Opinion: Is it Possible to Make a Profit from Backing Draws in Football?
I remember the halcyon days when my older brother would place accumulator bets. We wagered small stakes, and it was a bit of fun, but neither of us profited in the long-term. My brother occasionally tried a three or four bet accumulator where he needed nothing but draws. The odds for four draws were close to the 100/1 region, and he managed to win on two occasions (out of at least 50!)
Even so, he achieved a profit against the odds. In professional football, the possibility of a draw is far greater than in higher scoring sports such as rugby or American Football. In fact, according to Pinnacle Sports, 24% of all Premier League matches in the last five seasons have ended in a stalemate.
With that percentage in mind, the implied odds of a draw in the Premier League are 4.16. Naturally, a draw is more likely in matches between two relatively even-strength teams. An example would be Leicester City at home to Watford, a match that happened at the weekend. The bookies only offered odds of 3.30 for a draw.
In fact, the bookmaker overround on the win/draw market was over 6%! That’s not to say there is no value in backing draws in the top European leagues. It is a case of picking and choosing games. For example, no one seriously expects a non-top 6 side to get a draw away to the current Man City side. That’s why the odds are normally 9/1 or more.
Finding Likely Draws
For the record, France’s Ligue 1 had the most draws of any of Europe’s top five leagues across the last five seasons. With 25.8%, it was significantly ahead of bottom placed La Liga where only 23.4% of matches were drawn. In the English Premier League, it is worth checking out matches between two non-top 6 teams. The so-called ‘top 6’ group has only emerged in recent years, but now, there is a huge gap between them and the rest (assuming Manchester United hit form in the near future).
In fact, in the 182 matches between the 14 teams outside the Top 6, 33.79% of matches ended in a draw. All of a sudden, the implied odds would be just 2.96. As almost every match between such teams offers odds of at least 3.00, and often 3.20 or higher, you would have made a profit by backing the draw in every one of these games! It remains to be seen if this trend continues, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
As it transpires, it may be worth dutching bets on exact scorelines depending on the available odds. Last season, 20% of draws in the Premier League were either 0-0 or 1-1. In the Leicester versus Watford game, 0-0 was available at decimal odds of 10.00, while a 1-1 draw was available at 6.50. If you bet £10 on the 0-0 and £15.38 on the 1-1 scoreline, you are wagering a total of £25.38 to win a total of £100. In real terms, you are getting odds of 3.94 (100 / 25.38) when both bets are considered.
As only 20% of games finished with either scoreline last season, this bet seems like poor value. However, you need to remember that matches between non-top 6 are more likely to end in a draw. As it happens, 27.47% of matches between these 14 teams ended in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw last season. In other words, the implied odds are 3.64.
In our example above, you are getting the equivalent of 3.94 on a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. In this week’s Fulham versus Leicester game, the odds of a 0-0 or 1-1 is 4.22, a significant odds boost.
Of course, some teams simply draw more often than others. In the last 51 games (last season and this season to date at the time of writing), the Saints have drawn 20 matches, or 39.22% of their games. Moreover, only three of their draws came against Top 6 opposition in 15 games. This means they have drawn 17 of their last 36 games against the rest of the league, an incredible 47.22% rate!
Other teams with above average draw rates in the last year and a half include Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth, West Ham United, and Brighton.
Laying the Draw
Sometimes abbreviated to LTD, laying the draw on the exchanges is becoming a popular method of betting. The first reason is the huge liquidity of the major markets such as Betfair which means it is easy to have your bets matched. This also means cashing out isn’t a problem. The second reason is that you typically receive better odds.
For instance, in our featured Leicester versus Watford example, the odds on a draw were 3.4 compared to 3.3 on traditional betting sites. You could probably get odds of 3.45 matched if you’re a little patient.
You will also get far better odds on exact scorelines. In the hotly anticipated Champions League game last week between PSG and Liverpool, the 0-0 draw was 19.00 with traditional bookmakers, and 24.00 with Betfair. A 1-1 draw was 7.50 with bookies and 9.8 on the exchange.
