Match.Center – For your best bookmaker match!

Top 5 Football Betting Strategies

Publication date: 10/11/2022

Bet against England

It has long been the case that betting against the English National teams has produced better results than betting for them. This is true of football, rugby, and cricket bets but for this article, we will focus on strategy for betting on football. And that it the simplest of all.

The Theory

The reason for this can be explained by looking at how bookmakers set their odds and what influences that. Every bookmaker can operate as they wish but it is a general rule that initially:

  • Odds are set by odds compilers who examine the available data and input it into their bookmaker's algorithm and this comes up with the probability of each outcome occurring.
  • Then they add their profit margin to this.
  • These are the odds that the football betting public can bet on.
  • Initially, the football bets will be small as the bookmaker will set low limits and as it gets closer to kick off the limits will rise.

What Happens

A bookmaker aims to have a balanced book, and that means that they want to profit no matter what the result is. To do this they need to have an equal amount of money bet on each outcome in proportion to the odds. An example would be like below, where we are assuming no commission to make the maths more simple.

  • Team A = Odds 1.5
  • Team B = Odds 7.5
  • A Draw = Odds 5.0

Now in order to have a balanced book, the bookmaker will aim to have 66.67% of bets placed on Team A to win, 13.33% on Team B and 20% on the Draw. Assuming that the total amount of football bets they take on the game is £100 then if the stakes are divided as above:

  • Team A win = £66.66 x 1.5 = £100
  • Team B win = £13.33 x 7.5 = £100
  • A Draw = £20 x 5 = £100

So that is the ideal scenario for a bookmaker. As you can see the total amount backed is £100 (£66.66 + £13.33 + £20) and no matter which result occurs, they pay out £100. So with their margin in place, they can do the same thing and guarantee themselves a profit no matter what. In their quest to have a balanced book you can see that as more and more money gets placed on one particular outcome they need to cut the odds in order to dissuade any more liability building there and they can also raise the odds on the other outcomes to encourage bets and balance the book.

When England play an international football match, the vast majority of the bets on the game from the UK betting public is on England winning (or variations on this). It may just be England to win, or it might be contingent events such as a correct score bet on England winning 2-0, or correlated bets such as Harry Kane scoring first. The vast majority of the money will be placed on results that revolve around England doing well, and this is not coming from smart money that has worked out the true odds, it is just from England football fans who are hopelessly optimistic and like to cheer on their team with a bet.

All these bets on England cause the bookmakers to have a large liability on England winning and so regardless of the true odds, their aim to is to have a balanced book, and thus they can lower the odds on England and offer higher odds in an attempt to get more money, smart money this time, placed on those other results.


The result of this leads to a football betting strategy that revolves around either laying England at an exchange or backing certain betting markets at a bookmaker that are for the opposing team. Examples might be the Asian Handicap +0.5 on the other team so you win if England do not, or placing a First Goalscorer bet on the other team's top scorer this year.

There is no guarantee that these bets will win, after all, the England team does win sometimes but it has been proven before that in the long run, betting against England is one of the best football betting strategies there is.

Lay the Leader

This betting strategy does very much rely on the odds to make a profit in the long run because you will have several losing bets for every winning bet. There are several variables involved to make this work and each individual is free to tweak it as they see fit. The core features to look for is having a team who is favourite to win and at kick off has odds of between 1.4 and 2.4. The bets you place must be in the first half of the game just after the first goal is scored.

The Theory

The principle relies on the fact that it is when you are football betting it is very hard psychologically to back a team who is currently losing, and is also the weaker team. Because it is very hard to back (it feels like throwing money away) very few people do it. Because of this the odds that you can get are very generous and can be value.

It is possible to simply bet against the team that took the lead winning, and backing the other team with an Asian handicap of +0.5 will do this. A more advanced approach is to use an exchange and trade the bets. After the first goal is scored the teams odds of winning will dramatically fall and you can now lay them very cheaply, thus your exposure is never a lot. Between the goal being scored and the 70th minute of the game the odds will not go down very much further. This is because there is still ample time for the opposing team to score a goal and get a draw, and as time is going on IF they do that the favourite team will not have a lot of time to strike again. When the last ten minutes are played the odds will start to fall noticeably as a 1-0 result becomes increasingly likely though.

How it works

You can see this in the following example, a game between Liverpool FC and West Ham United in the Premier League. The screen below shows the market data from the matched bets on the Betfair exchange and you can see from the graph that before kick off the odds on Liverpool to win were between 1.4 and 1.5 then at kick off they started to tick up again slightly before a goal was scored, knocking them right down to 1.17.

All betting strategies should analyse the odds to have any chance of success.

