First Half and Half Time Betting Strategies
As football bettors, we are extremely lucky, or dare we say spoiled, thanks to the wide variety of games we can choose to bet on. The NFL alone features over 250 games each season. Interested in betting on college level football? They offer hundreds of games to bet on too. Feeling adventurous? Try betting on the Canadian Football League games for a unique experience.
With so many games to choose from, it’s unrealistic to think we can bet on them all. So, we’re left with the dilemma of having to choose which games offer the best opportunities. After that decision has been made, we must decide which wagers to place.
We have lots of choice in this regard too, as there are several options for each game. We can bet on the point spread, the total or the moneyline. There are usually loads of props to choose from too. Then there’s the more exotic bets such as teasers and pleasers.
Most bettors tend to focus on point spreads and totals. This is understandable, as these are very straightforward wagers and among the easiest to get right. However, smart bettors know that the real value often lies elsewhere. Taking the easy option isn’t a terrible approach by any means, but it’s not the best either. Considering all the available options and trying to find maximum value is far more likely to generate positive results in the long run.
There are some additional options that a lot of bettors ignore completely. It’s possible that some are actually unaware of them, although they’re pretty well publicized at the majority of betting sites. We’re referring to first half betting and halftime betting. In some circumstances they can offer better value than betting on a whole game, providing you know what to look for. We strongly recommend considering them.
In this article we’re going to teach you how to take full advantage of the opportunities that first half and halftime betting present. We explain how things work for those of you that are unfamiliar with these options, and we also offer some basic tips to get you started. We end the article with some more in depth strategy advice.
First Half Betting: How it Works & Basic Tips
First half betting isn’t overly complicated. The basic principle is the same as when betting on a whole game. The big difference is simply that you’re betting purely on what happens in the first half. Anything that happens beyond that point is entirely irrelevant.
The only other noteworthy difference is the fact that there are typically fewer wagers available. Most bookmakers and betting sites offer only point spreads and totals for the purposes of first half betting. Some may offer a few other wagers too, for the biggest games at least, but you’ll be limited to point spreads and totals more often than not. This shouldn’t be an issue, as these just happen to be the best wagers to focus on for first half betting anyway.
Let’s look at some example betting markets to illustrate exactly how first half betting works, and how it compares to betting on whole games. First, we start by showing you the main point spread market available at one of our recommended football betting sites for an upcoming NFL game.
From this we can see that the Broncos are the favorites for the game. If we backed them on the spread, we’d need them to win the game by four or more points in order to get a payout. If we backed the Chargers, we’d need them to lose by three points or less.
Now, let’s take a look at what the first half point spread market looks like for the same game.
Do you notice how the spread is almost the same? You might expect that the first half spread would be half the size of the main spread, but that’s actually rarely the case. It’s normal for a first half spread to be very similar to the main spread, especially when the main spread is reasonably small. When the main spread is bigger, you tend to see a larger difference between the two.
Relatively speaking, betting on this market should be very similar to betting on the main spread. The only difference is that the halftime score is what matters most, not the final score. If we backed the Broncos at -3, we’d need them to be leading by four points or more at halftime. If we backed the Chargers at +3, we’d need them to be losing by two points or less. Regardless of what happens in the second half, we’d win or lose our wagers at halftime.
The same goes for betting on first half totals. To clarify what we mean, let’s take a closer look at the main total market for the game between the Broncos and the Chargers.
What this shows us is that the bookmakers are expecting there to be around 44 or 45 points by the end of the game. The first half total market would look something like this:
Notice anything different about these numbers? Unlike the point spread, the total posted here IS around half the total for the entire game. This is what you can expect to see in most first half total markets. It’s reasonable to expect that the points scored in a game will be evenly distributed across the two halves. It doesn’t always work out like that of course, but it’s certainly a fair assumption.
Again, betting on the first half total is the same in practice as betting on the total for the whole game. Just remember that only the points scored in the first half actually count. So if we bet the over here, we’d need to see more than 23 points scored in the first half. If we bet the under, we’d need to see less than 23 points scored. Any points scored in the second half can be disregarded.
Now you know everything you need to know about how first half betting works. While it may seem pretty simple, there’s still something you need to consider before you start betting on the first half of games regularly.
