Football is the world’s most popular sport, with around 250m regular players worldwide, according to a FIFA survey. Whilst a quarter of a billion people play the sport regularly, many more people love watching it and more than one billion are thought to have watched at least some of the 2018 World Cup final.
In betting terms, football is also number one, certainly in the UK, where around 40% to 50% of all bets are placed on the sport (horse racing is very much a distant second place). For many UK football fans, the occasional punt on the sport they love adds even more excitement to the world’s most popular game.
Betting on football can be very simple and is certainly easy enough to do. That said, with literally hundreds of different bets, or markets, available on the biggest games, it can be confusing for a betting newbie. Throw in some specific terminology and lingo and things get even more befuddling. This football betting guide will help with all of that though and is aimed at the beginner, although we’ll also cover some more complex and advanced techniques and areas of football betting as well.
Most Popular Football Bets: Match Winner
Perhaps the simplest and most popular bet in football is a wager on who will win a given game. This is the bet that most punters start with and is an easy introduction to betting on football. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat, or for any vegan football fans, more than one way to peel a potato. We’re not vegan but skinning a cat seems a little harsh even so.
Back to betting on the game though: if you want to bet on who will win a match, there are a range of options available to you, each offering something subtly different. Let’s take a look.
The most basic option of them all is sometimes called match odds betting, whilst at other times you may see it listed as winner betting, 90 minutes, Home/Draw/Away, 1X2 or even WDW. Whatever the name, this is a simple bet on what the match result will be after 90 minutes plus any injury time but, as with most football markets, excluding extra time and penalties should they be required.
Naturally enough you have three options: the home win, the draw, or the away win and the final score is all that matters in terms of your bet. The odds can vary massively, of course, but in really general terms the home team is most likely to be the favourite, barring a major mismatch the draw is usually priced somewhere between around 2/1 and 4/1, and the away team is often the underdog. As said though, that is a huge generalisation and, for example, if England are away at San Marino the away side will be a massive odds-on favourite and the draw may be priced at odds of 50/1 or even more.
Handicap, Split Handicap & Asian Handicap Bets
We will look in more detail at these markets elsewhere on the site but in simple terms, the handicap markets give one side a hypothetical head start. In simple terms once again, an Asian handicap only offers two results, so the draw is taken out of the equation, whilst a split handicap is essentially two bets in one, with half the stake on a handicap of one size and half on a slightly smaller or larger handicap.
Different handicap bets can be used in different ways but, in general, they are useful for either adding more security or increasing the odds. They do this by making the bet less specific than the standard match odds in the former case or more specific in the latter.
Let’s say you think Real Madrid will beat Barcelona but you are not 100% confident and want a little bit of insurance as well. There are various handicap bets that would do that, perhaps the most obvious being the +0.5 Real Madrid Asian handicap. In this instance, you are backing Real with a hypothetical 0.5 goal head start. The odds are shorter than backing them in the match odds but that 0.5 goal advantage means that your bet wins if they win and also if they draw.
Alternatively, you might be extremely confident that Real Madrid will win and choose to use the handicap markets to make a more precise prediction about the game and receive bigger odds in return. One option would be backing them with a -1.5 goal Asian handicap, meaning they need to win by two goals or more. Alternatively, if you fancy them for a huge win you could back them -2, meaning they need to win by three or more, with a two-goal victory paying out as a draw on the standard three-way handicap of this bet.
Double Chance & Draw No Bet
Sometimes abbreviated as DC and DNB respectively, these markets are a slight variation on the match odds bet and take in some elements of handicap batting too. With DC you effectively get to pick two of the three results and win if either of those happens. This gives you a greater chance of winning but with shorter odds. You might, for example, back Draw-Team A, if you think that Team B has no real chance of winning. Alternatively in a match where both sides need to win, you might opt for Team A-Team B, although in general this bet is placed less frequently.
Draw No Bet is another option where you are betting on the full-time result but with the draw removed from the equation. In this instance, should the clash end as a draw, your wager is “no bet”, meaning it is voided and your stake returned. You don’t win but, equally, you don’t lose either.
Half-Time / Full-Time
This market, often written as HT/FT, is a combined bet on the result at half-time and full-time. You are betting on who will be winning at half-time, or if it will be a draw, and also what the position will be after 90 minutes (plus stoppage time).
