Most of us are familiar with the concept of value and how it applies to our lives in general. Particularly in a monetary sense. For example, we tend to think carefully about the value of any goods we choose to purchase. This is especially the case for expensive purchases. Most people will shop around a little, and make sure that they get the best possible value.
Of course, the concept of value applies in other aspects of our lives too. We value our friendships, for example, or our working relationships with colleagues. We may place value in certain belongings that have sentimental meaning, or even in the simple fact that we’re alive and (hopefully) healthy.
What does all this have to with betting? Quite a lot, actually.
The concept of value plays a role in football betting too. A very important one in fact. We’d go as far as to say that it’s the single most important thing you need to understand when betting on football, or any other sport for that matter. Unfortunately, though, it’s something that many bettors fail to pay much attention too.
We don’t want you to make that mistake. That’s why we talk about the importance of value throughout this football betting strategy section, and indeed throughout our entire sports betting guide. It really is vital that you learn about the concept of value and how it applies in a betting sense. You need to understand that placing “good value” wagers is ultimately the only way you’ll ever be a successful bettor.
In this article we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the concept of value as it applies to football betting. We start by dispelling a common myth that many bettors believe in. Then we move on to explaining exactly what betting value is, with a practical example so that you can see this concept in practice. We also offer some useful tips for value betting on football effectively
Busting a Betting Value Myth
We should clear up a common misconception about betting value before we go any further. A lot of people are of the belief that value relates solely to the odds available for any given wager. Specifically, they think that high odds automatically equal good value because they offer the potential for big payouts. Similarly, they think that low odds automatically equal bad value because the potential payouts are much smaller. They’re wrong to think this way.
Betting value is not SOLELY about the size of the odds.
Value is very much linked to the size of the odds. In fact, the only way to determine the value of a wager is by studying the relevant odds. However, there’s more to it than that. So please don’t assume that high odds always mean good value and low odds always mean bad value. That would be oversimplifying matters, to say the least.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this. It’s entirely hypothetical, but it should prove the point that we’re trying to get across. Imagine that a bookmaker was offering an unusual totals line on an upcoming game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. Most other bookmakers have set the totals line at 44, but this bookmaker has set the totals line at 250. The betting options and associated odds are as follows.
Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys
Which of the two possible bets here represents good value? If you were working on the assumption that low odds mean bad value, then you wouldn’t bet the under. Odds of -2,000 mean you’d have to risk $2,000 for the chance of winning $100.
That doesn’t seem like good value, does it?
Actually, those odds represent extremely good value in this situation. They’re very low, yes, but you’re essentially guaranteed to win the wager. The highest ever points total in an NFL game was 113 points, back in 1966. No game has seen more points scored in the last 50 years since. And, realistically, no game is ever likely to. The closest a game has come since then was in 2004, when the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns combined for 106 points.
So the chances of an NFL game ever seeing 250 points are basically nil. Therefore, even odds of -2,000 represent good value. The odds should actually be much lower than that.
By the same token, betting on the over doesn’t represent good value just because the odds are so high. The prospect of winning $2,000 for a $100 stake might seem appealing, but what’s the point when there’s no chance of winning?
Obviously no bookmaker is ever going to set a totals line like this on an NFL game. We’ve used extreme numbers in this example just to make a point. Low odds can represent good value, and high odds don’t automatically mean good value.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at exactly what value means in the context of betting.
Betting Value Explained
The basic principle of betting value is actually quite straightforward. Value in this context is a theoretical measure of how successful a wager is likely to be in the long run. Good value wagers are said to have positive expected value, and should be profitable over time. Bad value wagers, on the other hand, are said to have negative expected value. They are likely to lose money over time.
It’s important to note the use of the word “theoretical” above. Value isn’t entirely quantifiable in sports betting, as it’s ultimately a matter of opinion. We’ll explain more about this shortly. It’s also important to note that the use of the term “in the long run,” as good value wagers don’t ALWAYS win. The whole point of value betting is improving your long-term chances of success. It’s not some magical strategy that will enable you to start winning every wager you place.
