Simple Football Betting Strategies to Start With
We genuinely want our readers to become successful football bettors. That’s the whole purpose of this football betting strategy guide. It’s why we’ve put so much time and effort into writing and compiling it. We quite simply want to help you make money.
But we want you to be realistic too. The last thing we want to do is give you the impression that we can teach you some amazing betting system that will set you on the road to riches beyond your wildest dreams. That’s just not going to happen, because no such system exists.
The fact is that there’s no definitively correct way to go about deciding which football wagers you should place and when. There’s no one system that works effectively all of the time and in every situation. Football is too unpredictable for that to be the case. So football betting strategy is somewhat more complicated than simply following a set of rules and watching the money roll in.
There’s actually a wide range of different strategies that you can apply to your football betting decisions. Many of these have significant merit, but the most effective ones are quite advanced. This means they probably aren’t suitable for beginners. It’s not practical to try to understand complex strategies while you’re still figuring out the basics. You need more experience before you’re ready for those.
Of course, in the meantime you still want to maximize your opportunities for making money. You won’t become a successful bettor overnight, but you certainly want to set out with the right intentions. This means learning how to actually implement betting strategies as soon as you can. And this is something we can help with.
On this page we’ve detailed a few strategies that we recommend for beginners. They’re pretty straightforward, so they’re not too difficult to understand. They all have the potential to be effective, but don’t expect them to lead to easy profits. Like so many betting strategies, they are basically just general guidelines to what you should be betting on and when. You still need to evaluate and analyze individual opportunities for yourself. They’re a great place to start though, so please read on to find out more.
Basic Value Betting
The concept of value is something you HAVE to be aware of if you want the best chance of making money from betting on football. Trying to make accurate predictions isn’t enough by itself; you also have to look into different bookmakers. It’s possible that their odds could leave ample opportunity for extra value.
Here’s a somewhat extreme example to illustrate this point.
Two football teams are playing a game towards the end of the season. The home team has been absolutely flying, and has lost only one game so far. The road team has been struggling, and has only won two games. To make matters worse, they’ve just lost two important players to injury.
After comparing the overall quality of the two teams, you’re understandably convinced that the home team is going to win the game comfortably, so you’re planning a big bet on the moneyline. Now let’s say that the odds offered on this team to win are -10,000.
We expect your answer to this is probably no. What’s the point? No matter how likely you think the home team is going to win, a wager at these odds makes no sense. There’s always a chance that something unexpected is going to happen.
Now let’s say that the odds on the road team at +10,000.
We hope that you would. It might be very unlikely that the road team is going to win, but not unlikely enough to warrant +10,000 odds. There’s enough of a chance of them winning that this actually becomes a good bet to make.
Now, no bookmaker would ever actually offer these odds on a single game of football. We used extreme numbers just to make the point clear. A bet that’s very likely to win isn’t necessarily a good bet if the odds are too low. And a bet that’s unlikely to win can still be a good bet even if the odds are too high. That’s the fundamental concept of value. It exists whenever the chances of something happening are greater than the odds suggest.
Value is a concept that you should apply, at least to some degree, in any betting strategy that you use. “Value betting” is also considered a strategy in its own right, and it’s simple enough to mention here. All you’re basically trying to do is look for spots for where you believe an outcome is more likely than the implied probability of the odds on that outcome.
If you’re not familiar with implied probability, or would simply like to learn more about value betting in football, please take a look at the following article.
We’ve already touched very briefly on the subject of comparing the overall quality of football teams before making predictions. There’s obviously some merit in carrying out these comparisons, as it’s a good way to start forming some opinions about how a game of football might play out. In theory, the better team is always going to be more likely to win. So that’s something you can factor in when looking for betting opportunities.
It’s important to note that it’s not only the quality of teams that affects the outcome of games though. The circumstances surrounding a game of football have an effect too. And they are always unique to each individual game in some way. No two situations are exactly the same.
