Football Trading: Best Strategies for Betfair Profits
The arrival of the Betfair Exchange way back in 2000 changed the world of football betting forever.
More importantly, the creation of a marketplace where punters could exchange bets with each other instead of relying on a bookmaker, gave birth to a completely new concept: Football Trading.
I began trading football for a living over a decade ago now, and this site has become a labour of love since originally setting it up just to publish my daily selections.
I genuinely enjoy helping people learn how to trade, and I have helped many do so over the years. So if you're interested in becoming a profitable football trader, this article is for you.
I will outline the basic foundations, then I'll explain how to achieve genuine success using the best Betfair football trading strategies, the exact methods I have years of experience using myself.
What Is Football Trading?
When I tell someone I'm a football trader, they often mistakenly assume it's just a 'fancy' way of saying I gamble on football matches. But this couldn't be further from the truth.
As many of you know, long before I started trading on sports markets, I had a background in commodities and stocks. (Spread betting)
Yes, some of you know I also had a bit of a, hmm, let's call it an 'affinity' for gambling in my youth! But those days were over long before I first joined Betfair's sports betting exchange.
Betting was fun. Trading is business.
Football trading is virtually identical to stock trading. It is for me anyway:
- I research and gather data to form an opinion on which direction the market is likely to go.
- I make an informed decision to open a position based on that opinion.
- I then watch and wait for a profitable scenario to arrive.
- I then close my position and bank my profits, concluding the trade.
Sure there are plenty of minor differences, such as the hours or the fact I now have to fight over the TV remote more than I used to, but the essential dynamics are very much the same.
Where I once 'bought and sold' shares, I now buy and sell bets on football games.
There are only two significant differences I can think of:
1. Market Duration
Stock markets never end. They may pause during overnight closures, but the charts and trading carries on the next morning, right where it left off the day before.
On Betfair, football markets end (completely and permanently) with the final whistle.
While that can feel a little different, in practice it makes no difference at all, except for adding a bit more excitement!
You know when it ends so you just close your trades beforehand, then move on to another market to search for new opportunities to bank profits.
2. Market Volatility
As everyone in the market is aware that it closes after 90 minutes has been played, the result is finite.
There are a few possible outcomes, and the odds on the correct outcome have to come down to the lowest possible odds (1.01) before that final whistle is blown. As a result, the prices (odds) move an enormous amount during that 90 minutes of play.
This presents a huge advantage over the much more 'sedate' stocks type markets, which trickle in one direction or the other forever. It was this point which first piqued my interest in trading on Betfair many years ago, as the potential for profit is significantly greater thanks to those pretty wild price movements.
If you get it right, you can do very well indeed, and there are many other people successfully earning a full time income from football trading. Of course on the other hand, if you don't know what you're doing, the potential for substantial losses is equally obvious.
Let's move on to the dynamics of a betting exchange and how this enables football trading to exist.
(Note: If you're already feeling confused, please stop and read my detailed beginner's article explaining the basic principles of Betfair trading before going further.)
How Football Trading Works
I want to make sure people understand a couple of fundamental principles before I explain the actual trading strategies themselves.
I think it's irresponsible to just throw out some 'trading systems' because people often rush off to try using them straight away, before having a full understanding of the underlying forces at work.
Betting Exchange Mechanics
In a bookmaker's shop you can only ever back an event, for instance 'Sunderland to win'.
That 'outcome' is what you are betting on, by backing it.
When you back something, and the bookie takes your bet, he is actually laying that same event.
He's taking the 'opposite side of the book' from the side you're on. Thus he 'makes a book', hence the term 'book-maker'.
Which leads me to the only essential thing you need to know about a betting exchange: You can now place those lay bets yourself, something we could never do before the arrival of the exchange.
Now that you can place both a back and a lay bet on the same outcome, trading becomes possible. Backing and laying can be equated to buying and selling, and so if you were to 'buy' a bet and then 'sell' it for a higher price, you make a profit.
What's more, you can do it in either order. You can lay first to open a position and then back to close it, or vice versa. Which means you can make money if the price rises, or falls.
Of course it might help if you had an idea how to work out whether the prices will rise or fall! And you soon will, patience is a virtue! (Especially in trading!)
The Mechanics Of A Trade
This will be explained more carefully when we go through each trading strategy in detail, but every trade will consist of these four essential steps:
- Open a position
- Await a profitable scenario (due to odds movements)
- Close your position
- Green up to guarantee your profit is banked
If you expect the odds to shorten, you will perform the first step (opening a position) by backing first, and then laying the same outcome to close the trade.
If you expect the odds to go up, you do things in the opposite order, laying an outcome first followed by backing it to close the trade.
2 Types of Football Markets
Football markets are open for trading from the moment Betfair publish them on their website. This could be the day before kick-off, or days or even months before.
From that moment onwards bets can be placed on the game (which means trades can too). Between the opening of the market and the kick-off, the market is described as a 'pre-market'. It's also referred to quite often as a 'Pre-Match' market.
When the game starts, the kick off marks the change of that 'pre-market' into an 'in-play' market.
The two markets are not separate, it's not like one stops and the other starts, it's a seamless transition where the pre-market just carries on but Betfair mark their webpage for that market with an "In-Play" icon so people know the game is underway. If you use football trading software then you will also get an audible alert and a visible marker on your trading screen.
N.B. The reason I mentioned this here is because the factors which cause prices to change are different, depending on whether you're looking at the pre-match or in-play markets.
Price Influences: Why Odds Change
There’s only one reason prices for goods ever move up or down: Money.
