How to bet soccer

We are often asked whether the point spread is a smarter play than the money line in soccer. While we generally feel the spread offers better value, this article examines both wager types in detail. For decades, soccer has traditionally been bet using a money line. Also known as 1X2, there are three options to choose from: home win (1), away win (2) and draw (X). For example, the odds on an upcoming Premiership match would look like this:

  • Everton: +150

  • Liverpool: +150

  • Draw: +210
  • To win his wager, a bettor must correctly pick either the winning team or the draw. If he backs Liverpool and the game ends in a 2-2 draw, for example, the wager loses. Since nearly 30 percent of soccer games end in a draw, it can become frustrating to bet this way.

    North Americans are generally uncomfortable with the idea of losing their wager if a game ends in a tie. Fewer people would play blackjack if the dealer won on a push. Soccer is no different.

    In Asia, where millions of dollars in soccer bets change hands every week, they shared that sentiment. In response, street bookies invented a form of wagering called hang cheng, or Asian Handicap, which eliminated the draw option. Although slightly more complicated in its Asian form, this was essentially a point spread. On the spread, our sample match would look like this:

  • Everton pk -110

  • Liverpool pk -110
  • This is the same game as listed in the example above with one significant difference: the Draw is removed from the equation. If the game ends in a draw, the wager will be graded a 'push' and stakes refunded. But with smaller risk comes a smaller reward. With the draw no longer a losing wager, the odds on the home and away teams are shortened. But for many soccer bettors fed up with losing money on a draw, that's a small price to pay. (Note that the propositions are listed with the spread accompanying the money line, even when there is none, as is the case here, 'pk')

    In recent years, point spread betting has exploded in popularity. Many industry observers - ourselves included - believe it will become the predominant form of soccer wagering in the next five years. Why has it become so popular? The principal reason is value.

    For a sportsbook, three-line European moneylines have bigger profit margins than two-line point spreads. Offering three options allows the bookmaker to extract more 'juice' from each line. When creating lines, a sportsbook will offer odds on each team that give it a slight edge, ensuring a profit no matter how the game turns out.

    This is called the “Theoretical Hold” and is expressed as a percentage. It represents the combined amount of customers' bets that the bookmaker expects to keep (It's called theoretical because in reality a book rarely has balanced action on all sides).

    The table below shows traditional moneylines offered by three British sportsbooks on an upcoming Premiership match. Although each book offers different odds, their theoretical hold ranges from 9.09-11.36 percent. No matter who wins the game, the book can expect to keep at least nine percent of all the money wagered on this match.

    Aston Villa vs. Birmingham

    AstonVillaDrawBirminghamTheoretical Hold
    UK Sportsbook A-110+230+24010.79 percent
    UK Sportsbook B-125+210+30011.36 percent
    UK Sportsbook C+100+200+2759.09 percent

    Compared to the North American sports, soccer moneylines give the bookmaker a much bigger theoretical hold. The following table shows the point spread odds offered by two U.S.-oriented sportsbooks on an upcoming NFL game. With only two betting opt

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