You need both parts of the bet to win in order to get your payout and this is a great way to increase your odds from the normal WDW bet. If we revert to our El Clásico example and assume that the game is in Madrid, with the hosts being the slight favourites, the options and example odds can be seen in the table below (including for the 90 minute match odds).
|Match Odds||Real Madrid||13/10|
|HT/FT||Real Madrid/ Real Madrid||3/1|
|HT/FT||Draw/ Real Madrid||9/2|
The correct score market, sometimes abbreviated to CS, is another option for football punters looking for a longer odds option that is based on the outcome of the game. This is the most specific prediction you can make and is rather self-explanatory – you are simply betting on what the score at full-time will be.
Unsurprisingly the most common scorelines have the shortest odds, with scores such as 1-0 and 2-1 to the favourite often priced at around the 5/1 to 10/1 mark. Those odds rapidly increase when you predict a win for the underdog and when you add in more goals. Unless the game is a major mismatch, any score with either side notching four or more will usually have odds of around 50/1 and upwards, whilst truly outlandish predictions such as a 4-0 win for the less fancied side, or a 7-0 home win will usually have triple-figure odds.
Win to Nil & Match Result + BTTS or Over/Under
Another popular bet that centres on who wins the game sees that basic prediction combined with some of the goals-based bets we will look at shortly. The “Win to nil” market is another fairly obvious one and entails backing either side to win (as ever, 90 minutes plus stoppage time) and keep a clean sheet. So 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 – anything-0 in fact – are all winning bets. Any goal for the other side immediately renders the bet a loser, even if they win 10-1 but of course the odds reflect the greater risk of the bet.
If you predict a more open and entertaining game, “Match Result & BTTS” is the place to be, BTTS standing for “both teams to score”, as we shall detail shortly. This is a bet that requires you to pick which side will win and both teams to score for the wager to return a profit. Draw and BTTS is usually also an option and obviously plays out on any stalemate apart from a 0-0 bore draw.
A third sub-section within this group of markets combines over/under betting with the match result. Once again you predict which side will win, or if it will be a draw, but then there is also the matter of how many goals the game will see. Over or under 2.5 goals is the most common option but you can also opt for over/under 1.5, 3.5 or even more. Returning to El Clásico, if you expect a real thriller then backing Real Madrid and over 3.5 goals would be the way to go.
Such a bet wins if Madrid triumph and the game sees at least four goals. So, in contrast with a bet on Madrid and BTTS, Madrid 4-0 would be a winner, whilst 3-1, 3-2, or 6-5 (or any other suitable score!) would also bring home the bacon.
Who Will Score Bets
Another area of betting within individual games follows on from this and is based around football’s most precious commodity: goals. With these bets it is not necessarily of any concern who wins the match, just the number of goals, who scores, when they score and how many goals they score. There really are a plethora of goals-related markets to choose from and here are the most popular and widely available.
As detailed above, both teams to score (BTTS), is a wager where, would you believe it, both teams need to score for the bet to win. This is a simple and massively popular market and many punters love to have a bet on there being goals in a clash. Any final score from 1-1 upwards means this bet is a winner; in other words, any score at all that doesn’t include the dreaded word “nil”. For the purposes of this bet, an own goal off the goalkeeper’s head is worth the same as a 40-yard volley – all goals count, as long as both teams register.
The exact opposite bet is sometimes also available under the same market, so in the BTTS area of a betting site, you will have the option of backing yes or no. In general, backing both teams to score will offer shorter odds than backing against that outcome, though this is not always the case. Usually both options are priced not too far away from evens, it being unusual to see either priced shorter than around 1/2 or longer than about 6/4.
A range of additional markets has been added to this in more recent times, including a bet on both teams to score in both halves. This wager needs at least four goals and unless they are perfectly and evenly split between the teams and halves, even more than that. As such the odds are rewarding for punters who are brave and skilful enough to call it right.
Another option includes combining BTTS with other markets. As we have seen, the match result is one such option but you can also bet on BTTS and over/under a certain number of goals.
Backing over or under a certain number of goals in a game is a popular bet in its own right, as well as the joint selections we have already mentioned. As said, 2.5 goals is the most common line as this is statistically the most likely, with games in most leagues and competitions usually seeing an average of around 2.6 to 2.8 goals per match.
As with BTTS, in most games, aside from major mismatches or clashes with especially high- or low-scoring sides, both under and over 2.5 goals will be priced quite close to evens. Going over a higher number of goals, such as 3.5 or 4.5, increases the odds quite dramatically, whilst going under a lower number has the same effect. As with BTTS, own goals are valid for this market and all that matters is the total number in the game come full-time.
