Football Betting - How to Bet Smart on Football

How to Bet Smart on Football - Smartbets Guide to Football Betting

If you want consistent profits from football betting, you need to bet smart. That is the purpose of this guide. You’ll learn about the most popular bet types and how to find the weekend’s top football value bets.

Furthermore, we’ll explain the importance of bankroll management and provide a simple staking plan for you to follow. Plus, we tell you what to look out for in upcoming matches so you can make more accurate predictions when betting on football.

What Are Football Betting Odds?

Outside of the world of gambling, odds represent a measurement of the likelihood of a specific outcome. The simplest way to think of it is using a coin toss. The odds of the coin landing on ‘heads’ is 1:1. Effectively, we are saying one (1) spin will be heads, and one (1) spin will be tails. Over an infinite number of spins, these odds will be extremely close to accurate.

Although there is a connection with the likelihood of an outcome, football betting odds are effectively the ratio of your potential winnings and the amount you stake. For example, Tottenham Hotspur are 50/1 to win the Premier League 2020/2021. Therefore, if you stake (bet) £1.00, you would win £50.00, plus your stake is returned, so you pick up £51.00.

Fractional Odds and Decimal Odds

Before going further, let’s explain the two main types of odds that are most commonly used by UK bookmakers. They are fractional odds and decimal odds.

Stemming from the UK’s love of horse racing, fractional odds are still the preferred choice by many punters. Fractional odds display the price as a ratio (a fraction) of winnings over the stake. The example of Tottenham Hotspur being 50/1 to win the EPL. These are fractional odds.

It’s important to remember with fractional odds that the first number is how much you will ‘win’ in relation to the second number. So, if you bet £2.00, this could be written as 100/2. You win £100 + £2.00 stake is returned.

The decimal odds format, which is more popular in mainland Europe and Australia, represents the total returns on a bet for every £1.00 staked. Therefore, the decimal odds on Tottenham Hotspur winning the league are 51.00.

Fractional Decimal Fractional Decimal Fractional Decimal
1/10 1.10 1/2 1.50 2/1 3.00
1/5 1.20 1/1 (evens) 2.00 9/4 3.25
1/3 1.33 5/4 2.25 11/2 6.50
4/9 1.44 6/4 2.50 7/1 8.00

It is a matter of preference which football betting odds format you use as they both equate to the same total. The decimal format is more simple - the higher the number equals higher odds. With some fractions, such as 85/40 and 11/5, you need to spend time working out where the most value is.

Implied Probability

Smart football betting starts with understanding implied probability as this will help you calculate the potential value in the markets. In a nutshell, implied probability is merely the conversion of the football betting odds into a percentage. The implied probability also includes the bookmaker’s margin, so these are not true odds.

You calculate the implied probability using the following equation:

(1 / decimal odds) * 100

Let’s use the Champions League Final between Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich as an example. These are the odds for the Both Teams To Score football betting market.

Selection BTTS - Yes BTTS - No
Odds 1.36 3.05
Equation ( 1 / 1.36 ) * 100 ( 1 / 3.05 ) * 100
Implied Probability 73.52% 32.78%

True odds will always equal 100%. However, as mentioned, implied probability also includes the bookie’s margin. If you calculate 73.52% + 32.78% = 106.30%. The extra 6.30% (above 100%) is effectively the bookmaker’s profit if the market attracts proportional betting on both sides.

What are the most popular football bet types?

All of the leading UK sportsbooks offer an abundance of football betting markets and different bet types. These are some of the most popular.

1X2 Betting

This is unquestionably the most popular betting market in football. 1X2 is betting on the result of the match. The ‘1’ stands for the home team; the ‘X’ is for the draw, and the ‘2’ is the away team.

As bookmakers know this market will attract the most money, it generally offers the lowest margins, so there is often good betting value to be taken from 1X2 betting. The primary 1X2 bet is for the full-time match result. However, many bookies now accept first-half and second-half only 1X2 wagers.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian handicap is one of the more complex betting markets, but once you understand it, you’ll see that it’s a stellar alternative to 1X2 betting.

Effectively, as the word ‘handicap’ suggests, the purpose of this market is to even out the perceived differences in ability between the two teams. Also, it removes the option of the draw. This can result in better odds for punters.

First, take a look at the table below. In the left column, there is the handicap value. Next, in the centre, there are the match result possibilities, and to the right, you have the payout.

