Beating the Market – How to Win on Football Betting

May 17, 2009


Thomas Hogenhaven asked:

The general question you should ask yourself before placing a bet should be: What about the odds?

Odds are without any doubt the most important and deciding factor about your football betting results, no matter if you are betting on pro football picks, basketball, horseracing or anything else. It’s a proven fact of life that every event to happen has a certain chance of occurring.

Getting value on a simple coin flip

As an easy example we can start with a traditional coin-throw:

Throwing a coin, the chance for one side to drop on top is exactly 50% as there are only two sides of the coin. Given a huge number of throws, the result will get closer to a 50/50 situation.

Going on about this example, we start with the following: What’s the fair price for a coin-throw? Exactly, odds 2.00.

By dividing 1 / 0.5 (for 50%), we get a fair price of 2.00 for this situation. As a matter of fact, we should not bet in a coin-throw for a lower price than 2.00, as this would create negative value for our side. We would lose on long-term for sure. If you find somebody who offers a coin throw to you providing a price of 2.10 for example, the bet get valuable for you. The price offered in comparison to the real probability for a win (still 50%) is too high by 5% (2.10 / 2.00) – that’s what we call value. By staking on this valued price, you will end up achieving a return of investment of 5% in long-term.

Finding value on a football game

What has a coin throw to do about football betting? Probably much more than you initially thought. The situation given in a football game is actually pretty similar to this coin throw. Every team has a certain chance to win / not to lose / to lose (1 X 2) and you will find odds for every of this events.

Your job should be from now to estimate the probability for a team to win and compare it to the prices offered. By creating your own fair odds (1 / % to win), you will be able to determine whether to take a bet or to pass.

To enhance your winning chances and only end up in a Win / Lose situation (excluding the draw), I would advice you to focus on the Asian handicap market.

Asian handicaps

Football betting on Asian handicaps is (as the name indicates) very popular in the Asian areas, although getting more and more popular in the European market as well. In the world of Asian handicap, every team gets an advantage / disadvantage over the opponent. Due to this handicap, the price range is usually between 1.75 and 2.25.

Bookmaker odds on Barcalona vs. Real Madrid

An example of Asian handicap price offered: Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in La Liga and you are able to find a half-ball handicap. Pricing looks like the following:

Barcelona 2.00 | 0: ½ | 2.00 Real Madrid (Asian handicap -0.50 on Barcalona and +0.50 on Real Madrid)

(This example excludes the bookmakers’ margin; therefore both prices are 2.00, just to make this example easier to understand.)

According to the bookmaker, Barcelona has 50% to win this game (1 / 2.00 = 0.5). For getting the probability reflected by the odds, just divide 1 through the odds offered and you will get your percentage in a decimal number.

At the same time, this means Real Madrid has 50% not to lose (or to win / draw) in this fixture.

Set your estimations and calculate the value

After checking all news and stats about this bet, you have to create your own estimations now. By short, this means, how probable is the home win, a draw, or an away win. At the beginning, this is for sure quite a hard task, but it will get easier after a couple of months / years of experience.

For our example, we now take the following numbers:

Home win: 45%

Draw: 30%

Away win: 25%

Now the odds check:

Barcelona to win priced at 2.00 – our probability and our price: 45% & 2.22

Real Madrid not to lose priced at 2.00 – our probability and our price: 55% & 1.82

Assuming your estimation is correct or at least close to reality, the price you can get on Real Madrid not to lose is definitely too high. This bet’s fair price according to your own estimation is 1.82 but you can find 2.00 on the market. This creates a value of 10% (2.00 / 1.82) and it’s a valuable bet for you.

By creating estimations and numbers for games, you will get an edge over the market and find valuable bets. Usually, underdogs are quite underrated by the market, as the majority of people will tend to back the so-called big guns without thinking about their winning chances compared to the odds offered.

Important factors for football betting

This should be your first step to football betting on a professional level. Still of course there are many other factors which have to be taken into consideration generally before deciding to place a bet or not. Here is a short list of some of the most important facts about deciding to place a bet:

1. How much value does the price offered by the bookmaker include?

2. How big is your chance not to lose a bet?

3. Will the price rise before kick-off / how probable is it that the majority of the people will continue to bet on the big favourite?

1. How much value: Generally spoken, I would advice you not to take bets including lower than 7% value. 7% value means you have only a couple of points in your estimation left for being wrong. By taking bets lower than 7% value included, you risk quite a lot as you assume your estimation is a 100% correct – which will never be the case.

2. Chance not to lose: I would advice you not to take bets with a lower chance of not losing than 60% or not winning of 50%. This value theory may still work, but your risk increase while your hit rate will decrease by taking for example 10.00 priced value bets.

3. Rising prices: A rule I quite often follow is to wait just before kick-off when placing a bet on a big outsider. Usually the market moves towards the big favourite and you might be able to grab 5-10% higher odds than to the early market.

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