If more people want to buy than sell, the price will go up, and vice versa. Nothing moves in any market without buyers and sellers coming together on newly-agreed ‘fair’ prices for any 'exchange' of goods. The goods in this case are bets, as already explained.
Everyone wants value, it will never change and it applies both to buyers and sellers.
If you sell your car, you want a ‘good’ price. When you’re buying one, you also want a ‘good’ price.
The definition of ‘good’ is in the eye of the beholder, of course. And whilst one individual might be fooled from time to time, the collective views of a large group of people are always spot on. This is how all commodities in all markets quickly find their 'right price’.
The more liquidity (money/people) that are involved in any marketplace, the more accurate and stable the prices become. This is simply because if someone offers a price that's considered 'too cheap', a ton of buyers will arrive to get as much 'stuff' as they can at such a 'cheap' price, and up go the prices until the buying frenzy slows down.
This is the most fundamental law of 'market dynamics', and as a football trader it's useful to be aware of it, especially when deciding your entry (buy) and exit (sell) prices for your trades.
On Betfair football markets there are two probability figures to be aware of:
- True Probability
- Implied Probability
True probability is the real world likelihood of any outcome, such as Chelsea to win against Manchester City. Implied Probability is a simple conversion from the decimal odds to find out the probability 'implied' by the odds they are priced at.
You can look at a team's odds to win a game, convert that to I.P. (as a percentage), and then make a judgement on whether you think it's accurate, especially after looking at their form and scoring statistics.
As the picture shows, it's a very simple calculation. The lowest price any outcome on Betfair can have is 1.01 (decimal odds). 100 divided by 1.01 equals 99. So the current market price 'implies' that the outcome has a 99% chance of taking place.
Similarly, the highest odds you will see on Betfair are 1000, which converts to an I.P. of 0.1%.
This is something professional gamblers take into account, and you can see why. If the odds reflect an implied probability of 50% but the stats suggest their real world chances of winning are closer to 80%, you might have a nice 'value bet' on your hands!
But for football trading purposes, especially if trading 'pre-match', we're not as fixated on the real world probabilities as we don't care about the actual outcome of the match.
We just want to judge the likelihood of price movements and direction during our trade.
Any noticable difference between real probability and I.P. can be useful, as if they are wildly different there is a strong likelihood that the 'market' will 'correct' fairly quickly, giving us the likely direction.
We know the prices on Betfair are governed ultimately by what ‘people’ collectively think about the probability of any particular outcome. So let's look at the factors which influence people’s views.
Before Kick Off
Here are the main factors determining price movements before the game starts:
All teams have a few crucial players.
Usually it's their centre-forward (striker) who does most of the scoring, combined with a strong midfielder who sets up those attacks and helps the team retain possession.
Whilst football is obviously a team game, a hot or 'on-form' striker is vital to their goal scoring abilities and thus to their success in the league or competition.
But these 'key players' are not always playing, sometimes they have injuries, sometimes the game is not considered 'difficult' enough to risk fielding such an important player.
In other words the manager decides they can win without their 'Van Persie' or whoever it may be, perhaps to prevent them being injured before a more important game.
If you were paying the obscene £200,000 per week salary of your lead striker, you'd probably feel the same way!
Keeping abreast of team news and checking the team sheets (which shows who will be playing in an up-coming game) is worth doing, especially when planning on trading any football match.
The betting markets (or more accurately the punters involved) are pretty savvy these days and so, if a key player is missing from a line up, their odds will likely be affected.
Form is an obvious influence on odds as most gamblers know how their team is performing. The most recent form is a particularly influential factor. If a team has struggled recently, even if only for the last few games, you can be sure the market will account for it in their odds.
In the past I remember quite a few times where I planned to trade a game but was then surprised by the odds being higher or lower than I'd expected. Nearly every time, a brief look at the recent form of the teams involved would explain why.
Home or Away
Teams get more support from their fans when they play at home rather than away on enemy territory.
It's sometimes referred to as the "home advantage", and it makes a massive difference to the odds.
Over the many years I've been trading Betfair football, I've seen what a difference this can make.
Sometimes, especially in Spanish LaLiga matches, a home team might be around 1.5, yet when they play the same opponent away from home their odds can be well over evens (2.0), even as high as 2.5.
It's not the biggest price influence but it definitely can affect the odds. I think the two main reasons are:
1. When the weather is cold, snowy or miserably wet (think Newcastle in February!) fan attendances can drop quite a bit, understandably too. What can be a great day out for a footie family doesn't look quite so appealing when it's raining cats and dogs!
This reduced interest in watching a game naturally causes a reduction in interest in betting on it. And this of course affects the prices.
2. Wet sloppy pitches don't generally make for a good game.
The ball is slippery, the playing surface is slippery, even the players are slippery!
Passing becomes less accurate which can impact the efficiency of a team to build up enough passes to create goal-scoring opportunities.
I have seen odds affected by sudden changes in the weather for this very reason.
After Kick Off
Once the game kicks off and the market 'goes inplay', the most influential price factors are:
When a team scores a goal, their odds can drop by half or more.
Likewise, if a very strong and heavily-bet team fails to score as expected, their price will climb rapidly, especially in the second half. This is because the pre-kick-off prices were 'factoring in' their goal scoring prowess, and so the market has to 'correct' in-play to account for their failure to do as expected.
And if you're sat there thinking: "And the implied probability needs to continue to 'track' the real world probabilities too, which are reduced if the favourite is struggling to score", that's a gold star for you!
I think this would be better termed 'Price Decay' (due to time), but time decay won the title of 'accepted term' for some reason!
(If only they'd asked me, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. 😀 )
Everyone knows the game ends after 90 minutes so prices always reflect the time left in the game, and the changing probabilities.