Handicap Result Payout
+1 Win or draw Win
+1 Lose by 1 goal Stake returned
+1 Lose by 2 goals or more Lose
+0.75 Win or draw Win
+0.75 Lose by 1 goal Lose half your stake
+0.75 Lose by 2 goals or more Lose
+0.50 Win or draw Win
+0.50 Lose Lose
+0.25 Win Win
+0.25 Draw Win half of your stake * odds
+0.25 Lose Lose
0 Win Win
0 Draw Stake returned
0 Lose Lose
-0.25 Win Win
-0.25 Draw Lose half your stake
-0.25 Lose Lose
-0.50 Win Win
-0.50 Draw or lose Lose

Putting this is to a real market would look like this:

Paris St-Germain +0.50 1.89 Bayern Munich -0.50 1.99
Paris St-Germain +0.25 2.13 Bayern Munich -0.25 1.74
Paris St-Germain 0 2.59 Bayern Munich 0 1.52

When the handicap is ‘0’, it is a Draw No Bet market. For reference, the same sportsbook is offering 2.55 on PSG Draw No Bet, so the Asian handicap provides better returns.

Equally, with the handicap at +0.50, it is the same as a double chance bet. Once again, a double chance on PSG and the draw is priced at 1.83. The Asian handicap wins again. Smart football betting is about extracting maximum value, which is why you should explore this market.

Over/Under Total Goals

This is a great betting market if you don’t want to back a particular side. The bookmaker will list its over/under markets in half goals. For instance, over 1.5 goals and under 1.5 goals.

As it is impossible to score half a goal, your bet will either win or lose. If you wagered on over 1.5 goals, your bet loses if there are zero goals or only one goal. The bet wins if there are two or more goals.

There are several variants of the over/under total goals market, they include:

  • Total goals - both teams full time (90 minutes)
  • Total goals - both teams first-half only
  • Total goals - both teams second-half only
  • Total goals - home team
  • Total goals - away team

 

What other football bets are popular?

We have only scratched the surface of the plethora of football bets you can place. Here’s an overview of a few more top footy bets.

Double Chance

A football match offers three possible outcomes: home win (1), daw (X), or an away win (2). The double chance market allows you to place a single bet on two of these outcomes. For instance.

  • 1 or X
  • X or 2
  • 1 or 2

 

Understandably, the odds are less than what you get from the 1X2 market, but double chance betting provides extra insurance. When two teams are evenly matched, this is a useful market to explore.

Draw No Bet

With a draw no bet wager, the draw is effectively eliminated as a possible outcome because the bet is void and your stake is returned. Therefore, it is kind of in the middle between the 1X2 and double chance markets when you view the bookmaker’s odds.

To place this bet, you must choose a team. For example, Bayern Munich draw no bet. If Bayern go on to win the match, you win. However, if the match ends in a draw, you only get your original stake back. If the other team wins, you lose your stake.

Correct Score Betting

The correct score market offers some of the highest single-selection odds in football betting. Why is this? Because you have to be bang on the money.

With 1X2 betting, you are only betting on a win (or draw), the actual score is irrelevant. Let’s say you bet on the home team to win. The final score could be 1-0, 3-1, or 8-2; it doesn’t matter; the payout is the same regardless. However, correct score betting is all about making accurate predictions. You have to be spot on to win these bets.

Half-time / Full-time Betting

Another market with plenty of potential value is half-time/full-time (HT/FT). In essence, this is two bets in one. The first part is to predict the half-time result: 1, X, or 2. Then move on to predict the full-time result, again: 1, X, or 2.

Therefore, a HT/FT bet can be:

1/1 X/X 2/2
1/X X/1 2/X
1/2 X/2 2/1

The highest odds when half-time/full-time betting are found when one team is leading at half-time, but they go on to lose at full-time. Of course, these results are also the most difficult to predict.

Accumulator Betting

An accumulator is a specific bet type that consists of two or more selections, known as folds or legs, on a single-stake wager. For an accumulator bet to win, each selection must be correct.

The benefit of accumulator betting is that the odds for each selection are multiplied together. As an example, in the table below, the first fold is 1.50. This is multiplied by the second fold (3.50) to give us 5.25. The 5.25 is then multiplied by the odds for the third fold, and so on.

The total odds for these five selections is 144.38. That means if you wagered £1.00, the returns would be £144.38. Using accumulators, punters can wager small stakes, but win big. Remember though; every single fold must be correct - otherwise the whole bet loses.

Bet selection Decimal Odds
Man City win vs Arsenal 1.50
Liverpool vs Everton draw 3.50
Spurs win vs Leeds 2.00
Leicester win vs Chelsea 5.00
West Brom vs Southampton draw 2.75
Total odds 144.38

What is a football value bet?

