Is Chasing Sports Betting Losses a Winning Strategy?

Silhouette of Man Chasing Money Flying Away

For as long as games of chance have been around there have been gamblers who’re convinced that they can beat the house by doubling their bets after losses. This is so popular that it even has a name. It’s called the Martingale system.

Most Martingale users stick with games like roulette, but some sports bettors try to use it to make profit at the sportsbooks. Find out if chasing sports betting losses is a winning strategy or not below.

The Math of Chasing

Most bets gamblers make when they’re starting a string where they plan to double their bets after losses until they get a win are on even money wagers. Gamblers playing roulette bet on red or black or odd or even and win 1 to 1 on winning bets.

This makes the math simple. You keep doubling your wager after losses and when you win you secure a profit equal to your first bet amount.

Sports betting is more challenging because you pay vig on losing wagers.

Using the common vig of paying 110 to win 100, you have to bet more than twice your last losing bet to lock in a profit equal to your first bet in the string.

$110 to win $100

$231 to win $210

$485 to win $441

$1,019 to win $926

$2,140 to win $1,945

$4,494 to win $4,085

As you can see, the bet size required to lock in a $100 profit quickly becomes high. Starting with a wager of $110, if you lose five bets in a row you’re risking $4,494. This is too much to stomach for most handicappers. And this is the main reason why professional sports bettors don’t tend to chase losses.

The other thing you need to know is that even though most of them don’t like to admit it, even the best handicappers lose five, six, or more bets in a row from time to time. And these are people who make a long term profit betting on sports.

This means that every other sports bettor in the world is bound to lose five or more games in a row from time to time.

NFL Receiver Catching the Ball

The math is even more complicated and gets bigger faster when you make moneyline bets on favorites. This is one way some sports bettors use a chasing system. They believe that a big favorite on the moneyline is bound to win most of the time, so they can afford to chase losses, counting on a win in the first two or three bets.

But consider the math and bet sizes you’re forced to make after just two losses in a row on favored teams. I’m using a fairly conservative moneyline of -300 in this example, so imagine how ugly it gets picking even bigger favorites.

You make a bet of $300 to win $100 and lose. Now you have to bet enough to cover the $300 you lost plus a profit of $100.

Your next bet is $1,200 to win $400. If you lose this bet you have to cover the $1,200, plus your original $300, plus a $100 profit.

This makes your third bet $4,800 to win $1,600. In just two steps you went from risking $300 to $4,800.

Betting Limits

If you ignore everything else, the first problem you’re going to run into is betting limits. You have to be able to get large bets down to keep chasing your losses. The numbers in the last section are based on small initial bets of either $110 or $300. And the truth is that the risk for a small return of $100 isn’t worth it.

But if you start at a higher number, like $550 to win $500 or $1,100 to win $1,000, you can quickly run up against the top betting limits at most sportsbooks. This happens even faster when you’re using moneyline wagers on favorites to chase losses.

Bankroll Limitations

Even if you can figure out a way around the top betting limits, the other big problem is your bankroll. If you have hundreds of thousands or millions to throw around chasing losses, you probably have better options for investing your money.

If you’re like most of us, you don’t have this kind of money to throw around. How much can you afford to risk for a relatively small return? How much can you afford to lose without losing everything, including your house, cars, and probably your family?

Take a hard look at the limits of your bankroll before you ever consider chasing sports betting losses.

It Can Work – But It’s Dangerous

Every sports bettor wants to believe that they can handicap games good enough that they aren’t going to lose more than two or three in a row. But the truth is that even the best handicappers in the world aren’t good enough to avoid losing streaks, so there’s no way you’re going to avoid them.

With all of that being said, there’s never been a better time to chase sports betting losses. I’ve covered the problems with chasing losses, and you have access to something today that bettors in the past didn’t. You have access to a large and diverse sports betting market.

There are more places available to you to place bets than ever before.

Sportsbooks are legal in more places than ever, and more are being legalized every year. You also have access to internet based sportsbooks where you can place wagers.

This means that it’s easier than ever to get a lot of action down on a game. You might have to split your action up between two or more sportsbooks, but you can get a large amount in action easier than ever before.

I can’t do anything about your bankroll situation. You either have a large enough bankroll to chase losses until you win or you don’t. But if you do have a big enough bankroll and can stomach risking thousands for the chance to lock in a small profit after a series of losses, the opportunity is there.

All of this leads to the conclusion that chasing losses in sports betting can work, but it’s dangerous. Many gamblers have gone broke chasing losses. They believe that they’re due for a win so they keep betting more and more until they lose everything. Don’t make this same mistake.

Should You Chase Sports Betting Losses?

The truth is that you’ve already made up your mind about chasing losses. Nothing I say here is going to change what you do. But I’m still going to offer two pieces of advice.

The first thing is I don’t recommend chasing losses in any gambling situation, including sports betting. The risk is simply too great for a small reward. Any time you start to think about chasing losses or see something about a system that involves chasing losses, run away as fast as you can.

The second thing I want to share with you is some advice if you’re convinced that you have to try chasing losses. Set a total budget for chasing losses in sports betting and stick with it no matter what. When you lose your chasing budget, stop chasing. I also recommend making the smallest bet possible to start.

Closeup of Two NBA Players During a Game

If you set a budget of $1,000 and start with an $11 to win $10 wager you can try to chase without losing your house. But you’re only going to be protected if you stop when you lose your $1,000 budget. Another thing you can do is ignore the bet progression I included in the first section and simply double the win amount.

Using a starting bet of $11 to win $10, use a progression of $20, $40, $80, $160, and $320. After you lose a couple bets in a row you’re not going to win enough to make much money, but you can come close to breaking even overall until you lose six wagers in a row. And when this happens, hopefully you’ve learned that chasing is a bad idea and you move on to a form of handicapping that gives you a better long term chance at success.

Conclusion

Please allow me to save you quite a bit of time and a great deal of money. Chasing sports betting losses is a terrible idea. If you can afford to do it, you have better options for making money. If you can’t afford to do it, you need to stop gambling. If you simply have to give it a try, find an online sportsbook that takes $1 bets and set aside $100 you can afford to lose. It’s still a bad idea, but at least you won’t lose too much proving it.