At the end the market ceases to exist and all bets are settled. The time decay influence on prices grows through the game, getting more and more influential the closer it gets to the final whistle.
I have had more than a few trades 'ruined' by a (bluddy) red card!
In a team of 11 players, losing one is catastrophic. That in itself wouldn't be such an issue, as many teams still play pretty well despite having a player sent off.
The problem comes with how teams, especially their managers, respond to the event.
It's fairly standard practice for a team to go into 'survival mode', where they stop being aggressive or taking risks to score, and instead just focus on defending their own goal.
Many teams, even when they are the favourites to win, decide to settle for a draw if they get a red card.
It's obviously bad news (and an exit trigger) for just about any trade, unless you're trading a red card strategy of course!
Hopefully you're now aware of most of the price influences in football markets, both before and after kick off. It should come as no surprise to hear that the best Betfair football strategies usually take the above factors into account during both the trade selection process and the live trades themselves.
My football trading systems certainly require at least one check of weather, team sheets, and above all the recent form stats. Trading without this easily-obtained information is just lazy, and opens the door to unnecessary risk. I don't mind risk, but any good trader should utterly detest unnecessary risk!
Ok, you've been patient enough! Now let's get into the strategy stuff.
Best Football Trading Strategies
There's a wide variety of soccer systems. Some are low-risk strategies, others are much higher risk. I'm not a big fan of high risk strategies for trading any sport because of my own past experiences.
We all have different tolerances for risk. Mine is pretty low, but it wasn't when I first started trading.
During my first 12-18 months as a full time football trader I tried more strategies than I can even remember. Some were pretty high risk. There is nothing wrong with taking big risks, so long as you can accept the inevitable heavy losses you will sustain from time to time.
I thought I could handle that, but it turned out I was wrong!
A large part of learning to be a successful trader is learning about yourself, in particular your own risk appetite, psyche, emotional stability and more. I found out (the hard way) that I don't trade well when I am under immense pressure.
I wanted to, I just didn't, and I had to acknowledge that fact if I wanted to keep on growing as a successful football trader.
I blew my entire trading bank... more than once.
This is why I often tell traders who are struggling that I really have 'been there'. I have walked every walk, and worn every T-shirt, plus a few I had printed just for me!
A trader friend once asked me:
"What would you say was the key to you becoming successful in the markets?"
My answer went something like this:
"I spent many months learning every possible mistake a trader can make, then I spent many more months learning how to STOP bloody making them!"
Low Risk Strategies
As a result of discovering my sub-conscious aversion to risk, I decided to gear my football trading strategies around lowest possible risk for maximum possible return.
Many people 'talk' about doing that, but in my experience not many traders actually do it.
You have to be genuinely capable of turning down strong trading opportunities, purely on the basis of the total risk being outside your comfort zone. I found it very hard to do, but the memory of decimating a trading bank (of several £Thousand) is remarkably good at helping us learn!
I am not saying I don't like risk, or I don't take any risks. Of course I do, I am trading, and without risk there would be no trading!
I just try to keep my risk within the boundaries of what I know I can emotionally tolerate. In other words, before every football trade I ask myself:
"What is the absolute worst possible outcome here?"
If I don't think I will be able to handle the answer, I cancel the trade there and then. And I smile as I do so, because bitter and painful experience has taught me that I am doing a good thing and protecting myself and my future as a trader, not to mention my trading bank.
Generally speaking, trading before kick off is lower risk and also lower profit than trading during the live play.
Over the years I must have spent thousands or tens of thousands of hours just watching nice stable pre-match markets and pinching a few ticks here and there.
It's a great way to learn about the price movements (price dynamics) in football markets, and it's extremely useful for beginner traders to get used to the backing and laying process and see how the prices of each outcome relate to each other.
This has a special place in my heart and many fond memories, as it was the very first strategy I ever used to trade football markets on Betfair, and it got my bank growing gradually but safely while I learned both about the markets but also about trading software.
The trading profits are small, but with a good-sized bank you can rack up substantial cumulative profits with these sorts of trading methods, and with extremely low risk. It's what I would call a very low risk, beginner-friendly 'bank builder' strategy.
To make a book you simply lay all possible outcomes on any event.
So in a football match you'd be laying both teams and the draw, totalling 3 lay bets.
Of course you must get all three lay orders matched to make a profit as you 'complete the book'.
But there are plenty of options for when you can't get all three matched, which is how my approach to bookmaking evolved. If I can't complete the book, I morph the trade into a mix of scalping and range trading.
There's a full explanation in my article: Bookmaking on Betfair.
This is just the reverse of bookmaking. Instead of laying all outcomes, you back them all, again at favourable prices to secure a guaranteed profit.
Just like making a book, the profits are small but add up, as you can use either of these strategies on just about any football market with sufficient liquidity to stabilise the market long enough to get your orders matched and complete the trade.
One important point to note is that dutching has the advantage of needing less trading funds available, as backing needs less money than laying due to the reduced liability
A £1000 back order on a team who's odds are 3.4 will 'lock' £1000, as that's all you're risking (if you were betting, which you're not, this is a pre-match strategy remember!)
However a £1000 lay order at 3.4 will lock the much bigger sum of £2400, leaving you less money available for other trades (or orders within the same trade).
Please note, many people use the term 'dutching' to refer to a 'system' (if you can call it that!) of backing various outcomes. A common example would be betting on the correct scores market.
Some beginners (who want to become Betfair traders, not gamblers) are led astray by these kinds of ideas, where they are encouraged to back various scorelines in the 'hope' that one of them comes in.
