In the UK, football is by far the most bet on sport – even more so than horse racing (but only just). For most betting site’s it’s also the primary focus with more events, features and bets than anything else.
If you’re looking to just place a few simple bets on the weekend, then you can’t go far wrong with any of the sites listed below. Some have better odds or promotions than others, but we cover than in more detail in the summaries and reviews.
Football Betting Overview
Did you know that the first ever official football bets were placed in 1923?
Here we are, a century later, and the beautiful game has changed beyond all recognition. But football betting has essentially remained the same in all that time – we’re still looking for winners, goals, cards, corners and pretty much anything else that can happen out on the hallowed turf.
Bookmakers are no longer one man behind a desk in a tiny, smoky shop either, and today we can bet in-play, request bets, watch live streams and do so much more with our favourite betting sites and apps.
You could argue that there’s never been a better time to be a punter, and whether you are a complete newcomer to football betting, are looking for some handy tips to take your bets to the next level or simply want to pick up a cheeky welcome bonus or two, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about football betting. We’ll talk about some of the most popular bet types that are available (it would take too long to describe the 100+ options available per game), we’ll reveal the best of the features that you should look out for at a bookmaker and finally we might even have some tips that could help you to become a more successful football punter.
If that sounds like it might be right up your street, let us begin.
At a Glance Guide to Betting on Football
Once upon a time, betting on football was as basic as it gets – the object was to find one, or a few, match winners.
That’s because the bookies offered fewer markets going back to the 1980s and 1990s, and because the Pools was also popular at the time – where picking winners or drawn matches was key – that was just the way it was.
But as time has passed, the bookmakers have realised that they can offer all manner of betting markets without eroding their all important ‘edge’ on punters – hence why now we have the ability to bet on both teams to score, over/under a specific number of goals, total cards and corners in a game, half time/full time scorecasts, a player to score first or anytime, correct score and much, much more besides.
Professional punters and those seeking a secondary income from betting will typically find ‘value’ by studying a match, investigating the form of the two teams, any key players that are injured/suspended, the underlying stats of their recent games and even factors such as the weather and a side’s recent schedule.
More casual punters will typically bet on their gut instinct, backing singles or accumulators – ‘accas’ as they are often known – based on how they feel about a particular set of games.
Both can be fun, both can deliver winners – and of course you are free to decide how you want to bet on football based on your own preferences.
And don’t forget, if you are watching a game live on TV and spot something – maybe one of the teams is on top and looking likely to score, or maybe one of the players has lost their temper and is a yellow card waiting to happen – you can load up your favourite betting website or app and get your bets on in-play….another fine way to enhance your enjoyment of the beautiful game.
Football Bet Types
As mentioned, there are stacks of different bet types you can use in football, and each of these offers a chance to profit depending on the variables of a match.
It makes sense to have an understanding of as many of these as possible, because then you will have many more options at your fingertips as you analyse a set of fixtures.
So here’s a look at some of the most popular football bet types that are commonly used:
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Here, quite simply, you are looking to correctly predict the outcome of a match – home win, away win or the draw.
Sometimes referred to as 1-X-2, you can bet on single games in the match result market or combine a multiple of them in an accumulator.
The more likely a team is to win, the shorter their odds – but as we will discover later in this article, the key thing is to find value in your bets, regardless of the price.
One side note: for the Match Result market in games where extra time and/or penalties can be used, your bet will typically be settled at the end of the 90 minute game unless otherwise stated.
Both Teams to Score
As the name implies, in this betting market we’re looking for one thing only – both teams to score.
It doesn’t matter what the end result is or the scoreline, as long as both the outfits contesting the game find the net then our bet lands.
Own goals count, so you don’t need to worry about that, and again it’s the 90 minutes that decide the fate of our wager – extra time goals do not count.
For context, in the 2020/21 Premier League season Both Teams to Score – or BTTS as you may see it shortened to – landed in 49% of games. Of course, the bet is much more likely to land in games between two even teams, and where the attacking players are expected to have the upper hand on opposition defenders.
Roughly speaking, around half of all games in Europe’s top leagues sees three or more goals scored.
The bookmakers offer an Over/Under 2.5 Goals market that asks how many goals you think will be scored in a game – ignore the .5, which is ugly, and instead focus on the basic question. Will there be three or more goals in the contest or two (or fewer)?
Note that the bookies typically offer Over/Under lines for 1.5 and 3.5 goals too, and if you are feeling particularly optimistic about a goal glut you can even try 4.5 or 5.5 (although this isn’t recommended).
Football betting is about risk and reward – do you want to take a chance on a long odds fancy, or play it more conservatively?
The correct score betting market is at the riskier end of the spectrum, but you can take advantage of some outstanding odds that are available.
The downside? There are so many permutations as to how a football match can end, with ten or more different scores absolutely possible. In the Premier League in 2020/21, the most common scoreline was 1-1, but this only occurred in 11% of games. That shows how difficult forecasting correct scorelines can be.
Draw No Bet/Double Chance
These are ‘cover’ bets that in essence perform the same function.
With a Draw No Bet option, you will win if the team you back is victorious and lose your money if they taste defeat. If the game ends in a draw, your stake is returned.
In the Double Chance market, your bet lands if the team you back wins or draws – that’s even more insurance.