This is one reason why predicting the outcomes of games can be so difficult. It’s hard to take everything into account and accurately assess just how much influence the various different factors may have. Situational handicapping is a broad strategy where the aim is to do exactly that though.
The fundamental idea here is to first consider which variables are going to affect the outcome of a game. Then you try to figure out what impact those variables will have. This can help you make informed judgements about what’s likely to happen.
Here’s a list of some of the situational factors you should be looking at.
- Playing Conditions
- The performance of some teams can improve or drop based on the playing conditions. Consider factors such as the surface, the weather and the stadium.
- Teams on winning streaks will want to keep winning, while their opponents may be fired up to stop them. Teams on losing streaks will be low on confidence, while their opponents may underestimate them.
- How far has the road team had to travel? Have they gone across time zones? These things regularly affect performances.
- Previous Matchups
- Is one team going to be out for revenge? That can be a big motivating factor.
- The Standings
- Do both teams have playoff hopes still? Just one team? A game between two teams with something to play for can be very different from a game where there’s nothing at stake for one team.
- Injuries can have a big effect on teams, particularly if it’s big name players that are missing.
- The Schedule
- Have the players had much rest recently? Have they been playing a number of tough games in the last few weeks, or have they had a relatively easy run of games?
We explain these situational factors thoroughly in our article discussing what affects the outcome of football games.
The Contrarian Strategy
The contrarian strategy is also known as fading the public, or betting against the public. The idea is simply that you bet on the opposite to what the majority of people are betting on. It’s based on the simple theory that the majority of people are going to be wrong, as most people who bet on football are overall losers.
You can’t really fault the logic here. It’s 100% accurate that most football bettors do lose money. So it’s not unreasonable to therefore assume that going against what most people are betting on is going to be profitable. And there actually was a time when this simple strategy could be very profitable. Unfortunately this was many years ago now, back when the bookmakers weren’t quite as efficient at setting their odds and lines as they are now.
This strategy is TOO simplistic these days. The fundamental principle is still sound, as the public does still frequently overvalue one side of a line. This is especially true of big games that attract a lot of interest, as these are the type of games that most recreational bettors bet on. However, the strategy needs some refinement to be truly effective.
We wouldn’t talk you out of using this strategy even in its most basic format though. If you’re selective enough and choose the right spots, you can probably still make some money from betting against the public. And it’s a nice and simple strategy to use as a beginner.
Eventually, though, you should learn about how to use public opinion to your advantage with some slightly more sophisticated strategies. Please see the following article for more on this subject.
Following Steam Moves
Following steam moves is about trying to emulate what the really smart bettors are doing. It’s based on the theory that big moves in the betting markets are usually caused by betting syndicates and/or successful high stakes bettors getting their money down. They’re betting so much money that the bookmakers and betting sites are forced to make significant adjustments to their odds and lines. These adjustments are known as steam moves, or simply steam.
The aim with this strategy is to figure out what these smart guys are betting on based on the changes made to the odds and lines. Then you simply follow them and bet the same way. This seems like an entirely logical approach, and this strategy does in fact have the potential to be profitable. There are a couple of problems with it too though.
First is the simple fact that these steam moves can happen at any time. You’re going to miss them unless you’re constantly paying close attention to the odds and lines. This isn’t very practical for most people, to say the least. Second is the fact that you’ll only actually notice steam moves once the odds and lines have already been adjusted to account for the weight of money. So by the time you know what to bet on, the markets may have moved to a point where it’s no longer the right bet to make.
Following steam moves can definitely be profitable in the right circumstances. So this is a strategy that we do recommend implementing when you can. Just be prepared for suitable opportunities to be in short supply.
Betting Home Underdogs
As a general rule, the public prefer betting on favorites. The bookmakers know this, and set their odds and lines accordingly. We’ve already touched on this concept when talking about the contrarian strategy.
This strategy is a little more precise though. It’s about specifically looking for value in games where underdogs are playing at home against popular teams. Many recreational bettors will put their money on popular road favorites without much thought at all, and that can often make home underdogs an attractive betting proposition.