I don't care even if it's done with the aid of form and goal statistics, it will never be 'trading' from my point of view.
Betting on various outcomes simply increases your chances of winning your 'gamble', whilst reducing the potential profits. It's swings and roundabouts, or 6 of one, half a dozen of the other!
It's just betting, there's no other word for it, neither 'trading', nor 'dutching'. To dutch a market means to back all outcomes, not just the ones you think might come in.
If you are doing this, and you don't like me pointing this out, I will compromise and let you call it 'dutch betting'. But that's my final offer. 🙂
* I'll soon be publishing an article about Dutching on Betfair, subscribe to get a notification email.
This surely has to be my favourite pre-match strategy of all time. I can't begin to describe how much I love scalping Betfair football markets! In fact I love scalping any Betfair market!
Scalping is the process of backing and laying on the same ladder (or outcome in any market), at profitable odds. A one tick profit at prices below 2.0 will net you 1% of your stakes as profit.
It's small, but you can rack these up, and I often had days with a large number of successful scalps in just an hour or two. It's rewarding, satisfying, low-risk, and just damn enjoyable in my view!
You need software for this, and with ladders in front of you, you can usually spot countless opportunities in next to no time.
It's best to avoid periods where prices might suddenly move or re-shuffle, so avoid team news announcements and make sure you're out of all trades before the kick off. Yes, I have made that mistake, and yes it was extremely costly!
* For more on Scalping Betfair markets, I'll have an article all about it very soon.
Trading Team News
When team sheets are announced, there's usually some activity where the prices shuffle around based on the new information about the game.
If important players are missing, or if they were not expected to be playing but suddenly they are, this can have a big effect on prices. If that 'news' wasn't 'priced in' before the announcement came out, prepare for some price movements.
These make ideal places to take advantage of the move and bag some green ticks with very little risk.
Image - Is it just me, or do the first three words of that headline seem more than a little 'wrong' somehow? Oh, so it is just me?! Nevermind then.
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Some people trade team news regularly. I don't do it that often these days purely because I have other preferences for how to use my trading time, and the truth is I am just not enough of a football 'fan' to be inclined to read every team announcement. But I know many of my readers are veritable footie experts, and that knowledge and interest can be lucrative.
Having said that, I certainly do check the team news religiously when it might impact on a trade I already have running.
P.S. If you use your imagination you can think of many other types of 'news' that can be traded, especially if you're mad about your football and know a lot about certain leagues. Weather news, outcomes of other games in the same league, and various other factors can cause a nice little tradeable move in a market, so get creative and find a 'trading niche' of your own whenever possible.
That concludes the pre-match strategies for this article. * I will soon have a dedicated Pre Match Trading page so remember to subscribe.
In-Play football trading is by far the most profitable approach. But it carries more risk than pre-match strategies. Broadly-speaking, there are two types of strategies for trading in-play.
One seeks to profit from the time decay factor, the other seeks to profit from the effect (on prices) of goals being scored.
As I outline my picks for the ultimate in-play football strategies below, bear this in mind, you will see which ones are which types and it's important to remember it, especially during a trade.
Also, please bear in mind that trading inplay requires serious discipline.
It's a great way to bank substantial football profits, but it's also a very emotionally-charged and high-pressure trading environment, so if you're a beginner to trading on Betfair, you should try your hand with some of the pre-match methods first.
When you do move on to trading in play, start out with the lay the draw strategy. It's simple, easy to earn good profits from, and not as rife with temptations as some of the other in play strategies.
Laying the Draw
This strategy has been my biggest 'bread and butter' earner for 10-15 years now.
When I first began using it, I made regular profits almost from day one. If we remove some personal craziness, fat finger mis-clicks (in trading software which was new to me!), and (he ashamedly admits) some awful gambler's temptations which nearly scuppered my entire future as a professional football trader, this method did wonders for me (and my bank).
The LTD strategy is therefore probably the strategy I am best-known for, and I have helped many people turn regular profits with nothing more than this age-old, tried and trusted technique from capitalising on goals in football matches.
I forget how many times I doubled my own trading bank with it, but I clearly remember doubling my first two trading banks with it (two seasons running).
I won't go into much detail as my site is plastered with information on it, as well as countless historical trades I posted on the blog dating back to over a decade ago.
Here's a brief description for those blissfully unaware of this excellent football strategy!
- Shortlist potential games directly from the Betfair In-Play Football Coupon.
- Check form stats and H2H to see which ones meet a few simple criteria.
- Place orders (if using the standard LTD from KO strategy) by laying the draw outcome.
- (Check they are matched before KO 😉 )
- Await the expected goal, usually from the stonger home team, and collect your winnings!
Please note the 4th bullet point. If your trade is not open with your lay order matched before KO, shift it up the ladder a tick as needed to get it matched. I have been caught out before! If you're not sure what I mean, imagine being a bit slow to match your order before KO, and seeing this happen...
Yes, a tad annoying! You've decided there should be early goals, and you weren't quick enough yourself to profit from your own research, you won't forget that in a hurry!
As already mentioned, I have covered laying the draw for years and I have both a trading course explaining (in fine detail) my own approach to the strategy, as well as an extremely detailed article where I give away (nearly) everything for free to my readers: Laying The Draw on Betfair.
Correct Score Market
Despite what I said above about this, I decided to mention it simply because I know (from my readers) that this is a popular subject. I have no idea why, in all honesty, but it is. Maybe it's just got a 'buzz' on Google or anti-social media for whatever reason, who knows.
How people claim to 'trade' this 'strategy', is by researching 'short form' (meaning recent form of both teams in a game) and basically just trying to predict the most likely scoreline.
