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The Best Football Betting Strategy & Systems: Value Bets and More

There are a number of ways that we can try to tip the odds in our favour, by minimising risk and extracting maximum value. While there is no way to guarantee success, these two points are key to any football betting strategy.

In the following football betting strategy guide, we’ll take you through some of the best football betting systems, along with highlighting the importance of value betting and how to find value bets. After you get familiar with the top football betting strategies that can bring you success, you can go ahead and pick one of our recommended best football betting sites.

Back & Lay – One of the Best Football Betting Systems

This football strategy is all about minimising risk and looking for value. The key to this strategy is a good eye for value and catching bets that you think have been given higher odds than you think they deserve. On top of this, it’s essential to use a betting exchange, and in our opinion, the Betfair exchange is one of the best in the business.

lay betting strategy at the Betfair exchange
  • Betting Exchange Platform
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  • Higher Odds
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To explain this strategy, let’s cover the terminology first. Backing a bet is essentially what you’re doing when you place a bet with a traditional online betting site. If, for example, you bet that West Ham will beat Grimsby Town, then you are backing West Ham and the single outcome of them winning.

Laying a bet is what bookmakers do. Taking the same bet as an example, the bookie has laid the bet of West Ham, which means that all other outcomes will win for the bookie. When laying a bet, you are essentially betting for something not to happen; backing a bet is betting for something to happen.

How It Works

So, on to how this football betting system functions in practice. There are many ways to go about this, but we’ll cover two of the most popular here. As we mentioned earlier, this works best if you can find bets that have a high value. Taking the above game as an example, let’s say you lay the draw on the exchange at odds of 4.5. If West Ham takes the lead in the first half, then you can simply cash out for a profit.

Another option is to hedge your bet by backing the draw. After the first goal for the favourites goes in, the odds at bookies for the draw will rise. Backing these new odds with an amount that will cover your liability will result in a guaranteed profit.

For example, if we place the £10 lay bet at odds of 4.00, then we are able to back the draw in-play after a goal at odds of 6.00 with a £6.5 stake, we would be able to guarantee a profit of £3 in the event of a draw and £3.5 if either team wins.

While the profit will be small, it will mean that whatever the outcome, you’ll make a profit. This is a form of arbitrage betting. Of course, nothing is guaranteed. The backed bet cannot be successfully made in the example above to guarantee profit without a goal being scored, since the odds for the draw would shrink, rather than rise.

Value Bets – the Most Important Football Betting Strategy?

Value betting is a key overall approach to wagering on the sport and value bets should be a key weapon in your arsenal. Of course, any bet can lose, and value betting is no different. Value bets also require great knowledge and experience around assessing the probabilities of outcomes, how to spot value and how to apply value accurately.

What it does offer however, is a key approach to long-term profitability. Essentially, we are taking advantage of the bookies’ mistakes and if our research and maths are correct, then we can almost assure ourselves of profit over the long-term. Either way, sound knowledge of the game and the accompanying statistics are required if you want this to be a successful football betting system for you.

What Is a Value Bet?

the formula to work out if your bet is a value bet What exactly constitutes a value bet varies from punter to punter. This is because a value bet is essentially a bet that you think has a higher probability of winning than a bookie has given it credit for. So if you see odds for England to win a match at 4/1 (20% chance of winning) but believe their chance is actually closer to 25%, then betting on England could represent value.

As you can see, value bets depend on a punter’s view. However, just because we think a bet’s chances are a little better than a bookmaker has given them credit for doesn’t necessarily make it a value bet. With the above in mind, there’s still a mathematical approach to value betting that we must consider, that can help us determine whether our bet is in fact a value bet.

How Can I Work Out Value?

The graphic below lays out in full the formula to apply to work out whether your bet truly offers value. The key to knowing when a bet truly offers value or not is by applying the below formula. If the answer is greater than 1.00, then hey presto, we have a value bet.

calculating a value bet

Let’s go back to the example match before of England with odds of 4/1 (20%) – or 5.00 in decimal format – to win, but with our belief that in reality the chance is more like 25%. This would mean the odds are 3/1 or 4.00 in decimal format. Taking the original odds and our applied odds, we can form the equation:

(5 x 25) / 100 = 1.25

As you can see, with our odds applied the calculation comes out too greater than 1.00, which means that this is a value bet. If your instincts for spotting value are accurate then this is as good a football betting system as any for the long-term.

