What Are The Worst Value Football Bets and Why?
If you’re on this site then there’s a good chance that you enjoy having a flutter on the football. Whether you tend to only bet on your favourite team’s matches, opt for an accumulator every weekend and nothing more, or you’re the sort of person who gets really involved in matches and places a wager on the likes of how many throw-ins there will be, you like betting on the beautiful game.
One thing that might not have occurred to you, however, is whether or not the bets that you’re placing on a regular basis are actually very good value. We’re not talking about whether your bet will see you make loads of money, but rather whether or not it is a fair investment in the first place. Do the actual odds of common bets line-up with the odds that you’re offered by a bookmaker, for example?
What Is A Bad Value Bet?
The key thing to think about when it comes to whether or not your bet has good value is what the actual odds of a bet coming in would be compared to the odds you’re being offered by your bookmaker of choice. A 120/1 wager might seem like good value, for example, but if the true odds of the bet that you’re placing are more like 700/1 then you’re not getting the value that you deserve.
Bookies make money by calculating the odds of a particular outcome and then offer odds to the public that are slightly worse than those real odds. Bookmakers try to ensure that they do that for every possible outcome, meaning that they will make a profit regardless of the result. Let’s look at a made up scenario to explain what we mean, using the To Qualify bet of a cup match.
Let’s imagine that Norwich City are playing Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. A bookmaker is offering the following odds:
- Norwich City To Qualify: 11/10
- Blackburn Rovers To Qualify: 4/6
Changed to percentages, the bookies believe that Norwich City have a 47.6% chance of making it through to the next round, whilst Blackburn Rovers have a 60% chance of doing so. Given that there are only two possible outcomes, it should be the case that the probability adds up to 100%, but in actuality it adds up to 107.6%.
The percentage above 100, or the 7.6% to be accurate, is known in the industry as the ‘overround’ and it is the bookmaker’s way of guaranteeing themselves some profit. Given that bookmakers are a business, it’s totally understandable that they are going to add profit into their calculations for every bet that they allow people to place.
What we’re concerned about, however, is when bookies have been so generous to themselves that the overround becomes preposterous and there is no real value in the bet that we’re placing. Those are the sorts of bets that we’re looking at in more detail here.
The Bad Value Bets
It is only relatively recently that bookmakers have started to be allowed to make their shops look like appealing places to head. In years gone by, bookies would be required to make their shops look as unappetising as possible and the likes of music was banned from being played in case people chose to dance and therefore looked like they were having fun.
As a consequence, the likes of advertisements on windows to entice people in to place bets were banned. Those days are over, though, and now bookies can look for all sorts of methods to persuade punters to pop in and place a wager. Here we’ll look at the ones that you really do want to avoid as much as possible because they lack any sort of value.
As a rule of thumb a good way to spot a bad value bet is if bookies have lots of offers for them. Take acca insurance, for example, a lot of bookies offer this because they know accas are bad value bets so they can afford to provide attractive promotions.
Half-Time / Full-Time
While not the worst value bet that’s ever been placed, the Half-Time / Full-Time wager is pretty poor for one reason: it’s actually two bets in one. You’re not only being asked to decide upon the result of the match at the end of the first 45 minutes but also what it will be when the full-time whistle goes. Get either of these predictions wrong and your bet is a loser.
Here are the number of possibilities when predicting the Half-Time / Full-Time market:
- Home / Home
- Home / Draw
- Home / Away
- Away / Away
- Away / Draw
- Away / Home
- Draw / Draw
- Draw / Home
- Draw / Away
When you then remember that bookmakers will add their own cut to the odds as they present them to you, it suddenly makes sense why this bet is quite bad value. If a team is 6/4 to win a game, the bet becomes 5/4 when you look at the different Half-Time / Full-Time markets. That’s if you add up the percentages of the various possibilities.
If you’re looking to bet on a favourite then things are decided worse. Say your team of choice is 1/3 on to win the game, the price for Win / Win will be about 4/6. Draw / Win will usually be priced at about 7/2, whilst a bet on them being behind at half-time then ahead at the full-time whistle will be 28/1. That means that the combined percentages become 1/6, making it a worse bet than just the straight Win wager.
First / Last Goalscorer
The idea behind betting on a First or Last Goalscorer market isn’t too mad in and of itself, yet the reason it loses value pretty dramatically is because of the number of variables that need to be taken into account. Anyone who has ever watched a football match will know that they’re rarely predictable.
Take Liverpool’s title winning campaign in 2019-2020, for example. The Merseyside club had won 26 and drawn 1 of their games prior to playing Watford at the end of February. The Hornets, meanwhile, had won just 5 times and lost 13 heading into the game, sitting in the relegation zone. All but the most optimistic Watford fans will have been betting on Liverpool players.
Watford won the match 3-0, with the relatively unknown Ismaila Sarr scoring the opening goal and Troy Deeney scoring the final one. How much money will have been lost by people assuming that Liverpool would cruise to victory, extending their unbeaten run? The form of teams and the ability of players stands for little when it comes to First / Last Goalscorer betting.
It’s worth bearing in mind that prices for First / Last Goalscorer wagers are compiled days of matches, so form won’t really be taken into account. What factors must you take into account before placing your bet? Will there be any value in it once you’ve done so? Strikers will be lower value than defenders, say, but they’re also more likely to score.
