Guide: How to bet on Football

So you want to bet on the beautiful game?

Football can leave supporters jumping for joy or reeling in despair, such are the sport’s highs and lows. A sure-fire way of adding to the thrill of a match, while giving yourself a piece of the action and seeing if you – too – can win, is by betting on football.

Like in other sports, there are a wide range of different things to bet on during football, which are usually referred to as markets. For a guide on the different markets available when betting on football, click here.

But, before delving into the ‘what’ and the ‘when,’ let’s start with the basics of how to bet on football.

The Odds

The first crucial piece of information for any football bettor is the odds offered on their bet. Every bet is based on a set of odds that represent how much a bookmaker is offering you in return for your stake (the money you have bet).

Odds determine the how much you stand to gain if your bet wins. The two most common types of odds are fractional and decimal. With both fractional and decimal odds, the lower the number, the shorter the odds, which means the less you would potentially win.

Fractional odds: Odds are often presented as fractions – for example, 2/1. The second number represents how much you would have to bet to win the amount shown in the first number. So, a £10 bet at 2/1 would win your £10 stake back plus £20 in winnings.

If the first number is lower than the second number, a winning bet would still win you your stake back, though your winnings would be less than what you originally bet. For example, a £10 bet at odds of 4/5 would win you your £10 stake back plus £8 in winnings.

If fractional odds are ever 1/1 they are written as Evs or Evens (even money, as the stake you receive back is the exact same value as your winnings).

Decimal odds: Odds can also be presented as decimals – for example, 2.0. An easy way to understand decimal odds is by taking the number and multiplying your original stake with it. A £10 bet at odds of 2.0 would therefore be £10 doubled = £20, which includes your original stake. Decimals start at 1.0 and the closer to 1.0, the lower the odds.

Bookmakers determine odds based on a variety of factors. For instance, if Manchester City are playing Manchester United in the Premier League, a bookmaker may offer Manchester City at odds of 1/2 (1.5) to win the game, while offering a draw at 12/5 (2.4) and a Manchester United win at 3/1 (4).

This could be based on Manchester City being the home team and being placed higher in the Premier League table. But other, less obvious reasons, can still be key factors – which we will explore in more detail further down in our guide. Some examples could be an injury to Manchester United’s top scorer or a potentially bad record for Manchester United at Manchester City’s home stadium.

Odds boosts, new customer offers and promotions

An important consideration on how to bet on football week to week is the best odds boosts and offers to take advantage of. While you may be evaluating a bet with odds of 11/10, for example, bookmakers can often offer odds boosts that increase your winnings by 25% or 50%.

Something else bookmakers can regularly offer are promotions, which can include free bets or refunds. A common example is a “bet and get,” where you receive a £5 bet in-play (a type of betting we will explore later) after placing a £10 bet pre-match (the exact figures vary from offer to offer).

That’s why it’s always important to keep on top of what offers different bookmakers have in place on a weekly basis.

New Customer Offers: The best offers are often saved by bookmakers for new players – and are often worth taking advantage of even if you already have a registered account with someone else.

For example, a standard new customer offer can involve 2-3 free bets on top of any bet placed. This means you could place a £10 bet on Real Madrid to win a Spanish La Liga match and then have three more £10 bets courtesy of the bookmaker. Should you win with those bets, you would only receive the winnings – as you wouldn’t have staked any of your own money.

Other new customer offers can come in the form of extreme odds boosts (for example, a team that’s favourite to win a match can be priced as high as 50/1) or a deposit-free bet, where you wouldn’t have to stake or deposit any of your own money to begin with.

Sometimes, even without an odds boost, one bookmaker may offer better odds on the same bet than another – that’s why it’s always important to compare different bookmakers to get the best price. Before you bet, compare.

You can see the best odds, offers and promotions here at betcompare.com.

Singles v accumulators

With so many matches taking place across the world, especially on weekends and during midweek – commonly Tuesday and Wednesday nights – players are not limited to betting on one event.

If you would like to bet on just one outcome, such as a team winning a match, a player scoring a goal or something similar, this is called a ‘single.’

However, a very common choice among bettors is to play an ‘accumulator,’ which is a combination of more than one selection in one bet. This can range from a double or treble to an accumulator where a player has chosen numerous selections.

Advantages: Accumulators (accas for short) can ensure one bet lasts across a lengthier period of time and generally offer a player a much higher return. Accumulators offer a player far more reward for the same stake as a single would. For instance, it is not unheard of for players to make hundreds or thousands of pounds off a £10 bet.

While the odds of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool winning at home on a given day might be very short as individual selections, backing all three teams to win in the same accumulator would provide significantly higher odds.

Accumulators can also help you spread your bet across a longer timeframe, from a few hours to a few days and, in theory, as long as you want. They can help utilise your knowledge across leagues and teams, as well as different sports.

Meanwhile, plenty of bookmakers also offer promotions such as ‘acca insurance’ in case one of your selections lets you down and the rest win.

Disadvantages: While the reward of an accumulator is far greater, so is the chance of the bet losing. If, for instance, a bettor was extremely confident of Inter Milan winning an Italian Serie A match on a Saturday night – and was well-versed on the team but knew little else about the rest of that weekend’s fixtures – a single may be the best option.

Ultimately, every outcome must come through for an accumulator to win. If seven out of 10 choices are successful, it would be the equivalent to zero choices winning. It is equally tempting to add rogue choices to an accumulator, as the bigger the outsider, the higher your overall odds will increase.

