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In any betting market there is a favourite and an outsider. The outsider has a bigger price than the favourite. This outcome can also be known as the underdog.
In match odds for the outcome of a football betting event, the team with the smallest chance of winning is the outsider. In horse racing outsiders are seen as not having a chance of winning a race. However, favourites can be beaten and outsiders do win races. Bookmakers prefer to see outsiders win as they take the least money on these outcomes.
A betting market comprises of a range of odds which have been designed to make bookmakers a profit and entice customers to bet. The odds on offer reflect the probability of an outcome. When two teams are mismatched there will be a big favourite and the price of the underdog will reflect the disparity.
For example, if a Premier League team plays a non-league team at home in the FA Cup they will be big favourites and the non-league team will be the outsiders. The potential return from backing the outside is bigger from the profit from a winning favourite.
Some bettors prefer to back the outsider over the favourite as the odds are bigger and the there is a better potential profit if the outsider wins. Indeed, outsiders win fewer matches or races than favourites but the odds are bigger.
You can make money backing outsiders but this strategy is based on a low strike rate and significant returns for a low stake. Favourite backers enjoy a better strike rate but a smaller profit from each winning bet. Outsiders do win matches and races enough times to attract bets but the favourite wins more often but this is reflected in the odds.
The FA Cup has developed a reputation for outsider victories, particularly when lower or non-league teams face opposition from a higher division at home. Hereford United beating Newcastle in 1972 was among the first such shocks, and remains the most famous, thanks in part to Ronnie Radford’s long-range winner. It was the first time a non-league team had beaten a team from the First Division in a competitive fixture.