The table below gives some indicative odds for a couple of games, although with this market much depends on the nature of the two teams, not just the match odds:
|Match Odds||Over 0.5||Under 0.5||Over 1.5||Under 1.5||Over 2.5||Under 2.5||Over 3.5|
|Home 11/10, Draw 5/2, Away 29/10||1/14||8/1||4/11||11/5||6/5||3/1||1/4|
|Home 4/17, Draw 25/4, Away 14/1||1/25||12/1||2/9||10/3||6/5||7/4||4/9|
First, Last & Anytime Goalscorer
Yet another fans’ favourite, betting on which player will score is a mainstream bet offered by all football betting sites. Perhaps the most frequently placed bet is on who will score the first goal, though you can also usually bet on who will score the last goal at the same, or very similar odds. The anytime scorer market sees players priced at much shorter odds because this bet wins if they score at, you’ve guessed it, anytime in the game!
All of these bets are, once again, valid for goals scored in 90 minutes and stoppage time only unless stated. Unlike some of the other football betting options we have looked at, own goals are disregarded for these markets. That means that any own goals are simply ignored altogether, so the first goal after any own goals is the winning bet for first scorer and the last before any own goals is settled as the winner for last goalscorer. Equally a player who scores an own goal is not a winning bet in the anytime scorer market.
With all of these bets you will see the various players listed as options, alongside the selection of “No goalscorer”. Backing no goalscorer is often priced the same as 0-0 in the correct score market but has the advantage of also paying out if the only goal or goals in a game are own goals, a neat little trick to increase your value.
Some bookies will also offer bets on who will score the second, third and so on goal in a game, or alternatively, who will score the next goal if you are betting in-play (of which more later).
Outright Football Betting
Another hugely popular area of football betting is the outright markets. Once again, this is a simple bet but this time, instead of who will win a given match, you are betting on who will win a league, cup, tournament or other competition or prize overall or outright.
These bets can be placed at more or less any time, including from before the season has started (of which more later) right up until the final ball has been kicked. You might choose to bet on who will win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Spanish second division, the Serie A Golden Boot, the Ballon d’Or, the PFA Young Player of the Year, the African Cup of Nations or just about anything else.
Also falling under the banner of outright markets are things like which side will finish bottom of the table, who will be relegated, or will a team finish in the top four (Premier League) or the promotion play-offs (lower divisions). The great thing about such bets is that, depending on when you make them, the fun and excitement can last a full season, keeping you interested in virtually every game from just a single stake. That offers great value in terms of the cost/fun ratio and due to the nature of these bets, the odds are usually more rewarding than the simpler short-term bets on an individual game.
Other Football Bets
When it comes to football there are more betting options than any other sport and there are almost limitless possibilities. Some of the options for betting within a game are listed below:
- Corners – Various options exist for betting on corners, including which side will win the first, who will win the most and how many there will be in total.
- Cards – You can bet on how many cards there will be in a game (sometimes in terms of points with yellows being 10 and reds 25), whether or not there will be a sending off, specific players to be booked or sent off, and more.
- Penalties – Most betting sites allow you to bet on whether a game will see a penalty awarded, scored, or missed, whilst in cup games you can bet that a tie will go to penalties or that a specific team will win on penalties.
- Requests – Most bookies allow you to request weird and wonderful bets, or have a tool that allows you to create your own. These can combine multiple niche markets such as corners, players to be carded, players to assist and score goals, and more standard bets such as which side will win, resulting in potentially huge payouts.
As well as all these in-game options (and others we haven’t listed simply because there are too many!), you can also find a selection of more unusual specials bets. The biggest areas within this concern managerial sackings and transfers. The so-called “sack race” is a bet that interests many punters and is a wager on who will be the next manager within a specific division to leave their post. Alternatively, punters like to bet on who will be the next manager of a club, a market that moves very quickly based sometimes on the wildest of rumours.
In terms of transfers, markets tend to focus on particular players, so for example there might be a market on which club Lionel Messi will join after Barcelona, or which club a player will be at following a certain transfer window (in both cases no transfer/move will be an option). You may also see club-based transfer specials.
Other specials bets include things such as players to make an international squad for a major tournament or players to score a certain number of goals in a season. In short, if you can think of a proposition, you can probably bet on it!
