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Look to side markets for better value

Published on June 22, 2022
Updated on August 2, 2023
Written by Janne

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Look to side markets for better value

It’s hardly surprising that on any given football match the majority of the money is wagered on the match winner market. Or match odds, or 1×2, as it might be known across some bookmakers.

After all, in terms of ‘pub talk’ with your mates, chats in forums and the hundreds of hours of pundits on TV football shows, that’s ultimately what everyone is talking about: who’s going to win the upcoming match? When all is said and done that’s what football is about after all.

Of course, there are various other betting markets that revolve around the winner of a match such as the Double Chance market, where you choose to have two of the three outcomes on your side.

Another alternative is of course the Asian Handicap market, where by virtue of how the market is set up you can place bets at pretty much even money without having to worry about the draw, effectively making it a two-runner market rather than a three-runner one, much like the Double Chance.

These two offer alternatives to the match odds market and the Asian Handicap in particular is a market that the ‘pros’ will swear by as their best route to long-term profit. But they’re essentially just different versions of the same thing: the final result in a football match.

And as we’ll see now, betting on the final score certainly isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of football betting. In fact, if it’s betting value that you’re primarily concerned with, you may want to give the match odds market a miss entirely.

Everyone will have their methods about how to go about researching a bet on the match odds market to reach a conclusion where you reach the point that any punter should look at reaching, which is where you say: ‘Ok, that price is a value bet. I’m taking that.’

You’ll look at the head-to-head between the two teams, the recent form, the home and away records of the two sides, the ability of the two Managers, the motivation that they have to win this particular game in light of commitments in other competitions, injuries and suspensions and any other special factors that may make a difference somehow, like weather conditions (rain, altitude) or the surface or unusual dimensions of the pitch.

You spend hours going through all these factors and there may be times when you do find a bit of an edge, a bit of value.

Why there’s little value in the match odds market

The problem of course is that this is the same info that all the odds compilers employed by the bookies have as well.

In summary, everything you know about what the final score might be in terms of important factors, the bookies know, too. Eden Hazard is missing the game through injury? Yeah, we all know that. Manchester City are playing a weakened team in the league because they have a big Champions League game coming up? Yeah, we all know that, too.

That’s why some people will argue that your best chance is to focus on the lower-leagues of English football or the top leagues of more obscure countries like say India, or Venezuela or Cyprus. If you know something about the matches going on over there that the bookies don’t, then there’s your edge.

But even then, you’d be surprised what the bookies know these days. And because the match odds market is the one that always sees the most ‘action’, that’s the one the bookies need to get absolutely right in terms of their pricing, so the one where you’re least likely to see mistakes and where you’re least likely to find value. That’s not to say you can’t still turn over a profit on these markets, just that it’s harder because there’s little or no value.

So in addition to focusing on obscure leagues, the other alternative is to look for less obvious markets.

Opportunities in the anytime scorer market

What we’ve just mentioned here about the match odds market also applies to all goals markets (over/under 2.5 goals, total goals, team goals etc) and the likes of correct score and half time/full time. They’re the most popular markets with the most data to go by and therefore the ones with most care and attention put into pricing.

The first ‘alternative’ market worth considering is the to score/score anytime market. Personally, I prefer it to the first goalscorer market, which may boast higher odds but is quite frankly, a bit of a lottery.

The first reason why you might find better value in this market is that traders only have so much time on their hands to price up 1000s of markets every week. The second is that a player’s chances of scoring a goal is a somewhat more subjective question than who will win a particular game. With less data and less factors to go by you may find some generous prices out there.

This is particularly true of players outside the best teams. You won’t find much charity from the bookies about anyone featuring in a forward position for the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City or Real Madrid because the traders will take the view that those teams can rack up 4,5,6 goals in any given game and therefore just about any player of theirs isn’t without a chance.

So the secret is to identify teams who may over-perform on the day in terms of goals scored and then the players who may get them. At the most basic level you can look at what percentage of games a player scores in and see how that percentage compares to the prices on offer. You can then add in other factors of your own. Most people would agree that it’s easier to score against say West Brom or Stoke than it is against your average Premier League side so even if the odds are roughly what they should be on a player statistically, that in itself may provide some value because of who they’re up against.

