The Definitive Guide to Long-Term Football Betting (Part 1)
As a pretty successful long term bettor for almost 10 years now I feel that, this could be the right time to share some of my experience and knowledge on this topic.
I’ve always tried to see sports betting more as an alternative form of investment for my money than a recreational hobby, and this type of mindset has driven me to experiment different strategies and find the most profitable one with lesser risk.
I found out that the best one for me was a strategy based only on long term bets or outright markets, most of the time championship winners over various European leagues and sometimes even cup winners.
I decided to share in the blog what I’ve learned during this time and what I consider the best rules or bullet points to keep in mind when betting. This of course cannot be a definitive guide, because there are so many things to consider when adopting this strategy, but they are at least a basic start for any bettor interested to start a new life in betting or anyone who wants to improve his skills and performance in betting.
I divided the guide in three parts because there is too much to write about, and it’s also easier to follow.
The 1st part is dedicated to the general rules. Some of this points can also be shared with other strategies and although some of them could sound too obvious, they cannot be forgotten and I found out they should always be kept in mind when betting.
In the 2nd and 3rd parts I will try to expand two of the main topics of the strategy. In the 2nd I will cover how to choose the winners, while in the 3rd I will write about how to successfully manage your capital.
1) DO NOT LOSE EASY MONEY
This is the most important rule you always need to keep in mind when betting.
This rule doesn’t mean you need always to choose the winning bets all the time, but it means avoiding the typical mistakes made by the average losing bettor.
Don’t lose easy money means you should avoid all the bets on sports you don’t follow regularly, on championships you haven’t followed accurately for at least the last 2-3 years, and every bet you do just for the thrill of it.
Do Not Lose Easy Money means Do Not Make Stupid Bets. Stop being just a recreational bettor and start doing it more professionally.
A website like OLBG for example could really helpful in two different ways. Firstly it will let you bet on markets you wouldn’t bet your money on, like single match bets or different sports you don’t know as much as football, and secondly it will let you experiment bets on leagues you don’t follow regularly, so after sometime betting and studying you will be ready to put your money when the time will be right.
Of course over the season there is always time to place some fun bets or high risk one, but they shouldn’t never surpass a small percentage of our capital, as I’ll explain in the third part.
2) BET ONLY ON EVENTS YOU KNOW VERY WELL
One of the typical mistake the average bettor does is betting on a league he/she doesn’t follow regularly. This will lead into making huge mistakes when analysing teams over the course of a season.
Following a league doesn’t mean only watching the highlights of a championship, but also know the players, the style of the coaches, the rivalries, the culture of that country, the football politics and all the different aspects that could influence a result at the end of the season.
When you start to follow a different league for betting on it, you do it the majority of time because there is a good opportunity for a championship bet. For example a team in Norway, Portugal or Sweden is winning a lot of matches and the odds on them to win the league start to go down very fast week by week, so you tend to fear that the window for a bet on the leaders is closing very fast and you jump on the bandwagon without even knowing the situation in that country.
You shouldn’t bet a single penny in these cases, because you don’t know the real value of the teams involved, and it could be too hard to judge the title race based only on one season.
Zenit example (2013/14)
During the 2013/14 Russian Premier League season, on the 20th of March, Andre Vilas Boas was appointed the new manager of Zenit St.Petersburg, replacing Sergey Semak after the elimination from the last16 of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund.
The team had lost in the last gameweek against CSKA for one goal to nil, and they were sitting in the 2nd place 2 points behind Lokomotiv. CSKA was at that time in the 5th place, 9 points behind the leaders and 7 behind Zenit.
With Vilas Boas the team made 6 consecutive wins, becoming leaders with 1 point ahead Lokomotiv and 4 ahead CSKA, with just 3 games to play.
At that time was really tempting to back Zenit to win the league, but I didn’t know the exact value of them or the other teams involved in the title race because I wasn’t following the Russian League so closely, so I decided to just watch without betting.
