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Beating the soccer (football) bookie!

6 Tips to help you make good betting decisions

In our business it's not uncommon to run into new bettors, or people that are new to betting soccer. To be honest, there are a lot of ways to bet into soccer markets and it can be confusing at first. Today, we will dive into some of the betting markets we use in our handicapping and share tips to help everyone better understand the markets, and how to evaluate different betting options. Let's dive in!

Betting Market 1: The 3-Way Moneyline

Because soccer is such a low-scoring game, the money line (betting on who will win the game) isn't the same as it is in most sports. Most sports use what would be called a two-way moneyline. This means that we can bet on one of two outcomes to occur. Either the Green Bay Packers win or the Chicago Bears win (never the Bears by the way). In soccer, since 25% - 30% of the games end in a tie (called a Draw), we need to include that possibility in the betting or else a huge percentage of the wagers would end as a push. When you bet a standard moneyline in soccer, you are betting that one of three outcomes will occur: Home team win, away team win, or draw.

When do we bet the 3-way moneyline? When our model sees the probability of one of these three outcomes is at least 5% higher than where it's currently priced.

If we have modeled Team A with a 50% chance of winning the game, the fair odds should be +100 (2.0 for our European friends). For us to recommend betting on this team on the moneyline, we would need to see odds priced at 45% or lower... +122 (2.22) or better. Here's a simple, free calculator to help determine odds vs probability and convert from system to system.

Tip 1: Betting on a team 'To Win' on the moneyline, is the same as betting -0.5 goal on a handicap. This may seem obvious, but it will become a very important concept when we get into Asian Handicaps in a little bit. Also, sometimes the markets can be inefficient and you might get a better price on the -0.5 handicap than on the moneyline even though it's the same outcome you are betting, so watch for that!

Betting Market 2: The Handicap or Spread

The handicap market works very much the same way as in most sports. The bookmakers are giving us 'goals' by which a team needs to win by or come within for our bet to cash. The most standard handicap is -0.5 / +0.5. With this spread, the favored team needs to win to cash and the underdog needs to draw or win to cash. By allowing the underdog to have the draw as a winning outcome we have effectively turned the 3 outcome moneyline market into a 2 outcome market. Not all handicaps are going to be -0.5 / +0.5 of course. As the quality gap between the two teams grows, it might be necessary for us bookmakers to set it at -1 / +1 or -1.5 / +1.5 and so on.

Whenever we see a handicap that is a whole number (1, 2, etc.) we now have the possibility of a push on this bet. If Barcelona is favored at -1 and they win the game by exactly 1 goal, that bet is a push. Barcelona would have to win by 2 or more for us to cash this bet.

Tip 2: There are some books out there that have a handicap that is a 3-way line. This means that if the game ends on the exact spread (Barcelona by 1 as above), you lose your bet as this is the "Draw" for this 3-way market.

You will get better odds on this bet than you will if you bet into a 2-way spread market, but that draw possibility is very high and in our experience these are very bad markets to bet into as the increased return will not overcome the draw possibility. Find a different book if this is your case; you'll thank me later. If we quote Barcelona -1 -110 (1.91) odds and you are getting -1 +140, you are likely betting into a 3-way handicap market. RUN!

Market 3: The Asian Handicap

Because of the low-scoring nature of the sport, moving the handicap by a 0.5 goal is a big move! The difference between -0.5 and -1 can cover a lot of the probabilities of the outcome of the game. This is where the Asian Handicap comes in. Asian Handicaps aren't necessarily a new market, they are really just a different way to use the handicap. An Asian Handicap is simply splitting one bet into two equal bets on different lines. You will know an Asian Handicap when you see a spread that has a 0.25 goal in it. -0.25 / +0.25 or -0.75 / +0.75. This is why some books call this a 'quarter ball' bet.

Let's use -0.25 / +0.25 for this explanation. If we bet Aston Villa at -0.25, we are doing half the bet at -0.5 and half the bet at -0 (Also known as Draw, No Bet or PK). In this scenario, we win the entire bet if Aston Villa wins (just as we would if we bet them on the Moneyline or at -0.5 handicap). But we only lose half the bet if the game ends in a draw. We will get lower odds on the -0.25 line then we will on the moneyline of course, but we have a nice hedge in case the game ends in a draw.

Tip 3: It's not uncommon to have people think that -0.25 is a larger spread than the moneyline. But we need to remember that because in soccer we have a 3-way moneyline, the moneyline is actually -0.5 goal (see above). A -0.25 bet is a safer bet than the moneyline and we play a lot of -0.25 bets. Doesn't mean it's always the right bet. We will get into how we evaluate that in a bit.

Market 4: Draw, No Bet (Also known as PK or -0)

This market is pretty simple. If we place a bet here, we are saying we're ok taking a lower payout or paying higher juice in order to push the bet (get a refund) if the game ends in a draw. Depending on the league, a draw can occur as often as the 30% range. By taking this possibility out of play, we just need to know that our side will be priced appropriately for the other 70% or so of the outcomes. The DNB also comes into play with our Asian Handicap example above. In a -0.25 / +0.25 Asian Handicap, the favorite gets half their bet back if the game ends in a draw and loses the other half. The underdog side gets half a win if the game ends in a draw (The +0.5 part of their bet) and pushes the other half (The +0 or DNB part).