This is an excellent question. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen across a whole game, without making it harder by condensing things down to a single half. Even if you’re confident that a team will cover the spread in a game, that doesn’t mean you can successfully predict how well they’re going to do in the first half. Similarly, just because you can make an educated guess regarding the total number of points scored in a game, that doesn’t mean you can determine how many of those points will be scored by half time.
We want to make this point clear; first half betting is NOT always a good option. It’s not something that should be done just for the sake of it, but instead is something that should only be done when there are specific reasons to do so. We go over these reasons in detail when we get to the advanced strategy advice. In simple terms, first half betting can be profitable if you have picked up on a team’s tendency to score more in the first half or the second half.
Before we move on to halftime betting, we wanted to leave you with some basic tips that will help you bet on the first half of football games.
- Be very selective
- Always shop around for the best odds and lines
- Remember that the bookmakers are sharp
- Focus on lower profile games
- Study relevant statistics in depth
- Get to know the coaches and coaching styles
It’s always important to be selective when betting on football games. Being selective is even more vital when it comes to betting on the first half because, as we’ve just explained, there needs to be specific reasons to bet. Betting on the whole game, or not betting at all, is the better way to go if those reasons are not there. First half betting can definitely be profitable, as long as you pick your spots very carefully.
Shopping around is something else you should always do. And, again, it’s especially important for first half betting. Why? Well, it’s because there’s typically more variation in the odds and lines. When looking at the markets for a whole game, most bookmakers and betting sites have similar lines. However, when looking at first half markets, there tends to be significant differences.
This should come at no surprise. Guess what? If it’s harder for us to predict what’s going to happen in the first half of a game, then it’s probably harder for the bookmakers too. Bookmakers could very easily have contrasting opinions, which will be reflected in the odds and lines that they offer. This means you may be able to gain a couple of extra points, or get noticeably better odds, by shopping around and comparing what’s available. This can be the difference between finding real value or not.
Our third tip might seem a little obvious. Everyone knows that the bookmakers are sharp right? That’s why it’s so hard to beat them! We still thought that adding this point was necessary though. As we already mentioned, first half betting is usually an option to consider when you’ve noticed some particular tendencies for a team. However, it’s crucial that you realize that the bookmakers have probably noticed the same tendencies.
Finding value becomes more challenging when the bookmakers are working off the same information as you. So you have to be very careful about betting based on tendencies that are too obvious. Try to look for spots where you’re likely to have an edge over the bookmakers. The rest of the tips on our list will help you do this.
Focusing on the lower profile games is a great way to gain an edge over the bookmakers. Most football betting action takes place on the higher profile games, so it’s those games that the bookmakers pay most attention too. When they’re taking in a lot of money on games, they have to ensure that their odds and lines are very tight.
They only have so much manpower and time available, so the lower profile games often get far less of their attention. This is good news for you, as there’ll be times when you’ll uncover information that the bookmakers haven’t taken into account. That’s why it pays to be knowledgeable about college football.
There are only 32 teams in the NFL, and they’re all high profile really. Obviously there are some that are less popular than others, but none of them are what you’d call obscure. The bookmakers are likely to know each team inside out. And, with a maximum of 16 games being played each week, they can typically study each game closely and set pretty tight odds and lines. There are exceptions of course, or we’d never be able to make money from NFL betting. For the most part, though, it’s hard to find good opportunities where the bookmakers have overlooked the information you’ve found.
College football is different though. There are 128 Division I NCAAF teams, and a LOT more games taking place. No bookmaker has the necessary resources to properly assess them all, so their odds tend to be slightly looser than for the NFL. This is particularly true for their first half lines, and even more so for games involving the lesser-known college teams. So these are the games you should try to focus on. If you can uncover genuinely useful information that’s relevant, then you might just be one step a head of the bookmakers.
Studying the relevant statistics in depth is one way to uncover that information. In addition to any stats that you usually study, you should also take a look at half specific stats. Many of the leading football stats websites break down some key statistics by half or quarter, and by studying these you can gain some real insight into how teams perform at different stages of a game. This is obviously very beneficial when betting on the first half of games.
We’ll go into more detail about the statistical analysis you can do in the advanced strategy section of this article.
