Soccer Betting Strategy: Betting on Win-Draw-Win
There's no denying that soccer betting has significantly evolved over the years, especially when it comes to the options we have for betting on games. Not only are there numerous markets to choose from, but there are equally as many different types of wager. We can bet on the total number of goals to be scored in a game, for example, or on which player will score the first goal. Other wagers include the double chance, the draw no bet and the Asian handicap. This list would go on for miles if we continued, but that's not the intent of this article.
The more experienced bettors probably remember a simpler time when the only wager that could be placed on a soccer game was the win-draw-win. If we wanted to get some money down on a game, our only choice was to pick one of the three available selections. Either team to win, or the game to end in a draw. These three possibilities are what gave the wager its name.
The win-draw-win wager is still the most popular way to bet on soccer today. Despite all the other options, many bettors prefer just to bet directly on the result of a game. This is understandable, as it remains the most straightforward option. There's nothing even remotely complicated about the win-draw-win wager.
It's a wager that can be relatively easy to get right too. There are a lot of soccer games where the outcome is reasonably obvious, even to those who only loosely follow the sport. Picking the winner of a game where one team is much stronger than the other isn't especially challenging.
Don't take this to mean that it's easy to make money from betting on the win-draw-win markets. It's not. Yes, there are games where there's an obvious winner. But when it's obvious to us, it's obvious to the bookmakers too. So they set the odds accordingly. Obvious winners will typically be at very low odds, which means they rarely offer value. And they're not guaranteed to win anyway, as upsets in soccer are very common. This is true even when a team seems almost certain to win.
Backing obvious winners CAN be profitable, but it's not as simple as just looking for appropriate games and automatically backing the favorite. We have to consider other factors too. There are instances when betting on the underdog or betting on the draw is the better option. The key here is in learning how to identify value in these markets.
We start this article by looking at how to find that value. Then we discuss the relative merits of backing the favorite versus backing the underdog or the draw. We've also provided some general tips for betting on the win-draw-win, and offered some alternative wagers to consider too.
Finding Value in the Win-Draw-Win Markets
If you're even remotely serious about trying to make money from betting on soccer, or any sport for that matter, then you should already be familiar with the roles that probability and value have to play. It's absolutely vital that you fully understand the concept of value in the context of betting, and how it relates to probability. If you don't, your chances of success are ultimately going to be very limited indeed. Value should always be a part of your decision making process, regardless of what you're betting on.
We'll now explain how to go about finding value in the soccer win-draw-win markets. In addition to this article, it would be beneficial to also read through the article linked above, as it's designed to give you a better understanding of the basics of value and probability in betting.
Identifying value when betting on the result of a soccer game starts with determining how likely each possible result is. We can't calculate precise probabilities here, as there are too many variables, but with the right approach we can certainly come up with reasonable estimates.
Many bettors do nothing more than look at the relative quality of the two teams. Although this is obviously a good indicator of which team is likely to win a game, it's not enough. We desire to be as precise as possible in our estimates; considering quality alone doesn't give us the whole picture.
For example, imagine Manchester City are about to play West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League. The season is ten games in, and Manchester City are top of the table. West Bromwich Albion are languishing down in 18th place. Manchester City's squad is filled with world class players, while West Bromwich Albion have significantly less talent at their disposal.
What's your first thought here? Would Manchester City be 80% likely to win? Maybe even as high as 90%? They're a top quality side, and have started the season very well. So it's not unreasonable to assume that their chances of winning are somewhere in this region. But now let's imagine that we take a closer look at Albion, and discover the following.
- 1 They started the season with a new manager, who came in and implemented a whole new playing style.
- 2 The new manager also signed three new players, two of whom were injured for the first few games of the season.
- 3 Out of their first ten games, Albion played several particularly tough fixtures.
- 4 The injured players have been back in the team for the last couple of games, and Albion have started to play a lot better.
- 5 They've won their last two games.
What are your thoughts now? Are you reconsidering how likely Manchester City are to win. They're still the favorites, of course, but perhaps their chances are actually closer to 70%.
Now let's imagine that we assess Manchester City in more detail and find out the following.
- 1 Their game against Albion comes just three days after they've played on the road in the UEFA Champion's League.