All betting strategies should analyse the odds to have any chance of success.

At this point you can see that 24 minutes have been played, the score is 1:0 to Liverpool and the lay odds are now 1.17, so laying £20 has just £3.4 liability, and we are football betting for real in this example so that is the bet that has been placed.

Football betting on an exchange in-play, the first bet was a lay bet after the first goal was scored.

Football betting on an exchange in-play, the first bet was a lay bet after the first goal was scored.

As the game goes on the Liverpool odds to win the game have actually gone up slightly (not by much) and they will fluctuate a bit that is normal, but they should not start going down by much until much nearer the end of the match. For all this time if West Ham score a goal, the Liverpool odds would shoot out and you can lock in a profit here by backing the bet (or using the orange "Cash Out" button. In this game West Ham actually missed a penalty kick just before half time that would have allowed that to happen!

The odds if the favourite team winning have not gone down by half time.

The odds if the favourite team winning have not gone down by half time.

As you can see below with 71 minutes gone in the game, which is over 45 minutes (or half the game) later since the original lay bet was placed, the odds are still 1.17 meaning here you can still back the bet back (or click Cash Out) and basically, you had a Free bet on West Ham scoring. In this instance they did not score, but if they had have done you would have made a good profit, and even though they did not you can trade out of the bet now for no loss, or a loss of a few pence.

If there are more goals scored then a second bet can lock in a profit (depending on who scores it).

If there are more goals scored then a second bet can lock in a profit (depending on who scores it).

In our opinion this is the best football betting strategy there is if you are using an exchange and watching a game live, betting in-play, on a match that meets the qualifying criteria. A lot of the value comes from the fact that although you will lose if Liverpool wins, you lose less than everyone else who layed them before kick off. ALSO, you get a chance to get out with a profit even if Liverpool do win as long as West Ham equalise at some stage because after you have cashed out Liverpool can still win 2:1 or 3:1 or 3:2, and on all those score lines you still win. You can easily back your bet back again if West Ham level for half your stake and have a profit on all outcomes.

To summarise, it is a good strategy because it has limited liability, you only ever lay at low odds, lower than the majority of people lay at. You have many more opportunities to win, as long as you are watching the game and can trade when something happens. If nothing has happened towards the final stages, around the 75th to 80th minute you can just unwind your position by cashing out where you are now, for no (or minimal) loss.


This strategy can work in the long run if you find the right set of metrics to know when it should be placed, and at what time in the match (and odds level) you should trade out or cash out.

If you keep detailed records "paper trading" (watching the odds and writing your bets without placing them for real) you can practice this and find a set of criteria that you like. Remember though that no system like this works forever, the exchange markets are very efficient and as soon as some criteria are identified it will not be long before other people spot it too, and it no longer works. You have to constantly monitor what is happening to your average returns and be quick to change things when a winning strategy stops being a winning strategy.

Trade Price Boosts

Although this works best for horse racing bets it can be used as a football betting strategy as well. Certain bookmakers have price boosts to way above market value and these are jumped on by a large number of people. To limit their overall liability the bookmakers will make the max bet on this selection £10 or a similar sort of figure. This takes the amount of value you can get from the bet to a few £s at the most. It is a great bet to place but your total profit from it is limited.

The Theory

What a large section of sports bettors do is hedge their risk and use exchanges to lay bets in order to lock in a profit when they place bets on something a lot higher than the market value. This is known as arbitrage and we will explain it in more detail later on in this article. The effect of this is that the exchange odds will experience a sudden wave of money wanting to lay this bet, and it will be for a lot of money because it will be £10 each. This money will cause the exchange odds to drift as the weight of money moves the price (using basic supply and demand).

So the strategy is that as soon as the price boost appears instead of backing it like everyone else use those seconds to get a head start and go directly to a betting exchange and if the lay odds are 10% or more lower than the bookmaker's price boost, then lay the bet for all that you dare. You can then sit back as over the next few minutes the odds drift upwards towards the price boost level and as it approaches you can back your bet back again cancelling the liability and making you a guaranteed profit!

We will demonstrate with an example, this works the same way at any bookmaker we just happen to be using Betfred and Betfair:

Betfred advertise "Freds Price Pushes" which is where a bet is chosen and the price (the odds) increased. The bet is not known in advance but the time of the price boost coming into play is. They usually last between five and fifteen minutes before the normal odds return. All day at every bookmaker Liverpool FC might be 1.5 to win that evening and the odds at the Betfair exchange are 1.6 to lay. At 12:00 Betfred push the price on Liverpool to win out to 2 with a £10 max stake.

