Football Betting Guide

There’s a huge crossover between football and betting – many footy fans love to have a flutter on the match they are watching and plenty of others make a good living turning their football knowledge into winning bets on a regular basis.

As football fans we are fortunate enough to have European football to watch on a pretty much daily basis right throughout the year. That means that there’s plenty of opportunities for placing and winning football bets, too.

This article will cover a few key points about how best to set yourself up for success as a football bettor plus what to look out for when selecting football betting sites, and will then run through a few of the most popular football betting markets.

How to Win Betting on Football

Different punters have different ways of approaching football betting. Some like to rely heavily on statistical analysis to try and find an objective edge in a particular market, while others are happy to simply bet on a hunch they might have (or even bet against the crowd if they think a team has been too heavily backed).

Whichever approach you choose, the most important thing is that you are prepared! If you’re happy to just have a casual bet once or twice a week to spice up a match that you’re watching, then being prepared may simply mean checking the rules of the specific markets on which you are placing bets on.

For those of you who are more serious about your long-term football betting prospects, preparation can include hours poring over stats, news, rumours and any other source of information that might help you come out on top over hundreds or thousands of bets. 

Football Betting Sites

Few football betting sites will offer the exact same price for a particular bet as another. They don’t even all offer the same matches and markets! You don’t want to be trying to find something you want to bet on, only to find that the site you’ve signed up to isn’t taking bets on that game or is offering terrible odds.

One of the best ways you can prepare for football betting is to shop around and sign up to the sites that suit you the best. Note here that we said ‘sites’ rather than ‘site’ – there’s no reason not to maximize your possibilities by having several betting accounts ready so that you can place bets at the best possible odds.

Another great reason for signing up to multiple sites is the sign up bonuses on offer. Free bets, money back offers, and deposit bonuses for new customers can all be a huge help for growing your football betting account balance.

A key point is to make sure that you only sign up for betting at sites that are properly licensed to operate in your jurisdiction. In the UK, that means sticking to sites that are regulated by the Gambling Commission. This gives you a great deal more protection if any disputes arise, which is extremely important when there might be lots of money involved!

What to Look Out For when Picking a Football Betting Site

  • Quality of sign up offer
  • Range of matches available
  • Depth of markets available for each match
  • Value of prices (odds) being offered
  • Availability of features like in-play betting, live streaming and cash out
  • Existing customer promotions (like early payout at bet365)
  • Available payment methods
  • UX (in particular, is the site mobile friendly or does it have a dedicated mobile app?)
  • Is the site licensed to operate in your country?
  • Customer support options (such as live chat)

Football 1X2 Betting

1X2 markets (also called match odds, straight win or money line) are the bread and butter of football betting. This is a three-way market where your three options are home win (1), draw (X), or away win (2). It’s straightforward, but there are still different ways you can think about this market.

For example, perhaps you see a rumor that a team is expected to sign a star player in the coming days. In this case, you might choose to back a team long before kick off (days or even weeks ahead), in the hope that the rumored signing materializes and causes the odds to drop on that team winning. Congratulations, you’ve secured great value by getting in early!

An alternative approach would be to wait until the very last possible moment to place your bet. This way, you’ll have all the information available to you on things like lineups and weather conditions and you won’t get caught out if, for example, a key player gets injured during the warm up. You could even wait until the match gets underway and bet in-play (more on that below).

Double Chance Bet

Double chance is another type of three-way final score market. The difference between double chance and 1X2 is that here, as the name suggests, you cover two of the three possible outcomes. Your options are: 1X (home win or draw), 12 (home win or away win) or X2 (draw or away win).

Many football betting markets are actually the same as one another. For example, a bet on 1X in the double chance market would be the same as backing ‘home team (0)’ in the asian handicap market. Similarly, a bet on 12 in the double chance market is the same as laying the draw which has long been popular among traders using betting exchanges like Betfair.

This overlap between markets is a good thing for football bettors as sometimes prices differ between markets that are effectively the same bet, so hunting for the best possible price really can pay off.

BTTS (Both Teams to Score) Betting

This is understandably a popular one with the neutrals – after all, who doesn’t like seeing goals in a match? This bet is super easy to understand: You win if both teams score at least one goal in the match.The lowest odds will be offered on this market when two teams with notoriously leaky defenses and strong attacks face up against each other.