Our final tip here is one of the most useful pieces of advice on this entire page. The more you know about the coaches and their coaching styles, the better you’ll be able to judge how their teams are likely to perform at different stages of the game. If you pay attention to detail and look for specific trends, then spotting value in first half betting opportunities should be a breeze.
For example, let’s say you discovered that a coach almost always sets his team up to focus on the defensive side of the game when playing on the road against weaker teams. He wants his team to have a strong defense for the first half of the game before unleashing a more aggressive offense in the second half.
Whenever this team goes into a road game as the favorite, chances are high that they’re going to be giving away a few points on the first half spread. But you know there’s a good chance they won’t score many in the first half, as the coach is probably going to set his team up defensively. The bookmakers could have easily overlooked this, leaving some value in going against this team on the first half spread.
This is just one hypothetical example, but it illustrates how helpful it can be to try to get inside the coaches’ heads. In order to do this successfully, you’ll need to watch and analyze the games very closely. It’s practically impossible to do this for every single game, which is why you’ll have to pick just a few coaches to focus your attention on.
While the tips we just mentioned don’t seem overly complicated, putting them into practice effectively while doing the necessary research and analysis is easier said than done. That’s why our final piece of advice is to keep your stakes very small when you first start betting on first half totals. As you become more experienced and find more success, you’ll be able to slowly but surely increase your stake. Since first half betting is so difficult in the beginning, there’s no valid reason to risk large sums of money.
Halftime Betting: How it Works & Basic Tips
Halftime betting is sometimes referred to as second half betting. It’s pretty much the same as first half betting, but you’re betting on what happens on the second half of the game rather than the first half. Any points scored in the first half are essentially irrelevant, although they can affect the odds and lines of course.
To demonstrate this more clearly, and to show you exactly how halftime betting works, let’s take a look at the Broncos versus Chargers game we looked at earlier. Remember, the Broncos were three and half point favorites on the spread before the game started. If it got to half time with the score at ten points each, then our line might look something like this.
Before the game started, it was clear that the bookmakers expected the Broncos to win by three or four points. Now, after looking at the 2nd half point spread, we can see that their views haven’t changed much. At the halfway point of the game, it’s still likely that the Broncos will only win by a very small margin. If we backed the Broncos at this point, we’d need them to win the second half by more than three points. If we backed the Chargers, we’d need them to lose by less than three points.
Now let’s imagine that the Broncos established a lead in the first half, and the score was 10-7 in their favor. They’ve already got their three-point lead, so you might assume that the spread would only be a point or so for the second half. However, the bookmakers sometimes change their minds about the end result, depending on what happened in the first half. With a three-point advantage to their name, they may now think that the Broncos will go on to win by seven or eight points. So they might offer the following spread.
Remember, we’d only be betting on the second half with this line. If we backed the Broncos at -4.5, them winning the whole game by five points wouldn’t be enough. We’d need them to win the second half by at least five points, for an overall margin of at least eight points.
What we’ve shown here is that bookmakers’ views can change after they’ve seen what happens during the first half. Just because they originally expected the Broncos to win by three or four points, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going set their halftime lines based on that. These lines are set entirely on what they expect to happen in the second half, even if that effectively contradicts their initial view.
A similar principle applies when it comes to halftime totals. Pregame, the total line for this game was set at 44.5. This doesn’t mean that if 20 points are scored in the first half, the line is automatically going to be set at 24.5 for the second half. The bookmakers will take what they’ve already seen into account, and set a halftime total line based on what they now expect to happen in the second half.
They may think the game is likely to be tighter than they originally expected, and set the line at something like 19.5 points. They may think that the game is going to open up in the second half, and set the line at something like 28 points.
Again, when betting on these lines it only matters what happens in the second half. If the line was 28 and we bet the over, then we’d need to see at least 28 points in the second half. The points scored in the first half are no longer relevant.
Now, first half betting and halftime betting are essentially the same. You’re just betting on different periods of the game. Yet, we’ve just showed you how betting on the second have can be a little more complicated. The odds and lines are now set based at least partially on what’s happened during the first half, as that’s provided the bookmakers with extra information that they didn’t previously have.
It’s not only the bookmakers that have the extra information to work with. We do too, and we can use it to our advantage. If we combine what we’ve seen on the field with what we already know about the relevant teams, we have a very good chance of finding value in the halftime lines.
