In 2019, betting against the Illini is more profitable than the stock market


(Sports betting is not legal in Illinois. This is for entertainment purposes only.)


If you’re like me, you watched the Illini game slowly slip away last night. First, they gave up the lead, and then, as we’re so used to saying, they gave up the spread (which was between +6 and +7 last night). It’s a tale all-too-familiar for Illini fans.

When I got on the computer this morning, my friend messaged me and asked:

I wonder, if you bet $100 on the opponent spread against the Illini for every major sport over the past year, how well your money would have done compared to mutual funds and the s&p

– local disappointed Illini bettor

So we got to thinking – this data has to exist somewhere, right? Luckily, Covers.com has historical spreads dating back years.

For the sake of this study, I collected Illinois’ record against the spread in football and men’s basketball over the past year. It breaks down like this:

Illini Basketball:

18/19: 8-13

Illini Football:

2018: 5-7

Combined record: 13-20

Ok – so now we know that betting against the Illini would be profitable – but just how profitable? 33 bets at $100 creates a hypothetical $3,300 initial investment to guarantee a play on every game over the past year.

At $100 per game, for example, Illini wins vs. the spread would create a loss of -$1,300.

Seeing as though spread odds are never even, I’m going to assume -110 odds for each win. These wins (and Illini losses vs. the spread) would produce a profit of $1,818.18 and a total bankroll of 3,818.18. This would leave you with a total profit of $518.18, or a 15.7% Return on Investment (ROI).


As I’m sure many of you know, a 15.7% ROI is substantial. It’s much better than investments like bonds and banks and even the stock market.

If you were to compare this super-high-risk-but-very-easy ‘investment strategy’ with the stock market, it even beats them (sort of). The S+P 500’s ROI since the August 31, 2018 (the beginning of this year’s football season) is 3.03%. The S+P 500’s long-term average return is 8.84%, just over half of the ROI of betting against the Illini. The ROI of betting against the Illini even beats the 10-year ROI of the S+P 500, which is 13.01%.

This may be a fluke – if you average both sports’ records against the spread over the past five years, for example, you get an overall record of 88-112 with an ROI of 6.9%. Still more than a savings account or a bond, and just below the average for the stock market.

So, folks – if you’ve ever wanted to make some money off of watching depressing Illini basketball (instead of watching people scream at each other on CNBC), we may have an investment strategy that works.

Just bet against us.

Go Illini.