Sure Gamble and Hedge Fund, two cards that are identical apart from which player they belong to (Sure Gamble on the runner side, Hedge Fund on the corp side) hold a special status in Netrunner (to the extent that they were reprinted in System Gateway, a set that otherwise intentionally avoided reprints). They're generally considered sufficiently better than the other cards that do the same job that they're a 3-of in the vast majority of Netrunner decks; no other cards are quite that ubiquitous (even Paperclip sometimes loses out to speciality fracters which fit the deck better, and some decks don't run fracters at all, but every deck needs economy).
Unsurprisingly, Sure Gamble has collected a range of reviews, so it's surprising that Hedge Fund's review page is fairly derelict, mostly saying "this is just Sure Gamble on the corp side". That's a pity, because as the Runner and Corp are so mechanically different, the effect of Hedge Fund and Sure Gamble on the game can be quite different from each other. Let's fix that.
Starting from the start, Hedge Fund is pretty much a pure economy card – as long as you have at least 5, you can trade your Hedge Fund and a click for four credits. This is generally considered a pretty good rate of return, and if you're running a "normal" style of deck, it's hard to match this; so in any Corp deck that wants economy, and almost all decks do, Hedge Fund is normally good enough to win itself three deck slots. However, it's worth noting that Hedge Fund is notably less powerful than Sure Gamble – Sure Gamble is often the best card in the deck it's in, whereas Hedge Fund is quite frequently beaten (but still good enough that it typically gets a deck slot anyway). Let's look at some of the reasons why:
The Corp has less ability to avoid dropping below 5 than the Runner does. In order to play Hedge Fund, you need to be able to play a 5 operation. Runners are normally able to avoid going very low on credits; it takes a specific sort of corp deck (nearly always in NBN) to intentionally drain the Runner's credits, whereas Diversion of Funds is a real threat that could come out of almost any Criminal deck (and if the Runner plays DofF, then you're almost certainly going to end up poor, whether from the effect of the card itself or the cost of rezzing ICE to stop it). There are entire deck archetypes based around dropping the Corp to near 0 and then taking advantage of their inability to rez or play anything to keep them there. (Incidentally, this is the same reason that Beanstalk Royalties is a lot better than Easy Mark.) So at the time you're most in need of economy, Hedge Fund doesn't help at all.
It's also worth noting that a Runner deck that can't consistently stay above 8 or so is highly likely to die to Hard-Hitting News – Runner decks that can't make use of Sure Gamble are thus unplayable for reasons unrelated to Sure Gamble itself. There isn't a corresponding effect like this that affects Corps (the closest is Mining Accident which has a much smaller impact on the game), so it isn't always ridiculous to build a Corp deck that frequently can't scrape together the funds required for their hedges. (Indeed, with the release of Bladderwort, some Corps have been experimenting with the strategy of being consistently poor.)
The Corp has less ability to cheat on Hedge Fund's 5 cost. This is a more minor point, but there are plenty of Runner cards that can discount events (e.g. Prepaid VoicePAD, Patchwork, Mystic Maemi, and most recently Ghosttongue), and because the Runner's rig is fairly hard for the Corp to disturb, they can safely be installed without any special care or protection. I can't remember whether any currently legal Corp cards discount the cost of operations, but doubt any of them are being widely played – such cards would probably be assets, and assets can be pretty hard to defend for many decks.
This means that Sure Gamble is more playable at low credit totals than Hedge Fund is.
Many Corp decks have some specific economic synergy available that outpaces Hedge Fund. In most Runner decks, Sure Gamble is about as efficient as you can get in terms of burst credits from a single card. On the Corp side, though, there are a lot of conditional economic operations that give you huge economic boosts as long as you're running the appropriate deck or identity. Some examples:
- Fully Operational needs just two iced assets to give a better rate of return than Hedge Fund does – any deck that's designed around icing assets will be able to reach that point pretty early in the game.
- NGO Front is a super-powerful economy card in Weyland Consortium: Built to Last, usable from 1 and giving a 6 profit as a double or 8 as a triple – and that's just if you use it as a pure economic operation, and you can get extra use out of it as a shell game card at the same time. (Its use as an economy card, as opposed to a shell game card, is debatable in some identities, but Built to Last's extra 2 gives it favourable numbers even when you look only at the economic use.)
