In-Play Football Trading: Value Betting Strategies
'In Play' Trading on Betfair football markets can be a comparatively easy way to grow your sports trading bank, especially when compared to some other well-known trading techniques.
For this reason there are many people earning a living from Betfair football, often trading for just an hour or two per evening, with a good dose on weekends when most big matches take place.
Trading in-play is not a 'strategy' in itself, but more a collection of football methods which sit in your 'tool kit', ready and waiting for the right situation to arise.
The key to successful in-play trading is your ability to make rapid checks of information and scorelines, and then calmly apply the most relevant techniqe to that situation, sometimes only for a matter of minutes, before banking your profits and sitting back to await the next profitable opportunity.
What is In-Play Football Trading?
Trading football 'In-Play' simply means making value bets on a football match after it has kicked off, with the intention of trading out later in the game or in some cases leaving it to run to the final whistle. If you're new to this you may benefit from my explainer article on trading Betfair markets.
I began trading football on Betfair many years ago now. Since 2012 when I first started my blog to publish my daily trade selections, I've dabbled with all manner of strategies, creating and testing some of my own, and banking a decent sum of both pre-match and in-play profits.
These days there are huge numbers of people betting on football, usually just to spice up their viewing and enjoyment of the sport. This is not quite the same thing as trading though, as trading is a full-time business as opposed to occasional gambling which is more of a hobby for most people.
Value Betting vs In Play Trading - The Differences
Many people view these as the same thing, and although they are certainly similar, they are definitely not the same. The difference comes mainly from the differences between trading and betting in general.
Value betting involves finding bets which have a good risk-reward ratio, and only betting when favourable odds are available. It's what I'd call 'intelligent gambling'.
Trading on the other hand is about taking profits from the football markets on a daily basis, and doing so with very different views on 'risk'.
As an in-play football trader, you're not looking for good gambles, you're looking for scenarios where you can take profit out of the market without walking away from the screen to find out the result some time later.
Yes, I admit there are occasions when I do this as a trader, but it's not because I am happy to 'take a gamble', it's because the trading strategy I am using allows for that as a sensible and consistently profitable exit strategy. These are what I'd call 'set and forget trading systems', and although I don't use them a lot, there are situations (as explained below) where a huge variety of strategies can be used to capitalise on the same opportunity or in-play 'profit trigger'.
Football Stats Are Crucial
All in-play football traders need quick and easy access to stats.
There are some excellent paid services but I don't recommend them simply because I don't think they are necessary.
I also believe many beginners are fooled into buying all sorts of stuff they really don't need, usually by those selling the very same (unnecessary) service!
Sure some of the pro data services are nicer to use, prettier to look at, and yes they can mean a bit more profit over the long-term, but it's not important enough to be concerned with for now, or perhaps ever. Certainly not until you're making significant and consistent profits anyway.
Types of Stats
There are three categories of football statistics you need to check:
- Team Form - How a team has performed, mostly for the current season but past seasons too, more data is always better.
- H2H - This is the 'Head To Head' stats, i.e. the historic form of the two teams you're looking at, when they've played each other.
- Goals - Scoring stats are by far the most important statistic to look at, but conceding stats must be checked too, as goals are never just scored, they also have to be 'conceded'!
For checking form and stats pre-match, i.e. when you're shortlisting and researching in the morning, my preference is SoccerWay. I occasionally also use SoccerStats, Infogol and WhoScored. Bear in mind it doesn't matter what I prefer, you can use whatever you like most. They all show the same data, I suppose my eyes just find Soccerway most comfortable to look at.
For checking stats during a game (i.e. the run of play stats, shots, attacks, corners etc) you can use Betfair as the market screen will show you the live action events. You can also use Flashscore which is definitely one of my favourites, as it can also be your goal alerts tool at the same time (listen out for fans cheering, that's the goal alert sound!). Here's what their inplay stats look like:
Hopefully you can see how useful this is for getting an idea 'at a glance' of how the game has been going. Remember, with so many games every day, you may have very little idea about the teams involved when you decide to investigate a trading opportunity. So you need to find out, in seconds, roughly who's dominating and how lively the game is etcetera.
Best In-Play Strategies
My extensive Betfair soccer strategies article goes into great detail about lots of methods, but I will briefly list the best inplay football methods below:
Lay The Draw
I have to mention this first as it's both the first ebook I ever wrote, as well as being the strategy I am probably most known for.
