Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments of Football Betting

Gambling is a mug's game, you can’t beat the bookies, right?


There is money to be made from football betting if you stick to intelligent rules.

Rule 1 - This is a golden rule, you must shop around for the best value. Open accounts with as many online bookmakers as possible, they nearly all offer free bets to entice you to open accounts with them.

You should have no loyalty to any bookmaker and the sole reason you should be placing a bet with one is because you are getting the best price. People who just use the nearest high street shop haven't got a chance. Most Bookmakers have a profit margin of around 10% for football matches but because different bookmakers offer different prices it is still possible to swing the odds in your favour.

Rule 2 - Work out a staking plan. Once you have identified a value bet the next question is "how much should I bet?". The answer to this question is determined firstly, by how confident you are about the bet, and secondly, by how much value you think you are getting. For example, if you toss a coin in the air you have a 50% chance it will be heads and a 50% chance it will be tales. The correct price for each outcome should therefore be evens. But what if somebody offered you 3/1 that the coin would land on heads, you are obviously being offered huge value and if you repeated this bet ten times you would have to be incredibly unlucky not to be in profit at the end.

Whatever staking plan you have worked out, this would obviously be a maximum bet scenario, you could still lose but you have secured huge value and if you consistently bet when the odds are in your favour you theoretically will win money in the long run. Your staking plan should accommodate the fact that despite the huge value any individual bet may lose.

Rule 3 - Never, EVER, chase. We've all been there, you've had a terrible day and lost a lot of money, the live Spanish game is about to come on and it’s the last game of the day. "Time to get my money back", you say to yourself and you have a silly bet on Real Madrid at terrible odds. To make things even worse Madrid concede a last minute goal to level the game. They then go and miss a penalty deep in injury time, what a disaster, your days losses just got worse! To win money betting on football it is crucial that you have discipline. Just because a game is on TV doesn't mean you have to bet on it. If you didn't identify a value bet in the game at the start of the day then don't bet on it. We all have bad days and there will be plenty of good value opportunities to get your money back in the next set of fixtures.

You must be selective with your bets. If you do feel the need to bet on every game you watch then keep your stakes small unless you have identified value.

Rule 4 - Stick to singles or doubles. It is hard enough predicting the outcome of one match let alone five.

Bookmakers love to promote accumulator bets because they know the more selections you choose the less likely you are to win. No matter how many teams you pick there will always be one result that lets you down. Many people are attracted to these bets by the possibilities of winning a lot of money from relatively small stakes. You will find that if you increase your stakes a little and stick to singles and doubles your profits will increase long term.

Rule 5 - Pay close attention to team news. An injury to a key striker or a suspended captain can sometimes greatly swing the odds in your favour. As a general rule the higher the level of football the less affect team news will have as the top clubs have large squads full of quality players. The lower league teams however, operate with much smaller squads and can have their chances of winning badly affected by key players being injured or suspended. Be warned however, team news can be misleading. Some clubs actively give out false information in order to gain an advantage over their opponents so it is dangerous to base your bet on team news alone.

Rule 6 - Choose which markets you bet on carefully. The best markets to bet on are generally the match odds and some of the goals markets. Halftime/fulltime, correct score, first goal scorer and other similar markets have a higher profit margin built in by bookmakers and therefore generally offer poor value. This is not always the case though and occasionally you will find the odd juicy price in these markets.

For example, injuries may result in a midfield player starting up front making him much better value to be first goal scorer. Asian Handicaps are another market which you should make yourself familiar with. The bookmakers profit margin on these markets is a lot lower and so straight away you have more chance of finding value.

Rule 7 - Bend the rules in your favour. There are a number of things you can do to achieve this. Firstly make sure you pick up a coupon from your local shops at the start of the week. The prices printed on these coupons are compiled up to a week ahead of the game and are often cut online or on the phone. However the big two on the high street will hold the prices printed on these coupons so you can often find a bigger price on a shop coupon than you will be able to get online or even with the exchanges. If there is a big move for a certain game then they might impose restrictions of between £50-200 per customer, but you should still be able to get on. Likewise, when there is a move online and the match odds are cut you will sometimes find that a bookmaker has forgotten to cut the "draw no bet" or maybe the "halftime/fulltime" price.

It is also worth keeping an eye on long term markets when games are being played as you wouldn't believe how sloppy some bookmakers can be at suspending markets. This can be especially useful near the end of the season when it is clearer which teams might win the league or be relegated.

Rule 8 - Keep records of all your bets. It is important to do this so that you know exactly how much money you are making or losing. It will help you decide on your staking plan and make it clear that you should stop if you aren't making money in the long run.

Rule 9 - Stick to what you know and don't bet on leagues you haven't been following. You can only get an edge on bookmakers if you have better knowledge than they do on a certain league. If you don't usually bet on Italian football but Milan are playing Inter on Channel five, then don't bet on it. Accept that the bookmaker is likely to know much more about the two teams than you do and that, as a result, you are unlikely to beat him with bets on this league.

Depending on how much time you have free to study each league, you should be careful not to overstretch yourself. Pick one or two leagues out and concentrate on building up your knowledge of the players, managers, derbies and grudge matches. Most odds compilers will have several leagues to cover and may not have time to concentrate fully on each one.

Rule 10 - Don't get carried away by short term trends and always be mindful of the bigger picture. This applies both to the leagues you are betting on as well as your own results. For example, if a team has won four games on the bounce then ask yourself "are they winning these games because they are a good team or is it just a lucky run?". If you believe they are a good team then keep backing them but if you think its a lucky run that is likely to end soon, then you may well get the opportunity to back one of their opponents at an inflated price. Man City's excellent run of results at home at the start of the season was a good example. City won their first nine home league games but if you thought this run was going to continue indefinitely then you would have lost your next six bets on them. Another good example is when one of the top teams is having a good run in several different competitions. The media tend to get carried away and soon start suggesting that this club can win all four trophies. Bookmakers latch on to this and ridiculously short prices for a quadruple appear in the Racing post prompting bets from hundreds of mug punters.

You should also be wary of "short termism" when it comes to your own bets. In any given season you will have good spells and bad spells and you should not get carried away with either. Stick to your staking plan and don't start betting bigger and bigger because you are having a good run. Don't go spending all your winnings either, keep a betting fund and only withdraw from it once you have gone over a certain level. You may need it to fall back on during a bad spell. Likewise, don't get too upset by a bad run of results. Analyse your bets to see where you may have gone wrong but don't be panicked into any rash changes. Bad spells can be very disheartening, but if you know your stuff and have made money in the past, then you probably aren't doing too much wrong and the next good spell is just around the corner. The end of the season is the best time to take stock and analyse your performance over the season as a whole.

These rules should help you to tip the odds in your favour. It is possible to win money from betting on football but you will need to invest time and effort. It should be enjoyable too, a moneymaking hobby if you like. If you find the bad spells too upsetting or stressful then maybe it's not for you.