Zenit went to draw the next one against Lokomotiv and lost against Dinamo, after the famous invasion of the fans (but they were losing 4-2 anyway on the field), and they lost the title for 1 point to CSKA. Without knowing the real value of both Zenit and CSKA cause I wasn’t following them since the beginning and in previous seasons I would have lost my bet and money
3) NO HUGE FAVORITES SINGLE-GAME BETS
This strategy is based only on seasonal bets or long term bets, although sometimes I can see the value in backing a real value single game bet.
I’ve noticed over the years that it’s very difficult to have a positive balance just betting on single games, especially on huge favorites (those with odds between 1.01 and 1.20)
Most of the people betting on football lose money almost every weekend and the successful weekend they have once in a while cover only partially for the losses.
It is extremely difficult to know when big clubs like Juventus, ManCity, Liverpool, Real, Barcelona or PSG will lose their 3-4 games every year in their leagues. It could be Granada away, Genoa, West Ham or even Norwich at home. Nobody knows, even the managers can’t tell if their team will slip that week.
What we can predict in the best cases is the winner of that league, because we know the strength of the squad, the managers, the calendar of the fixtures, and the overall situation in that league that particular season. Sometimes a great value bet will come up for a single game and should be the one you would bet your money on, but never on huge favorites with odds between 1.01 and 1.20
4)ALWAYS KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BETS
One of the worst mistake the average bettor does is not keeping a track record of the bets made.
Sometimes people are just disorganized, sometimes they see betting as a recreational thing without caring about losing or winning, other times they just don’t want to know how much that hobby is costing to them every year.
Keeping track of your bets is essential for two reasons. Firstly it will give an idea of how much profit or loss you do in a calendar year, and secondly it will help you analyse which type of bets or leagues you should avoid.
You can do a simple excel file for yourself, or you can download one from numerous sources. Some of them will also let you customize filters for your bets, like the type of league (Premier, Liga, Serie A), or the type of bets (Single, Double).
I can recommend the Betting tracker worksheet offered by the Australia Sports Betting website (very simple but professional and you can customize it wherever you want), but you can use another one as long as you keep track of your bets.
5) WINNERS’ BETS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN VALUES’ BETS
A successful long term betting strategy is based on finding what teams are gonna be the winners in May in the league you follow, and not finding the underrated teams which could represent good value.
Of course there are situations when backing a team at high odds could give you a profit if you know when to lay the same team during the season, but this type of strategy is hard to realize as most of the leagues in Europe are won by the same big teams which do not represent great value at the start of the season, and you would need tons of capital to lay every team you backed during the season.
Sometimes you will find teams very underrated to win the title (good value), but your instinct and experience will tell you that, although they could be in the title race during the season, they won’t be champions for multiple reasons.
In these cases it’s always better to keep the money to back the winners.
Napoli example (2012/13)
A good example of this could be the 2012/13 Serie A season where Napoli was way underrated in August, offered at 9/1 to win the title.
It was clear that the team was better than those odds and could be the only one fighting with Juve even for just the first 3 months, but Juventus was way better than any team in the league and it was a crime not to keep the money to back them.
In the end Juve killed the title race and finished with 9 points ahead of Napoli.
6) LEAVE EMOTIONS OUT OF BETTING
Betting should be done in the coldest way possible.
When betting we invest our money hoping for a return as we do with stocks or bonds, so we should not let our emotions, like fear, excitement or love and hate for a team, ruin our perception of an investment.
We have all favorite teams, players, and managers but they should never influenced our way of betting. When you are fan of a team you tend to overreact to results, both positive and negative, and this could lead you to make mistakes. Instead you should take advantage of your knowledge about your favorite team and use it when analyse a bet on a winner.
As an Arsenal fan I can’t count how many times I wished the team was strong enough to win the championship, but I knew perfectly what was missing (being character, a particular type of player or the mentality), and I was using this knowledge to avoid a bet on them.
