Football Bets Explained – Top 5 Football Bets To Make

Published: October 30, 2014
Last Updated: March 3, 2023

There are dozens of markets on offer and plenty of ways to bet on any football match and the choice can be overwhelming. If you are new to football betting we’ve put together a handy guide to help you understand everything you need to know.

Each bet type has their plus points and their negatives, largely depending on the game at hand. Here’s a look at just a few of the most popular, and what we consider to be the best football betting markets…

Under/Over 2.5 Goals

For clarity’s sake it should probably be said that for a successful under 2.5 goals bet you need two goals or fewer in a game, and for a successful over 2.5 goals bet you need three or more. The bet also takes the total goals in the match rather than from each side, so goals from either team count – a good neutrals bet!
Some people get confused with the number used in the title of this market. The .5 of a goal is there so bookmakers can offer the bet on a single line – it’s there to separate the two bets as two goals is obviously under 2.5 and three goals is obviously more.

Some bookmakers will offer variants of this market and not always in decimals of .5 – you might be able to back there being more than two goals and some bookies will even offer odds on there being over or under 0.5 if there is a possibility of a 0-0 scoreline.

The Under/Over 2.5 goals market can be useful if you’re struggling to separate the teams. You might expect a tight game that could go either way but don’t want to back the straightforward draw – a goal for either side and you’ve done your money. But going for under 2.5 goals means regardless of the winner you’re covered on a number of scores – 0-0, 1-0 either way and 1-1.
The same is true of the over 2.5 goals market. In the game – Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (08/02/2014), prior to kick-off it looked hard to split Liverpool and Arsenal. The game was at Anfield but you could have been forgiven for favouring the Gunners. Both teams are attack-minded so goals were always likely and considering Arsenal went into the match as league leaders, an away win wouldn’t have been an almighty surprise.

Yet Liverpool’s storming first-half meant anyone who had backed the visitors had lost out pretty quickly – yet as soon as Raheem Sterling scored his first of two goals to make it 3-0, the over 2.5 goals market was a winner.
Likewise, the correct score market was rendered obsolete by the 5-1 score line – an outcome so unexpected, bookmakers could have put almost any price on it and few punters would have been tempted.

Some bookmakers point to this market as their second most popular of their football bets, but it’s also one of the more difficult to predict – research has shown that there are on average between 2.4 and 2.6 goals per game, depending on the competition studied. The margin between win and lose then can still be slim.
A separate set of statistics say that slightly under 49% of Premier League games have more than 2.5 goals so you are looking at a finely-balanced bet, but since it covers a multitude of possible score lines is still worth considering rather than a correct score wager.


Will it be a game of two halves? Second-half comebacks are commonplace and if you’re considering backing a team who are notoriously slow starters, maybe this is the right market for you. But if you want to back say, Chelsea at home, the half-time/full-time bet gives you more than the straight home win.
There are drawbacks, though. You’re not only picking one result, you’re picking two – with the added difficulty. However the odds generally reflect this and you’re likely to get better odds for a half-time/full-time bet than a straight winner.

Of course, you don’t have to pick different sides to win each half – you can support the same team for each half or, in what might be the best option, the draw at the break and a full-time winner. You’ll get far better odds on that than simply picking the winner of the game, particularly in a game that looks to be a one-sided affair.
Sometimes called a double result bet, the half-time/full-time market offers nine bets: home win/home win, home win/draw, home win/away win, draw/home win, draw/draw, draw/away win and the final group, away win/home win, away win/draw, away win/away win. Standard 1 X 2 match betting offers only three possible results – home win, draw or away win, so the Half-time/Full-time bet really opens up your betting options and allows you to be much more precise with your predictions.

With some teams preferring to keep it tight in the opening 45 minutes and then go for it late on, the half-time/full-time market offers interesting possibilities. Likewise, if a lower-ranked team goes to a title-chaser and parks the bus, but you expect the hosts’ extra quality to tell in the end, the draw/home win bet will offer better odds than the straight home win.

Half-time/full-time can also work well if you’re betting with a bookie that offers a cash-out option. For example, you’ve backed a draw at half-time and a home win by full-time and after 60 minutes, you’re looking good. You could use your cash-out option here and take your winnings without worrying about a late comeback.

You’ll probably get the best odds on a bet that has the home side to be winning at half-time but losing at the final whistle, the odds reflecting what a huge turnaround in the game that would be.
The Half-time/Full-time market overall is quite an exciting market that puts the bettor well-placed to take advantage of any tactical changes at half-time, the effects of a mid-match hairdryer treatment or some late, late drama.

Both Teams To Score

Both teams to score – BTTS for short – is another market to look into if you’re struggling to pick a winner. It comes into its own when two high-scoring teams meet, or two teams boasting a dangerous striker – Think Real Mardrid vs. Barcelona.

BetFred’s Goals Galore market was the first and arguably remains the most popular BTTS market and since it is still one of the company’s flagship promotions, they regularly offer odds boosts. It’s something of a BTTS accumulator and worth looking into.

As an example of how the market works, Arsenal may have been given a right thumping by Liverpool (08/02/2014) but if you’d backed BTTS, you’d be quite happy with Mikel Arteta’s consolation penalty. It didn’t do anything to change where the points went but since BTTS is such a popular market, more than a few neutrals would have been celebrating.