But it could pay to try to be even cuter. Try and identify a player who is on an unusually good scoring run, particularly a defender or midfielder. The bookies may just look at his career figures before pricing him up and not take into account that he’s particularly confident right now or more likely to roam forward more than often because he feels he’s in good scoring form.

Or look for a player who is playing further up the pitch than usual. In the 2017/18 season Eden Hazard played a few games as Chelsea’s most advanced player rather than as a narrow winger. That alone gives him a better chance of scoring. Or look out for players who may be on penalty or free-kick duty that day because the usual taker isn’t playing. For example, if Wayne Rooney is left out of Everton’s starting line-up, that could open the door for Gylfi Sigurdsson to take control of set pieces. He may not be much value at 4.0 when he’s not taking set-pieces but that may be a decent price when he is.

So there’s another important factor. Look at the line-ups when they’re announced and see if that provides any opportunities. Bookies may adjust their match odds market prices as soon as line-ups are announced but are highly unlikely to do so on anytime scorer prices.

Same principles in cards markets

A lot of what we’ve just said here applies to the ‘to be shown a card’ market as well. There may be some somewhat lazy odds-compiling because there’s not much interest from punters so mistakes could be made or failing that, there might be an angle for you to explore. Look out for defenders who are up against particularly tricky forwards like Raheem Sterling, Mohammad Salah or Lionel Messi. You’d think sooner or later they’ll have to resort to some underhand tactics to stop them.

It’s also worth considering whether the ref in question is a particularly strict one. Someone like West Ham’s Pablo Zabaleta is pretty much always around the 2.7 mark to be shown a card but if one of the stricter referees is in charge who shows more cards than usual, then his chances of getting carded are increased. Similarly, if he’s up against Salah or Dele Alli that price will look even better. It may also be that a particular player has ‘history’ against another side. Maybe he used to play for them before or had a bust-up with a few of the opposition players the last time he played against them. Knowing about all this info is what might give you an edge.

A good strategy here is to focus on just five or six players and their chances of being shown a card every week rather than dozens. A case in point was Neymar, of PSG. Towards the start of the 2017/18 season he was priced up like most other forwards would be, at around the 8.0 mark. But on closer inspection that price was wrong to start with. Neymar has over 140 yellows and eight reds in his relatively short career so he’s clearly no angel.

What was also notable was how he had a tendency to get booked in the bigger games in Ligue 1, getting carded against all three of the biggest teams in the league early on in the season: Lyon, Marseille and Monaco.

Backing a player most would have considered unlikely to be carded in these big games would have been very profitable. Sadly, the bookies stopped offering these big prices on Neymar as the season progressed.

Multiple accounts is essential

Absolutely crucial to making this work for you is having numerous different betting accounts. When betting on match odds or over/under 2.5 goals you’re unlikely to find much difference in the prices at all from one bookie to the next.

But it’s totally different when betting on the side markets. If you’re looking at the price on say Real Madrid’s Casemiro or West Ham’s Mark Noble to score- two defensive midfielders who pop up with four or five goals a season- their price could be anything between 5.0 and 12.0 depending on who you bet with.

The difference in price comes from all the uncertainties surrounding a player’s chances based on all the factors. So much better for us as punters. And even more evidence that it’s in these side markets that we can find the better value.

About the author:

James has worked in the betting industry for 15 years at two of the biggest betting companies in the world in Operations, PR, as a Copywriter, Content Manager and as a Blog Editor. These days he’s a Freelance Writer and mostly writes about the theory behind betting, successful long-term strategies that can help you win and previews of football and cricket matches.


Please note that any previews, recommendations or information available on the website is just with informative purpose. All betting activities do involve risk, please bet with funds that you can afford to lose. cannot be hold responsible for any gains or losses occurred as a consequence of information found on the website!

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Janne är en tävlingsmänniska med passion för sport och betting i alla dess former. Med över 15 år i bettingbranschen är hans mål att hjälpa spelare att betta ansvarsfullt och med rätt kunskap. Hos delar han speltips, analyser och recensioner av bettingsidor. När det kommer till betting har Janne alltid något värdefullt att säga. Editorial Promise