Please note, however, that the idea isn’t to simply bet on the home team anytime that they’re an underdog. That’s unlikely to be a successful approach in the long run.
What you need to do is to examine such situations and determine whether there actually is any value in backing against the favorite. You’ll find plenty of spots where a home underdog has a really good chance of covering the spread, and some where they may even be a good bet to win outright.
Betting Off-Market Prices
The concept of this strategy is very straightforward. It’s based on the fact that bookmakers and betting sites will sometimes offer odds and lines that are noticeably different from the rest of the market. This might simply be because they have a different outlook than everyone else. Or it might be because of the wagers they’ve already taken or are expecting to take.
For example, let’s say a bookmaker has taken a lot of money for the favorite on the spread. They may then adjust their spread to discourage any more money from coming in for that side. This can create value on the other side of the spread, as they’ll end up giving the underdog more points than anyone else. In this situation, a bet on the underdog to cover might be the sensible thing to do.
To find off-market prices, you need to compare the odds and lines at a variety of different bookmakers and/or betting sites. You’re looking for anything that stands out as being noticeably different. You might see the following at four different betting sites for example.
Betting Site ACleveland +7 -110Philadelphia -7 -110
Betting Site BCleveland +7 -105Philadelphia -7 -115
Betting Site CCleveland +6.5 -110Philadelphia -6.5 -110
Betting Site DCleveland +5 -110Philadelphia -5 -110
Betting Site A has a very straightforward line. The spread is seven points, and both teams are available at the “standard” odds of -110. Betting Site B is offering a similar line, with slightly different odds on the same spread. Betting Site C is offering a slightly different spread, but only by half a point.
Betting Site D, however, is a full two points different on the spread. If you spot a situation like this, it’s almost certainly right to back Philadelphia at -5. This is for the sole reason that you’re getting an extra two points over what the rest of the market is suggesting. You’re not guaranteed to win, of course, but it’s a good bet to make unless you can find a very good reason why this spread is so different from the rest of the market.
Please note that these situations, and others like them, used to be reasonably commonplace in the football betting markets. The markets are much more efficient these days though, so opportunities for skewed lines are rare. They do still exist though. So it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye out for them.
Betting middles is a strategy that provides the potential for profit without taking much risk. The idea here is to take advantage of opportunities where it’s possible to bet on both sides of a game and have a chance of winning both wagers. Such opportunities don’t happen often, but they DO happen.
Bookmakers and betting sites regularly adjust their lines based on the wagers they take and new information that they may receive. When these adjustments are big enough, it can be a good spot to bet both sides of a game.
Here’s an example.
The Patriots are playing the Chiefs. It’s a few days until the game, and the early lines have the Patriots as the favorites on a 7-point spread. You like the look of the Patriots, so you get your money down early. Over the next couple of days, a lot of other bettors do the same. There’s so much money coming in for the Patriots that by the day before the game they’re now ten point favorites.
Not only did you get your money down at the right time in this situation, you now have the opportunity to bet a middle by placing another wager on the Chiefs at +10. This means the following outcomes are possible.
- You’ll win BOTH wagers if the Patriots win the game by eight or nine points.
- You’ll win one wager and push the other if the Patriots win by exactly seven or exactly ten.
- You’ll win one wager and lose the other if the Patriots win by more than ten points or less then seven.
- You’ll win one wager and lose the other if the Patriots lose.
In a worst case scenario, you’re going to win one wager and lose the other. So your only risk is the vig. But there’s a possibility of winning BOTH your wagers, or winning one and pushing the other. That’s a good spot to be in, especially when the favorable outcomes are based on the more likely score lines. It’s fair to say that betting middles is an attractive strategy whenever suitable opportunities arise.
The Rebound Game Strategy
The rebound game strategy is beautifully simple. It doesn’t require much work at all. All you need to do is study the results of games and look for teams that have suffered a blowout, lost a game they were expected to win, or experienced some other kind of setback. Then you apply the bounce back theory.