Market 5: Total Goals

Betting the total goals market is just like betting point totals in other sports. Here we are just betting if more or less than the posted total will be scored. Just like in handicaps, we see a lot of Asian Totals here too since moving the line by 0.5 a goal can be such a big move. 2.5 is the base total for most games, but since 3 is such a key total in soccer (it hits with the highest frequency in most leagues), it's not uncommon to see a 2.75 total (meaning half the bet is 2.5 and the other half is 3).

We will also lump team totals in this category. Here, we can bet on how many goals each team will score in the game.

We bet a lot of totals and it can be a fun way to watch the game also since you are cheering for (or against) both teams.

Other Markets: There are dozens, but here's a few that we may go to from time to time

Both Teams To Score yes or no (also called BTTS for short) is just as it sounds. This is a two-way bet. Will both teams score or not? A variation of this that we like to go to sometimes is BTTS Yes & Over 2.5. Here, we are essentially betting a same game parlay. We are betting that both teams will score and the total will be 3 or more.

Tip 4: When you model a total to exceed 3 goals but the total is set at 3 or higher, it's often a better value to bet BTTS Yes & Over 2.5 since likely both teams are going to need to score for the game to reach 3 (unless it's a very lopsided affair) but now we don't need to exceed 3 goals to win the bet.

HT / FT result is a way to bet what the status will be at both Halftime and Full Time. This bet has 9 possibilities so you can get big returns if you get this right

Liverpool / Liverpool

Liverpool / Man United

Liverpool / Draw

Draw / Draw

Draw / Liverpool

Draw / Man United

Man United / Man United

Man United / Liverpool

Man United / Draw

Tip 5: Betting HT/FT market can be a good way to bet on a very heavy favorite. For example, if you really want to bet on Bayern Munich against a bottom side, you might need to lay -800 (1.13) on the moneyline or -2.5 goals on the handicap. But betting them to lead at both HT and FT might be -150 (1.67) or so. They won't always lead at the half, but if your model thinks they will higher than 65% of the time in this example (and finish winning 65% of the time) it's a solid bet.

Team to Lift the Trophy / Advance In cup competitions or playoff scenarios, often extra time and/or penalty kicks could be involved to determine who advances. In these scenarios, you can usually bet on who will advance or 'lift the trophy'. Rather than betting on the 90 minutes plus stoppage time, here we get to include the Extra Time or Penalty Kicks that may bet involved.

Evaluating the right play at the right price

As with anything, the price determines the play. And we are a firm believer that there's a price at which just about anything is a good bet! Here's a rule of thumb that we use that has helped us a ton over the years!

Tip 6: The 35 cent rule: 0.25 goal is generally worth 35 cents of juice

When you're using multiple books or your book gives you alternate handicaps or totals to bet into, you need a way to evaluate what is the best option. This is where the 35 cent rule comes in.

In general, we believe that in soccer, each 0.25 goal is worth approximately 35 cents.

Example 1: Over 2.5 -105 or Over 2.25 -150

In this scenario the price difference is 45 cents (150 - 105). We would play the Over 2.5 -105 here as we think the advantage of getting the half push at 2 goals is only worth 35 cents and this book is charging us 45. In either case, we need 3 goals to win the bet and this half hedge isn't worth the juice.

Example 2: Moneyline +115 or -0.25 -115

This is a very common one and we will take the -0.25 -115 all day long. It's costing us 30 cents but we get the half push if the game ends in a draw. And remember, as much as 30% of games do end in a draw (depending on the league) and if the moneyline is priced where the favorite is not odds on ( - money) the odds of the draw increase even more because the teams are more evenly matched.

*** Importance of 3 for totals and 1 for handicaps.

Because 3 is such a critical key number for totals and -1 / +1 for handicaps, we will deviate from the 35 cent rule some in order to 'buy those key numbers'.

Example 1: We like the Total Over and have these 2 options: Over 2.75 +100 or Over 2.5 -140

We would most likely drink the higher 40 cents of juice to get the 2.5 here. By doing so we get the full win if the game lands on 3, vs a half win, half push if we bet the 2.75 at better odds. There's some art here as we are also going to evaluate how high of a score our model likes in our decision process. But in general, we want to have 3 on our side.

Example 2: We like the Total Under and have these 2 options: Under 3 -130 or Under 2.75 +115

We may take the 3 -130 here too, as even at 45 cents knowing it takes 4 goals to beat us is a very strong difference than losing half our bet if it lands on 3 in the other scenario.

Example 3: We like the underdog here and have these 2 options: +0.75 +100 or +1 -140

We will take the +1 and know that it takes the favorite winning by 2 to beat us. Interestingly enough, when we like the favorite here, we will probably follow the 35 cent rule, but on the dog we may push it to 40-45 cents to 'buy the 1'

Bottom line: 35 cents per 0.25 goal is a great evaluation method for comparing different lines!

We hope you enjoyed this and will find these 6 tips useful in your journey to betting profitably.

Please share it on social media and save it for future reference!

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