This is a very well-known strategy, and a much misunderstood one! Some wonder if it still works, to which I always smile and say:
"No, the Govt Trading Strategy Licensing Department withdrew its license last year, better find something else, (expletive)." 😉
Of course it 'still' flippin' works, it always will! It will work until people stop playing football or other people stop betting on it!
There are various twists on this method, including my own 'Last Minute LTD' which is a fun and very profitable variation. But the bog standard approach is to find football matches which qualify based on the odds, then sift through their stats very carefully to find the best handful, discarding the rest (or moving to another shortlist for another method, more on that in the near future.)
This filtering process is where the gold really lies, and the better you get at sifting and filtering out matches, the higher your strike rate will climb.
Once you have a shortlist of stonkers, you lay the draw before kick off and trade out for a profit (usually!) after either one or two goals are scored by the stronger team.
I cover this method in exhaustive detail both in my How To Lay The Draw article, as well as my LTD ebook which shows every single detail of my own trade shortlisting process.
Back The Home Favourite
This is a Match Odds method where you don't want to trade until well into the game, usually well into the second half.
Through carefully analysing the recent form of both teams, and their goal scoring records, you can shortlist many games every day where the stats suggest the home team should win at least 2-0.
If they fail to score and the game remains 0-0 (or occasionally it goes 1-1), you can get huge value later in the second half as their odds have climbed dramatically due to their failure to 'take care of business' as expected.
Markets in these situations often drift more than they 'should', partly due to the 'panic' of gamblers and traders involved in the game, and because of traders exiting their positions which can push the price higher than the scoreline and clock (combined with stats) indicate they should.
In such cases, you back for a fantastic price later in the game, and the home team will usually get roared on by their fans and pull out the expected goals late on.
This is highly profitable and I have known many full-time traders using this strategy to earn a living from football trading.
Read more about Backing The Favourite.
Under 2.5 Goals Strategy
There's a myriad of ways to bank profits from the overs/unders markets.
In the near future I intend to produce another Betfair trading course explaining the many different tactics I've used successfully over the years.
One of the best ways to trade the Under 2.5 Goals market is using the time decay factor.
In other words by researching and finding games where very few goals are expected, we can take a position around kick off (or even before the KO) by backing Under 2.5 goals, and then hold our position open for a set period, depending on what the stats indicate is a 'safe' trading window.
After that period, usually 10-20 minutes but sometimes longer, the trade can be closed and the profit greened and banked.
Read more about Trading Under 2.5 Goals
Over 2.5 Goals Strategy
Unlike the 'unders' method, this technique is not based on the time decay factor. This is based on goals being scored.
By finding games, again via careful studying of the stats, we shortlist football matches with a high probability of goals.
We monitor the scoreline using any of the livescores sites available, and we wait for another good 'trading window' where the teams score/concede the most goals. We then back Over 2.5 Goals for that set period, be it 10 minutes or 20, even 30 sometimes.
Profits can be taken after one goal is scored, or two. The latter exit strategy is more profitable but has bigger swings due to the reduced number of banked green (winning) trades.
Read more about Trading Over 2.5 Goals
Lay The Dog
(The perverts amongst you shouldn't get the wrong idea here.)
This can be extremely profitable, and it's very low-risk, making it one of my all time favourite in-play football strategies!
After doing morning stats research to find potentially tradeable games for the shortlist later in the day, we can wait for an inplay opportunity where a strongly fancied team is losing to a much weaker team by one goal or ideally 2, occasionally three!
We can then take a position somewhat against the general trend and market sentiment which has now become disappointed in the stronger (usually home) team and begun favouring the 'dog' (underdog). This is called trading the countertrend.
The odds become huge on the original favourite, and very small on the unexpected leader, especially well into the second half.
At this point a position can be taken by laying the underdog when their odds have collapsed due to their early lead, and your trade is basically relying on the stats being proven a lot more accurate than people are thinking when you order the trade. Often a late goal or two can net substantial profits when you're doing grown-up stakes.
Even on learning stakes (as when I was testing this years ago!) there are profits to be had that are not to be sniffed at, especially when you're in 'bank growth mode'!