- 2 They had a long trip, and a very tough game.
- 3 Two of their star players got injured in that game, and will miss the game against Albion.
This surely affects your outlook once again. Does this game look so easy for Manchester City now? You'd probably still expect them to win, but you're unlikely to be as confident as you were before. Maybe their chances of winning are more like 60-65%. That is a huge drop from 80% or 90%.
We'll get to why these percentage figures matter in just a moment. The first point we're trying to make here is that there are a lot of things that can affect how a game of soccer is likely to play out. We therefore need to assess a game properly before betting on it, and not just make quick assumptions. Here's a list of some of the key factors that need to be looked at.
- Overall Quality
- Current Form
- Styles of Play
- Recent Schedules
- Injuries & Suspensions
Don't think for one second that this list is finished. For a more complete list of what can affect a soccer game and for advice on how to actually assess these factors, please read through the below article in our soccer betting guide.
So, how does assessing all of these factors help then? It basically enables us to be more accurate when estimating the probabilities of the possible outcomes of a game. This then allows us to determine whether there's any value in placing a wager on a game, and where we should put our money.
To continue with the hypothetical game already discussed, let's say that we've settled on the following probabilities.
- Man City to win – 60%
- West Brom to win – 15%
- Draw – 25%
Please note that you don't necessarily have to establish a precise probability when assessing the possible outcomes. A range is fine. We're just using exact numbers here because it makes it easier to demonstrate the process for identifying value.
Once we have our estimates, we then compare them to the implied probability of the relevant odds. Implied probability is what happens when you use the odds to indicate what the chances of an outcome happening are. So odds of even money, for example, have an implied probability of 50%. These odds imply that the relevant outcome is just as likely to happen as not. If the odds are 3.00 (2/1), then the implied probability is 33.33%. These odds imply that the relevant outcome is 33.33% likely to happen.
You can calculate the implied probability of odds yourself by dividing 1 by the decimal format odds, and then converting that result into a percentage by multiplying it by 100. There's an easier way though, as our odds convertor tool does all the math for you.
When comparing our estimates to the implied probability of the odds, we're looking for spots where our estimate is HIGHER than the implied probability. Assuming our estimate is accurate (and we have to make that assumption for the purposes of this process), we've then identified positive value. We're technically getting "better" odds than we should.
Let's say that the odds for the City versus Albion game were as follows.
- Man City to win – 1.40
- West Brom to win – 8.00
- Draw – 3.75
If we calculated the implied probability for each set of odds, then we'd get the following.
- Man City to win – 1.40 = 71.43%
- West Brom to win – 8.00 = 12.50%
- Draw – 3.75 = 26.67%
These numbers tell us NOT to back to Manchester City to win. There's no value for us, because the implied probability of the odds is higher than our estimate of their chances of winning. So we're actually better off not backing City here, even though we think it's the most likely outcome.
This might seem entirely counter-intuitive to you. It does to a lot of bettors. They tend to think the logical thing to do is always bet on what they think is going to happen. But while that does appear to be logical, it's not the correct approach.
Remember, when betting for value we have to assume that our estimates are accurate. So we'd expect a wager on Manchester City here to win 60% of the time. If we placed similar wagers ten times, we'd therefore expect to win six of them. This might seem like a good thing, but at odds of 1.40 we'd lose money. If we were betting $100 a go, we'd win a total of $360 on our winning wagers. We'd lose $400 on our losing wagers, giving us a net loss of $40.
Now that we know there's no value in backing Manchester City, we need to look into backing their opponent. When we take a closer look at West Bromwich Albion, we spot VALUE! It's only marginal, as our estimated probability is 15% and the implied probability is 12.50%. Regardless, this would be a winning wager. Although we'd only win 15% of the time, the odds are high enough to return an overall profit in the long run.
That's basically what value betting is all about. It's about betting for LONG TERM profit, rather than just trying to win as many individual wagers as possible. If you go through the above process each time you bet the win-draw-win, then you'll stand a good chance of making some money.
We all know it's not that easy though. Making accurate estimates is only made possible when you're willing to put in the necessary time and effort. The best approach is to analyze each game and avoid jumping to conclusions without considering the relevant factors.
