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Oct 10, 2017

How to bet on soccer: The ultimate soccer betting guide

What are the basic bet types in soccer?

How can you develop a soccer betting strategy?

Why maths is important in soccer betting

How to bet on soccer: The ultimate soccer betting guide

Given its worldwide popularity, it comes as no surprise that soccer is the biggest sport in terms of bet volume at Pinnacle. With hundreds of matches to bet on every week and countless available markets for each match, some bettors could benefit from guidance when it comes to soccer betting. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about soccer betting.

How to bet on soccer

Two teams of 11 players (with a varying number of substitutions allowed in different competitions) compete in a soccer match. A match takes place on a 45-90m x 90-120m pitch and lasts 90 minutes (two 45-minute halves) - unless the competition format requires extra-time (two 15-minute halves) or penalties to decide the match.

The aim of soccer is simple, score more goals than your opponent to win the match. In terms of soccer betting, however, there are various markets to look at and different outcomes to bet on that aren’t just decided by the result of a match. 

Soccer betting: Basic bet types

The three most common bet types in soccer betting are similar to those you will find in most other sports. Handicap and Totals in soccer betting is exactly the same as others, while the match outcome (1X2) is soccer’s equivalent to the Money Line in baseball betting

1X2

As mentioned above, the 1X2 market refers to the match outcome. A home win (1), a draw (X) or an away win (2) are the three available options - the only difference to Money Line betting is the draw (this is because standard soccer matches aren’t settled by going into overtime and simply end as a draw).

Handicap

Handicap betting in soccer is similar to predicting the outcome of the match but it involves a goal “handicap” that has been applied by the bookmaker to counter the perceived difference in abilities between the two teams. The favourites in the 1X2 market will have a negative handicap to overcome, while the underdog will have a positive handicap advantage. 

The use of data and application of mathematical principles can help bettors calculate their own probability and produce expected outcomes.

Because soccer is a low-scoring sport, the handicap offered in soccer betting is usually much lower than NFL betting and NBA betting (only in a real mismatch contest will the handicap be more than three goals).

In order for a handicap bet to win, the team with the negative handicap must win by a greater margin than the figure set. The team with the positive handicap must win or lose by a smaller margin than the handicap figure.

Totals

Totals betting in soccer has nothing to do with who wins the match - it is simply betting on whether the number of goals scored will be over or under a figure set by the bookmaker. The totals market (often referred to as the Over/Under) usually refers to the combined total of goals scored by both sides, but individual team totals and first-half totals are also an option.

Other available markets

Once bettors understand the basics of how to bet on soccer, these skills can be transferred from pre-game betting to live soccer betting. The bet types and how they work are exactly the same in live betting but are just being applied to a match that has already started.

There are also other available markets outside the more traditional options. Bettors can place bets on how many corners will be awarded in a game, while cards betting is based on the total number of cards given to both sides.

In addition to markets that involve a single match, bettors can also bet on various outright markets. These range from competition winners, who will score the most goals in a competition, which team will get relegated and how many points an individual team will win over an entire season.

Developing a soccer betting strategy

We know what kind of form a team is in, if they have any injuries and more often than not, what kind of tactics they will employ in a match. However, bettors will need to build on this most basic knowledge if they are to make money from soccer betting. 

Before delving into complex predictive models, some basic data analysis can go a long way to improving results in soccer betting. Bettors can quantify such claims as “they play better at home” by analysing home field advantage and using it to calculate their own odds to compare against those produced by the bookmaker.

Although soccer is inherently random and notoriously hard to predict - even for a bookmaker - historical performances and past statistics can help provide an edge in soccer betting. Whether you’re trying to predict a draw, betting on both teams to score or analysing expected goals, data can certainly be used to your advantage.

Why maths is important in soccer betting

As shown by David Sumpter in Soccermatics, the application of mathematics in soccer can help improve our understanding of how the game works (and ultimately how to make more efficient betting decisions). From Elo ratings to regression analysis, a basic grasp of maths is essential if you want to make money from soccer betting.

There are plenty out there who claim to have a winning formula but bettors should learn how to measure tipster performance before buying into their success.

Maths can be used to calculate whether you should place a bet or not (whether it has positive expected value) as well as how much you should stake per bet. The use of staking methods will help optimise your bankroll in soccer betting but maths can also help improve your chances of making a profit in other ways.

Double chance betting involves betting on multiple outcomes within the same match. While it might reduce the amount of profit you would make for simply betting on a team to win, it also provides you with a profit for another match outcome - either a draw or the opposition win.

Slightly more advanced formulas, like the Poisson distribution, can be used to translate mean averages into a probability for variable outcomes across a distribution - such as the score of a soccer match.

The use of data and application of mathematical principles can help bettors calculate their own probability (which should then be converted into odds to compare against bookmakers’) and produce expected outcomes. This can be taken a step further by using Monte Carlo simulations to produce distributions of possible outcome values.

Be wary of soccer betting tipsters

While soccer betting appears to be much more complex than the sport itself, this guide should have helped you understand what it takes to start making consistent profits. There are plenty out there who claim to have a winning formula but bettors should learn how to measure tipster performance before buying into their success.

The Green Lumber Fallacy highlights the blurred line between expert sporting knowledge and expert betting knowledge. Making a profit from betting on soccer takes time, effort and patience, following tipsters or self-proclaimed “experts” might seem like an easy option, but it won’t be worthwhile in the long run.

Betting Resources - Empowering your betting

Pinnacle’s Betting Resources is one of the most comprehensive collections of expert betting advice anywhere online. Catering to all experience levels our aim is simply to empower bettors to become more knowledgeable.