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When you’re sifting through the betting options in your sportsbook account, you might come across “if bets.” It’s a great option for bettors hoping to diversify from the usual spread bets, moneylines, and totals.

However, if bets usually aren’t a great alternative, as they generally lack value. Our article below will start with the basics to explain what if bets are and then delve into the details as to why there is only one rare case where they should be employed.

What Are If Bets?

If bets are a type of wager that’s universally available at every sportsbook. This type of wager allows you to connect two straight bets.

If the first selection wins, then the second one becomes a live bet or ‘action’. If your first bet loses, the second bet never becomes action. As such, the second bet is always dependent on the first bet winning. Let’s take a closer look at the example below to see how they work.

example wager

We’re starting with a $150 bet, and remember that the order matters here. Since the Patriots are the first selection, they are the key to all of this.

If you bet $150 on the Patriots and they win, you’ll collect back $250 (your $150 stake and $100 in profit). With a straight bet on the Patriots, that would be the end of it.

However, since this is an if bet, and your first selection has won, then you rollover that same stake ($150) on the second bet. In this case, you’d bet $150 on the Packers. If the Packers win, you’d collect win $100 from the first bet and $50 for the second, making it a total profit of $150.

Keep in mind that there are a number of scenarios here.

  1. You could win the first bet and you could win the second bet.
  2. You could win the first and lose the second bet.
  3. You could lose the first bet and then the second isn’t even a factor.

possible out comes win lose

It’s in these four permutations that the strategy of if bets comes into play.

What Sports Do If Bets Apply to?

For the most part, if bets are available for the major team sports. That would include baseball, basketball, hockey, and football, as well as the college varieties.

Any type of bet where you can bet on a team to win is where you’ll find if bets available to you.

How to Use If Bets

The truth is that if bets just aren’t a very good option for bettors. What you really have to look at is the side-by-side comparison between playing two separate, single bets versus playing an if bet. Let’s use the same example from above to see where we’d end up:

example wager

With an if bet, we know from above that there are four scenarios in total. Here is what your bankroll will look like in each of those four permutations:

possible outcomes

As you can see here, in three of the four scenarios, you would end up losing money. Let’s take a look at how this would look if you bet these very same two bets but as individual bets rather than an if bet:

possible outcomes

Without diving too much into the analytics, the smarter decision is to play these two games as straight bets. As you can see, the first two scenarios land you in the same place.

However, it’s the bottom two where things are different. In short, with an if bet, you have a 75% chance of losing money and a 50% chance of losing at least $110. With your straight bets, you still have a 75% chance of losing money but in 75% of the outcomes, you’ll only be down $10 or you’ll win $200. You could lose $220—double what you would with an if bet—but that’s only a 25% shot.

How Sequence Can Impact If Bets

Taking our comparison one step further with if bets and straight bets, the challenge with the former is that sequence is not in your favor. The way you place your bets with if bets can hurt you and that further drops your percentages (in comparison to straight bets).

For example, with your straight bets, we’ve established that going 1-1 will drop you -$10 regardless of which team you bet first or second. In other words, let’s say the Patriots win and the Packers lose. In any scenario, you’re still down $10 after those two bets.

However, with an if bet, if the losing bet is your first choice, then you end up losing $110 even if you go 1-1. If the Patriots win and they’re your first bet, then yes, you’ll go 1-1 as you would with a straight bet and end up in the same position (-$10).

The challenge is in the case that the Packers are the losing bet and they are the first leg of your if bet. In that case, you lose that bet and your Patriots bet is never activated, so you still end up down $110. With straight bets, that doesn’t matter.

When If Bets Are Useful

There really aren’t many scenarios where if bets are recommended, but one scenario is if your bankroll is shrinking rapidly, and you’re finding yourself short.

Remember, in our previous example, you’d need $220 to bet both the Patriots and the Packers. You’d bet $110 on each. However, if your bankroll is running low and you only have $110 in total, the if bet gives you the opportunity to still bet $110 on both even though you don’t have $220 to play with.

In this case, an if bet could make some sense, but remember, you’re not improving your odds. They still stay the same and the math still tells you that it’s smarter to bet $110 on each of these bets individually.

The best play here is to fund your account a little bit more so that you have more money to play with or to bet less, but bet on both sides.

Ultimately, If Bets Are Not Very Common

If bets are rarely used in the sports betting community because they rarely make sense to use. To start, many people just aren’t familiar with the finer details of how they work. As for advanced bettors, they have a clear idea that the math just doesn’t support the case for using them.

Also, if bets mimic a lot of more familiar options that are already out there. For example, a bettor might play a parlay, which is slightly riskier but offers a greater payout. Or a bettor might just opt to place two individual bets. There simply isn’t a great necessity to use if bets as there are other, better options available.

Up Your Game Today!

If you’ve always seen these if bets in your sportsbook account from the corner of your eye, now you know exactly what they are and how they work. If you’d like to learn more about sports betting and different strategies behind it, check out all of the articles in our betting 101 section.