The bounce back theory states that teams will put in an improved performance if they’ve just been beaten badly: or lost unexpectedly, or lost really late in the game. It’s based on the idea that setbacks like this can really motivate a team to do better the next time they play.
The flaw in this particular strategy is that you can never be certain that a team is going to react positively to a setback. It’s also possible that they’ll suffer from a loss of confidence and spiral into a bad run of form. So we don’t recommend that you automatically back a team just because they were on the wrong end of a bad loss in the previous game.
You should definitely look out for scenarios where the bounce back theory might apply though. They can definitely be profitable if you know enough about the teams involved. If you’re confident that a team has a really strong mentality, for example, then it probably is right to back them based on the strong likelihood that they will bounce back.
The Bye Week Strategy
The bye week strategy is based on a loose trend of teams performing better than average following a bye week. It’s an incredibly simple strategy to implement, but it’s also very limited. The idea is simply that you bet on a team in their first game after a bye week. There’s literally nothing more to it than that.
We can’t recommend this strategy in its most basic format, even though there IS statistical analysis that shows teams have a higher than average win rate in games following their bye week. This is just not a good enough reason to blindly back teams in isolation of all other factors. The betting markets already account for the advantage of the extra rest and preparation time, so you’re not going to find any value with this approach.
The basic strategy does have some merit, but it needs to be adjusted for it to be truly effective. This requires digging deeper into some statistical analysis, and trying to find out in what circumstances the bye week has the greatest effect. This isn’t particularly simple though, so it’s not really appropriate when discussing simple strategies for beginners.
Why have we mentioned it all then? Because it’s still a good way to highlight potential betting opportunities. It’s actually a very good idea to look closely at games involving teams coming off their bye week, as you can find some good spots to get your money down. It’s just important that you don’t automatically bet on the team that’s had the extra rest. You need to consider some other factors too.
Teasers are a specific type of parlay that allows you to modify the point spread in your favor. In exchange you take reduced odds. They’re relatively advanced wagers, but not so complicated that beginners should avoid them. You just need to spend a little extra time learning how they work.
A basic strategy for this type of wager is commonly referred to as Wong teasers. It’s named in honor of the man who introduced the strategy to the general public: Stanford Wong. He wrote a book entitled “Sharp Sports Betting” in which he explains this strategy in detail. It’s a simple strategy for beginners to use once they understand the basics, which is why we’ve mentioned it here. We won’t get into exactly how it works though, because we’ve covered it fully on the following page.
Some Final Points
We started this article by stating that there is no single correct way to decide which football wagers to place. We’ll reiterate that point here. Why? Because it’s VERY important.
It’s unlikely, and probably impossible, that you’re ever going to find some straightforward system that will consistently help you to find winners. Betting on football is just not that easy. There’s too much unpredictability, and too many factors affecting games. No single strategy is able to compensate for that.
This actually goes for pretty much every football betting strategy you can use, not just the ones we’ve discussed here. It’s simply not realistic to think that any strategy will work all the time, and in all situations. They’re all limited in one way or another, even the more advanced ones.
Please note that this doesn’t mean that no football betting strategy is worth using. Quite the opposite, in fact. They can be very valuable. It’s just that they have to be used in the right way and at the right time. And, ultimately, it’s up to you to learn how to use them effectively. It’s important to determine which ones work for you, and which ones don’t. To do that, you have to put them into practice and learn from your experiences.
The strategies that we’ve listed on this page are the ones we recommend to beginners. This is primarily because they’re both simple and easy to understand. They’re not perfect, and they do have some flaws as we’ve discussed. Regardless, they do have some merit too, and they can help you achieve respectable betting results while you’re learning and gaining experience.
As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to adjust these strategies and combine them with others. This will help to make them even more effective. The end goal should really be to develop your own personal theories and strategies that can turn you into a winner.
Remember, if you truly want to be successful then you should never stop trying to learn and expand your knowledge. There’s a lot more information and advice throughout our football betting strategy guide that will help you to do this. The following pages specially are useful for learning additional strategies that are a little more advanced than the ones we’ve outlined here.