One of the nice things about BTTS bets is that they stay interesting right until the final whistle blows. Even if one team is winning 6-0, there’s always a chance that the other time might grab a consolation goal.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Another market that’s simple to understand. If you bet on over 2.5 goals, your bet wins if 3 or more goals are scored in the match. If you bet on under 2.5 goals, your bet wins if there are fewer than 2 goals in the match.

The over/under 2.5 goals markets is one of the most popular bets among both casual punters and hardcore full-time bettors. The former may just fancy a flurry of goals and have a bet on the ‘overs’, the latter may have crunched the data and found value in the ‘unders’.

2.5 is the most popular line as, given the average number of goals in a football match is around 2.5, it is usually the price that is closest to evens (1/1 in fractional odds or 2.0 in decimal odds). However, most betting sites will offer alternative goal lines ranging from over/under 0.5 to over/under 4.5 goals and beyond.

Football Handicap Betting

Handicap markets can be tricky to understand at first, but once you get the hang of them they can present some of the best football betting opportunities out there. Essentially, handicap markets are an attempt to level the playing field by ‘handicapping’ the more dominant team by giving the underdog a head start of one or more goals.

A handicap line of -1/+1 means that the favourite would need to win by two or more goals for the -1 bet to win. On the other side, the underdog would simply have to avoid defeat for the +1 bet on them to win (a draw would still win your +1 bet).

To take a real-world example, there’s almost no point betting on Manchester City to win a home match against Norwich as the price will be so low that the risk isn’t worth it. However, backing Manchester City (-1) in the handicap market – meaning they effectively start 0-1 down so have to win by two clear goals for your bet to win – is a much more attractive option.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian handicap betting is a format of handicap betting that has slightly different rules, with one key difference being that with asian handicaps you can get your stake returned in the event that your selection equals but does not beat the handicap. Let’s take our Manchester City vs. Norwich example again:

If the Asian handicap line is Manchester City (-2) / Norwich (+2):

  • A bet on Manchester City (-2) wins if Manchester City win by 3 or more goals
  • If Manchester City win by two goals, the bet is void and your stake is returned
  • If Manchester City draw, lose, or only win by one goal, the bet loses.

You can get even more granular with asian handicap betting as many sites offer +/-0.25 and +/-0.75 lines that allow you to insure your bet to an extent and escape with only a ‘half loss’ (with the other half of your stake being voided/returned) if your bet only just loses. The trade off here is that the odds on offer will be significantly worse than if you took the +/-0.5 bet.

Correct Score Betting

To win a bet in the correct score market, it’s not enough to correctly predict the 1X2 outcome; you need to nail the exact final score. This is obviously pretty difficult to achieve and that makes it one of the more satisfying markets to win on.

Many football traders using the exchange will place money in-play on both the back and lay sides of the correct score market. In a sense, by doing this they are treating different correct score options as proxy ‘next goal’ markets given that the prices will change dramatically if and when a goal is scored, which will allow anyone on the correct side to trade out for a profit. 

For more casual punters, correct score markets are often combined with a bet on a specific player to find the back of the net, and these are regularly offered at boosted prices by online betting sites. For example, you’ll often find markets like ‘Harry Kane to score and Spurs to win 2-1’ on offer at special odds.

Anytime Goalscorer

The anytime goalscorer market is a chance for bettors to back a specific player to score in a match. The attraction of this market is that you don’t need to back a team to win – you only need your player to score for your bet to win.

Like the BTTS and overs goal line markets, anytime goalscorer is a nice one as it stays live right up until either that player is substituted (or sent off) or the final whistle blows. Variations of goalscorer markets include first goalscorer (your pick has to score the opening goal of the match) and last goalscorer (your pick has to score the game’s final goal).

Football In-play Betting

The vast majority of online betting sites offer in-play betting, meaning punters can place bets on a match that is already ongoing. Betting sites use complex algorithms to constantly update odds to reflect the specific circumstances of the match at any given moment.

Waiting until play gets underway offers football punters a great opportunity to assess match momentum and the form of each time before commiting to a bet. It also helps avoid your bet being crushed within five minutes by an early goal against you.

