, from a pure mathematical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to hedge a position with such a high expected value — whether we’re talking about the last leg of a moneyline parlay or a future.
For example, if you have a Chiefs future at 8-1 like Justin D. or Ed R. tell us about below, that’s a phenomenal position to be in with the Chiefs needing to win one game as a small favorite.
It’s even rosier for Josh P. and Matt C. — who emailed us about their pending futures on the Chiefs 13-1 and 49ers 22-1, respectively.
However, most bettors don’t do so professionally and don’t live in a pure mathematical vacuum, so there are other factors to consider. And that’s assuming no information has changed since you made the bet.
Had Patrick Mahomes suffered an injury in the AFC Championship Game, that would certainly change the outlook for how to approach a preseason Kansas City future.
But if no material information has changed, the decision to hedge or not and if so, how much, depends on a number of other factors that will differ from person to person.
- The objective of your future. Did you originally place it with thoughts of hedging? Or did you see value in the number and like the team you backed? If the latter, you should probably let it ride.
- Bet amount. Did you throw just a few peanuts on a future, risking a substantially less amount than your normal bet size? If so, you may just want to let it ride.
- Payout odds. Is it some crazy long shot that you are considering a hedge for or is it a standard 8-1 future? If it’s a longshot, it may make sense to hedge a little based on the impact to your bankroll.
- Risk tolerance level. Some people are more risk averse than others. If you are risk-loving, you will let it ride. But if you are on the other end of the extreme, you should probably lock in something.
- Financial situation. Do you need the money for something more important? If you are doing this recreationally, guaranteeing some profit to take care of a critical life expense may make sense.
- Other psychological factors. If you are a relatively inexperienced bettor, will not cashing at all lead to some form of tilt and then reckless betting decisions? If so, hedge a little bet. But be careful not to ever make betting decisions based on regret aversion.
You should also consider how you feel about the Super Bowl matchup. If you have a 49ers future but feel strongly about a Chiefs victory, then you should hedge a little.
If you do decide to hedge, you can ensure you don’t lose anything with a high upside (ex. bet the Chiefs moneyline for your original 49ers future bet amount) or maximize your net profit regardless of outcome (see below for examples). You can also take an approach in between those two extremes depending on some of the factors I mentioned above.
That’s my condensed answer for when someone asks “should I hedge”. As you can see, it’s fairly difficult to answer that question on Twitter. And even the above explanation barely scratches the surface. When in doubt, use this rule of thumb:
If you need to hedge, do it. If not, let it ride.
Okay, time to answer a few very specific questions we received in regards to hedging pending future positions for this particular Super Bowl.
Hedging your Super Bowl future? Check out FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Q: Back in December I took both chiefs and 49ers hoping 1 would get in. Low and behold they both made it! Anything to do here or just sit back and watch it play out? I have $300 to win $2000 on 49ers and $500 to win $4000 on Chiefs. — Gary. O
Congrats, Gary! Helluva position to be in. You can certainly let both ride and either walk away with either $3700 net profit if the Chiefs win or $1500 if the 49ers do. If you really like the Chiefs, I definitely wouldn’t do anything, especially if none of the aforementioned factors don’t apply to you.
However, if you lean the 49ers or simply want to maximize your profit regardless of result, then I’d toss $1100 on the 49ers moneyline, which is right at around even money (obviously shop for the best price). In this scenario, you’d profit $2600 regardless of the outcome. To illustrate the math
- 49ers win the Super Bowl $2000+$1100-$500 = $2600
- Chiefs win the Super Bowl: $4000-$300-$1100 = $2600
Q: Big time follower on Twitter and Action Network. Love your work! I have two futures on the Chiefs. The first one is for $500 to win $3275 I bet before the Patriots blew the second seed. And the second was Pre-AFC Championship for $1250 to win $1750. I am leaning towards placing $2,000 on the Niners Moneyline, but was wondering your thoughts. Is it too Greedy to bet the Niners +3.5 at -170 and try and middle!! — Evan H.
We received an almost identical question from Brian S, who can apply the following to his situation as well.
My answer to “is it too greedy to try to middle” would be … it depends!
Again, that comes down to your own personal risk aversion level. You essentially have $1750 to win $5,025 on the Chiefs, so right about 3-1. It sounds like you’ve been confident in Kansas City all along, especially if you didn’t have a lot of other futures. Therefore, having a price of just under +300 when Kansas City is a slight favorite is an enviable position.
That said, I can’t blame you for wanting to lock in some profit. If that was potentially part of your goal when making these wagers or you were hoping to avoid the 49ers (or have been more impressed with San Fran than you were previously), then I’d lock in some profit. Throwing $2K on the 49ers moneyline gets you either a profit of $250 if the 49ers win or $3K if the Chiefs do. You can increase that 49ers moneyline bet if you want more balanced payouts accordingly.
Trying to middle isn’t too greedy at all but again, it just comes down to your risk aversion, personal wealth and intentions for this bet. If you are simply looking for a huge payday with a middle shot, you could throw $3K on the 49ers +3.5. And if the 49ers win outright, you breakeven overall. If the Chiefs win by 4 or more, you clear $2K. And if the Chiefs win by a field foal or less, you profit a bit under $7K.
Also, don’t forget that you could also wait to hedge a little live if you are okay with potentially never getting the right shot to do so. If the 49ers come out and return the opening kick for a touchdown and then roll to a 38-0 victory, you may never get a shot. But you could also get a much better number if that’s a risk you’re willing to take.
Q: Hey im a bettor in college so i only do $15 on my futures. I have 49ers at +600 and 49ers to beat chiefs at +900. Should i hedge? If so, how much? — Matt G.
Nothing wrong with $15 futures as a college student or even as an adult. Always bet within your means and at a level that you are comfortable with.
You essentially have the 49ers to win the Super Bowl for $30 to win $225 or +750. That’s extremely good odds for a team that’s a 1.5-point underdog. However, based on the little information you provided, it seems as if locking in a few dollars would be important in your particular situation,
Therefore, if you are looking to secure some beer money regardless of the result, throw $50 or $100 on the Chiefs moneyline. The amount should depend on how confident you are in San Fran winning and how much you want to lock in.
But if you are comfortable with losing both futures and are looking to build up a bankroll slowly for future betting, let them ride. If this is more of a recreational gig for entertainment while in college, lock in a little scratch.
Q: I have about $400 to win $4,000 on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. What do you think I should do? (Also a Chiefs fan attending the game) — Cale C.
I think everything I detailed above should at least help you decide what to do but I wanted to highlight this specific question because an emotional hedge is a real thing! We are humans after all.
If walking out of the stadium after your team loses with zero dollars pocketed from this future sounds like the worst day of your life, maybe throw a 1,000 on the 49ers moneyline. That will at least cover your drinks when you drown your sorrows away after the game at a Miami bar. This is especially true if you only bet this future as a biased fan.
But if you really loved the value of the future, don’t need the money and like the matchup, let it ride for the potential night of your life.
Ultimately, IT DEPENDS!