That was a long while ago, just found the picture from an old blog post to include here. But looking at it, if I were doing it today I don't think I would have greened up and got out with so much game left to play, and a red card for Lazio! Thinking about it, I have a feeling this was one of those where I had to close out to leave the desk as the wife had something 'delightful' planned for our evening! 😉
While hunting for an image I also found this one:
I assume I took it to show people the trade (quicker than typing it when I am busy trading!), I don't even know how it ended up but even if it stayed 0-3 and I lost completely, look at the risk/reward (RvR) available with some of these types of positions!
Only 53 minutes into the game, far from over, and if the stats aligned nicely (as they must have) then there's every chance of a huge profit compared to the risk taken to open it. I doubt I need to explain how many losers you can afford before one winner swallows them up and puts you back into the green!
Read more on Laying The Leader
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In Play Scalping
This is an extremely exciting but high risk strategy.
For this reason the profits can be fantastic, but the losses can be pretty big too, especially if you screw it up which is quite easily done. It's therefore definitely not a beginner-friendly trading method.
This is a means of 'milking' every drop of profit you possibly can from the time decay influence. As games approach the final whistle the clock causes the prices to shorten at lightning speed. The ladders can look to be in freefall, and this strategy gets you involved in that freefall.
However, a goal can be disastrous (depending on stakes, you must practice on £2 stakes!) so we need to find ways to minimise that risk, or avoid it altogether whenever possible. And it is possible, with some practice and fast fingers!
It's too complex to explain in detail here but it's explained more here: In Play Football Scalping
'Reactive' In Play Football Trading
Aside from the many specific and clearly-defined strategies you can use, there's a more general and much more 'intuitive' approach to football markets which make in play trading quite easy to do 'on the fly'.
Of all the football trading I've done, this is where most of the bigger wins came from.
It requires basically just having your finger on the pulse, and being ready to act on any inplay opportunity which arises.
Obviously the 'laying the leading dog' method outlined above would be included under this too, along with about a hundred other possible trading approaches!
This 'reactive' trading is what most full time professional football traders are doing each day, sometimes in combination with other methods, but often exclusively, and there are remarkable profits to be had with it.
By far the most important point about this style of trading is your speed of reaction.
The faster you can go from hearing a goal alert, to placing your order on Betfair, the better. It will mean substantially more profit over the long-term, and it could make the difference between 'catching' and missing a great trade which nets you a lovely big chunk of green to grow your trading bank.
When the main bulk of the day's football starts to be played, usually early evening on weekdays, 11am on weekends, you get yourself sat comfy at your PC and you open up the Betfair In Play Coupon as well as live scores (for goal alerts) and your preferred football stats website.
You then sit and wait for situations to arise which the stats suggest were 'unlikely', at which point you take advantage in whatever way looks most profitable, depending on the exact scenario.
You may have different ideas for how to capitalise on a situation than I might have, or many other people for that matter. That's why I call this an 'intuitive' approach, because you adapt on the fly to whatever situation presents itself.
It doesn't matter 'how' you capitalise, so long as you do! There are many ways to skin this cat.
Let's say Manchester City are playing Accrington Stanley.
You would naturally expect City to slaughter them, but we are not interested in personal opinion, as regardless of what you might think, the stats are what matter, and they can sometimes throw up surprises even for someone who follows the teams, players etc on a regular basis.
In this case let's imagine you had glanced over the stats earlier in the day, and you saw that Man City's stats did support the idea that they should slaughter Accrington.
Some time later you notice Accrington go ahead 2-0 in the first 30 minutes, because you're glancing at your livescore screen regularly, maybe even staring at it! You now have a good In-Play trading opportunity.
The first thing you would do is go to the stats and check again, much more carefully this time, looking for things you may have missed. This should be done religiously.
So the double-check of the stats confirms that Man City, on average, score twice or three times as many goals as Accrington. What do you do then?
Well the value bet can be found in various markets, I would probably go for the match odds market just as that's the most liquid market and you will get your bet matched quickly and easily.
You have choices of:
- Laying Accrington at low odds
- Backing Man City at high odds
- Various other options such as the Correct Score market where you could back 2-2 and then lay the bet later to take your green, assuming the probabilities take effect and City score goals back.
I would probably Lay Accrington in that situation, especially if their odds were below 2.0 which in this fictitious example they probably wouldn't be, but usually that would be my approach. Sometimes I will place a small stake back bet at very high odds on the now losing stronger team, and quickly green on a reply goal.