- Celebrity Gift normally gives a 7 profit as a double. In Hyoubu Institute: Absolute Clarity, it gives 8. It does have a downside, but 8 as a double is such a large gain that Hyoubu decks benefit from being built to withstand the downside.
- Too Big to Fail is worth 10 to The Outfit (and Hostile Takeover is worth 8 as a triple – not a bad rate of return for something that also gives you an agenda point!). There's an obvious downside, but if you're playing The Outfit, your deck is going to be based around living with that downside.
- In decks that can protect economic assets on an ongoing basis, it's frequently possible to get 3 per turn, which makes Hedge Fund's 4 as a one-off look poor by comparison. The current way to do that is Daily Quest, although Commercial Bankers Group was also popular until it rotated.
- In decks that can protect economic assets but only for a turn or two, Regolith Mining License gives a 13 profit over six clicks, giving a lot of economy for a small number of deck slots (and fitting very well into the typical glacier deck's plan – generally, the times at which the scoring server is free are the times at which they need economy, so when you need to use it, you can).
- Mass Commercialization is banned nowadays, but before that, it was often worth 10-12 in an appropriate deck.
This sort of economic combo is fairly common on the Corp side, meaning that if you're playing a Corp which has something like this available, the combo going to be your primary source of economy, and once it gets going, Hedge Fund will look more like an afterthought.
Despite all this, Hedge Fund normally ends up meriting three slots in most Corp decks, even though deck slot competition is really high there. Partly this is because Sure Gamble is one of the best cards in Netrunner, so "it's worse than Sure Gamble" isn't in itself a reason to reject a card; almost every Netrunner card is worse than Sure Gamble. Partly, it's because Hedge Fund is one of the best ways to make money quickly on turn 1, whilst leaving clicks over to do other things; if you want to be able to rez an Anansi on the Runner's first turn, or want to threaten being able to rez a hypothetical Anansi that you didn't draw, then Hedge Fund is the easiest way to reach the appropriate credit total whilst still leaving clicks to install ICE. As such, Hedge Fund's value in the early game is often high enough that it benefits even decks for which it's mostly outclassed later in the game.
The other big reason to run Hedge Fund, and something that isn't applicable to Sure Gamble at all, is that it does not have a trash cost. This means that Hedge Fund passively helps to save you from repeated R&D runs. Now, there are plenty of cards without trash costs in Netrunner, but most of them have fairly fixed roles in a deck – depending on the needs of your deck, you'll have some specific number of ICE, be able to afford a certain number of non-economic operations, and so on. Economic cards are more interchangable, and most of the best economic cards are assets or agendas, therefore trashable or stealable from R&D. Hedge Fund has the advantage of being an operation with pretty decent numbers, so you can run it in a slot that might otherwise have to go to an economic asset with a similar rate of return, and thus picking Hedge Fund over the asset helps make R&D just that little bit more secure. In Corp decks with a sufficiently strong economy, this will be the primary benefit to Hedge Fund late game – the 4 can become fairly irrelevant by that point, but the lack of a trash cost matters all game long.
The main consequences of all this are that Sure Gamble is in over 90% of Runner decks (it feels like over 99%, although some tournament results seem to disagree with this?), whereas Hedge Fund is a little lower; tournament results put it at 80-90%, which feels low to me (I would have estimated 95% or so), but there's definitely a consensus that nearly every Corp deck benefits from some Hedge Funds. Sure Gamble is so strong that very few Runner decks will want to cut it; in modern Netrunner, it's almost impossible for a Runner to have economy strong enough that Sure Gamble fails to make the cut (even if they can make credits more efficiently than that in the late-game, they probably want Sure Gamble credits to get their economy started). Hedge Fund is not quite as strong, so Corp decks which have a very powerful economy often consider cutting it. Still, it's sufficiently powerful that it often ends up meriting a deck slot in those decks, even if it's far from their best card.
It's also worth noting that neither Sure Gamble nor Hedge Fund is sufficient to be the backbone of a deck's economy by itself. Unless you start recycling them, which is slow and convoluted, Hedge Funds will give you at most 12 over the course of the game, and most decks spend a lot more than that (it isn't unheard of for decks to have credit expenditures in the triple digits). As such, new players should note that although a playset of Hedge Funds will improve all but the most unusual decks, your deck will also need to include a range of economy beside that, and the right way to build a Corp deck's economy can depend a lot on what the rest of the deck is doing. Hedge Fund may be a good card, but it won't carry a deck by itself.