So, we know that we want to find good value wagers. But how do we actually go about determining which wagers are good value, and which are not? This is where things get a little more complicated. We’ll try to make things as simple as possible though. First, let’s consider what the odds offered by bookmakers tell us.
The odds offered by bookmakers reflect the chances of something happening.
It should be noted that this is only true to some extent. There are other factors at play too, such as the vig, the weight of money and the need to create a balanced book. You don’t need to worry about those right now though. All you need to know is that the odds of any given wager are directly related to the chances of that wager winning.
That should be pretty obvious of course. Something that’s likely to happen is going to have short odds, while something that’s not at all likely to happen is going have long odds. That’s kind of the whole basis of betting, and gambling in general.
Take a point spread wager for example. A bookmaker will generally set the point spread for a football game at a level where the two teams have a roughly 50% chance of covering the spread. That’s why the odds for each team to cover are usually the same, or very similar. The moneyline odds for a game, however, are often quite different. That’s because one team is usually considered more likely to win than the other. The favorite will have lower odds, and the underdog will have higher odds.
Now, simply understanding that the odds vaguely reflect the chances of any given outcome isn’t enough to determine value. There are some calculations we need to work out before we can get to that. The first of these calculations is converting a set of odds into implied probability. Implied probability, which is expressed as a percentage, gives us a clearer idea of what the odds are telling us.
The easiest way to calculate implied probability is to use decimal odds. The calculation required is then nice and simple.
(1 / Odds) x 100
Please note that if you’re not used to working with decimal odds, you can use our odds convertor tool. This converts odds between any of the main formats. It also calculates implied probability for you, so you don’t actually need to worry about the above calculation. It’s still worth knowing how to calculate implied probability for yourself though.
Once we have the implied probability figure for a set of odds, the next step is comparing that figure to our own opinions on what we think the likelihood of something happening is. That’s how we determine whether there’s any value.
We’ll use an example to demonstrate this. Let’s take a look at the odds on an upcoming game between the Patriots and the Cardinals. Our bookmaker is offering the following for the moneyline.
New England Patriots vs Arizona Cardinals
As you can see, the Cardinals are the favorites to win this game. We happen to think that they will win, but we want to know if there is any value in the odds available. So we first convert the -250 odds into decimal odds, which gives us 1.40. We then calculate the implied probability, using the following calculation.
(1 / 1.40) x 100
This gives us 71.43%
We now need to decide what we think the chances of the Cardinals winning is. For the sake of this example, we’ll say we give them a 75% chance of winning.
Now we compare our estimated probability with the implied probability of the relevant odds. We can see that our estimated probability is higher. This means that, in theory at least, a wager on the Cardinals is a good value wager.
That’s essentially all there is to determining value. If our estimated probability is higher than the implied probability of the odds, then there’s positive expected value. If our estimated probability is lower than the implied probability of the odds, then there’s negative expected value. In simple terms, we should bet when we find positive expected value and not when there’s negative expected value.
Sticking to this basic rule gives us the potential to make a profit in the long run.
We’ve simplified things here to explain the concept of value as it applies to betting. You could be forgiven for thinking that value betting is therefore very easy. However, that’s not the case. The thing with football betting, or betting on any sport, is that it’s not an exact science. Although the basic method of measuring value is easy, coming up with our own estimated probabilities for specific outcomes is very difficult.
Betting for value is not really a strategy in its own right, but rather an underlying concept that should be considered each and every time you place a wager. This is a very important point to understand. Successful football betting isn’t actually all about trying to make accurate predictions. Obviously it’s good if you can, but your aim shouldn’t be to simply win as many wagers as possible. The real goal is to identify as many good value wagers as possible.