Football Betting In-Play
In-play betting, sometimes called live betting, has experienced huge growth, partly due to the increased capabilities and ubiquity of mobile phones. In-play betting refers to wagers that are placed once a game has already kicked off, with odds updating in real-time as the match unfolds. This type of betting can be used in a range of ways and is very popular.
You can watch how a game develops before deciding what you want to back, you can hedge and adjust existing bets depending on the state of the game and you can create new wagers if your initial bets, for example on a first goalscorer or correct score, have already lost.
Almost all football betting sites now offer in-play betting. The range of markets is not quite as big but even so, for top-level games, you will still have masses of choice. Many bookies also offer in-play free bets and bonuses so if you have never tried it, these are certainly well worth looking out for.
Mobile phones mean many fans can now watch football almost anywhere they like and placing bets can be done in an instant. Whether you are watching in the pub, at a friend’s or on a train, your bet is just a few taps away and you can spice up any game in seconds.
Ante Post Football Bets
In some respects ante post betting is almost the opposite of in-play betting in that your wagers are placed well before the events, sometimes even years in advance! Such bets do not normally relate to individual games but are more likely to be outright bets. Typical ante post bets include backing a side to win a league or cup in pre-season, or having a bet on a nation to win the World Cup before the full lineup and draw has been confirmed.
Ante post bets are great fun and good value as you may have the bet “live” for many weeks, months or years, garnering a lot of long-term excitement from a single stake. For example, if you back a team in May to win the title the following season, your interest is maintained throughout summer as you observe their transfer dealings and then, hopefully at least, during the entire season.
In addition, because you are making the bets early, with lots of unknowns, the odds are often higher than they would be if you made them closer to the start of the competition. Call things right and you could be sitting on some major value before a ball has even been kicked.
Accumulators, or accas, can be made in any sport but they are probably most closely linked with horseracing and football. An acca is where many different, unrelated bets are combined into one, a typical example that combines the ante post bets mentioned above might be a pre-season wager on who will win the four top tiers of English football, with the FA Cup thrown in for good measure.
Accas require all legs to win in order to generate any returns but if that happens the payout can be staggering. With an acca, the stake and the winnings from each selection roll over onto the next one; the table below shows a hypothetical bet based on the example given above (note that odds are estimated but returns are accurate based on those prices).
|Selection||Stake||Odds of Selection||Return (Including Rolled Over Stake from Previous Selection)|
|Man City to Win Premier League||£10||Evens||£20|
|Brentford to Win the Championship||£20||13/2||£150|
|Oxford to Win League 1||£150||10/1||£1,650|
|Cheltenham to Win League 2||£1,650||7/1||£13,200|
|Man City to Win the FA Cup||£13,200||2/1||£39,600|
Clearly landing all five legs of the acca above would take a good degree of luck but a bet of just £10 would yield a return of almost £40,000! And that is based on picking favourites or certainly very well-fancied sides, with 10/1 Oxford the biggest-priced individual selection. Even a bet of just £1 on such an acca would deliver a win of almost £4,000 and so it is easy to see why football accas are so popular.
Placing a regular weekly acca is part of their Saturday ritual for many punters and watching the various games unfold over the course of the day or weekend is a nice bit of fun. Due to the fact that small stakes can deliver huge wins, such bets can be viewed as almost akin to a lottery. Fans much prefer them though as at least there is some aspect of skill, control and knowledge, rather than just pure chance. In addition, compared to the odds of the lottery, landing an acca is far more attainable.
Betting at the Game
Much as placing a Saturday long list (acca) is part of the ritual for some punters, so too is placing a bet at the game for others. Fans who go to matches have their own regular routines and in amongst the lucky pint with Dad, getting the bus at exactly 1.55pm and queuing for a pie at half-time, the cheeky correct score bet just before kick-off forms part of these bi-weekly habits.
Most big clubs have some form of betting operation inside the ground, usually a number of relatively small, often shabby kiosks dotted around the various stands. Depending on their own internal sponsorship and partnership arrangements these may be with any one of the major UK bookies, or even a lesser-known brand. Typically, however, the betting microshops are actually operated by a third party that offers a turnkey solution with minimal fuss.
Of course, to punters, what goes on behind the scenes is largely irrelevant and all that matters is that you can get your bets on. These in-stadia outlets are perfect for that and give fans the chance to place bets inside the ground once they know the team news and perhaps after chatting to their friends at the game.