Here, we are trying to work out whether a team can cover a hypothetical handicap or not.
These can be plus or minus handicaps, and here’s a couple of examples: if we back Liverpool with a -1 goal handicap, they would have to win the game by two clear goals (or more) for our bet to land. If we back Manchester United with a +2 handicap, our bet lands if the Red Devils win, draw or lose by a single goal margin.
Asian handicaps introduce half and quarter goals into the mix – which is very difficult to explain in layman’s terms. If you head to a search engine and look for Asian handicap images there are some good charts and tables that explain it all.
Half Time/Full Time
If you really fancy a team to win a particular game, and you want to maximise your value, you could back them in the Half Time/Full Time market.
This asks you to predict the correct result at half time and full time, as you may have guessed, and you can use this in a few different ways – to back a red hot favourite, or you could back draw/Team A if you think they will eventually break their opponents down in the second half.
First or Anytime Goalscorer
We can bet on specific individuals to score the first goal of the game, or to find the net at any point.
With 20 outfield players on the pitch, and then substitutes to consider too, it can be difficult to predict a goalscorer – especially if we place our bets before the team news has been released.
However, there are some juicy prices available, so if you believe that fortune favours the brave then go for it.
This is essentially a double bet where we have to get both of the legs correct.
The first part requires us to correctly guess the first goalscorer, and then either get the match winner (Wincast) or the correct score (Scorecast).
As you can imagine, the Scorecast odds can be very large indeed, although if you want to hedge your bets a bit you can try the Anytime Scorecast option.
Pretty much all bookmakers offer their own ‘specials’ for specific games.
These are wide-ranging from brand to brand, but just some options include to win from behind, to win to nil, to win either half, to score in both halves, to win both halves, and so on. Who knows, maybe your new favourite bet type can be found in the specials section.
It should be reiterated that this is by no means an exhaustive list, with hundreds of options available. Note too that many of these football bet types can also be used in-play, i.e. once the game has kicked off.
What is Ante Post Football Betting?
So far, we have detailed the match bets that you can place in football.
But what about longer-term betting, such as league winner or relegation? These fall under the general heading of ante post, or outright, markets.
You can wager on the outright betting markets throughout the season – these don’t generally close once the campaign is underway – so if you have an instinct about a particular team then you can still get involved.
Just some of the ante post betting options include:
- League Winner
- Top 3 Finish
- Top 6 Finish
- To Be Promoted
- Top Half Finish
- Bottom Half Finish
- To Stay Up
- To Be Relegated
- Top Goalscorer
Typically, ante post markets are settled at the end of the season, although some bookmakers – including Paddy Power – have a history of paying out early… sometimes with disastrous consequences.
The Irish firm paid out on Stoke City to be relegated during the 2008/09 season – they finished in mid-table; while in 1998 Betfred paid out prematurely on Manchester United clinching the Premier League title – they were pipped at the post by Arsenal, and Betfred owner Fred Done lost £500,000 after being forced to pay out twice.
How to Bet on Football and Win
Sadly, there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to betting on football or any other sport for that matter.
Football is unpredictable, that’s a fact, and so all you can do is give yourself as many ‘value’ opportunities as possible.
What do we mean by value? Remember that betting odds represent a percentage chance of something happening. This implied probability can be used as a guide as to whether value is there, e.g. should Liverpool be given a theoretical chance of beating Everton of 66%? Do they have more or less of a chance than that?
It could be argued that not enough punters make the most of Draw No Bet, Double Chance and Asian handicaps. These are ‘cover’ bets where your risk is lessened, and protecting your bankroll is one way you can be profitable in the long term.
Maybe stay away from ‘random’ markets like cards and corners, where there really is no obvious rationale for betting. And be frugal when trying long odds markets like correct score – consider ‘Dutching’ two or three options to spread your risk and give yourself a greater chance of winning.
The Best Football Betting Features
In some ways, the bookmakers you can use to place your football bets are very similar in how they go about their business.
But there are some crucial differences, and these may just determine if a bookie is right for you.
Aside from the obvious – generosity of their odds, quality of their website/app and so on – there are other features that you should consider.
Promotions & Offers
Everyone enjoys getting a little something for nothing, and the best bookmakers will offer you freebies to entice you to join them as a new player.
This could be bonus funds, free bets, risk-free bets and more, and our advice is to always read the small print to see which bonuses are right for your betting.
It’s not just new customers that can benefit. Many firms offer promotions to their existing punters too, which range from accumulator bonuses, bet insurance, money back specials and more besides.
In days gone by, you could only bet on the markets provided by your bookmaker.
But now, with the advent of internet betting and social media, you can actually request a bet from a bookmaker, bringing together several different legs into one single betslip.
You have to request your bets via a firm’s various social media platforms and wait for a response, but for a more immediate option you can use the ‘Bet Builder’ tool that many bookies offer.
This lets you combine a number of different selections onto one multiple bet, be it match winner, goals, cards, corners or dozens of other choices. Get an instant price, and place your wager immediately without the faff.
While you won’t be able to catch the latest Premier League action, many bookmakers now offer live streaming from leagues all around the world.
La Liga, Serie A, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 are just some of the divisions you can watch via their website or app, while accessing live betting markets for those matches simultaneously.
It’s not for everyone, but live streaming is a fantastic feature for those who simply can’t get enough of the beautiful game.