The usual course of action after doing that, is to back that scoreline in the Correct Score coupon on Betfair, as well as backing a couple of other scorelines as 'covering bets'.
For example, let's say you research a game and decide 2-0 is the most likely scoreline based on the stats and form information. You'd then back 2-0, and most people would also back 1-0 and 2-1 in order to 'hedge' their so-called 'trade' (it's a frrrriggin bet for Pete's sake!)
What this amounts to is a back bet, with some other back bets in case the first back bet fails.
Ok, I know I've grumbled a bit here, but that's not to say it can't be profitable. It certainly can.
I don't really do it (have a few times) just because it seems wrong to me and doesn't suit my general approach to the markets. But, if you're good with stats and happy to do a lot of very careful research, it definitely can work. My 'beef' is simply that people should 'call a spade a spade' and label this correctly.
It's a football betting strategy. Can betting strategies work? Absolutely! They aren't my cup of tea, but I am not opposed to them in any way.
I'm just opposed to people trying to dress their gambling up as trading, in order to sound more professional, or maybe just to keep their wife in the dark about what they're up to! The voice of experience perhaps? No comment. 😀
In all seriousness, I would be happy to call this type of thing 'value betting', if done with data, analysis of real-world probabilities, and at least a trading mindset, rather than a gambler's 'hit and hope' approach.
I am a fan of value betting and my eyes are always peeled to spot 'value' whenever it presents itself. More on that shortly.
There are other ways to use the Correct Score market, and indeed there are ways to do something much closer to true trading with it, but that's beyond the scope of this article.
I plan to produce a detailed article about Correct Score trading in the next few months - Subscribe
Trading Over/Under Goals Markets
This relates mostly to the over and under 2.5 Goals markets.
I do sometimes dabble in the others such as the under/over 3.5, 1.5 and 0.5 markets, but the liquidity has historically always favoured the 2.5 goals market so it still has the most volume, and where there's volume there's easy matching of orders making trading less stressful and generally more profitable.
There are countless different techniques for trading unders and overs. If I were to try and explain all the varieties I've used it would at least double the length of this article, so let's simplify things a little and outline what I think are the two best strategies, one for each:
Under 2.5 Goals Strategy
This method relies on the time-decay factor.
By researching using form stats and the excellent BetVirus.com (Edit: sadly no longer available, but there are alternatives), we find games where goals are not likely.
The ideal choices are those where early goals are unlikely. Then we can back Under 2.5 goals from kick off (or lay over 2.5 goals, which is the same thing) for a set period, depending on the stats again.
Many games start slowly and ramp up towards the end. When you hand pick games with low goal statistics, you can narrow this down and find some really dull affairs! These are the prime picks.
The best approach in my experience is to back U2.5 goals from the KO, trading out at 20 minutes if you can hold your nerve that long! This is actually a serious point.
If you start cutting your winning trades shorter and shorter due to 'nerves' (or risk aversion), you will ultimately destroy your long-term profitability.
The key is to set a target of 20 minutes, or 15 if preferred, and stick to it.
Obviously if a goal is scored it can cause a losing trade, but not always, it depends on your exit strategy which again should be stuck to for the long haul.
You should decide how you will deal with wins, and losses, and then always use those strategies in every trade. Analyse your results and vary your choices if you like, but don't do it randomly.
It's crucial to see a good span of results before adjusting, then you need another long span to compare. A minimum of 20 trades would be needed for any meaningful analysis. Ideally 50-100.
* Trading Under 2.5 Goals is another planned article coming soon.
Over 2.5 Goals Strategy
Whilst this is much like a reversal of the above method, there are some important differences.
In this case we find games likely to see plenty of goals. Then we back Over 2.5 goals (or lay U2.5 if the price is more favourable) and await a goal, trading out afterwards for a profit.
A variation on this method is to wait for 2 goals before trading out. The results are dramatically increased profits, but fewer winning trades. Overall this second variation is (in my experience) more profitable. However, don't let that lead you blindly towards it.
If you're a beginner trader, or even a competent one for that matter, you should be aware that the psychological impact of having fewer winning trades can be significant, and can make it a lot more stressful which can lead to all sorts of problems (anger, revenge trading, various other naughties!)
I think the reason the latter is more profitable (if your trading head is screwed on tight and you can handle the bigger 'swings' in P&L) is because when we find games with a good chance of goals, it's reasonably common to see two goals go in, either from a quick follow-up goal from the leading team, capitalising on the other team's shock at conceding, or from the losing team who kick into action to equalise the scoreline pronto.
That's just my 'theory', I can't prove it, but I did find the 2 goal approach more profitable over an extended period.
Having said that, both are profitable, and since getting wins is psychologically important for any Betfair trader, learners especially, I strongly recommend you try the 1 goal approach to start with. Bag lots of wins, get your stats and research skills honed, grow your bank, and then look to improve on that solid baseline.
In Play Scalping
This is a time decay strategy, and be warned: It is not for the feint-hearted!
It's risky, but most of the risk can be mitigated by practice, experience, and above all by having fast pictures (live coverage with minimal delay in the feed).
I will only briefly outline it here as this is a beginner-orientated guide and I do not recommend this for beginners. But I may soon produce a full guide with the many small bits of detail that are needed both to maximise the profit of it, but more to remove as much risk as possible.
Near the end of football matches the time-decay issue grows in influence rapidly to become a massive influence on price as the final whistle approaches.
The prices contract (shorten) so fast they can almost seem in freefall, especially on certain types of games and on certain markets such as Correct Score or Unders and Overs, but also on the Match Odds market.
