• Tue 28 May, 2024
  • 08:35 BST
  • 04:35 EST (BST-4)
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Value Betting

Football is driving the internet sports gambling boom, but do we really know how to wager on it? Far from it – most of us are still making basic mistakes. Pro football tipster Andy Thompson explains why a few golden rules can bump up your profits immediately.

Football betting. It’s not rocket science is it? We all know the strengths and weaknesses of the teams involved, there are only three possible outcomes – win, lose or draw – and as we’re saturated with TV coverage these days, we can watch whatever we like to get ahead of the game.

Even if you want to try something a bit more exotic, it’s not exactly going to need a degree in advanced calculus to predict which player is going to score first or who’s going to be ahead at half-time, is it? Take Wayne Rooney – you don’t need to be an expert to see that every time he plays for Manchester United in Europe or England in an international fixture, he seems to score a goal. So why not back him to score in every match he plays at an odds-against price? Isn’t that what’s known as value?

Reality check

Well, no, actually. That’s an example of how many footballer bettors gamble – and why so many of us end up out of pocket, season after season. We all love the game, and follow it closely, so we all reckon we’re experts – but, in truth, we’re not. Football is by far the most popular form of sports gambling online and is driving the betting boom that has engulfed us in recent years, but too many of us are still making the same basic mistakes every time we place a wager.

The problem, of course, is that the odds aren’t in our favour. Potentially massive margins against us mean that punters always have to outperform the full-time odds compliers employed by the bookmakers to have any chance whatsoever of coming out on top. The odds of the three outcomes in a football match – win, lose or draw – should equal 100%. But the three prices the bookies put up – say, for example, 5/6 home win, 9/4 draw, 7/2 away win – create margins of anything from 107% to a whopping 116% to guarantee the bookies a profit.

That’s why the bookies are all still driving around in their Rollers while we’re standing in the queue for the bus down to our local Ladbrokes. But that doesn’t mean we have to wave the white flag. You can still bet smart enough to beat the bookies, even if the odds are stacked against you.

Rules of engagement

The first rule is: ignore the bookies’ traps. When Hills or Ladbrokes or Coral stick those alluring signs in the window saying things like: ‘Manchester United to beat Newcastle United and Wayne Rooney to be first scorer: a £10 stake to win £120’, ignore it. United are more than capable of winning and Rooney (you may have noticed) knows where the goal is – but the odds on both events occurring in the same game are extremely slim.

In other words, it’s a no-value bet. Walk into your local bookie on any Saturday lunchtime and you’ll be bombarded by dozens of similar bets. The rule is: ignore them. If the bookie wants you to bet on it, then chances are it represents poor value.

Instead, the key to being profitable on football is to follow certain rules that consistently increase your chances of winning. Secondly, you have to put out of your mind all the bad betting habits you’ve learned, forget which teams somebody told you represent best value and stop backing the famous names just because, well, they’re famous. To be a successful football bettor, you need to be a lot shrewder than that. Here are my top-six tips for finding value:


This a great value way of betting on football. With Asian handicaps, the market maker gives the team he perceives to be the less likely winner of a given match a head-start, and the team more likely to win a handicap. These are expressed in goals or fractions of goals (see our Asian handicap betting guide).

Because those old spoilers – draws – are eliminated in Asian handicap markets, bookmakers have to bet to smaller margins. So, while even the most enterprising firms are asking us to play to 107% in the ‘win-draw-lose’ markets, the Asian handicap percentages are only around 103-104%. These are the best you will find in the industry by some way.

It means that if you bet only on Asian handicap markets this year you will, in theory, be at least 3% more profitable. With even the best professional gamblers hoping for a return of only 10% on turnover, that small margin could be the difference between victory and defeat for some football punters over the course of the season.


Spread betting is often as much about psychology as it is football knowledge. With many spread bets offering punters the daunting prospect of staring down into the financial abyss of an unknown downside, opting for the comfort zone of knowing exactly what the worst possible scenario is going to be is a trap into which many spread bettors often fall. Nowhere can this be seen more than in the player-goal-minute markets offered by the spread firms. This market allows you to place a bet on the total minutes in which a player scores his goals. So if, for example Toon’s Alan Shearer scores once in a game, in the 58th minute, his total goals minutes equals 58. If he scores twice, in the 80th and 85th minutes, his total goal minutes are 165, and so on.

