Don’t be fooled by those wily bookies! Given half a chance they’ll trick you into placing football bets you haven’t even heard of, let alone want to bet on. Former bookmaker Malcolm Boyle highlights five of the worst-value football bets and reveals why you should avoid them at all costs.
It wasn’t long ago that bookies were legally banned from enticing punters into shops with window advertisements. They couldn’t even play a radio in the shop in case it encouraged people to dance!
Anything goes these days – which is dangerous for punters as it means the bookies have ample opportunity to tempt you into bets that are a complete waste of time. They’re only offering sweets these days because competition is so fierce. That’s why there are so many unusual and deeply unprofitable (for you) bets out there on every street corner and betting web site.
Most betting adverts are for football markets – young people seem less interested in horse racing and more interested in football, so bookies try to lure punters into the shop on a diet of banner headlines and football prices.
But which are the most dangerous bets? We’ve come up with a list of five footie wagers that smart punters will avoid – do so, and your betting bank balance will look a lot healthier!
1. FIRST GOALSCORER
This scenario isn’t as bad as it used to be because of all the team line-up news presented by the media – at least that gives you a clear indication of which players will be on the pitch when the game kicks off. If you have to place a bet in this sector, however, only do so when the teams have been confirmed an hour before the match in question. Unclaimed betting slips up and down the land via ‘non-runners’ in the first-goalscorer sector would fill your car on an annual basis.
Even if you do bet just before kick-off, the percentages are stacked against you as prices have been compiled several days in advance of the match. Unlike punters, bookies will never take a chance and the odds on offer confirm the fact this is a bad market to play.
How do you predict who will be the first player to find the net? What are the factors to bear in mind? Even though certain players, like strikers, are likely to net more than their share of first goals, it’s impossible to select a player with any degree of confidence.
Layers will be wise to players in form and price up the strikers accordingly. The only area where you might score the occasional hit is via dead-ball strikes from lesser-known players at the likes of Southampton, Norwich City and Birmingham City.
The bookies may be unaware of all the free-kick specialists at such clubs, but does this slight glimmer of hope render a first goalscorer bet good value? No! Consider how many ways there are for a team to score a first goal, remember the fact that you are hoping the opposition haven’t already scored, and you’ll see that there are too many uncertainties to play this wager seriously.
2. LAST GOALSCORER
The bookies dreamed up this nice little earner – for them, not you – a few years ago and many of the rules explained in the first-goalscorer bet also apply here.
The starting line-up isn’t so important, as different players will be on the pitch at the end because of substitutions. This makes the bet even more difficult to call – how do you know whom the coach will bring off, send on from the bench, or who might get injured during the game?
If you must play this wager, consider defenders first and foremost, because they at least represent some sort of value for money. While defenders tend to go forward for corners and free kicks throughout a match, the scenario is extenuated as the game approaches its final minutes if your team is losing. So if you’re on a defender whose team are trying to scramble back into the game, you at least get a fighting chance.
Strikers are a complete no-no – they are substituted more often than defenders, and their prices nearly always represent poor value. Do you want to be on a 4/1 striker in the closing minutes, or a 33/1 defender? The second – but better still, ignore this market altogether.
You have to admire the downright aggression of bookmakers, because in this bet the layers are asking you to name not one result, but two! As if correctly predicting the outcome of a football match wasn’t difficult enough, here you have to estimate which team will be ahead at half-time and full-time.
What adds insult to injury is that bookies potentially gain more profit by laying these bets, having already made your job twice as difficult in the process. Taking average prices across the board, a team that’s 6/4 to win a game actually becomes a 5/4 chance when adding up the percentages via the three options open to punters betting on the same team when in the half-time/full-time markets (lose at half-time, win at full-time, draw at half-time, win at full-time, win at halftime, win at full-time).
The scenario becomes even worse for firmer favourites – a team that’s offered at 1/3 to win a match can be as short as 1/6 in this three-way scenario.
The price for the ‘win-win’ scenario is roughly 4/6, the ‘draw-win’ is often priced up around 7/2, whilst 28/1 is on offer for a team to be behind at half-time but come through to win the game at 90 minutes. The combined percentages add up to a price of 1/6, so ignore this sector for the health of your wallet.
4. FIXED-ODDS SHIRT NUMBERS
This is football bingo. Fixed-odds companies are beginning to offer punters bets on shirt numbers in the following format: ‘Have a bet on tonight’s match, and if your player gets sent off, we’ll refund you a pound for every figure on his back – so if a player wearing number seven ets sent off, punters will receive £7 to their account…’
This is simply ridiculous. The bookies are just trying to trick you into placing a bet on tonight’s game that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise placed. Such wagers completely overlook basic betting principles of looking for value and studying the form book or trends. It’s a lottery – avoid it at all costs.
5. SECTIONS LISTS
A crooked smile twists across my ageing face every time I look at this scenario. I smile because I simply cannot understand how punters keep falling for such a blindingly obvious trap created by the bookmakers, for the bookmakers.
Punters are asked to predict the outcome of a minimum of one match out of six in each of five sections of matches, pre-determined by the bookie. You need all your bets to come in to win, and based on the best prices available, the bookmakers will tell you to ‘select one team from each section for minimal odds of 13/2, two teams from each section for 68/1 and three teams from each section for 690/1!’
Accumulators involving so many teams really are a complete and utter waste of money. I’ve lost count of the number of red lines I’ve crossed through these bets when I managed betting shops – the odds are stacked against you. It’s a bet devised by the bookmaker, so that automatically means it offers poor value.
Also, to make matters worse, a lot of punters treat the bet as an afterthought – they place their normal weekend bets and then have a go at the section list bet for a bit of added value. Added value? They’re pouring money down the drain. It’s a merely a marketing scam – so don’t be fooled!