When it comes to betting on football, the match odds, which is also known by several different terms, is by some way the most popular market. In this feature we will explain a little more about it and will begin at the very beginning by detailing what this most common bet entails. We will then go on to more complex matters such as typical odds, related options and a little bit of strategy to hopefully help you unearth some winners and some decent value.
Match Odds Betting in Football
Match odds is one of many terms used to describe perhaps the simplest and most popular bet on football. This is a wager on which side will win, or more accurately, what the result of the game will be because, of course, draws are far from uncommon in the beautiful game. You may see this betting market listed at a betting site, or talked about by friends, pundits or tipsters, as “to win”, “1×2”, “HDA” (or home, draw, away), “90 minutes betting” or some other similar name.
Whatever we call it though, it is simply a bet on the result of a single game of football. It is the wager that most football betting fans start with and indeed one with which many stick. At its heart is the central issue in football that all fans care about – who will win a given match. Anyone with even the vaguest understanding of football knows that there are three options when it comes to the final score of a football game. These three are indicated by the 1×2 or HDA we mentioned above. Either the home side wins (the 1 derives from the symbol used to indicate a home win on an old football pools coupon, with x being a draw and 2 being an away win), the game is a draw, or the visiting club take the points.
As with almost all football betting markets, the odds can differ significantly. In most league games, you are unlikely to see huge fluctuations because all teams are, by definition, at least broadly at the same level. When a side, such as Man City, are at home against a side near the foot of the table you may see odds as short as 1/10 for the hosts at some bookies. The best odds on the favourites might be 2/13, whilst the underdogs might vary in price from 14/1 to as much as 20/1. In a scenario like this, the draw will usually be priced at odds around the 8/1 mark.
However, in cup competitions, or international football, we may see a much wider disparity in odds between the favourites and the unfancied side. For example, if a big European nation is pitted against the likes of San Marino, the bookies might have the minnows on offer at 100/1, 200/1 or even more, with the heavyweights uninteresting at something like 1/100 and the draw priced at anything between 20/1 and 66/1.
In a game that is perceived to be very close the odds for all three outcomes will be tightly grouped together. Although it is rare, you may see all three options (home win, draw and away win) priced at exactly the same odds. We will look at the link between the odds, probabilities and the concept of value shortly. However, for a game where this is perceived to be little between the teams you might see one priced at 2/1, the draw at 23/10 and the favourites at 6/4.
One of the reasons the match odds are so popular is that they usually offer a nice balance with a price that makes the bet worthwhile, but at the same time is not so long that it is indicative of the punter having very little chance of winning. Most recreational punters do not like to back bets at odds too much shorter than evens. At the same time, backing a team at 20/1 might hold some appeal for the dreamers but most fans know it has little chance of coming in.
Match Odds: Related & Combined Bets
Where the match odds are either too short, or indeed too long, for your liking, there are many other similar bets available that might have more appealing prices. Handicap and Asian handicap markets, where one team gets a hypothetical head start or disadvantage are obvious choices. Alternatively you might choose to back a big underdog in the double chance market that also includes the draw, or perhaps the draw no bet market, where you get your stake back if the scores are level. If the odds are too short on a favourite you could opt for the half time/full time market, where you are betting on the match result at the break and also at full time.
Bookies offer so many different football markets and different ways to take an interest in a game. If you enjoy backing favourites but want to try and still get a decent return, then accumulators (accas) and other multiples bets are a decent shout. Here you combine multiple games into one or more bets and the odds are multiplied together. So, for example, in the Premier League you might back Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all to win their respective games.
Strategy, Value & Tips
Looking at the match odds is a good place to start to get a better understanding of the link between the odds and the probability of an event happening. You may hear talk of “implied probability” and this is essentially odds turned into a probability. So, with a coin toss, both heads and tails might be priced at evens, implying a 50% probability of each outcome occurring. To calculate implied probability, one simply divides one by the decimal odds, so in the case of a coin toss we have one divided by two, giving a half, 0.5, or, in other words, 50%.
The picture is muddied when it comes to betting with a bookie because they do not give odds that reflect the true probability (or indeed their idea of what the true probability is). They reduce the odds slightly to cover their costs and generate a profit. So, for example, with a coin toss, they might offer odds of 4/5 (1.8 in decimal). This implies a probability of almost 56% when the real likelihood is 50%. This, therefore, is a bad value bet.
In a game of football where the home win, away win and draw were all deemed to be equally likely, the odds without any cut for the betting site would be 2/1 (3.0 in decimal prices). The odds you might actually find at a bookie would be more like 9/5 (2.8). This gives an implied probability of about 36%. Adding those together gives a total of 108% (whereas a “fair” market would be 100%) and this is called the overround.
Now, if you think the bookies have got this wrong and, in fact, the home team should be favourites because they have, by your assessment, a 42% chance of winning, then backing them at 9/5 is a good value bet. Finding the value is the long-term key to beating the bookies but it is not easy. Bookies have masses of information, plus expert analysts and years of experience. They also have the overround in their favour, so even where they make a mistake with their assessment, they still have a little room to manoeuvre.
When it comes to betting on football, or indeed anything, the most important thing to remember is that betting for most people should be viewed as fun. The reality is that most punters lose. Limit your stakes to what you can afford and consider your bets a bit if excitement and fun that you pay for.
Of course, that fun is greatly enhanced when you win and some of the time you certainly will beat the bookie. Looking for value is the best advice we can give and the way to do that is to try and decide, before looking at the odds, what chance each side has of winning and how likely the draw is. You should consider every piece of information that you think may be relevant, including form and morale, recent games between the teams, injuries and team news, the venue for the clash, the weather, what motivation each team has and anything else you can think of that might have an impact.
Any Rules to Note or Anything to Look Out For?
As we have noted, part of the reason match odds are so popular is that they are simple to understand. There is not really anything out of the ordinary that you should be aware of or any unusual rules to note. The only thing that might catch some newbies out is that this market, like all standard football bets (unless specified otherwise), applies to 90 minutes and injury time but not extra time or penalties.
In most games, this will not be a factor as typically extra time is only played in certain cup clashes. Even so, it has been known to catch some punters out. Also, as with any bet, make sure that you are placing your wager on the right game and the right team. Be aware that sides may be playing each other twice in a short period of time (for example in the league and then a few days later in a cup). Also note that different bookies may display bets differently, for example listing the odds for the away win second, rather than the draw second. Take your time and check that your bet is correct before you confirm it.