Real World Example: 'Reactive' In-Play Trade
Here is an example from my Betfair trading diary, it's from 8th December 2012 (God I'm getting old!) where Swansea played Norwich.
Swansea were on excellent form, but I noticed they were 0-3 down at half time, which surprised me more than a little! So I checked the stats and here's what I saw:
As you can see, Swansea scored 1.62 goals per game on average at home and only conceded 1.25 on average, yet they had already conceded nearly 3 times that many in this game. That's noteworthy!
On the other hand, Norwich usually scored a dismal 0.62 goals per game when playing away, but in this match they had already scored 5 times as many goals before HT! This shows that this was a very odd situation, and as a result the odds had gone all over the place as gamblers took stock of this shock situation and pushed the odds way too far in the other direction (considering the stats).
In these situations the market doesn't know what to do and it goes into disarray due to the events being totally unexpected by those involved. This often leads to a large overreaction in the odds on the outcomes, and by comparing the stats and probabilities with the odds, we can see if we have a great bit of value to take advantage of, or not.
Also of note was the fact that Swansea had only lost 1 game at home all season, and Norwich had not won a single game away all season!
Finally, another factor supporting a trade is the scoring times. Swansea scored the great majority of their goals in the second half. This game was at half time when I checked these stats, so it looked like a peach of an in-play value bet, and off I went to Betfair, or actually to my trading software.
I laid Norwich at odds of 1.1 for £200. This meant I would win £200 if Norwich did not win the game, and would lose £20 if they did.
Within 6 minutes of the second half kicking off, Swansea had got a goal back as expected. Norwich's odds jumped up to around 1.3 which offered me a £30 greened trading profit, i.e. £30 guaranteed no matter what the outcome if I exited after the Swansea goal.
Considering my total risk, even if leaving it to a full bet, would have been £20, so 1.5 times that as a guaranteed win is a damn good result in percentage terms. But in this instance, the stats looked so good that I decided to hold onto my hat and wait/hope for another goal from Swansea.
Remember their stats suggested they score 1.62 goals per game, and against Norwich who usually concede 1.75 per game, I expected at least one more goal from Swansea.
That wasn't an unrealistic "hope", it was a reasonable stats-based expectation, which is quite different! I justified the risk through stats, not through desire or greed.
You should always have a trading plan. And my plan for this trade was to exit when the odds came down to my break even, i.e. the odds at which I entered the trade 1.1. And as you can see below, it didn't take long for the second goal from Swansea:
I could have waited for 3-3 which did end up happening, but that seemed a bit greedy, we want safe low risk profits remember.
The second goal turned my guaranteed green profit into over £80, which on a £20 risk bet is a whopping 400% of return on my total risk. Time to green up and listen out for more peculiar scorelines!
This kind of 'ad-hoc' trading is enjoyable, very low-risk, and wonderfully profitable over the long term.
With so much football being played every day now, a hell of a lot more than there was even back when this little opportunity was banked, there's countless ways to earn money from trading Betfair football markets.
They key points to maximise your success are:
Being fully prepared, relaxed, and with your 'head in the game' before the opportunity arises.
Being fast at checking stats and getting your order into the market, ideally within 30 seconds of the 'trigger' event, 60 max.
Don't dither! If you decide to trade, get on! If you're not sure, or you feel any reason to hesitate, leave it. There are plenty more, and your doubts are probably justified.
A strange word here perhaps, but I have known people who were doing well at this before suddenly having a string of losing trades. On investigation, the cause is nearly always greed.
If you take a position and have a chance for a decent profit just a few minutes later, don't be afraid to bank it and get out, rather than yearning for more and more profit from each individual trade.
Let the profits accumulate from long-term results of many trades, rather than digging for too much gold in each one. Greed kills traders!
Avoid overtrading, it's a common problem for football traders, for all traders actually.
There are just so many opportunities, you can end up tying yourself in knots by opening 5 or even 10 trades at once, and then making silly mistakes by having too much on your plate at once.
I speak from experience here, and I had quite a few days where I undid my own success by greedily trying to run too many trades at once, forgetting about one or two and finding out later I had forgotten to manage them or even exit them at all. Not wise, and certainly not funny I can assure you.
Take your time, pick your battles, and bank your green!
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