As the clock runs down, and time is running out fast for more goals, the odds on the current status quo being the final result have to collapse towards 1.01.
So if a game is 1-1 at 80+ minutes, without another goal that will be the final scoreline. So the draw odds must reach 1.01 by then. The same goes for the 1-1 scoreline in the correct scores market.
So we can just back the draw or the 1-1 current score, and enjoy watching our position becoming more and more green, can't we?!
Well, yes, in principle! But if a goal goes in, we are up the creek without a paddle! (Or at least with a very tiny and ever-shrinking paddle, as that clock hasn't got many minutes left!)
Hopefully you can see why I mentioned this strategy falls into the 'risky' category! However, this can be mitigated quite significantly, but by how much depends solely on:
- Your efficiency and speed using your trading software.
- Your experience and skill at 'reading' the run of play in football.
- Your pictures being reliable and up to date.
- A smidgen of luck perhaps!
There are points in every football match, especially a lively or busy game (where the profits are greater as the odds are higher so have further to fall), where goals simply can not be scored.
It's your job to spot those 'risk-free' trading opportunities, and if you want to be really successful, it's actually your job to read the game well enough to predict them a few seconds before they occur.
There's a myriad of examples but let's just discuss a few to get your idea-engine going!
This is the most obvious example, and the most effective one too.
Near the end of football games, team managers often switch quite a few players around. Sometimes it's to rest their best players (if they are winning), sometimes it's to 'give a run out' to an up and coming younger player, sometimes it's due to injury, and so on. The reasons don't much matter though.
If you watch carefully, you can usually see the early signals that substitutions are being organised by the team's staff at the side of the pitch.
If you can spot this activity, you can be almost certain that at the next whistle or break in play, there will be a good 10-20 seconds as players run on and off the pitch.
The Betfair in-play market is still live of course, so the odds will continue on down the ladder during that period. There's your chance for 'free' ticks!
(P.S. I am sure it's 'nothing to do with' the recent spike in deaths/collapses on the field, but during the alleged 'pandemic' the rules changed to allow up to five substitutions, and looks set to stay for good.)
Missed Shots or Throw Ins
The second best opportunity is when a player takes a shot at goal and misses, ideally with one hell of a good strong boot behind it!
If you're hovering ready to click the split-second you see that ball MISS the goal, ideally flying over the crossbar and high up into the stands, you have a very small window to grab a few more ticks while someone finds a replacement ball and the goalie takes a goal kick.
Yes, I know the balls are replaced lightning fast these days, but goalies arent always too quick to take the kick are they?
If it's a winning team goalie who's kicking, they often have some 'strange and mysterious difficulties' with kicking that ball to get the game back in play, if you get my drift! 😉 (Yes those are the golden trading opportunities!)
Obviously this goes for the ball going out of play anywhere, throw-ins apply just the same, again if it's the winning team who have the throw.
They never seem to have much of a sense of urgency to get that ball back in play do they?! So much for a hundred grand a week, overpaid cheating swines!
Well, that was my 'old' opinion anyway, until I found a way to appreciate every second they cheat for!
These days I often hear myself encouraging the player to take a bit more time, make sure that ball is nice and dry, yes give it a few more rubs on your shirt, thaaat's right, well played son! Ka-Ching! 😀
It's a rare opportunity, but it does happen from time to time, more so in certain countries.
In fact my best ever in-play time decay trade (initially anyway) was on a match either in Turkey or possibly in Greece (not 100% sure as it was years ago now).
There had been a ridiculously lively crowd throughout the game, and near the end things really got nasty. There were flaming toilet rolls hitting the pitch, then a few hit a player as he was preparing to take a throw in.
I didn't actually mind that, as I was trading! (Sorry whatever your name was!)
A fight erupted in the crowd as the other fans started throwing flaming rolls of their very own 'Andrexopoulos', and suddenly the whole place went mad.
Players stopped playing and one sat on the ball, while the refereee decided what to do in consultation with the linesmen (or Athithtant Wefewees, as they're now called in P.C. World)
All I could see was green green green!! My excitement quickly evaporated when Betfair suspended the ruddy market. Boy was I pithed!
Sadly the game was then called off as everyone ran for cover. To make matters worse, Betfair voided the market completely, cancelling all bets and whipping away all my green from the game. That was one of those 'memorable days', which ended with much swearing in my office!
As you've probably already guessed, these can cause significant delays, and the beauty of these opportunities is that they are quite 'safe', at least compared to some of the other tips above anyway!
Best of all, you can sort of predict it, especially if you're watching the play very closely and have a good 'feel' for the game, and the teams/players involved.
Of course it doesn't have to be a real injury, you'd be hard pressed to find one in modern football anyway these days, as the game has been somewhat ruined by this fakery and blatant cheating, in my humble opinion anyway.
If one of those sissy-types, on the winning side again of course, gets a pointed finger in his chest, he's highly likely to hit the ground as if he's just been shot with a .50 calibre bullet.
Naturally, this is instantly followed by the customary rolling around, clawing at face, crying, screaming, perhaps an involuntary defacation... you know the deal I'm sure. Even managers suffer from this epidemic of dishonestyitis these days...
Once the episode is over, and the Oscars have been suitably dished out, play finally resumes. But this period can last quite a while as any regular football spectator knows only too well.
It's a great 'in-play scalping' opportunity, but it requires one word of extreme caution, and yet another learned from painful experience I'm afraid...
Beware of doing this when the ball is anywhere near the goal.
In other words, if an attacking player is near their opponent's goal, do not see that as an opportunity because you might do what I did and back the current scoreline just before a penalty is awarded! Yes, oopsie indeed!
