Quillen: How to Be Smart, Take Advantage of Live Betting in Soccer Wagering

Quillen: How to Be Smart, Take Advantage of Live Betting in Soccer Wagering article feature image
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Paris Saint-Germain Football/PSG via Getty Images. Pictured: Paris Saint-Germain star Lionel Messi and teammate Ángel Di María.

Soccer is a fluid game, with few stoppages, no timeouts or commercial breaks. The turning points aren’t always obvious, often not becoming clear to the casual viewer until several minutes after they happen.

That makes “The Beautiful Game” an excellent sport for a talented live bettor.
Generally, a successful person will have a strong sense of the possible outcomes that aren’t obvious based on what has already transpired. For example, you might know a given team scores more often later in matches or that an influential player is likely to make an appearance off the bench.

That kind of information is valuable to any gambler. However, it’s even more important in live betting, where much of the fluctuation of odds is based on what the public thinks about what has already transpired, rather than what is likely to transpire.

That said, it’s good to have some guidelines to give yourself structure before you live-bet a game. Here’s a few I find helpful.

Identify Several Likely Outcomes Before Match

When we think about the probabilities of wins, losses, draws and goals scored, we often envision them distributed on a bell curve. Yet in soccer, the reality is often different.

For example, you might be betting on a team with exceptional depth on its bench, leading to a greater likelihood of late-game goals.

Or you might be betting on a game where a weaker team is likely to focus on sitting deep and defending. If the side gives up a goal, it will have to adjust its strategy and likely be open to conceding multiple more times.

Understanding these potential pathways can help you know where to put your money at the moment a game changes or a moment when it’s likely to change.


Define When to Make Your Wagers

One challenge of live betting can be paralysis by analysis. Not only are you evaluating odds in the moment, but also the possibility they will become more or less favorable in the near future. Obviously, it’s a lot to take in.

I like to combat this by limiting myself to defined betting windows. You can choose any parameters you like, but here are mine:

Immediately After Goals: As the old saying goes, goals change games. More specifically, they often bring about a change in tactics for one or both teams that changes the flow of a game.

A successful example: In the opener of Euro 2020, Italy dominated Turkey throughout the opening 45 minutes but without any goals to show for it.

Then, Turkey conceded an own goal eight minutes into the second half. They would have to come out of their defensive shell, and Italy had already looked plenty dangerous when Turkey was bunkering.

I bet the total over 2.5 goals at +165 odds and a 37.7% implied probability. Italy scored its third goal by the 79th minute.

Halftime: The midway point gives you the most time to evaluate your next decision. You might process what occurred during the first 45 minutes and how you expect that to change. 

A successful example: In the first round of group games at Euro 2020, the second halves were much higher scoring than the first. That made sense since teams were playing in their first competitive matches in a couple months.

So, when Slovakia’s 1-0 lead over Poland stood at halftime of both teams’ Group E opener, I was pretty confident there was a good chance the second half would be higher scoring than the opening frame.

I bet the halftime total over 2.5 goals at +128 odds. Slovakia’s scored the match winner in his side’s 2-1 victory in the 69th minute.

Poland star Robert Lewandowski prior to match at the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship tournament. Photo credit: Gonzalo Arroyo – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images.

The 55th minute: The first 10 minutes of a second half will often show you whether a manager’s halftime tactical adjustments will substantively change the result. Additionally, it’s also often the time for the first substitution.

A successful example: Heavy underdog Scotland went into halftime scoreless against England in their Euro 2020 Group D encounter and looked every bit their equal over 45 minutes. Yet, I was reluctant to back them for fear of a substantial tactical and momentum change after the break.

Ten minutes into the second half, it was clear that wasn’t likely to happen. I was still able to back Scotland +0.5 goals at +105 odds, a bet that wound up paying after a 0-0 draw.

The 75th minute: This is often when managers make riskier, more aggressive substitutions if they’re ahead or opt for defensive reinforcements when behind. It’s also when fatigue begins to play a larger factor in the run of play.

A successful example: Everton were heavy underdogs to Arsenal in their Premier League encounter at Emirates Stadium last season.

However, after 70 or so minutes, it was clear there wasn’t a lot between the teams. It was also clear one of them was likely to eventually concede, even though the game was scoreless at the time.

I bet on Everton to win at +400 odds, not because I believed they were going to win, but because I thought they were as likely as Arsenal to find a goal.
Bernd Leno turned the ball into his own net not even a minute later and the Toffees held on for dear life for all three points.

Embrace Cashing Out — Sometimes

With pregame bets , cashing out often provides poor value. There’s a reason sports books encourage it — because it helps them hold onto at least some of your money.

However, for a live bettor, the potential value of cashing out can be a lot higher, particularly if a game changes to give you an immediate profit sooner than even you expect.

A successful example: France and Portugal played the first half of their group match at Euro 2020 to a 1-1 draw. At halftime, I bet France -1.5 because I thought a two-goal French win was more likely than the 14.3% implied probability the +600 odds suggested.

Karim Benzema gave France the lead two minutes into the second half. And because the odds on France -1.5 goals had been so long, I was offered the chance to cash out my bet at 2.3 times my stake.

Compared to the payout of my cash-out option, betting on France -1.5 turned into a +205 wager with an implied 32.8% probability.

Because Portugal had enough time left to attack without recklessly sending numbers forward and leaving themselves open to another French strike, I didn’t like those odds and opted for a cash out. The game finished a 2-2 draw.

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Play Best Value in the Moment

Try not to get into the habit of hedging against pregame wagers just because they might provide more certain outcomes. More often than not, you’ll actually limit your earnings.

Say you bet on Borussia Dortmund to upset Bayern Munich before you knew Robert Lewandoski got hurt in pregame warm-ups for the Bavarians.

Then, the game starts and Dortmund dominates, but doesn’t score. And although the odds have moved some in Dortmund’s direction, they haven’t moved as much as you think they should.

It’s tempting to take Bayern at longer odds than the pregame line to hedge your wager. However, if the better value play is to double down on Dortmund, then you’ll come out ahead in the long run playing Dortmund and other wagers like it, even if Bayern somehow manages a result this one time.

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