Arguably one of the single biggest and most popular online betting markets available today is that of football. Online bookmakers are making
it easier and more varied than ever before to offer markets for practically every country in the world where the beautiful game is played. If a ball is being kicked around a pitch competitively somewhere at any time of day, seven days a week, be sure you can bet on it.
From elite football amongst the best and most famous teams, playing in the strongest leagues and competitions with the biggest stars, through to markets available for lower divisions, semi-professional, youth, amateur, or even friendly matches. There’s never a shortage of options to choose from.
So where do you begin? Well, one thing for certain in football is that nothing is ever certain. That’s what makes the sport so popular. Even when the best teams take on the least fancied underdogs, so much can happen over 90 minutes, there’s always the chance of an upset. An unexpected red card early in a game, a contentious penalty decision, or simply a poor performance by a favourite against an inspired display from the underdog on the day.
In this article, we take a look at some of the most popular approaches to predicting the outcome of football matches, used commonly by bettors as they try to beat the bookmakers, take advantage of knowledge and statistics, comparing the value of different odds, plus other ways of finding an edge to aid their predictions.
Careful and methodical study of all available statistics
This approach requires a more analytical frame of mind, plus the time and patience to do plenty of prior preparation and research, before deciding on potential outcomes based on a variety of factors which are widely regarded as key elements towards making sound predictions.
Bettors who prefer this approach to predicting outcomes will carefully pore over every scrap of data they can get hold of. In the online age, practically every kind of statistic you can imagine and some you might not be readily aware of, are all available through your PC or mobile browsers. The technology available is increasing year on year, allowing statisticians to study the most finite details of every match. As such, it’s no wonder that statistics sites relating to sports, are amongst the fastest growing online.
Such a level of technology and detailed statistics can be put to good use, as a potential edge, as the bettor makes mathematical calculations and works out the percentage of a specific outcome. Put into simple terms, calculating that Team A is 60% more likely to win as the home side against Team B, based upon using statistics from a given number of matches and previous results.
The same methodology can be utilised to determine predictions for other markets, beyond just the 1X2 results; calculating the chances of both teams to score, likelihood for a match or individual team to produce over and under a certain amount of goals, how many corners there might be. The list goes on with statistics available to aid all kinds of predictions.
Looking for value to match the statistics is also important, especially when comparing bookmakers for different offers and options amongst such varied markets. Making the most of free bets has become hugely popular amongst online bettors over recent years, so sites like Oddschecker providing detailed bookmaker reviews, can prove to be very useful resources to consult.
Whilst statistics can often aid bettors when predicting results and the likelihood of a certain outcome, they don’t always give the full picture. There are various additional and anecdotal factors in a football match which can completely change the dynamic of play. However, most will usually look for key statistics relevant to the type of bet placed, how readily available the data is, plus data will provide a fair and accurate assessment of overall team performance.
Personal knowledge and staying with the familiar
Perhaps the simplest of methods for predicting football results, to begin with. If you are a keen fan and follower of football, it goes without saying that you are more likely to be knowledgeable about certain teams and leagues you follow with the keenest interest.
As a system for betting on the outcome of football matches and results, this can sometimes be considered one of the safer approaches, based on the individual knowledge of the bettor. Along with being continually aware of the performances, form, past results and statistics within a favoured league or select number of teams followed, the bettor will also be highly conscious of additional variables that may have the potential to affect results. Such a bettor will often be fully up to speed with the latest news and information about the Premier League, if that’s the competition they’re most familiar with, allowing them to factor in aspects such as injuries to key players, the likelihood of tactical changes by one team against a certain opponent, who the match referee will be, or even the weather conditions.
Applying such a keen personal knowledge can often produce positive outcomes with betting selections within a narrow field of selections, as the bettor stays firmly within their comfort zone, avoiding teams and competitions they are less familiar with.
However, the scope for using this approach to generate regular revenue from betting, is of course extremely limited, without constant success and placing higher stakes to produce higher returns.