Are There In-Play Betting Strategies & Systems I Can Use?

It’s no understatement to say that in-play betting through online bookies revolutionised betting on football. Along with introducing a host of new bet types, live betting has enabled new forms of football strategies to emerge. In-play betting allows a completely new way to think about betting on football. If you need a refresher, head to our guide on in-play betting which lays out everything you need to know.

Unlike pre-match wagers, it’s not really possible to apply the same strategies or systems to in-play betting. Rather, in-play betting is based on astute observations and spotting and capitalising on opportunities. All successful in-play bettors have a few key approaches that are based on attention to detail and a few key notions.

First off, the beauty of in-play betting is that it allows you to watch the action and make your bets based on what’s happening in the match. In-play betting experts will take advantage of the live streams to watch as many games as possible that they are betting on in-play. Knowing what is happening in a match and then betting accordingly is probably the greatest advantage live betting has over pre-match betting.

But, remember football is a game of two halves. Just because a team comes out strong in the first 20 minutes or so, doesn’t mean they can continue playing at such a pace. Don’t allow a 10-minute spell in the match to dictate what you think the outcome will be. It’s really a case of being experienced and spotting the opportunities as they arise, while reading the game correctly.

But in-play betting offers a way to exploit these occurrences in a game. If a team is pressuring heavily and looking like scoring, then you can utilise certain bet types to take advantage of this. Minute markets are one example. You could, for example, bet on a goal to be scored in the next 10 minutes, if a team is looking like scoring.

Minute markets are available for things like goals, cards, corners and many more things, so watch the game closely and you can profit from using these bet types. Here are some of the most commonly used and successful football betting strategies and tips:

Another of the most used and well-known in-play strategies is to use the cash out function. Any online betting site worth its salt will have the cash out function now, which can be used on any in-play fixture and most bet types.

The option can be used to close a bet early and walk away with the profit. Of course, the profit is based on different factors, like the time remaining and the odds of other events occurring which would cause the bet to lose.

Many punters like to use the function to minimise risk and walk away with smaller profits. For example, one approach is to use your research to find games where teams usually score or concede early or in the first half and to bet on over 1.5 or 2.5 goals.

After this early goal goes in, you can walk away with a small profit if you don’t want to let the bet run. Most betting sites have partial cash outs too. Utilising the partial cash out, in this instance, you could cash out the profit, while leaving the rest of the bet to play. Again, this is a way of minimising risk.

Taking Advantage of Welcome Bonuses

Unfortunately, gone are the days when punters could easily take advantage of bookies’ welcome bonuses, through favourable wagering requirements and minimum bet contributions. However, almost all the best football betting sites offer some kind of a welcome bonus and you can still make them work to your advantage.

Simply signing up and depositing at a bookmaker is usually enough to get the welcome bonus. In the past, many punters would have accounts at all the top betting sites, simply to get their hands on multiple welcome bonuses.

A football player on a football pitch
  • Cash Out Functionality
  • Fair Sportsbook
  • Low Minimum Odds
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Some bookmakers, like NetBet, offer a standard funds type bonus. After depositing, you’ll be given the bonus funds equal to your deposit. After you complete the wagering requirements, you can withdraw any profit you’ve made. Sounds simple? Unfortunately, most bookies insist that you roll-over the funds at least 3 times. This should be no problem for smart punters, but be aware that the initial deposit is at risk with any welcome bonus.

Make sure to always carefully read the fine print of any bonus offer to ensure you know what you’re getting into. There are also many other types of sign-up offers that could make you some profit. Some operators will offer free bets, or there are other unique types, such as the Blacktype offer to get £10 if your first bet loses.

Mathematical Approaches to Football Betting

A good mathematical mind is another great attribute to help with successful footie wagers. As well as enabling you to quickly work out value on the fly, there are a couple of football betting systems that rely almost entirely on a mathematical methodology.

The Good: Kelly Criterion

The Kelly Criterion is a system that will work out the optimal bet size based on the value offered from a bet. As usual, this system still relies on your ability to accurately assess value and a bet’s probability, but this is a great approach to knowing how much to bet to extract maximum value without taking excessive risk.

If you want to go deeper in to this idea, you can read more on the Kelly Criterion on Wikipedia. There are two versions of the method; full and fractional. The first is the most risky since it applies the full suggested amount while the latter uses a fraction of the recommended amount.