Whilst this method of betting at the game has its pros, it is far from perfect. Typically the odds provided in stadia are not great. Certainly, for those who would normally shop around for the best odds from a selection of their betting accounts, or perhaps use a betting exchange, prices may seem rather short. In addition, the range of markets available, or certainly advertised, will be far smaller than many regular bettors are accustomed to, though further options may be available on request.
Perhaps the biggest issue though concerns winnings; should you be lucky enough to land that big 4-3 correct score bet! Part of the appeal of betting the old-fashioned way – handing over paper money, be it at the football, races or your local shop – is collecting your real, physical winnings. Picking up a healthy stack of notes feels far more exciting and “real” than when it all takes place online.
With kiosks at grounds, you may be able to pay by cash, although increasingly cards are preferred by both punters and bookies. But you are unlikely to receive your winnings that way and even less likely to at full time. Should your bet come in you can typically receive the winnings either back into an online account, via a bank transfer, back onto your card at a future game or, increasingly infrequently, back in cash or via card at full time. For many punters, this extra perceived hassle (though in our opinion collecting on a winner is never a hassle!) means they may as well simply make the bet online in the first place.
Can You Bet Online Inside a Football Stadium?
There is no legal impediment to using your preferred online bookie to make a bet at the ground via your mobile phone and, in theory, doing so is entirely plausible. But have you ever tried getting a decent data signal at a ground? It might be possible in the lower leagues but at any stadium with a fair-sized crowd, the chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time staring at your phone in frustration as it does very little.
Each mobile phone network can essentially only hold a certain degree of traffic via each antenna at a given time. With so many people all in the same place, congestion, especially with people using data-heavy apps like sharing photos and videos, is almost unavoidable. This may improve over time but assuming you aren’t in a hospitality area or suite with access to Wi-Fi, what are you to do at that moment to get those bets on?
Well, if you arrive quite early before the crowds you may well be okay – or of course, you could just place your bets online before you arrive at the stadium. Another option is to place your bets during the game, as at this time far fewer people are using their phones and access to data should be at least a little better. Though you might end up missing a goal!
One final option is to make your bets over the phone, either using a betting firm’s tele-betting service, or via a chat with a trusted friend or relative, or using messages to ask that same betting buddy. In truth though, making bets whilst physically inside a packed stadium is far from easy, so we would typically suggest doing your football betting before arrival and then you can actually enjoy the game whilst you are there.
Is Courtsiding Possible at Football?
One group of people who definitely do place bets from inside sporting stadia are those who engage in courtsiding. This type of gambling, which gets its name from its prevalence in tennis, is broadly legal but often contravenes the club or stadium’s rules and possibly those outlined by the sport’s governing body.
Coutsiders make bets in-play, seeking to gain an advantage based on the fact they are watching events unfold 100% live in real-time. TV broadcasts and streams may be billed as live but technology is far from immediate. The latency means that those inside the ground may view action anything from two seconds to as much as 15 seconds sooner than those watching on TV.
This advantage is more important in some sports than others and tennis is particularly compatible with courtsiding. On a good day, someone making bets from the side of the court aims to bet on who will win a certain game or set after they have actually won it. There are dead certs and then there are dead certs!
In addition, bookies often control their in-play odds and markets not by directly monitoring every single game, but by using live score sites and the information they convey. In tennis, these sites are often linked to official scoring data which comes from the chair umpire and courtsiders have been known to specifically target umpires who are slow in this regard!
Courtsiding may well be possible at football but it is certainly not easy. Betting on football is big business and bookies are far more stringent with how they control their live odds than they are with some smaller sports. In addition, all bookies that offer in-play betting have a lag between bets being placed and them being fully accepted/confirmed. This is to stop anyone trying to gain an unfair advantage and due to the nature of football, this is often sufficient to limit the efficacy of what we might call pitchsiding.
Moreover, as we have said, actually getting reliable mobile phone access, even just for a phone call (courtsiders often have a home-based accomplice who places the bets whilst they relay the necessary information), is far from easy in a busy football stadium. There may well be technological ways around this issue but in general, it doesn’t help that football matches tend to have larger crowds.
Lastly, football and stadium authorities have been clamping down on courtsiding and other in-ground activities in recent years. Various types of sports data and research companies have deployed “spies” to grounds to access live information and create their own live score systems and performance data sets. The authorities are also well aware of courtsiding and so anyone seen to be constantly on their phone (even if that is essentially anyone under the age of 60!) may arouse suspicion and, in the worst-case scenario, they could be ejected from the ground. Which is a bit harsh if you were just texting your Nan but that’s life!