Bettors that are most well-suited to in-play betting are those with quick reactions and a good grasp of the rules of each different market. For example, if a player goes down injured and the physio is called on to provide treatment, a shrewd choice might be to bet against a goal being scored in the next five minutes (as play will take a while to even restart).

Booking Points Betting

Booking points betting is an increasingly popular market. It’s not on offer at all betting sites, so make sure to scout around before you sign up to a site to make sure it offers this market.

The booking points market works by assigning a ‘score’ to yellow and red cards shown during the match. This creates a single combined ‘card index’ which can then be treated exactly the same as any other over/under market.

Yellow cards are typically worth 10 points and red cards are 25 points. Two yellow cards for the same player leading to a red card, however, is only worth 35 points (the red card effectively cancels out the score awarded for the second yellow card).

This is a great market to bet on if you don’t have a strong opinion on the actual outcome of the game but you have a strong hunch or some convincing statistics that suggest the game will be particularly dirty or particularly quiet.

Corners Betting

Corners betting markets are well worth looking out for if you’re on the hunt for alternative betting angles on football matches. In short, these are markets based on the number of corners awarded during the match.

Corners markets include 1X2 (treated exactly the same as the match odds markets but based on number of corners rather than goals), handicap corners, over/under corners, first corner, last corner, and plenty more besides.

Football Player Props

Player prop markets (or player propositions) are perhaps still more popular in stats-heavy American sports like basketball, American football and baseball. However, they are becoming increasingly prevalent in European football betting, too.

Player props markets enable punters to bet on the actions or achievements of specific players during the match, regardless of the match outcome for their team. Many bookies offer player props markets covering goals, pass completion, bookings, assists, tackles, and more.

Football/Tournament Outright Markets

Football betting isn’t just about placing wagers on a single specific match. There are also ‘outright’ markets available (sometimes called ‘tournament outrights’). On these markets, you can bet on the winner of the entire tournament in question, whether that’s something like the Premier League, or a World Cup Finals.

As well as ‘winner’ markets, league outright markets often include options such as ‘team to finish in top four’, ‘team to avoid relegation’ and ‘team to be relegated’. Many bookies also offer odds on league top scorers and other tournament-long markets.

Football Accumulators

Football accumulators (or accas) are certainly one of the most popular types of football bet. With an accumulator bet, you can make two or more selections for which the odds will be multiplied together. If all of your selections win, you will win significantly more than if you placed single bets on the same outcomes separately.

This is a great bet type if you’re the sort who likes to just follow the weekend’s action rather than backing a specific team in a single match. Accumulators are not restricted to 1X2 markets, either: BTTS accumulators and over 2.5 goals accas are other popular types.

Accumulators are often targeted by online sports betting sites for odds boosts and other promotions such as money back offers. If you seek out the right betting sites, that means you could bag yourself some outstanding value on a football acca.

Football Bet Builder

In American English, you’ll often find bet builders referred to as ‘same game parlays’. That gives you a better indication of what sort of bet this is. An easy way to think about bet builders is like an accumulator bet within one single game.

For example, a bet builder would allow you to select the home team to win, more than 2.5 goals to be scored in the match, under 4.5 bookings in the match, and the home team to be awarded more corners. These bets could all be taken as separate singles, but with a bet builder they can be combined and the odds multiplied for a much larger win if all the outcomes are realized.

Like accumulators, you can often find football betting sites that offer special deals on bet builders, like enhanced odds or money back offers.

Football Trading

Football trading is a different way to wager money on football. With betting, you’ll most often place a wager and then not touch it in the hope that your selection was correct. At most, you might cash in part or all of your bet in-play.

Football trading, on the other hand, involves actively managing positions on a betting exchange such as Betfair, Betdaq or Smarkets.

At a traditional online bookmaker, the bookmaker offers a price at which you can back a particular selection and makes money via an overround or margin. At a betting exchange, users can place money on the ‘back’ side of a market and other users can choose to ‘lay’ at that price. The exchange makes money by taking a small commission on the profit from every ‘matched’ bet.

Where this gets really interesting is when using the exchange to trade in and out of positions as a match or event goes on. For example, you might lay (bet against) a goal being scored during a particularly slow period of a match, and trade out later for a profit when the tempo picks up again.

The possibilities on the exchange are almost endless: it’s also a great place to hedge bets that you might have placed on traditional online bookmakers to reduce exposure.

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