You need to think about the number of ways that an opening goal can be scored and the fact that you’ll have 22 players to choose from, that’s before you even begin to take substitutions into account. What odds would you like to be offered to correctly pick the right person out of a line-up of 22? They should all be 22/1, but rarely is anyone that highly priced.
As for the Last Goalscorer, there are even more variables to think about there. Strikers tend to be substituted more often than defenders, for example, so your selection might not even be on the pitch when the final goal in a game is scored. What about if a team is chasing a result and therefore pushes defenders up for set-pieces towards the end of the match?
The idea of a defender being pushed higher up the pitch might immediately make it seem like a defender scoring the Last Goal is more likely, but it also leaves the defence more exposed and therefore a counter-attack goal is possible. All of those are things you won’t know until the game is in full swing, so betting ahead of kick-off is something of a folly.
There are lots of promotions for goalscorer bets, and as we've mentioned this is kind of a red flag that the markets are poor value.
Every now and then accumulator bets can lead to bookmakers taking something of a pasting. It’s actually not that common, however, for the simple reason that the favourites all winning at the same time doesn’t actually happen very often. There is usually at least one match that will bust a whole host of coupons, sparing the bookies’ blushes.
Accumulators require punters to successfully identify the winners of several different matches, with all selections needing to be correct in order for the bet to be a winner. If even just one of the selections proves to be incorrect then a punter’s investment will fall by the wayside. Some bookmakers offer stakes refunded if only one leg is a loser, but it’s still not a winning bet.
The reason why punters love accumulators is that they’ll often offer decent returns for a small stake, especially if you like to be a bit risky or adventurous with your selections. Picking five ‘safe’ selections and then adding in two less predictable ones can see your odds go up markedly, giving you the possibility of a large return if they all come home.
Bookmakers also love accumulators, though, because they’re really difficult things to get right. For that reason, even when someone’s acca does come home, bookmakers are likely to make a profit from all of the losing accumulators that have been placed over the course of a weekend’s football fixtures. It is a virtually guaranteed money-maker for them.
The more bets you add to your acca, the more money you’ll get if it wins but the less likely that is to happen but the bigger the bookies margin becomes in the process (in accumulators margins are additive). That will reduce the Expected Value of your bet quite significantly and all of a sudden a wager that looks good on paper is, in fact, not a good one at all. None of that takes away from the fact that people enjoy placing them, of course, but that doesn’t mean that you should.
Every time a selection is added to an accumulator, the overround increases because each bet has its own overround included. That means that a bookmaker’s profit margin goes up every time a selection is added, so it’s little wonder that bookies are such big fans of people placing accumulators!
If you do like placing accas you shouldn't necessarily stop, you might accept they are poor value but still want to place them. One thing you should certainly do is look for acca insurance or accumulator bonuses and free bets to at least help bring the value back more in your favour.
Bet Builders / Request-A-Bets
Bet Builders, which are known by different names depending on which bookmaker you bet with, are similar in form to accumulators but the bookies choose the markets that you’re picking from. Rather than picking the winning teams from a number of different matches, bookmakers offer odds on markets across the same match. This is known as a related contingency and as such the odds you receive tend to be poor.
By dictating the markets that people can bet on, bookmakers are able to ensure that there is little value in the wager. Every time a new thing is added to the bet, the likelihood of it winning decreases and the bookie’s profit margin increases. Looking for odds on all of those markets individually will probably provide better value than using a Bet Builder tool.
The other reason that bookmakers have for loving customers who use Bet Builders is that they narrow down the market options. That is to say, if your bookie of choice is the only one offering a given number of markets on the Bet Builder then you either need to take the odds they offer you or not place the bet at all. That means they don’t need to care about offering you much value.
Request-A-Bet features work in a similar way. You contact your bookie through social media or whatever and ask them for odds on a given set of events happening. Because they’re creating a market based on what you think will take place in a match, they know that they don’t need to look for much value or offer odds that are a true reflection of what will happen.
If you write to a bookie’s Twitter account and ask them for odds of a player scoring the First Goal, there being ten or more throw-ins, a yellow card and fewer than seven corners, they know that their competition for that bet is much lower than a straight Match Result wager. They therefore don’t need to worry about the competition and can offer odds that are nowhere near the reality.
Bookies also seek to balance books so they ensure a profit. In the case of these types of bets they will never be able to balance a book on such a complex line and so in return they run high margins for them. They are offering a bespoke service, letting you pick your own bets, but in return (like most bespoke things) there is a high cost to it.
Does Value Actually Matter?
The more novel a bet that you come up with is, the less likely it is that it’s going to happen and the longer the odds that a bookmaker will offer you to place it. They’re more than happy to do so as most of the time they know that it’s the equivalent of them printing their own money. The few people that do see those bets come home are more than covered by the amount that don’t.
Of course, knowing something is bad value as a bet doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t place the bet at all. We all know that the odds of winning the lottery are about 1 in 45 million, yet that doesn’t stop us placing the bet because if it were to come in then we’d be millions of pounds richer.
You might well know that a bookmaker’s profit on a particular bet is going to be astronomical and that the odds that they’ve offered you are nowhere near what the chances of the outcome actually happening are, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t place the bet. If you’re offered 120/1 for something that is more like 700/1, you’ll still win £1,200 for a £10 bet. Is that good value to you, only you can decide?