One of the unique things about betting on football is that we have a good idea how a lot of games each season will pan out – on a general level at least. It’s correctly predicting the specifics like the final result where the difficulties kick in.
For example, if Manchester City are playing a team like Crystal Palace, we know that City will dominate possession, make more passes and probably fire in more shots on the Palace goal. We know that the amount of time they occupy Palace’s half will also probably yield more throw-ins and corners for the Cityzens.
But Palace may hold out for a draw or even nick a winning goal from a counter-attack or set piece. So predicting the outcome of football games is tough; but understanding the patterns of play and the context of the action is much more straightforward when you know the teams and players involved.
Which brings us nicely to the subject of cards betting, which has been around for a few years from a team-based angle but has recently enjoyed an ‘upgrade’ thanks to the introduction of odds on individual players to be booked or sent off.
As discussed already, when you understand the context and the patterns of a football game, it becomes much easier to predict which players will be booked and why.
Team-Based Cards Betting
There are a number of different game types that yield a high card count.
Think of the valiant underdog trying to repel a heavy odds-on favourite. They may only have 20% possession of the ball at best, and spend much of the game defending their own penalty area. As they grow tired or lose discipline and organisation, they may begin to commit more fouls – yellow cards will likely follow. The plucky underdog may resort to time wasting tactics as well… another sure fire route to cards.
Some games are all-action between two aggressive and open teams – cards can be expected when such a high tempo is maintained for so long, and then there are the classic local rivalries… games that are impassioned and emboldened by the fight for bragging rights are also prime candidates for cards.
We should also mention the opposite scenario: two passive teams, perhaps sitting comfortably in mid-table, who have no incentive to get stuck in or commit fouls. Look for sides that sit in deep blocks so that there’s very little space in behind their midfielders and defenders to exploit.
There are a couple of different ways to bet on the team-based cards markets. The first is classic enough – most bookmakers will offer over/under card lines on top games from the English Premier League, La Liga, German Bundesliga and so on.
The advent of Bet Builder tools has also increased the possibility for cards-based betting. You can add legs of over/under cards to your multiple tickets, which can add value and also increase the odds taken as well.
There’s a third card market that punters tend to shy away from simply because they don’t understand it.
That is the Booking Points market, which is straightforward to bet on when you know the rules; a yellow card is worth 10 points and a red card 25, so if you are expecting a game to have, say, five yellows and a red you would tally it up to 75 points. You can then wager on the over/under lines accordingly.
Player-Based Cards Betting
If you really want to take a deep dive into cards betting, you can wager on individual players to be shown a yellow or even a red.
Your initial instinct is likely going to be correct: some players have a predisposition for being booked for persistent fouling, dissent and many other ‘crimes’ on the football pitch. To offer some context, Fulham’s Joao Palhinha was booked 14 times during the 2022/23 season – not a bad ratio given that he played 35 games.
Those suspect individuals are even more likely to be carded when playing a high quality opponent or when facing rival teams where there is likely to be plenty of antagonisation.
Then we can consider individual player battles as well. Even at the highest level, the centre of midfield can be something of a battleground – it’s here where many crunching tackles and fouls are committed. When two teams with forceful central midfielders collide, cards can naturally follow.
We can also think about what we expect to happen in wide areas. Sometimes, a full back may be left exposed against a tricky winger, who will be given full licence to dribble at their marker. It may only take one or two mistimed tackles for the defender to enter the referee’s notepad. A similar scenario can unfold when teams play with an overload out wide – a full back can be left trying to battle two or even three opponents at a time, which leaves them on the edge of ill-discipline.
Regular readers will know that we have referred to a goldmine of football stats, FBRef, before. This offers up data on player cards but also how often they are fouled and commit fouls themselves, which can be a fascinating tool when two likely lads come up against one another.
For instance, in 2022/23 Newcastle’s Joelinton committed 65 fouls – joint-most in the Premier League. One of the most fouled was John McGinn, who plays in midfield for Aston Villa. It’s not an exact science, but backing Joelinton to be carded when the two teams meet seems fair enough… you won’t be surprised to learn he was cautioned when they collided in October.