If you elected to back the 0-0, 1-1 combination with say Bet365, the odds you would have received for the combined bets was the equivalent of 5.38. On the Exchange, the odds were the equivalent of 6.96; that’s a hell of a difference! (For the record, that bet was torpedoed before half-time).
It was 3.5 to lay the draw between Leicester and Watford. In other words, if your liability is £100, you stand to make a profit of £40. If you backed Leicester or Watford to win with Bet365, the odds were just 1.34 for a potential profit of £34. (I submitted this article without knowing how the match would pan out.)
In any case, the beauty of laying the draw is that you can do it at any stage of the match. If you believe one team is significantly stronger and likely to win, it is perhaps best to lay the draw at the beginning of the match. If there is a goal in the first 20 or so minutes, you will have the opportunity to cash out for a profit as the odds on a draw are sure to drift.
In the PSG versus Liverpool match, it was possible to lay the draw at 4.00 pre-kick-off. As the odds on the game finishing, 0-0 were a whopping 24.00, it seemed likely that there would be a goal at some point, and as it transpired, PSG scored relatively early. In reality, you are better off if one team is winning with only 10-15 minutes to go, but you can cash out for a profit any time a team takes the lead. It is up to you to decide if you’re happy with the profit.
In theory, laying a draw seems a great idea because, in the Premier League, only 8% of games finished 0-0 last season. In other words, laying the draw in a match potentially resulted in an opportunity to cash out for a profit in 92% of matches.
In practice, you will run aground if you follow that strategy. If an underdog team takes the lead, the draw odds will probably fall below their original level because of a belief that the superior side will equalise at the very least. At this point, you will be in the red, desperately hoping for the weaker side to hold out, or for the strong team to win the game.
Also, the most likely draws will probably only be available at lay odds of between 3.2 and 3.5. As there is a 0.05 difference per tick in this odds range, the difference between back and lay could be 0.20 or even 0.30. If that happens, you would need the odds to go 0.3 in your favour just to break even.
The Exchange won’t change the draw odds a great deal in the first half unless one team storms into a commanding position. In truth, when laying a draw on a game such as Leicester vs. Watford at odds of 3.5, you are unlikely to be in a strong position even if either side is winning by a single goal in the first half.
Final Thoughts on Backing or Laying the Draw
The growing gap between the Top 6 and the rest in the English Premier League could play right into the hands of punters who back the draw. Last season, for example, over one-third of games between the ‘other 14’ ended in a draw, and you normally get odds of far better than 3.00 on a stalemate.
Pay special attention to draw specialists such as Southampton. I recommend backing draws on the Betfair Exchange because it gives you the chance to cash out if you feel one team is likely to win a match late on.
As for laying the draw, only 8% of Premier League games finish goalless. Moreover, fewer than 30% of matches are goalless in the first half. Therefore, it could be worth laying the draw pre-kick-off in the hope that an early goal places you in a strong position. Yet you should beware this tactic because the Exchange’s odds won’t fluctuate wildly because of a first half goal. You may have to sit and wait patiently until you have enough of a profit to cash out.
Before dipping into either market, I recommend a spell of watching, and perhaps paper trading. Keep notes and discover what happens to the Betfair Exchange market in matches between the Premier League’s ‘other 14’ teams. Is it worth laying draws pre-match in the hope an early goal changes things? Will the market change enough to make this a worthwhile tactic? It is better to discover these things when there is no money at stake!
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Jon is the Founder and Chief Tipster at Football Advisor and Predictoloy. He started life as data analyst in the digital marketing field before find his true calling in the world of Football and Horse Racing Betting.
Jon has been sharing his professional expertise since 2009 and specialises in using objective data analysis and subjective experience of betting built up over more than a decade of professional betting.
In 2014, Jon also launched (and continues to run) the trusted Football Advisor service service which provides a variety of football and horse racing betting models and portfolios. A few years later, Jon launched the Predictology platform which is the worlds first betting system builder and analyser covering a wealth of football betting related statistics covering more than 200,000 matches.
Jon has also lent his knowledge and expertise to several of the trusted Premium Services offered by the respected Secret Betting Club, including Football Lay Profits. Racing Bet Profits and, most recently, Racing Lay Profits.