If you’ve been paying close attention, you might realize that we’ve just contradicted ourselves a little bit. We mentioned earlier that it’s important to remember that the bookmakers are very good at what they do. And that when they’re looking at the same information as us, they’re likely to set the odds and lines in a way that makes it hard to find value.
So why is halftime betting so attractive when the situation appears to be the same? If we BOTH have the extra information to work with based on what’s happened so far, how can we gain an advantage? Well, there’s one thing that makes all the difference.
Pregame, the bookmakers have plenty of time to research and analyze the available information and then make informed judgements about what they think is likely to happen. They set their early odds and lines accordingly, and then adjust them as necessary in the lead up to the game. These adjustments are primarily based on the money they take in from their customers, and also on any new information that may change their outlook: such as an injury to a key player, for example.
With the halftime lines, they don’t have the luxury of extra time. They need to get them up pretty much as soon as the first half ends, and there’s only a fifteen-minute period to make any necessary adjustments. Keep in mind that they’ll also have to do this for several games at the same time. The chance of them making mistakes goes up significantly, so the lines are much looser as a result.
Now, we have to think quickly too of course. We’re under the same time constraints, so we don’t have the luxury of time either. This slight disadvantage can be overcome by following these two pieces of advice.
- Focus on a single game
- Prepare in advance
In our opinion, focusing on a single game is vital when halftime betting. To get the maximum benefit from halftime betting opportunities, we need to watch the first half of the game we want to bet on. This is the only way we’re going to get the information we need to make our decisions. We just don’t think it’s possible to watch more than one game simultaneously and pay close enough attention to what’s going on. So although focusing on just one game at a time does limit our opportunities somewhat, it puts us in a much better position to make good decisions.
Proper preparation is extremely helpful. This is why we like to do halftime betting on games that we’ve already studied for the purposes of pregame betting. All the information we’ve gathered will be fresh in our mind. If we’ve studied them in depth, and looked at the relevant details, we can start to plan for the possible outcomes before a game has even started.
There are several details you should be aware of, and we’ve already mentioned two of them. When talking about first half betting, we recommended studying the coaches and their coaching styles in addition to doing some statistical analysis. These things both help for halftime betting too. You’ll discover why when we get to the advanced strategy section.
We also see value in looking closely at fitness levels. Teams with any notable fitness issues are less likely to have a strong performance in the second half of games, while the fittest teams should be able to maintain performance levels for the entire game. The impact of fitness levels may be minimal, but it’s still worth considering.
What’s likely to have a bigger impact is the strength of a team’s depth. Teams that have good quality backups are better equipped to deal with any injuries they suffer in the first half than those that don’t. This might seem obvious, but you’ll often notice that the bookmakers overcompensate for injuries in their halftime lines. If a team loses a big player, then they sometimes automatically adjust the spread against that team. This is something to take advantage of if you know that the player coming in to replace him is perfectly capable of performing well.
The final detail to study is the upcoming schedule. This can have a significant impact on how teams are likely to play in the second half of a game, but it isn’t always reflected in the odds and lines. For example, imagine a scenario where a team has raced into a big lead by halftime. The bookmakers are likely to set the lines based on that team continuing their performance for the second half. But if they have a very tough game coming up next, the coach might tell his players to take it easy and conserve their energy for that. He might even take some starters out to give them a rest.
Before we move on to some more advanced strategy, there’s one more basic piece of advice we have to offer for halftime betting.
This is a trap that far too many bettors fall into. Even when they’ve watched the first half of a game, they form their opinions about what’s likely to happen next based primarily on the score line. They ignore all the other factors that might be relevant, and just assume that the second half will be more of the same. This is a fundamental mistake that you really must avoid making.
Advanced Strategy Advice
In this section of the article we’re going to discuss our preferred strategies for first half and halftime betting. We’ll examine the various scenarios that we look out for, and explain how we act in those scenarios and why. Before we get to that, though, we’re going to expand a little more on the statistical analysis that we recommend doing.
Now, we need to be clear here. Stats can only tell us so much, and they’re not perfect indicators of future performance. They’re also widely available, and are usually considered by the bookmakers when they’re setting their odds and lines. That’s why it’s rarely, if ever, wise to make any betting decisions based entirely on information gained from statistical analysis.