With the possibility that a striker could find the net any number of times in a match – and as late in the game as the 90th minute – only the very brave ever really consider a sell, especially as the option to buy means you know how much you’ll lose if your player fails to score. The spread firms know this and, anticipating that most punters will want to play safe, pitch the markets artificially high. This makes buying a statistically bad bet in virtually every scenario.

The shrewd play, of course, is to take advantage and go the other way. It won’t make for an enjoyable match with your heart in your mouth every time the player you’ve sold gets the ball in front of goal, but the upside is that you’re very likely to receive far more cheques with Sporting Index (or IG Sport, or Cantor Sports…) written on them during the course of a season.


Premiership teams live life in the constant glare of media scrutiny. Now, 24-hour-a-day news coverage puts them under the microscope to such an extent that almost every minute piece of news about the clubs in the top flight is constantly in the public domain. If a leading player is injured, suspended or even falling out with his manager, the world and his betting slip are more in the news loop than at any time before.

But what about Darlington’s match with Rochdale in League Two? If Darlington’s top striker is ruled out the day before the game, are the bookmakers really going to be able to get wind of it quickly enough to change the odds when they’ve got dozens of other matches on their coupons to stay on top of?

There’s no question that the clubs in the lower divisions don’t receive anywhere near as much news coverage as the top-flight teams, and those prepared to do a little homework can often get the latest news before the market makers. Local papers, which are now almost all available online, are a goldmine of information about local teams for the shrewd football punter.

The same principle applies to betting on leagues abroad. Check out ‘Get ahead, go abroad’ for more about making money on foreign football.


Walk into any bookies for a flutter on the football and what will you see – a dedicated slip for you to place a single on the team you fancy this weekend? Not a hope in hell’s chance.

Instead, the only thing you are likely to be able to lay your hands on is a multiple bet football coupon inviting you to try a correct-score goliath or a ten-team ‘sections list’ accumulator.

Not for nothing do the bookmakers actively look to market football as a medium for the most speculative of wagers. They love nothing more than to see a coupon filled with optimistic multiple bets hoping to strike it rich. It may look fun – but it’s one of the poorest value bets around. Not only do accumulator punters have to get their bet absolutely spot on to land the cash (how many times has just one team let you down!), but they also have to negotiate the bookmakers’ margins a number of times. If you’re betting to a bookmaker’s percentage of 110% for a single, a ten-team multiple accumulator means you’re paying that margin ten times over. Don’t do it!

The bets the bookmakers hate are singles – so much so, it’s only in recent years that they have even allowed them on football. So to maximize your profits don’t buy into the bookie spin that to win big on football you have to do it in one, life-changing bet. The temptation of accumulators is obvious, but it’s really not worth it. Slowly but mercilessly betting on one selection at a time is the only way to make money in the long-term.


While the exchanges have been a godsend to most punters, laying favoured teams in football matches when you fancy an upset is not always the best way to go, especially when the side you want to bet against is a long odds-on favourite. In that scenario the Asian handicap can often be as much as a whole goal head-start for the underdog. That means that in the event of your prediction nearly being proved right, but the underdogs you fancy ending up losing by just a single goal, your bet will be a tie on the handicap and you’ll get your money back.

That’s the beauty of Asian handicap bets – you have the safety net of getting your money back on certain occasions, because if a goal head-start or a goal deficit is cancelled out and the handicap ends up being equalled, your stake is returned. If, on the other hand, you had simply laid on the exchanges, someone else would be pocketing your money. The exchanges do provide excellent opportunities – but, again, becoming familiar with Asian handicap betting is advisable.


One of the biggest traps that punters fall into every season is assessing teams based on who they are, rather than how they are playing. While high-profile sides such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Rangers always start at unrealistically short odds no matter what their current form, smaller clubs who are overperforming continually get underestimated by the market.
A few seasons ago, for example, Bolton Wanderers and Everton showed themselves to be two of the best teams in the Premiership. Same story for Wigan Athletic in the Championship. Yet before the market eventually cottoned on to this fact, punters refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes, and week after week all three were sent off at odds which bore no reflection to their current form or league position. The league table seldom lies, and the most profitable football punters always look to bet on results rather than reputation.

These are the golden rules to follow – if you back the advice here for the rest of the season, you won’t go far wrong. So get out there and start betting like a winner!

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