Favorites versus Underdogs versus Draws
We're often asked whether it's better to focus on backing the favorites when betting on win-draw-win markets, or whether it's best to look for spots to back the underdog or the draw. To some extent this comes down to personal preference and attitude towards risk, but it actually doesn't really matter. There's no right or wrong here, as long as you're always betting for value.
The favorite didn't offer any value in the example we went through earlier. Can we tell you a little secret? There's a rumor going around that favorites NEVER offer value, especially big favorites that are at very low odds. WE DISAGREE! Favorites can definitely offer value, even when the odds are extremely low.
There are some distinct advantages to backing favorites too. It's a lot easier to pick value favorites than it is to pick value underdogs, and you're likely to win a high percentage of your wagers. This means you can be more aggressive with your bankroll management, which will potentially help your bankroll grow at a faster pace.
Betting on favorites can be a good approach. If it appeals to you, then reading through the following article will help you get started, as it looks specifically at backing big favorites on the win-draw-win markets, and includes some useful strategy advice.
Betting on underdogs has its merits too. It's harder to find suitable opportunities, for obvious reasons, but those opportunities can be profitable. Although you won't win so often, the payouts will be better when you do. Winning a bet on an underdog is also a lot more satisfying than winning a bet on a favorite. This isn't extremely important, not when the goal is purely to make money, but it's nice to get that feeling of satisfaction nonetheless.
If you're happy with the additional risks involved in backing underdogs, you should read the following article. It features advice on how to find spots where upsets are likely enough to warrant putting some money down.
There isn't really much we can say about backing draws. It's not something we like to do too often, for one primary reason. The most logical games to back the draw are obviously games where the two teams are closely matched. And if the teams are closely matched, then it's clearly very difficult to know how the game is likely to turn out. A narrow victory for either team is usually just as likely as the draw. This makes it hard to confidently estimate probabilities and actually determine whether there's any value.
That's not to say you should never back the draw, of course. There's only one golden rule you have to follow, and we've already explained that at length. Regardless of whether you're backing a favorite, an underdog or the draw, the most important thing is always that you bet for value.
Additional Tips for Betting on Win-Draw-Win
There are few other pieces of advice you should follow when betting on the soccer win-draw-win markets. We've listed these below. Most of these apply to soccer betting in general, but they're worth mentioning here too. Although they're all pretty straightforward, they can all make a big difference to your overall chances of making money.
- Bet on familiar teams
- Use proper bankroll management
- Compare available odds
- Consider alternative wagers
Bet on familiar teams
Choosing the right games to bet on is vital. There are dozens of soccer games being played on a daily basis around the world, but you really don't need to bet on them all. Quite the opposite in fact. You should be very selective, and stick to games between teams that you're familiar with. This will make the best use of the knowledge you already have.
It is possible, of course, to explore other teams and leagues, if that's something that interests you. We do advise against trying to judge games in obscure leagues you know nothing about, as that usually never ends well. You'll just end up guessing, which makes winning money practically impossible.
Use proper bankroll management
Using proper bankroll management is equally important. We repeat this time and time again throughout our sports betting guide, but it can't be mentioned often enough. It's a simple fact that you WON'T be successful unless you acquire proper bankroll management skills. If you're not sure how to do this, please read through the below article.
Compare available odds
Comparing the available odds at different bookmakers and/or betting sites takes very little time, and it is time well spent. The odds don't typically vary that much from one place to the next, but small differences can have a big impact over time. Getting even slightly better odds each time you place a wager WILL improve your overall results.
The best way to do this, by far, is to open accounts at a few different betting sites. If you split your bankroll across these sites, then it's incredibly easy to place your bets with whichever site offers the best odds. Just make sure that you use quality and reputable sites. These tend to offer the best odds anyway, but they offer other advantages too.
Overwhelmed? Need help? Check out our list of recommendations.
Consider alternative wagers
There will be many times when you study a game and don't find any value in backing any of the possible outcomes on the win-draw-win. You don't want to bet for the sake of it, but you also want to make good use of the time spent assessing such games if you can. So it's always worth considering alternative wagers to see if they offer any value instead. There are all kinds of different options, which we explain in detail on the following page.