Football Betting Systems: What Works and What Doesn't

Learning about the fundamentals of the football betting world and then the nuances of how to thrive in the market is all well and good, but if you don't have a system for managing your money then you're in trouble.

Although it's tempting to simply stake a random amount on a match based on emotion or "gut feeling", the real winners in the game often have strategy for how much they're going to risk on a particular game.

Often based on a variety of factors, these football betting systems give punters the ability to make the most money possible when conditions are in their favour and limit the loss when they aren't. In fact, using a football betting system is what separates the big winners from breakeven grinders in the virtual realm.

Although some systems have proven to be less than useful in practice, others do have some real world value and in this article we've outlined the main betting systems as well as their relative strengths and weakness.

Martingale System

Before we launch into the football betting systems that work, it's important to run through a famous technique that doesn't work as well. Probably the most famous betting system that works well in theory but falters in reality is the Martingale System. Although commonly applied to casino games such as blackjack, this system can be use on any straight wager where you receive even money on your investment.

In the football betting world it's possible to use this system when you have a string of 1/1 (even money) bets on offer. For example, you may find 20 even money shots in a single month across Europe. Thanks to the timing of each game it's possible to ante-up on ten of these in a sequence (i.e. you bet on one match, wait for the result then bet on the next), so you decide to use the Martingale System to guide your bet amounts.

In a nutshell, the Martingale system requires you to double your previous bet for every losing bet you make. For example, if your bet on match number one was £5 and it lost, then you would have to stake £10 on match number two. This sequence continues until you win a match; at which point you'd realise a one profit unit (this is equal to the size of your opening bet) and then begin the betting sequence again.

Essentially, the Martingale System forces you to double your wager each time you lose with the aim that when you eventually win you'll show a profit. While this seems like a sure-fire way to win, the main problem is that is requires an extremely large bankroll.

For example, if your opening wager was £5, then you'd need to bet a whooping £160 if you lost five in a row and were ready to speculate on match number six. This is obviously far beyond the finances of many punters and, thus, the main reason why the system fails in practice. Moreover, there are often betting limits attached to certain wagers, and if you hit this limit before you've won, then you'll never be able to see the system through to its conclusion before you are forced to give up.

Labouchere System

Another system that's similar to Martingale but has a little more success in reality is the Labouchere System. Based on mathematical principles, this system can also be used for even money bets in the football betting area.

To put this system into action, you first need to decide how many units you want to win (a unit is a value equal to your initial bet). For example, if you want to make a £50 profit, you would then need to break this down into units (for example, £5). Once you've defined how much you'd like to win, you then need note this down in a linear form: 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (ten total units of £5 equates to £50 in profit).

Using this line of numbers, you then take the far left number and the far right number and add them together to form the amount you need to bet on a single match. If this bet wins then you cross-off both numbers. However, if you lose then you place the sum of the two numbers on the right-hand side of the number line.

Looking at this system in practice, you get the following if you're aiming to make a £50 profit with £5 bets.

• You start with: 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.
• You then wager two units and win, cross off the 1 on the left and right, leaving 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.
• You then wager another two units and lose, adding a 2 to the right, leaving 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2.
• You then wager three units (1+2) and lose again, adding a 3 to the right, leaving 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3.
• You then wager four units (1+3) and win, crossing off the 1 on the left and the 3 on the right, leaving 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2.

Of course, winning and losing will have an impact on your bankroll and if you can't cover a bet, then one of two processes must be adhered to:

• If you can cover the number on the left-hand side, then you must risk that amount. If you win then you should cross off that number. Conversely, if you lose this bet then you add that number to the right-hand side of the line.

• If you can't cover any bet, then you should wager what you can and if you win then subtract that amount from number on the left. Finally, if you lose this bet, then you must quit the game.

Although the Labouchere system makes certain concessions for different bankrolls, the system is still one that can be extremely expensive if results don't go your way. The mathematics behind this system certainly hold up; however, if your bankroll isn't robust enough, then this isn't a football betting strategy you should try.

The Kelly Criterion

The final betting system that's worth looking at is the Kelly Criterion. Used by professional punters around the world, this system has shown itself to be the most effective and most efficient system for football bettors. In fact, in comparison to the other methods listed in this article, the Kelly Criterion is by far the most useful for gamblers of all persuasions.

Essentially, the Kelly Criterion is a money management betting system that sets out the perfect bet size based on the value offered. Essentially, money management is all about optimising the potential for winning at the expense of excess risk and the Kelly Criterion aims to find the optimum amount of your bankroll you should wager on a bet in order to meet these conditions.

The basic Kelly Criterion formula runs as follows: (bankroll) BR% = (P*B) - 1 / odds - 1, where we let P be the probability of us winning (in decimal format), B the odds offered and BR% is the percent of the bankroll we should stake according to the Kelly Criterion.

After applying this formula to your data you get a positive number for BR% that shows you how much of your bankroll to wager. If the number is negative, it simply means: Don't bet.

For example, if we are offered 1.91 (10/11 in fractional odds) that Arsenal will beat Tottenham and you estimate that Arsenal have a 55% chance of winning, then the Kelly Criterion would suggest the following: BR% = (0.55*1.91) - 1 / (1.91 - 1). Plugging these numbers into the formula suggests that it's optimal to bet 5.5495% of your bankroll on this bet.

Although you can run into problems using this system if your ability to estimate a team's chances of winning are off, the system is almost bulletproof in terms of its theory and application in the football betting world and one you should use if you want to win more and lose less.