Squaring up the odds: A guide to basic football betting

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As one of the most wildly popular sports on the planet, football naturally comes complete with the weekly cheeky punt feature, as fans clamour to place wagers with the bookies and wait to see if their predictions align with reality. With betting occupying such a significant place in the hierarchy of typical football afternoon out, let’s delve deeper and take a look at how you can go about adopting this practice if you’re new at it.

The most important prerequisite, undoubtedly, is a solid foundation and knowledge of the game you’ll be betting on. Football is played between two teams with 11 players each, one goalkeeper and ten outfield players. The number of defenders, midfielders and attackers can vary according to how a team’s manager decides to line up, and may constantly change throughout the 90 minutes, which is played as two 45-minute halves.

In the event of a cup or a knockout game where the teams cancel out each other, the 90 minutes might be topped up with another 30 minute period, played in two 15-minute halves, and penalty kicks later if required.The ultimate aim, of course, is to score more goals than the opponent, goals being a relatively rare occurrence compared to free scoring sports like basketball for instance.

Football is ultimately a gloriously unpredictable game, with games being won and lost on the tiniest of margins. Even a well researched and carefully thought out flutter could end up backfiring in a matter of seconds, so it’s quite important to tread with caution and treat the entire exercise as nothing more than a fun activity to complement the football action on the telly or the stadium.

That said, there are still tons of tried and tested strategies that have served punters well over the years, which is exactly what we’ll be looking at in this column

Betting tips – Placing a cheeky punt

1. The Money Line

The standard Money Line bet consists of three options – Home Win, Away Win, Draw – and is a reasonably straightforward betting option. Home advantage being a massive factor in football swings this to one side in most scenarios, but you might occasionally have a well-oiled machine of a football team turn up at relative outcasts, a fixture that has an away win written all over it. Banking on a draw is a gambit best reserved for when two teams of considerably equal strength are pitted against each other. However, if you’re betting on a standard league game, the stakes of it petering out into a draw is slightly higher since these fixtures are concluded without going into extra time.

Flutter Tip

The league table never lies, especially if you’re a good few months into the season. The relative league positions of the two teams going head to head, especially the recent form of the home team in the fixture, should give you a fair indicator of how the game is likely to shape up. A notable exception to this rule are derby games (games played between teams with long standing rivalries) where the form book is ripped up, and anything is possible.

Weekend tip –

When second placed Man United take on bottom-of-the-pile West Brom at home this weekend, a home win seems an absolute cert and a guaranteed banker. A tougher gamble would be trying to predict and place a bet on the ‘Tottenham vs Man city’ game, which features two teams who can trade blows with each other, with Man City’s significant point advantage canceled out by Tottenham’s excellent home form.

2. Totals

Totals refers to betting on the number of goals that you think will be scored in the game, a slightly trickier proposition than simply betting on the likely winner. However, football is generally a low scoring game, with even a game with 5 goals or more a relatively rare occurrence. This is why the general ballpark offered while betting on totals is highly restricted. Occasionally, the bookies might offer considerably higher (4.5) or lower (1.5) cap on the total goals scored, if the game is played between two free scoring teams or two defensively excellent teams respectively.

Flutter Tip

Here’s where a sound knowledge of the manager’s tactics come into play. Football teams line up on the pitch in a precise image of their manager’s thoughts and philosophies, and this is illustrated by their approach to games, right down to how free scoring they turn out to be. For instance, while betting on Manchester United who are coached by the notoriously cautious Jose Mourinho, it is always safer to wager on a modest goals scored total. On the other hand, a game like ‘Liverpool vs Man city’, managed by two of the most attack-minded managers in the modern game, a higher than usual goal tally is nailed on and might turn out to be a very foolproof gambling option.

Weekend Tip

The Liverpool vs Bournemouth fixture promises to throw up plenty of goals, with both teams having been involved in thrilling high scoring games with each other last season. Liverpool boast the league’s, and possibly Europe’s, most fearsons front three, spearheaded by the majestic Mo Salah. Bournemouth aren’t bad going forward themselves, so a banker of 4.5 goals scored looks healthy.

3. The individual scorers

Here’s where fans can bet on several variations of who they think will score goals for either team to decide the game, such as top scorer, first scorer and last scorer. The sheer dynamics involved in gambles like these makes for a very compelling betting experience, leaving you on the edge of your seat throughout the 90 minutes.

Flutter Tip

Football, for all its tactics and strategies, always has room for mavericks and magicians, the sort of players who can take the game by the scruff of the game and engineer a complete turnaround through their own individual flair and brilliance. Their artistry and precocity can also bring you massive windfalls in your cheeky punts, so keep an eye out on the recent player form guide. Certain players also tend to score frequently against certain sides, so follow quirky stats like these keenly in the build up to the game.

Weekend Tip

Again, Mo Salah is the ultimate banker here. The diminutive Egyptian has been in electrifying form this season, and looks set to break quite a few records along the way. Another goal or two at the weekend seems a cert. An alternative option might be to go with Harry Kane to score against Man City, with the englishman enjoying yet another fine season of goalscoring form and given his usual penchant for turning up against the big teams.

So there you go, three fundamental betting angles and narratives to set the ball rolling. Happy Punting!