Kelly Criterion Full

The criterion tells us how to employ the criterion’s formula to find out the optimum percentage of our bankroll we should use. This is taking the formula we used earlier to work out value a step further by working out the optimal amount to bet on top. To work out what percentage of your bankroll to bet, you can use the following formula:

how to apply the kelly criterion to a value bet

Check out the picture above to see the formula put into action. Note that the probability is your subjective probability and not the probability ascribed by the odds. As usual, it’s key to look for value and find bets where you think the probability is larger than what the bookie’s think.

We will use the example of Crystal Palace to beat Arsenal at odds of 4/1. To apply this formula, we must always convert the odds to decimal, which in this case would be 5.00. Since Arsenal have many players injured and are in a bad run of form, we fancy Crystal Palace to have a better chance of winning, more like a 0.28% chance of success. This means the probability of failure is 0.72.

Kelly Criterion Fractional

Taking a fractional approach to this system allows a punter to bet a percentage of the optimum bet recommended by the kelly formula. This approach is obviously more risk-averse and helps to protect the budget, but the returns are of course smaller too. The percentage of the optimal bet amount staked is completely up to the punter and the best plus to this approach is the protection against variance and shock results.

Taking the same example above we can work out what percentage of our bankroll to use by applying a fractional approach, in this case 25% of the recommended stake. It’s quite straight forward really, as we simply need to find out 25% of the result for the full kelly criterion formula.

how apply a fractional kelly criterion

The Bad: Martingale System

This is a well-known one that has come under lots of scrutiny in recent years. Simply put, the Martingale system is doubling up the previous stake on each losing bet. The idea is that once you win a match, you’ll be into profit.

The problem is that in reality the system doesn’t work so well. This is because you would need an extremely high bankroll to start off with and also because betting limits of certain bets may prevent you betting the amount the system requires. Further, you’d need each bet to have odds of evens or higher.

Things to Avoid & Bear in Mind

With all the above in mind, it’s time for a quick recap. Alongside the key systems we’ve discussed here and the important criteria and areas of football betting in general the below 3 points are vital to successfully wagering on the sport.

Always Look for Value

value betting is a great way to make sure you secure a decent profit margin over timeIf you have a knack for accurately judging perceived value then value betting is an approach that should pay off in the long run. Getting value from bets is a key strategy that successful punters often employ. Always look for bets where you think the bookie has made a pricing mistake and take advantage.

Use In-Play to Your Advantage

betting on an event whilst it's in-play can increase your chances of successIn-play betting has revolutionised gambling on football and many successful punters bet exclusively live. The advantages are obvious; you can watch a game and draw better conclusions on what outcomes are likely to occur. Betting on an event that you are watching live can help improve your chances of being successful.

Stick to Your Guns

being decisive and staying consistent with your betting approaches will even out over timeIn football betting, nothing is certain. Variance will always occur meaning that it’s not uncommon to see your bankroll significantly shrink, despite employing previously successful mathematical and value betting principles. Don’t get disheartened by this. Employ the same bankroll management and value betting strategies and know that the variance will even out over time.

Find the System That Works Best for You

It’s important to know that there is no football betting strategy that can guarantee you profit. What is most important is that you take your time to research, educate yourself, and become experienced in accurately working out true value. These are the main proponents of the best football betting systems and always will be.


If you have any questions about these strategies, or anything else contained on this site, please feel free to email at info@bestbettingsites.com.

🔝 What is the best football betting strategy?

Picking out a single football betting strategy that is sure to bring you profits is next to impossible. Every system or betting strategy carries certain risks, as after all, there's no such thing as 100% certain in betting. Nevertheless, the back and lay betting system is considered one of the top football betting strategies.

🧮 Can good mathematical skills be helpful when betting on football?

Yes, absolutely. Having good mathematical skills can be very helpful, as you can easily calculate profits, find value bets, and use football betting systems with ease. Some of the most popular football betting strategies are based on mathematical methodology and formulas.

👁️ How to spot value bets?

Being able to spot value bets can be highly beneficial. But that's not a simple thing to do, as it requires a lot of research, experience, and good knowledge about the game. Have a look at our dedicated section, and learn all about value betting and how to spot such opportunities.

🤔 How do I know which football betting strategy to use?

It’s most important to get experience in the area. Knowledge of teams, results and statistics will help in the key areas, such as recognising value. Many punters count on live betting and adapt the strategy they use a little bit to suit them after they’ve experimented to find which system works best.