Every punter who is betting on football is in search of value bets, but what is betting value, and how do you find it?

Put simply, a value bet is when you believe the likelihood of an outcome is greater than the implied probability given in the bookmaker’s odds.

Let’s say, there’s a match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield. You’ve diligently researched the form guides and the line-ups. From all this, you believe, the probability of Liverpool winning is 80%. If converted into football betting odds that would be 1.25.

However, you open up your favourite betting site, and you see the odds on Liverpool to win are 1.33. This means that the bookmaker feels Liverpool have a 75.2% chance of winning. Therefore, in your opinion, these odds represent betting value.

How much should you bet on a football bet?

Smart football betting involves knowing how much to wager on each bet you place. A common mistake many new bettors make is staking the same amount on every bet, regardless of the odds.

A proven staking strategy that many of the top punters (and even financial investors like Warren Buffet) use is the Kelly Criterion - also known as the Kelly Bet.

The Kelly Criterion is a bankroll-management formula. It’s written as follows:

f = bp - q / b

  • f = percentage of your bankroll to bet
  • b = bookmaker’s decimal odds minus 1
  • p = your perceived probability of winning
  • q = probability of losing (1 - p)

 

Putting this into real terms using the value bet on Liverpool above, we get:

  • b = 1.33 - 1 = 0.33
  • p = 80% = 0.80
  • q = 20% = 0.20

f = 0.33 * 0.80 - 0.20 / 0.80

f equals 0.193939 * 100 = 19.39%. According to the Kelly Criterion, we should bet 19.39% of our bankroll on this bet selection.

Furthermore, when betting on football, it’s wise to have access to more than one bookmaker. This allows you to take advantage of the best odds which adds to the betting value, particularly over the course of a season.

How to predict football results?

The journey to becoming a successful football bettor boils down to your ability to accurately predict the results of football matches. Without this, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll turn a profit over the long term.

That good news is that there are plenty of tools, ranging from match analytics to statistics that can help with your predictions. Most online bookmakers provide this data free of charge, and we thoroughly recommend you take advantage of it. These are some of the key metrics you want to look at for formulating your football predictions:

  • Current form: Has the team you want to bet on in a rich vein of form? Who were the opposition?
  • Home and away form: In the 2019/20 Premier League, every club, with the exception of Southampton, won more points at home than they did away. This is why it is an important metric to analyse.
  • Injuries and suspensions: If a team’s top goalscorer is injured or suspended, there is a likelihood that the team won’t score as many goals. Likewise, if a star defender is missing, it could lead to a side conceding more than usual. Knowledge of the line-ups before betting certainly helps provide more accurate predictions.
  • Shots and dangerous attacks: A 1-0 win in a team’s last game may not tell the whole story. Perhaps, they only had one shot on target and scored. Alternatively, they may have had 22 attempts on goal. Knowing information like this gives an insight into the attacking intent of a side, which is very useful for total goals betting.
  • Rest days and travelling: If a side had to travel to East Europe for a Thursday night Europa League, will they still be jaded when they play at lunchtime on a Sunday? Could this force the manager to rotate his squad? It’s another variable that warrants consideration.

 

Summary - Five rules for smart football betting

Let’s round things up with a summary of the golden rules of smart football betting.

  1. Understand betting odds: Knowledge is power in football betting, and that starts with a solid understanding of betting odds. Furthermore, you want to learn how to convert the odds into implied probability so that you can find the best football value bets.
  2. Focus on selected leagues and betting markets: It’s easy to spread yourself too thin when betting online because of the abundance of choice. Smart betting involves picking a few leagues and absorbing all the information and data related to them. Additionally, stick to a few of the main markets. Ideally, the ones that normally have the lowest margins.
  3. Only bet when there is value in the market: Never bet for the sake of betting. You must accept that sometimes, you won’t be able to find value in the markets. Think of your betting activity as quality over quantity. It is better to place three bets with strong betting value than ten wagers that are hit and miss. You are gambling with real money - don’t throw it away.
  4. Bet with a consistent staking strategy: Make use of the Kelly Criterion that we have described above. It is tried and tested. Although bear in mind, it does rely on the accuracy of your predictions. As you refine your skill in predicting match outcomes, the Kelly Criterion will ensure your bankroll grows steadily.
  5. Have an account with multiple bookmakers: Let’s assume you want to start football betting today, and you have a budget of £200. This smart move is to split this across five betting sites - £40 with each one. The reason is that it gives you more options when looking for the best odds. The smallest fractions add up over a season, so always bet with the best odds.

 

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