Football betting basics

Written by Sean Callander

Football is not only the most popular sport on earth but the most popular sport to bet on. Be warned though, there are some unique factors you must take into account if you hope to get the best of the bookies.

For people of a certain vintage and from certain parts of the world, betting on football traditionally meant a ticket in the “soccerpools.” Dating back almost a century, the “pools” couldn’t have been much easier to enter. You’d take the Saturday card of English football league games, pick the “home win,” “draw” or “away win” and collect points based on the results.

For those who enjoy a punt on football in 2017, the options are ridiculously diverse. Name a country – from England to Estonia, Japan to Jamaica – and you can wager on the results of their national league games. Throw in myriad FIFA tournaments, confederation events like Euro 2018 and the AFC Championships, intercontinental club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and the Copa Libertadores … you get the picture.

It’s hardly surprising that with hundreds of matches on which to bet every week and a staggering number of markets for each of those matches, football is the biggest sport for betting on the planet.

The major difference in soccer betting is the presence of a very simple but crucial element – the draw. Most major sporting codes have eliminated the draw via overtime or tiebreak but it remains a key difference in moneyline betting on football matches, especially as it’s such a common outcome.

It’s also important to consider the two different styles of football competitions. League contests are about the long run – chasing championships, avoiding relegation. In contrast, cup and tournament-style competitions which feature a knockout format require a more aggressive approach of play to ensure progression.

The incredible number of matches and betting options represent both the opportunity and peril of football wagering. It’s simply impossible to be an expert in every league but even the most casual observer has a club that they follow. More passionate fans know their teams inside and out so simply following the trends of your favorite club isn’t a bad place to start.

Taking that concept a step further, stick to the league and competitions that feature your favorite club. Watch for patterns – does your team regularly score or concede goals at a higher or lower rate than the rest of the competition? Do they perform better than average at home or on the road? Slowly you’ll build an arsenal of betting data to exploit.

One of the more important pillars of sports betting is not to follow the advice of sports “experts” – and that is probably more important in relation to football than any other sport. Former players are trotted out at an alarming rate to offer their opinion, the clear majority of which is completely irrelevant to a football punter. Also tread carefully when following the advice of actual “sports betting experts” when it comes to football.

Look for those who specialize in specific leagues and watch for forums where in depth discussion of such competitions could provide insight that those “experts” have missed. It can also be advantageous to start following one of the second-tier European leagues (such as in France or Belgium), or one of the major Asian competitions. These don’t attract as much attention from either punters or bookies and offer a more profitable landscape for wagering.