Longshot Betting Term Meaning

The phrase ‘longshot’ is used in many different scenarios and situations to describe a wild idea that doesn’t stand much chance of being successful. Does it have the same meaning in the world of sports betting? Our article has the answer.

In almost every match, there will be favourites and underdogs. Finding out which one is which is easily accomplished by looking at the betting odds. The favourite will always have shorter odds than the underdog. 

Sometimes, in a two-way betting market, there might not be a lot of difference. For example the following NBA game. There isn’t too much to choose between these teams in terms of recent performances and it’s reflected in the betting.

NBA Match Winner (Incl. OT)Odds 
Oklahoma City Thunder 2.03
Indiana Pacers 1.88

On other occasions, the betting is not so close. Take for example the English Premier League match between top-of-the-table Manchester City and relegation-threatened Fulham. Bet365 is offering 21.0 (20/1 in fractional) on Fulham winning. In other words, ‘It’s a longshot.’

English Premier LeagueOdds 
Fulham 1.12
Draw 9.00
Manchester City 21.00

Longshots can also be called outsiders. You get longshots in every type of sport. Horse racing is well-known for having its fair share of longshots. 

These are the horses that stand little chance of winning, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. Here are a few of the most famous longshots that overcome the odds on their path to glory:

  • Leicester City winning the Premiership title: 2000/1
  • James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocking out ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson: 42/1
  • St Louis Cardinals winning the 2011 World Series: 300/1
  • Mine That Bird winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby: 50/1
  • Men’s US Ice Hockey to win gold at the 1980 Olympics: 1000/1

Should I Bet On A Longshot?

The short answer is, no. There is a good reason why the horse, team or player is a longshot in the first place, so longshot betting as a strategy is very risky. 

Documented research and studies have also shown that bookmakers offer shorter odds on longshots that are disproportionate to the betting favourite.

A paper by David Paton and Leighton Vaughan Williams that was published in The Economic Journal proved this theory, which is termed favourite-longshot bias. 

The study found from 481 horse races involving 4,689 runners, betting on horses with odds of 2.0 or lower had 7% losses, but punters who bet on horses that were 41.0 and over experienced losses of 40%.

Longshot FAQ

What is a longshot?

A longshot is a betting term used to describe a wager that is a big outsider and usually at long (large) odds.