Knowing how to identify value in theory is one thing. Actually putting that theory into practice is far more challenging. It requires making accurate assessments about the probability of the various outcomes in different situations. How likely is a team to win an upcoming match? How likely is a team to cover the spread? How likely is the total to be over the line set by the bookmakers? These are the sort of questions you need to be asking. All aspects of football betting strategy are ultimately about helping you answer those questions.
So what’s next?
The only way you’ll ever become skilled at identifying value in the football betting markets is through experience. As you gain experience over time, your ability to identify value betting opportunities should increase. That’s largely something you need to figure out for yourself, but there’s also a lot you can learn to improve your chances of success.
That’s where we can help. Our football betting strategy guide is designed to teach you all about the different strategies and systems that you can use to make informed judgments about what’s going to happen in football games and throughout football seasons.
You may have found this page while reading through our guide. If that’s the case, please continue your reading. You may have just found this page directly through an internet search though. If that’s the case, you may not be aware of just how much information and advice we have to share with you. Please take a look at the following page for a complete overview of this guide.
You should also read the rest of this page of course. Below we offer a few suggestions for ways you can get better value when betting on football.
Tips for Value Betting on Football
We’ve hopefully made it abundantly clear that finding value when betting on football isn’t easy. That’s why it’s important that you have realistic expectations about the challenge you’re facing, or else you’re just going to end up disappointed.
Don’t let the challenge put you off though. There’s definitely money to be made from betting on football if you can learn how to identify value betting opportunities and take full advantage of them. It will take time to do this, but it WILL be worth it!
In the meantime, here are some simple tips that can help you find value in the football betting markets more effectively.
Use alternative wager types
Point spreads and totals are the two most popular football wagers by a big margin. This is probably because they’re very easy to understand, and it’s reasonably easy to win a few of them even if you’re not an especially skilled bettor.
Every football bettor should be betting on point spreads and totals. Many bettors ONLY use these particular wagers though, and that’s a mistake. As simple as they are, they don’t always represent the best opportunities for finding value.
It’s therefore a good idea to look at the alternative wager types too. Sometimes these are the only way to find value when you’re looking to have a bet. It’s important to fully understand how they work of course, and it helps if you know some strategy for using them too. That’s why we’ve written the following pages. They contain information and advice on a range of alternative football wagers.
Live betting is a fun and exciting way to bet on football. It also regularly presents opportunities for finding value. The fact that you’re able to watch games before making betting decisions is a distinct advantage, especially if you know how to read a game.
On the following page we explain about live football betting in detail. We also offer strategy advice designed to help you make the most out of the opportunities it presents.
Bookmakers often offer alternate betting lines on football games. They might offer a line where the point spread is smaller, for example, or where the points total is higher. The odds are adjusted accordingly.
Alternate lines can feature small adjustments or big adjustments, and in either direction. It’s not uncommon for a bookmaker to offer several different options on the same game, which gives you a wider scope when it comes to choosing your wagers. These alternate lines regularly provide value, so they’re well worth checking out. You can read more about them on the following page.
This might seem extremely obvious to you, but it’s amazing how many football bettors don’t bother to shop around. Perhaps they’re simply not aware of the fact that the odds and lines on offer can vary from one bookmaker to another.
Shopping around enables you to get the best possible value for each wager you place. You can make sure you get the best odds, the best spread or the best total lines. Although the differences between the bookmakers are typically quite small, over time they can have a big impact on your overall results.
Use Online Betting Sites
There are several benefit to doing your football betting online. And two of them are directly related to getting more value.
For starters, the odds and lines available from online betting sites are usually a little more competitive than from other bookmakers. This instantly means better value for wagers. It’s also worth noting that betting online makes it much easier to shop around, hence our previous piece of advice.
Second, most online betting sites offer bonuses and rewards to new and existing customers. Although this doesn’t help you actually find value in the betting markets, these bonuses and rewards are valuable in their own right. Taking full advantage of them can be very good for your bankroll.
Just please make sure that you stick to the best sites. Most of the available options are good enough, but the truly top sites provide a much better overall experience. If you’re not sure which sites to use, please take a look at our recommendations.