What to do

The strategy is to go to Betfair, quickly, and lay as much as you dare (in this example £1000) at odds of 1.6 which is a £600 liability. Many people who backed Liverpool at 2 will happily go to Betfair now and lay £13 @ 1.6 which has £7.8 liability meaning they win £2.80 if Liverpool win or £3 (minus commission) if they do not. So about £3 either way. These people will be quite happy to keep backing Liverpool at Betfred and laying at Betfair even as the lay odds rise up to 1.7. At this point, anyone can still back £10 at 2 and lay £12 @ 1.7 making £1.6 or £2 (- commission) but it is still a certain profit and so they will do it.

As the time limit of the Betfred push nears, you can now back your bet back again for say £950 at 1.7 which is a profit of £665, more than cancelling out your earlier liability and leaving you with +£65 (£665 - £600) if Liverpool win, and +£50 (£1000 - £950) if they do not. If those bets are a bit large for you then exactly the same thing works by backing and laying £100 and £95, you will just make £6.5 or £5 instead. It is still going to be more than actually placing a bet at Betfred. (You can actually place the Betfred boosted price as well, just do it at the end).

Back the World Cup hosts

This will not come around often but it is usually a good idea to back the hosts of a World Cup to outperform expectations. This does not mean that you should just bet on them to win the tournament (although France did just that in 1998) but they will usually defy the odds and get out of their group into the knockout stages. Russia who were over 100/1 to win the tournament did that in 2018, reaching the quarter finals and only lost on penalties. Previously South Korea, Japan, and South Africa have all managed to get their best result in the tournament when they were the hosts.

Football bets on the World Cup host nation are usually good value & good odds

Football bets on the World Cup host nation are usually good value & good odds

The success of home nations is even more striking when you look back further in time, with the results of the first eleven World Cups all being the best ever result (or joint best) for the host nation. Almost half of these World Cups were actually won by the team hosting, including of course England in 1966!

A football betting system based on past results is usually effective in the long run.

A football betting system based on past results is usually effective in the long run.

How to bet

That does not mean of course that Qatar will win in 2022 or that the joint hosts in 2026, Canada, USA, and Mexico will win it either, but it is always a good idea to bet on them overachieving. What this means is to back them in Asian Handicap markets when they are given a 1 or 2 goal head start, maybe back them to win a match outright but for small stakes remembering to also cover the draw.

Even if they may not win consider backing them to score in the game, in the last World Cup Russia scored a total of 11 goals in open play, only one behind France who won it and played two games more! It was the same story in 2014 when Brazil scored 11 goals this time second only to eventual winners Germany.

With Qatar, you have a football team that with the best will in the world are not going to win many football matches BUT there are football bets you can place which involve them performing well, or at least better than expected, and this is the betting strategy which is worth considering.


If a betting site thinks that you are taking part in arbitrage, based on the fact you will be placing value bets, you will find your account closed or limited to very small bet stakes (which in effect is the same thing). If you are someone who will win money from them then they will shut you down.

Arbitrage is a system of making money by buying and selling two products simultaneously in order to make a profit from the difference in price. The advent of the internet has allowed it to become a football betting strategy which on the face of it, if done correctly, will make a guaranteed profit every time you bet, not just "in the long run" like the strategies we detailed earlier. It is more commonly referred to as "matched betting" and it is such an effective strategy that it is banned from most bookmaker T&C's however it is as meaningless as them having a T&C saying "you must wear a red shirt on a Friday". What you do at another bookmaker is absolutely none of their business and certainly it is not their jurisdiction and so their T&C is irrelevant.

The History

Arbitrage is buying and selling exactly the same product at exactly the same time for two different prices on two different markets, and profiting from the difference.

It is best to explain arbitrage by going back to the first known example, which was around the early 1800s when steamships were the only way to cross the Atlantic ocean and then it really took off when the telegram cable was laid.

Gold could be bought and sold in trading centers in Paris and London and also in New York in America. Now a bar of gold is a bar of gold no matter where it is, it is the same product. This is a key point to arbitrage, what you are buying and selling in each market must be identical. There were merchant banks who had established offices in New York and also London, and on their balance sheets they may have 1000 gold bars and $1,000,000 in each of their offices. Note that gold is always valued in $s. What would happen is that the price of gold would fluctuate and in the London market it may rise from $100 a bar to $105 a bar. What the banks would do is sell their London gold bars for $1,050,000 and send a message to their New York branch to buy 1000 gold bars for $100 each, costing $1,000,000. What has happened is the combined balance sheet has gone from $2,000,000 and 200 gold bars split equally, to a total of $2,050,000 in London and 200 gold bars in New York. The total balance has $50,000 profit all that happened is where the assets are changed. Because the same product was bought and sold, at different prices, there was risk free profit.