It could be also painful and not so romantic to bet your money on the hated rivals (ManUnited, Chelsea or City), but remember always that you are betting for winning money, not for support a team. If you just can’t do it try to avoid the league where your team is playing, but keep in mind that you could miss some good chances to make good investments.
Another situation is usually with managers. A lot of people just love or hate a particular manager just because they coach rival teams or they cannot stand their persona. Mourinho is a perfect example of this. If you analyse him from a point of view of a fan of a rival team (or just a watcher) he could sound arrogant, annoying, defensivist, and so on, but going deeper and studying him as a coach and as a motivator, you will find out he is one of the greatest managers of all time, and he can help you make some money in the end if you know when to back his teams.
7) MANAGE YOUR CAPITAL
This is another point usually forgot by the average bettor.
Manage your capital during the season is as important as any other rule you have to keep in mind, especially with long term betting. When you start a season of betting you should always determine how much capital you have to invest (and the tracker worksheet could be helpful for this).
Once you have done it, every time you place a bet on a winner during the season you should calculate how much capital in percentage you have invested and how much you have left.
As we’ll see in the 3rd part of the guide you should never invest all the capital before May (or November if betting on a Scandinavian league), because you always want to keep a percentage of the capital to close the positions if things go wrong.
8) DON’T MIND ABOUT BONUSES
Most of the average losers gamblers are chasing bonuses all the time, so they can bet for free or, if they win, feel like they have beaten the bookmakers and prove that they are smarter than them.
Of course nobody would deny a good bonus in his/her account, but it shouldn’t be the reason why you open an account with that particular bookmaker in the first place.
Most of the bonuses now a days are with rollovers, which it means that you should bet 2x or 3x times the amount you deposit, or the total amount you deposit plus the bonus itself, in a short period of time. This will lead you to make stupid decisions (that is what the bookmakers want you to make), and to lose even the money you deposited in the account.
When you open an account with a bookmaker it’s because they offer you something that others won’t offer you (like a bet on a particular event, or the same event at better odds), so you will make the decision of how and when bet your money without restrictions on the time or the amount of the bets.
Money are YOURS and YOU decide!
9) LEARN HOW AND WHEN TO CLOSE THE POSITION
It’s important to understand that when you back a team to win a league you are taking a position in that market so you should follow very carefully the season as things can go wrong and you could be forced to limit your losses closing the position.
Closing the position means that you bet on the opposite outcome (like laying the team), or just back another team for the title race. This will let you limit the losses on the first outcome, because you will cover some of them with a profit from the opposite one.
It’s important to understand when the situation is right to close the bet, for example the leading team you backed is in deep crisis and dropping too many points in the final stages (April, May), or another team you considered inferior when you made the bet is actually stronger than you thought and is becoming the leading favorite for the title.
Atl.Madrid example (2013/14)
A typical example of the second situation is the title race of la Liga last season, where everyone was talking about the chances to win it for Barca or Real, and nobody was really expecting Atletico Madrid to resist until the end and win it.
As I will explain in the 2nd part of this guide (dedicated to best ways to choose a winner), these title races with 3 horses are the worst for a bettor, because it’s not possible to close the position just betting on the other team and only a lay bet could cover all the hypothesis, but this will determine a huge loss usually.
10) REVIEW YOUR BETS
Tracking your bets for determine if a calendar year is finished with a profit or a loss is not enough for a serious bettor.
You should always review all your bets done during the year and analyse which ones are most likely to give you a profit and which ones are too risky to take for the future.
Customizing your tracker worksheet with more information possible is a good idea in these cases, as you would be able to filter the results of your bets based on the type of bets, league, cups, country, manager and so on.
In my limited experience for example I found out that I am able to judge some leagues better than others, and that bets on cup winners are the riskiest, as anything can be decided in 90 or 180 minutes, but they are also the most rewarding.