Our hope is that this analysis will help us gain some broad insight into the tendencies of teams and their performances in different stages of the game. We can then use that insight in combination with other factors to make reasoned judgments.
Most of the main statistics can be broken down into quarters or halves. This makes it easy to thoroughly study how teams (and even individual players) tend to perform in the first half versus the second half. It’s relatively easy to spot teams that do especially poorly or especially well in one half or the other, and with some in-depth analysis there’s even more that can be discovered. For example, you might find that a team focusses on passing the ball in the first half, and then relies on their running game in the second half.
What stats to study and what learning goals to set is ultimately your decision. If you only have time to focus on one thing, then please have it be the points scored per half. This information can reveal some unbelievably helpful trends. Don’t believe us? Let us convince you! Take a look at the scoring records for each NFL team from a recent season.
|Team||Points Per Game (1st Half)||Points Per Game (2nd Half)|
|Green Bay Packers||10.3||13.2|
|Kansas City Chiefs||13.7||11.6|
|New England Patriots||14.3||14.0|
|New Orleans Saints||13.6||11.5|
|New York Giants||13.1||13.2|
|New York Jets||10.9||12.8|
|San Diego Chargers||10.2||9.8|
|San Francisco 49ers||7.4||6.9|
|Los Angeles Rams||10.1||7.2|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10.9||10.2|
Interestingly enough, 16 out of the 32 teams averaged more points in the first half than they did in the second. 15 averaged more in the second half, while one team was exactly equal. This supports the widely held theory that teams perform better in the first half of the game. Before we jump to any conclusions, however, we must remember that this is only one season.
What we really want to find in these stats is whether any teams had significant tendencies to score more points in either half. These teams stuck out to us the most.
Averaged 51% more points in the second half than the first.
Los Angeles Rams
Averaged 40% more points in the first half than the second.
Averaged 32% more points in the second half than the first.
Averaged 28% more points in the first half than the second.
Green Bay Packers
Averaged 28% more points in the second half than the first.
Averaged 22% more points in the second half than the first.
Why is this information so useful? Well, it’s because these teams clearly perform better in one half over the other. It’s definitely something that could be taken into account when betting on first half and halftime lines. However, you need to remember what we said earlier about obvious tendencies being already factored into the odds and lines. Information this like will help you to some extent, but it won’t help you to identify value by itself. It’s the more subtle tendencies that help with that.
For example, you could look at teams scoring records broken down by half and by home games versus road games. This might uncover something less obvious, which could give you an edge over the bookmakers. We actually did this analysis for the same season, and found the following.
Averaged 20.9 first half points at home
Averaged 15.1 first half points at home
New England Patriots
Averaged 16.1 first half points at home
Averaged 16.2 first half points on the road
Averaged 12.8 first half points on the road
New Orleans Saints
Averaged 16.6 second half points at home
Green Bay Packers
Averaged 15.3 second half points on the road
These numbers don’t mean much in isolation, but they do when you compare them to the numbers in the original table. You can see some clear tendencies based on whether these teams were playing at home or on the road. Tendencies such as these are far less likely to be considered by the bookmakers, so they have real value.
We’re not showing you this to emphasize the importance of statistical analysis, but rather to show you that the deeper you dig, the more valuable the information you uncover is likely to be.
Now that we got that covered, let’s move on to our preferred strategies for first half and halftime betting. Starting with first half betting, there are just two main scenarios we generally look for. These are as follows.
- Big favorites/very popular teams that have a tendency to start slow
- Underdogs that will cause the favorite some minor problems
In the first scenario we’re usually happy to back the underdog to cover the first half spread without taking anything else into consideration. This actually goes against what we’ve said about not relying on obvious tendencies, and needing multiple reasons to bet. There’s always an exception to the rule though, and this is a valid exception. The key is when it’s a BIG favorite and/or or a VERY popular team.
You see, first half betting is reasonably popular with recreational bettors. And recreational bettors love to bet favorites and popular teams. The bookmakers know this, and set their lines accordingly. So in this scenario, the weight of money they anticipate for the favorite is likely to outweigh the tendency for them to start slow. So more often than not the underdog will be getting more points than they should, and there’ll be value in backing them. We’ll often back the favorite to cover for the whole game too, as this gives us some extra insurance. Chances are high that we’ll win at least one wager, and we even have a good chance of winning both. Our chances of losing both of these wagers are slim to none.