What the bet constitutes is pretty self-explanatory. It’s Both Teams To Score – although own goals usually don’t count. If you’re betting on a cup game, then usually it’s only the first 90 minutes that’s included – goals in extra time won’t count and neither will penalty shoot-outs. Each bookmaker is liable to have slightly different rules though, so it’s worth double-checking the small print with your chosen company.

Most bets can depend on team news but this one perhaps more than any – if one of the sides is missing their star striker then maybe you should think again. But as ever, goals don’t have to come from the attackers – you’ll win regardless, whether it’s a 30-yard thunderbolt or a scrambled toe-poke from a set piece.

Like any wager this one is far from a sure thing – you might have thought Manchester City were near-certainties to score against Chelsea (03/02/214), and ignored Jose Mourinho’s protestations that his side are underdogs. Both teams appeared to have the firepower for the match but it didn’t work out that way, as Chelsea nullified the home side and Both Teams To Score slips were torn up around the country.

Checking the form, despite the above example, is important. If goal scoring is a habit then look for the players in form, or teams who get goals from a range of different players. Sides that put a lot of faith in set-pieces and are packed with burly aerial threats would fall into this category.

It’s also a bet that keeps games alive longer than others – it might be a 6-0 hammering but your bet isn’t lost until the final whistle, and there are few things more aggravating than having to tear up your betting slip with barely any time played.

To score anytime

Backing a player to score at any point in the 90 minutes – and again, in cup games extra-time and penalty shoot-outs don’t count – takes out the danger of a first goal scorer bet, but the odds shorten in return.

To score anytime is best served used in a game where you expect a lot of goals – if you’re looking at a low-scoring affair then the chances of your selection netting are duly reduced. It might also be best used for forwards, who tend to have short odds in first scorer markets – they do here too but you have 90 minutes for your bet to come in.

Rules on to score anytime bets can differ from firm to firm – some will stipulate a player has to start the game to be counted (and if he doesn’t, your bet is considered void). In this case, if he comes on and scores, you don’t get a penny.

However there are bookies that will count even a five minute substitute appearance as a player taking part in the game. If does score and you had put a To Score Anytime bet on, you will feel very lucky It’s always worth checking the small print with your chosen bookie.

This is a market that can also offer value away from the shorter odds. Look for teams with set-piece specialists or regular and reliable penalty takers – a Leighton Baines from Everton or a Frank Lampard at Chelsea. They’re likely to offer better value than a centre-forward for either side as despite having good goal records of their own, they’re not the team’s main scoring threat.

The same goes for a defender who makes a habit of scoring – Thomas Vermaelen a few years ago at Arsenal – or teams who put a lot of emphasis on set-pieces, like any managed by Tony Pulis. They’ll provide decent chances for an anytime scorer bet. Robert Huth back in the day at Stoke was always a threat from dead balls and got quite a few goals that way.

This market also takes into account a Wilfried Bony-like player. The Swansea forward has been on the score sheet regularly of late but he rarely scores the first – some would say most important – goal of the game. Instead the Ivorian piles on and gets the second, or, as he did against Cardiff recenty, the third. A bit of a flat-track bully perhaps but it matters little if you backed him to score any time.

First goal scorer

Predicting the first scorer of a game is never easy and the odds reflect as much. You’ll get decent odds in most cases, no matter how prolific the team’s leading striker is.

As ever, goals in extra-time or penalty shoot-outs don’t count. Neither do own goals – if you’ve backed a defender to score first then he puts one in his own net rather than the opposition’s, you don’t win, but usually the next goal of the game will count as the first. Check with your bookmaker.

Similarly, if your player doesn’t start, the bet stands – but if he is brought on after the first goal has been scored, it’s void. If he comes on with the game goalless the bet should stand – but it’s always an idea to double-check with your bookie’s terms and conditions for the market.

Set-piece specialists and penalty takers are worth considering if they’re not otherwise regular scorers. So too are defenders who venture forward for a set-piece – they’ll have longer odds than other options and might be worth a flutter.

An increasingly common market is the each way first goal scorer. This is where your player scores the second or third goal of the game – as in a horse race your odds drop according to the place of the goal.

First goal scorer is one of the more precarious bets on offer. If a positive of the score anytime or both teams to score bet is that they keep your wager alive for the full 90 minutes then with a first goal scorer bet the opposite is the case. It can be all over after a matter of seconds, bringing the same sort of disappointment as including the early kick-off in your accumulator and watching as your side slip up.

Together with the difficulty in predicting a first scorer, it’s a bet that a lot of seasoned gamblers would advise staying away from – but the potential rewards are such that you might be justified discounting their advice; Steve Sidwell would have been long, long odds to open the scoring for Fulham (vs. Man U. 09/02/2014), so even a small wager paid large dividends.

But for a Sergio Aguero, Olivier Giroud or Luis Suarez (strikers who are clearly the attacking focal point of their sides), the odds will be shorter but you are in theory more likely to cash in.

So there you have it – our top five football betting markets. As you can see, each of these bets has their plus points and their negatives too but a fuller understanding of what they are and their advantages and disadvantages can hopefully help you beat the bookies.