How Are Football Odds Calculated?

Written By: Mike Lovatt
Last Updated: October 14, 2022

Lots of people that are betting on football underestimate the importance of the odds they’re getting. They understand the main concept of how much will they win with their wagers, but don’t go deep enough and it is one of the main reasons they are losing money in the long run with their football betting. This guide in or series of how to bet on football covers finding value in football bets.

You have to learn to look at the odds as possibilities and pick your bets based on a complex approach that includes a variety of factors. In order to do that, you need to learn how the bookmakers work first. That’s the purpose of this article – to show you the whole process behind football betting odds and give you some tips how to take advantage of the positive value that sometimes occurs.

Of course, the process is not exactly the same with each and every bookmaker out there, but the main principles remain similar.

First Step: Data Analysis

It all starts with analyzing all the possible information out there. The sportsbooks have a bunch of odds compilers and traders who are getting paid to do that. They have the best possible tools and formulas as well which allows them to evaluate the probabilities for each game from a statistical point of view.

Previous results, recent shape, injuries and suspensions, pretty much every significant factor is included to reach the initial evaluation of each game. It’s safe to say that the bookmakers are really good at it, especially when it comes to the most popular football leagues such as the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, the Champions League. They attract so much money, that the operators don’t hesitate to invest lots of money and effort to be as close as perfect as possible.

Cash Projections

After the probabilities of each outcome of the football match are determined, it’s time to get to the next step: changing the odds to include the cash projections. The sportsbooks have algorithms based on previous experience that help them predict with a decent success how much money will be placed on each outcome.

This is extremely important since they need to keep a certain balance on each football match. If the money isn’t spread in the correct proportions, they risk losing a fortune and depend on luck way too much. As you could expect, the sportsbooks don’t like losing and don’t like risks.

This is why including the cash flow projections helps them attract money to certain outcomes that usually would see fewer bets if the initial probabilities are the only factor behind the odds. The best examples are the home games of widely popular teams. Let’s take Barcelona or Real Madrid for example. Most people usually bet on them winning and this is one of the main reasons the odds are extremely low and almost never contain value.

The Margin/Juice

At this point, the bookmakers already have a precise idea what to expect from the game and they also know approximately how much money to expect. This allowed them to compile the odds for each market, but they still need to ensure they will be winning in the long run. If they give fair odds, they will be around the break-even point and we all know that’s not the case.

This is where the so-called margin or juice comes in. Simply put, the bookmakers gain an advantage by giving overall odds that are a bit lower that they should. If we take a look at a random two-way football betting market like Over 2.5 total goals/Under 2.5 goals, for example, we could see that placing proportionate wagers won’t bring your money back in full.

Let’s say both outcomes are with the same probability and there is a 50% chance for each. Fair odds would be 2.00 for both and if you bet £10 on over and the same on under, you will get £20 back, no matter what happens. In reality, the prices would probably be about 1.93 and the difference is the bookmaker’s margin.

The percentage varies in each operator and depends on lots of factors. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks usually have a higher one since they pay bigger taxes, while it’s rather low online. The best bookies on the web have about 3-5% margin on most of their football markets.

Why Do the Odds Change?

The process is now finished and the bookmakers have the odds ready and launch them on their platform. But that’s not the end, as we’ve all seen the prices change before the match starts and the driving factors behind it are usually similar:

  • Objective change in circumstances: this could be an injury, a suspension, any other change that might affect the performance of both times and influence the possible outcome of the game;
  • Cash flows: the initial cash projections are accurate, but to an extent. Sometimes the expectations differ from reality and the bookmakers have to adjust.

Where Does Value Come from?

We’ve explained how the system works and now it is time to take a look how could we take advantage of this knowledge. There are two main ways that value can occur:

Wrong Initial Evaluation

The bookmakers are sometimes wrong in their initial evaluation of the game. That happens rarely, but it happens nonetheless. Despite all of their data and tools available, the sportsbooks are not always perfect. Especially when it comes to minor leagues that don’t attract so many customers. Using all of their powers would mean lots of costs and this is where you can take advantage.

If you know a minor league really well and have some good sources of information, you could beat the bookies. The best examples are fixed games, earlier knowledge of injuries, connections in a certain club and so on.

There’s another way to beat the bookies, but it’s much harder. You have to be very good with numbers and find a way to process data better than them. To be honest, this one’s really hard and most people would fail. Unless you are a math magician, you’ll hardly succeed with such an approach.

Beat the Crowd

Since we know how important cash flow is and how it affects the odds, this is the other way to find value. In popular leagues, the money placed could sometimes skew the prices to a point where there is money to be made. When millions go in one direction, the bookies adjust and you could find some good betting options.

This is the much easier and much more efficient way to find bets with positive expectations. Most punters are not well-prepared and you can get the better of them in the long run.


As you can see, the whole process behind the odds is complicated and finding good bets is not easy. It requires a lot of effort, experience and a complex skill set. We encourage you to not limit yourself and try combining different approaches for the best results, especially when you’ve got a sign up bonus to use. Even the slightest edge might be the difference between a winner and a loser at the end of the day.

Mike Lovatt

Mike has over 14 years of experience with online sports betting, having used countless online betting sites. Mike previously provided football betting tips on goals and corners in Facebook groups before starting his own betting website. A huge football fan, Mike has been writing betting guides and football betting advice for years.

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