Of course if you're backing the winning team, and it's one of their players, that would be a great time to jump on a trade if their striker is fouled anywhere near the penalty box (or within it!)
Trading Red Cards
I know some people use what they call a 'red card strategy' but this is not the same thing.
It's really just an extension of the point above with injuries or violent sliding tackles. Again it's heavily dependant on which team is winning and which player is fouled, but if a player is tackled badly, and he's on the winning team, you can sometimes get a back bet in.
If the fallout of the tackle turns into a free kick or penalty, you're quids-in. More to the point, if it turns into a red card and you're trading the right way, you're likely to make quite a few ticks of green. That can be a very nice little bonus to your profits from this live in-play trading approach.
These are quite hard to 'hit', as Betfair is much quicker at suspending markets when a vicious tackle takes place (or one near the goal area), but if you were already in a trade you can occasionally get a nice payout.
Ok I think that's enough examples for in play football scalping.
Obviously it goes without saying that there's a lot that can go wrong, so you need to trade defensively at all times, and if in any doubt whatsoever, skip it!
You need to develop the necessary skill (via practice on minimum stakes) to make time in such small windows of opportunity to both enter and exit your trades.
Also, be aware that your pictures are never ever fully 'live'.
It takes a few seconds for pictures to get to you from the on-pitch cameras, so you have to develop a kind of sixth-sense.
I mean an ability to see almost a few seconds ahead, I won't bore you with explaining that, and I know it sounds like a silly thing to say, but I also know you'll understand what I mean if you practice enough!
Finally, if you wear glasses, make sure you've got them on won't you! I once clicked out of sheer reflex when a striker took a long shot at goal. Except I clicked just as it went IN, rather than passing over the crossbar as I expected!
You have to be so tuned in, and so fast, it's easy to get a bit over-eager and make the mistake I did.
I will leave it there, and I won't even mention the idea of taking your laptop to a game to get the 'fastest pictures' possible! That would be very naughty indeed. 😉
In-Play Value Betting: Trade The Unexpected
Some of the best low risk football trading strategies are a case of just waiting patiently until the stars align, and keeping your money safely in your trading bank until that happens.
That might sound like a boring waiting game, and occasionally it can be. But these days there is so much football being played every single day, it's rare not to actually be overrun with opportunities for low-risk trades with significant profit-earning potential.
You should always have a browser tab open with football stats readily available, and then you just sit and listen out for live score alerts, plus any late nil-nil scorelines.
What you're looking for is the unexpected to take place, for example games where people were expecting a load of goals and none have been scored, or games which were expected to be close affairs but are actually 2-0 or maybe even 3-0 early on (before half time).
There are two reasons these make great opportunities to bank profits.
Firstly because the market participants are somewhat 'panicked' by the unexpected. Secondly it's because the prices are in territory the market wasn't expecting them to go into, so there's a lot less stability in the market which can often mean excellent value bet prices on the outcomes nobody is now expecting, but the stats still do!
In such cases, I align myself with the stats and take a position against the bulk of the (now nervous) market, but only with late low-risk trades. (Think lays down near 1.01 or very small back bets at crazily high odds.)
Much of this is a little 'intuitive' and learned with nothing more than just practice and experience, but there are some general approaches which I can list to get that idea engine going again.
Back The Favourite
If a stonker of a team is playing much weaker opposition, the market will be heavily on the favourite's side. This applies to related markets like Under/Over 2.5 goals and many others. If such a game is still 0-0 after 60-65 minutes, I start taking interest, checking stats and watching the game if possible.
You can then back that stronger team, who's price is now much higher than it was at the start (partly due to traders and gamblers exiting their positions which 'went wrong'), and if the stats start showing their power with some late goals (or just one), you're in decent profit territory.
Remember, as I have been banging on about for a decade or more now: Stats are King!
Stats are the strongest piece of information out there, and even though most of the market participants will 'lose faith' in them if their positions are not going to plan, you can rock up late in the game, and take a late high-value price to bet on the end result being much closer to those stats than those involved are now expecting.
Traders and bettors often forget that when they get psychologically cornered by unexpected events, and as they dump their positions they can push the price to very high-value levels, just for you. 🙂
Lay The Leader
This applies to teams which are unexpectedly leading the game, against strong stats to the contrary.
If a team was strongly expected to lose badly to the favourite, especially when away from home, but then go on to take the lead (ideally 2-0), you can get a very cheap laying opportunity.
The profits on a reply goal from the expected winner can be significant in terms of number of ticks (profit) for that one goal, which you can of course take and green up, or you can remove your risk and leave the rest for a second reply goal from the favourite (my preference).
Some of my biggest (and fastest) wins came via this approach, and they come up amazingly often.
Similar to above, a game which might have looked like a decent LTD pick from the kick off (but you didn't trade it), but which has seen no goals by 70+ minutes (or is 1-1 or 2-2), the odds may have over-corrected and now could represent real value to take on as a late lay the draw trade.
The beauty of this strategy, especially compared to the traditional LTD approach, is the fact you're not entering until you're already in a strongly advantageous position with highly favourable entry prices, faced with a market full of traders trying to exit their own failed LTD trades. Double whammy!
I commonly use my LTD selection process to shortlist other games to keep an eye on for this purpose.
Any games which don't quite meet the stringent criteria for my normal LTD approach get put on a second sheet of paper as 'rejected LTD' trades.
These make a great place to hunt for late LTD trades, but only after a detailed second look at the stats, and the run of play.
Lay Current Score
This is similar to a late LTD but it doesn't need to be 'late', it can even be in the first 20-30 minutes.