Big data, algorithms and the scientific approach
It isn’t just bettors who are becoming increasingly reliant on careful examination of data to improve their predictions. Clubs, managers and coaches are also becoming increasingly aware of the benefits such a wealth of data can provide, as they plan how they might face their next opponent, based on certain statistical information about a rival they might feel needs addressing as they plan their tactical approach. These days, some clubs even employ dedicated football analysts to prepare every scrap of available data, to aid their manager.
Likewise, the bookmakers also rely heavily on certain algorithms and big data to dictate the odds they might provide on a particular result or outcome, across the various markets they offer. What is happening in recent years, is that more and more bettors are seeking similar methods used by the bookmakers, in order to make their own predictions and bets.
“The bookie always wins” goes the saying and in the longer term, that’s certainly true, but with such a growing depth of analytical tools and algorithms appearing and becoming more widely available to the public, the potential edge the serious bettor has is also increasing.
The key benefits claimed by companies offering such algorithm-based applications, is that their tools collate all the relevant information to bet with more certainty on a result, so that the bettor doesn’t have to themselves.
Custom written neural networks and artificial intelligence, capable of learning and improving as they continue to provide result predictions, along with increasingly clear percentages of potential outcomes. A deeply scientific approach that is revolutionising the sports betting industry and one that is also highly competitive, as websites and companies seek to attract bettors to use their services.
However, the use of such technology can be viewed as a controversial subject, with such frequent reports of bookmakers limiting stakes or even closing the accounts of bettors over recent years, because they are suspected of utilising these third-party applications to gain an edge, especially when regularly winning higher stake bets with an increased frequency. It can be a touchy subject, but one that is best to be conscious of, nonetheless.
‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ This phrase was coined by an American author and journalist, James Surowiecki, with his book titled: ‘The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economics, Societies and Nations’, carefully studying effects of the aggregation in groups, which can frequently provide a consensus of decisions that, in his considered view, can often be more accurate and better than decisions made by an individual.
Using this phrase and viewpoint in the context of betting, similar to that of economic and financial gambling or investments covered in the book, it’s no surprise that there are currently a plethora of sites and forums dedicated to gauging a consensus of group or member opinions, in order to offer football predictions ahead of matches.
The thinking with such an approach in betting terms, is that surely a sizeable, broad, and varied consensus of opinion, must be better than that of just one individual, right? Well, it can also depend on the inherent ‘wisdom’ of those crowds in terms of knowledge specialisation, independence of opinion and decentralisation, with the latter covering each crowd’s component level of expertise in a particular field of knowledge.
Clearly, those participating in such groups are more likely to have more than just a passing interest in making football predictions, therefore the chances are strong that weighing up the consensus of opinion is likely to produce more successful predictions, than not.
However, there are flaws and failures that Surowiecki himself acknowledges in his study, with factors such as peer pressure, herd instinct, lack of diversity, and even stronger voices in a crowd, potentially swaying the thoughts and opinions of others, which could therefore potentially skew correct prediction of results in the context of football we are covering.
Although the evidence exists that ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ method of predicting results can produce higher percentages of correct outcomes, it is well worth being aware of the flaws mentioned, that can affect the successful prediction of results. Especially over a period of time in which there is the potential for a hierarchy of sorts to develop within any online community, or in which the demographics of a crowd might change fluidly.
As mentioned right at the start, the one certain thing in football is that nothing is certain. The same applies to predicting results, to a greater or lesser degree. There is currently no 100% successful or guaranteed method of predicting football results, given the countless variables involved in the outcome of a football match.
Our recommendation to bettors is to carefully explore, research and choose the betting methods you’re comfortable with most. One approach may suit you better than another, so it’s also worth testing anything you’re considering with low stakes first, rather than going ‘all in’ with high stakes on something you haven’t really tried before.
Make the most of the great technology available today and when you find the approach that works best for you, that is the one you will likely feel most comfortable working with in the longer term.