But despite raising the odds, these selections may not actually increase your chances of winning the bet. For a comprehensive guide on how to bet on football accumulators, see our Best Accumulator Tips.

Cash out

An increasingly common feature within football betting is cash out, which is just as relevant in singles betting as it is for accumulators.

If a bookmaker offers cash out (many do in modern-day betting), it effectively means your bet is kept alive and can be withdrawn at any time – even after it an event has started.

For example, if you were to bet £50 on Paris Saint-Germain to score two or more goals in a French Ligue 1 match, and cash out was available, you would be able to monitor your bet and see whether it is better to cut your losses at a given point.

This would prove particularly useful if Paris Saint-German were 1-0 up after 75 minutes and you were unsure if they would score a second, based on how the game had panned out so far. Hypothetically, the bookmaker could offer you a cash out of £30; cashing out would mean you took back some of your stake instead of being consigned to losing the whole bet.

Cashing out takes skill and judgement, though, as it is very plausible your original bet ends up winning, meaning you miss out on the winnings you would initially have received.

In-Play Betting

Most of the football betting discussed in our guide so far has been based on pre-match markets. But where both cash out and betting in general can get even livelier is during in-play betting.

In-play football betting markets involve betting on the action during a match once it has already kicked off. If a team goes 1-0 down with five minutes on the clock, the odds on who will win the match, how many goals will be scored and a huge list of other outcomes will have changed instantly.

Betting on football is now even more popular during a match than leading up to it. When betting in-play, you are able to view how a match is unfolding – either by watching it or seeing the statistics – and can place bets based on tactics, substitutions and player performance.

When betting in-play, new short-term options become available such as ‘next team to score,’ while in-match events can dramatically alter the odds: like goals, red cards and substitutions.

Key factors

During both pre-match and in-play betting, several key factors will affect the outcome of your bet. Some of these factors are constants within football betting and can sometimes add a degree of uncertainty to your bet.

Home and away: An important consideration in any football match is which team is playing at home and which is away. Certain teams are much stronger at home, whereas some can either struggle desperately on the road or become traveling specialists. It is even possible to view home and away versions of league tables, with many teams fluctuating greatly across the two.

Home teams are generally priced at shorter odds. Even in a situation where the away team is the favourite, their odds are likely to be longer than they would have been as the home side. Vice versa, a weaker side may still be considered less likely to lose by bookmakers when at home.

Injuries: Football teams are nothing without their players. Even league champions can be a totally different prospect with one or two key players out injured. Injuries – and suspensions – are therefore always worth analysing when betting on football.

If a team’s leading striker and top scorer is out injured, for example, a team’s odds of winning may alter significantly, as well as their odds of scoring a greater amount of goals. Similarly, other players will have shorter odds of scoring themselves.

Head-to-head records and statistics: In addition to home and away form, odds may be influenced by particularly quirky records and statistics. A team that’s flying high in its respective league might be priced as an outsider when visiting the bottom team in the table – because it may transpire they have not won at that particular stadium in their last 10 attempts.

Certain teams will always have stronger head-to-head records than others and certain players and managers will have records that either motivate or haunt them. It can often be useful to take these into account, while the intensity of a fixture is equally worth considering, such as cup finals or heated local derbies, where it is often said “form goes out the window.”

Competitions

One of the final layers to football betting is building your individual knowledge on the different players, teams, managers and competitions that form the global game. What competition a football match is a part of can have a huge bearing on its outcome.

Just as injuries will affect teams, the effects of resting players can be equally considerable. Managers and teams are more likely to rest players if they have a particularly busy schedule, or if the tournament they are taking part in is lower down on their priority list.

This applies especially to friendly matches but also, less often, domestic cup competitions. A Bayern Munich team competing for the German Bundesliga title may therefore play significantly better than a completely different Bayern Munich XI playing lower-league opposition in the German Cup.

In the Champions League and Europa League, too, away teams are not just traveling domestically; they may be traveling a whole continent. Factors like this ensure the nature of the competition being played out will have a strong effect on the outcome of any associated football betting.

Another common example involves knockout football: whereas a league game can end as a draw, a knockout match can be settled in extra time or penalties, so the odds will vary and it’s important to check whether you are only betting on the outcome within 90 minutes.

Outrights

The topic of competitions leads to another type of betting – betting on outright tournament winners rather than individual rounds or matches.

Betting on a World Cup winner or Champions League winner will offer greater odds than simply betting on a match involving two teams, as there are so many different outcomes.

Placing a bet on a team to win a competition outright can also keep your bet alive across a whole season and still prove successful even if your selection has suffered a downturn in recent results.

Responsible Gambling

Football betting can be about winning – but it is also about fun and entertainment. If you have bet on football and lost, but it has kept you on the edge of your seat for 85 minutes, from an enjoyment perspective you have already received value from your bet.

Betting solely to win money can often have the adverse effect. Don’t chase your losses and make sure you know your limits. If you feel you are starting to lose control, take a step away.

There are tools available to help you set your limits, such as deposit limits, while some bookmakers allow you to see how long you have been logged in while betting or viewing odds. Whether you are a casual punter or looking to invest a sizeable sum and bet regularly, everyone must draw the line somewhere.

Self-exclusion periods are available, where your account will be made inaccessible for a period selected by yourself – it could be a day, a week or more – and help is always on hand.

After all, a key part of how to bet on football is enjoying it; and the best way of doing so is ensuring you gamble responsibly.