If I see a game is extremely lively, perhaps with a lot at stake for both teams, I will watch some of the play. Occasionally you will see games which are 'end to end' and packed with shots, corners, free-kicks and general aggression from both teams.
Sometimes you watch a bit of a game and you're just certain it's not going to stay 0-0, or 1-0, or whatever the scoreline is. That's a 'hunch', and we don't trade hunches (even when your hunches get very good which they probably will.)
But that hunch does have a purpose. It's job is to convince you to take a careful look at the stats. If they align with your gut feeling, it's probably a prime pick for trading in play by laying whatever the current score line is, or using the Unders/Overs market.
This is currently a secret method as I'm not ready to publish it just yet. Partly because it's quite exciting and partly because it needs a bit more testing.
I may create a new product for this, or I may just publish an article, I am not sure yet.
Hint: The most I can say is it's a strategy for taking advantage of the huge (and growing) number of people who use the lay the draw method, by opposing them in the markets.
Trading 'counter-trend' has always interested me for Betfair markets as I did a fair bit of it in stock markets and it can work really well.
With Betfair markets having grown to such enormous proportions now, I am even more intrigued and so far it looks pretty darn good!
No, I am not saying any more! My more experienced readers probably already have an idea!
I have some fixed rules I am testing out and they are looking good but can be honed a bit more yet I think, so you'll have to bear with me on this one. I think it'll be worth the wait.
You can subscribe to my email list to hear of any announcements.
That concludes the strategies section, you can read more on the In Play Football Trading page.
Mentality, Attitude & Psychology
I always have to make sure the subject of trading psychology gets a mention on any page where I discuss trading strategies.
I think it's crucial to marry up the two every time because you just can't underestimate the massive importance of mindset, regardless of the strategies you're using or the markets you're trading.
It's commonly stated that trading is 30% ability, 70% mindset. I could not agree more about that, and I have lived a very long (and bruised) life as a trader, which I think gives me ample authority, perhaps even expertise, to have an opinion on this worth listening to.
I don't care which strategy you use, or whether it's high or low risk, all trading carries risk.
Short version: You will lose sometimes!
"Ok", I hear you say, "that's effing obvious!"
Yes, it is, but how deeply do you truly believe it? I thought I knew it from the start of my career, but it took years to actually realise how true it is, and how my mind was just not prepared to deal with losses as a true trader should, not until a while later anyway.
Losses are just 'overheads'.
I now view losses as 'paying the overheads'.
A conventional business has staff to pay, rates to pay, taxes to pay, equipment, service fees, training, legal.... it's never-ending.
As a friend of mine once said:
"Hell, even ducks have bills!"
When you consider that trading can be done with little more than a quiet room in your house, a mediocre computer, a stable internet connection, and a pretty small financial outlay for a trading bank, you really couldn't have any more financial advantages, could you?!
So consider losses as those essential costs of doing business. When they happen, try to smile (a wry one if you must) and say to yourself 'that's today's fees of doing business paid'.
Of course your job is to maximise profits and minimise losses, but never let that lead to you getting upset or angry over losses, as you can never ever remove them from your trading completely.
Trading will teach you, about you.
I know many successful traders, some have been doing it for over 40 years (stocks).
One thing I have seen present in every single one of them, is a level of self-awareness and self-acceptance that I rarely see in other people.
Trading is the pinnacle of 'self-reliance'. You have no comfy salary, you earn nothing unless you get it right, you lose your own money if you get it wrong (how many salaried people can say that?!). Everything you do has an immediate and direct impact on you and your family.
This is why I believe trading teaches us how to stop lying to ourselves as so many people do on a daily basis. You just can't cheat, if you do, you're only cheating yourself.
By starting slow, with low expectations rather than big ones (which place unwanted pressure on your psyche), and expecting to make many mistakes along the way, you will gear yourself up for a lower level of stress while learning. This will dramatically speed up your progress.
You will find out all your little faults and flaws, you'll test your temperament, your emotional stability, and your self-discipline to new extents.
This can be seen as a hard slog (as I saw it for a long while at first), or it can be seen as the thoroughly rewarding and enlightening process that it actually is.
In short, don't over-commit yourself to unrealistic goals. The less pressure on you the better, which is why I also strongly advise all new traders to stay on minimum stakes while learning.
If you want to trade so you can give up the day job, that's a great goal, but instead of aiming to do it in 3 months, make it 2 years! All you want to do in 3 months is find your way to some small but consistently profitable results using just one strategy, before moving on to another.
If you can do that, the likelihood that you will ever achieve your objective, will be much higher.
If I had to explain how to become a professional football trader, in one sentence, here's what I'd say:
Use small stakes, stick to the rules, be patient with yourself, never blame the markets, walk away if emotions are high, and above all treat it like a business.
I only wish I could have read this article when I started trading myself, and followed the advice!
Hopefully you will, and pretty soon your trading dreams will be realised.
Here's to your future as a work-from-home full-time football trader. Go get yours!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Whats the best low risk football trading strategy?
The safest and lowest risk football strategy is probably scalping pre-match. But in-play methods can be low risk too, especially late lay the draw or laying correct scores.
What's the most profitable football trading strategy?
Bearing in mind profitability is more down to the trader than the method, I'd say laying the draw or in-play trading during the second half offer the biggest profits for a football trader.
How Much Time Does Football Trading Need?
As a bare minimum a few hours a day is needed if trading in the week, but with weekends being so full of football, a full Saturday and/or Sunday can be enough to succeed and become profitable.
Hi, Thanks for this useful article. I was wondering which website you use to look up your football stats?
Hi Derek, either Soccerway or SoccerStats