The second scenario also involves backing the underdog, but it requires us to have a more in-depth knowledge of the teams involved. We want the favorite to be notably stronger overall, as this means the underdog is likely to get a few points on the first half spread. We’re looking for spots where we think that the underdog will have certain strengths or tactical advantages that the favorite might take some time to adjust to. This will often result in the underdog keeping up with the favorite in the first half, or maybe even establishing a lead.
Assuming the first half goes as we expect, we’re usually then confident that the favorite will make the necessary adjustments to assert their superiority in the second half. So we back them at halftime too, and typically end up winning both wagers.
On occasion, when the circumstances are right, we’ll bet on the first half too. These two scenarios are definitely the ones to look out for though.
Moving on to halftime betting, we have quite a few scenarios that we look out for. The following are the ones we recommend focusing on.
- Games where the points total doesn’t tally with the action.
- Strong teams that are at home and down at half time
- Big favorites/popular teams with a big lead
- Close games involving an underdog with a strong 2nd half scoring record
The first scenario on this list is one of the few spots where we like betting totals at halftime. Essentially, you’re trying to identify games where the number of points scored in the first half isn’t anywhere close to what it “should” have been.
If you faithfully watch football, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Sometimes the first half of the game is played openly and presents numerous scoring opportunities, but for some reason, neither team manages to score many points. This is a great spot for betting the over at halftime. The line will probably be a little lower than it might otherwise have been, based on the low total in the first half. These games are usually played just as openly in the second half, but the teams tend to get their act together and start scoring.
Be prepared for games to work in the exact opposite way. These games are played relatively tight, but somehow a lot of lucky or unlikely points get scored. This typically results in a high total for the halftime line, and it’s usually right to bet the under. The game will probably continue to be tight, but without the lucky or unlikely points.
The second scenario is one of our favorite to take advantage of. Strong football teams simply don’t lose very often at their home stadiums. But if they’re losing at halftime, they often won’t get their usual support from the bettors. This can create some real value in backing them on the halftime spread. It does, of course, depend on what size spread is set though. While you do need to be selective, it’s rarely wrong to back the home team to turn things around.
When big favorites or popular teams have a big lead at halftime, the expectation is usually that they’ll continue to dominate for the rest of the game. This is reflected in the halftime spread, and the spread is usually bigger than it technically should be. The bookmakers know that most casual bettors will happily bet on the winning team to extend their lead even further, so they can get away with a bigger spread and still take in plenty of money.
Let’s be clear, we’re not betting against the winning team going on to win. We’re just betting against them covering an oversized spread in the second half. This isn’t always the right thing to do, but it’s still something we can advocate for when the circumstances are right.
This is where preparation and knowing a coach’s tendencies can be useful. If you know that the winning team has a tough schedule coming up, and that the coach has a tendency to hold his players back when they’ve got a big lead, then it’s almost always right to back their opponent on the halftime spread. On the other hand, if they’ve got some easy games coming up and/or the coach likes to keep his teams playing with full intensity throughout a whole game, it’s probably best not to.
The final scenario on our list is very specific, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, though, we’ll almost always look to get some money down. Spots such as this have been very profitable for us over the years. The basic idea is simple. If a game is relatively close at halftime, and we know that the underdog has a better than average second half scoring record, we’re more than likely going to back the underdog to cover the spread.
Since we know that the underdog is usually undervalued by the bookmakers, we would have to have a very good reason not to. The favorite is still expected to take over in the second half, which obviously gets reflected in the spread.
If you look for the scenarios we’ve outlined here, approach them in the right way, and follow all the other advice we’ve offered in this article, then there’s no reason why first half and half time betting can’t be profitable for you. Just remember not to rush into things if you’re new to these betting markets. They do take some getting used to when all your previous experience have been on whole games.
There’s just one more thing to mention before we finish. If the idea of halftime betting appeals to you due to the extra information available from watching the first half, you should also consider live betting. This enables you to place all kinds of different wagers, at ANY stage of a football game. It’s one of our favorite ways to bet on football, and it can be extremely profitable if you apply the right strategies. Want to know more? Take a look at the article we listed below for more general information and some additional strategy advice.