Around that time huge sums were spent on developing the fastest cruise liners to cross the Atlantic as quickly as possible, and then on having the first telegram cables, because whoever had the information first would be able to make the most profit.

This is the same as today with sports betting arbitrage. It requires bets to be placed with exactly the same market rules, and on one side you cover one outcome and you also bet (most commonly by laying at an exchange) the other side. No matter who wins, due to the difference in odds between what you back at and what you lay at you will pick up a profit, it just moves your money from two locations to all being in one place, and when it is in there it is more in that one than there was between two at the start.

Arbitrage as a Football betting strategy

These days you can do this with any football bet where a bookmaker has good odds which are higher than the lay odds at an exchange using the same principle that you have information about the different prices before anyone else. Some people spend time manually searching, others have software to find the bets for them. What you look for is a bet where you back Chelsea to win at odds of 5, and you can lay exactly the same bet on Chelsea to win at odds of 4.5. If you back and lay stakes of £10, if they win you have +£40 at the bookmaker and -£35 at the exchange, so £5 profit. If they do not win then you win £10 and lose £10 so nothing has happened. You end up in a winning position with no liability which is why many consider it one of the top football betting strategies.

Things to remember are that the exchange will charge you commission if you win, and also you do not have to back and lay the same amounts, some people may like to guarantee the same return on either result. It is entirely up to you how to use this betting strategy and how you hedge the bets.

Please note that there is a massive difference between arbitrage and bonus abuse, although bookmaker propaganda sometimes tries to conflate the two. Bonus abuse is a form of fraud and would involve, amongst other things, trying to claim a welcome bonus twice for yourself, trying to sign up using somebody else's ID to claim the welcome bonus on their behalf, doing anything to manipulate the betting software to release more bonuses than should have been awarded and/or turning bonuses into cash before they should have been. Bonus abuse is wrong. Do not take part in bonus abuse!

If you are simply placing football bets at the odds the bookmaker has offered then you are doing nothing wrong whatsoever. If you happen to place another bet elsewhere on something else, that has nothing to do with the original bookmaker whatsoever and is none of their business. Regardless what you are doing is no different from cashing out a bet (only with better odds and at a different bookmaker). It is the same thing though, and there is nothing wrong with cashing out!

You may find your account limited or shut but that is because the bookmakers are running a profit-maximising business and any football betting strategies which beat them will lead to them shutting you down.

Outwit the bookmaker

A good football betting strategy which is hard work but pays dividends if you can pull it off, is to specialise on specific niche football markets. Something where there is a chance that you can know more detail than their odds compilers. It would have to be a proposition market to do with yellow cards or the number of corners in a game, something that can be bet on but has enough nuance to it that with enough study you can go through the data and gain an edge on the bookie.

A similar thing is to study the very lowest leagues and the teams that nobody else has heard of and research them thoroughly. Follow all the players, and the players' girlfriends, on Twitter and Instagram. Is the star striker of one of the teams out at his best friend's wedding getting drunk in some pictures on Friday night? If so then chances are he will not be at his best on Saturday at 3pm then, and you can use that information to your advantage.

Credit Souvik Banerjee at Unsplash

Credit Souvik Banerjee at Unsplash

Unfortunately, bookmakers know that they have less knowledge of all the lower league teams so price in the extra margin to their odds, and instead of being 3%-4% on average are probably going to be 6%-7% or more. This makes finding value bets harder, even with your extra info, but it is still possible. Unfortunately, much like arbitrage above, if you start placing bets on the lower league games and winning money, you will very quickly find your account limited or shut down completely. The good thing here though is that you can use an exchange to place the bets, somewhere that will never limit your sports betting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most profitable football betting strategy?

This will depend to a large degree on luck unless you are using arbitrage (Even football betting systems like arbitrage has some luck involved due to black swan events). As Adam Smith put it way back when you will always have the "invisible hand of the market" influencing things, and more profit from betting opportunities will always correspond with more risk, even with the best football betting strategies. This is true of everything, you can not have more profit without more risk so the most profitable of all football betting systems will be the riskiest one.

What is the most popular soccer betting strategy?

It depends on how you define "popular" but football betting strategies that are wide spread in 2023 are usually forms of martingale where you bet more and more each bet until one wins. This system is appalling bankroll management and you are certain to lose.

What is the best football betting strategy for beginners?

In our opinion, beginners should not really be betting for anything other than fun. Until you have a firm grasp of exactly how each bookmaker works, and how the betting markets work, and you understand and therefore can predict how and why different football matches will have different odds, then you should not bet for anything other than fun. Once you are not a beginner, look for a betting system perhaps, but even then assume that you will be losing money even with a great football betting strategy.