Ten World Cup Betting Edges – debunking the Myths from Reality

  1. Betting Unders in the World Cup Final
  2. Opposing England at English facing exchanges or bookmakers
  3. Betting on steamers
  4. Betting on secondary goal markets
  5. Football Coupons in shops
  6. Alternative outrights – e.g. Winning Confederation
  7. Player Goals (o/u in tournament, DDHH, FGS, 2+, 3+)
  8. Shots on Target
  9. Inplay Betting
  10. Arbitrage and Match Betting

1. Betting Unders in the World Cup Final

Thesis: There is a common edge amongst sharp players in major tournaments. Bet Unders in the Final. Look at the number of goals scored in World Cup Finals since 1990. 1-0, 0-0, 3-0, 2-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-0. World Cup Finals are unlike any other football match. There is an inherent pressure and fear the players face with a weight of the nations expectations on their shoulders. Recreational players mostly bet Action – i.e. Overs. Over 2.5, BTTS, things to happen. Bookmakers therefore apply maximum bias to the over to extract value from their customer base. This by proxy makes this should make Unders value.


The World Cup Final is an extreme low sample size spectacle. Too much bias in the Over will see the Under hit by syndicates. Prices offered by the bookmaker will tend to track the exchanges and there is no reason to believe the Under on the exchange will be inefficient at the levels of liquidity available on the World Cup Final.

Conclusion: Myth.

2. Opposing England at English facing exchanges or bookmakers AKA Lay Ennngerland

THESIS: Recreational punters based in the United Kingdom of England will favour betting on their home team. The book for the outright market will be heavily weighted towards bets taken on England. Harry Kane will be the most popular bet for Top Goalscorer. Nobody in the Stratford Upon Thames Betfred is backing Iran to win both halves against the Lions. Therefore margins will be maximised on bets involving England at UK bookmakers. Every Engish related bet should be considered with extra careful detail.

REALITY: We need to separate the bookmakers from the exchanges when looking at the reality. England to win the World Cup is 10.5 on the exchange. They are a general 7/1 at Skybet, Coral, Boyles et al. 8/1 is available at US facing pinnacle and 888sport UK. However 888sport.IT is 19/2. 

888Sport UK facing price:

888Sport Italy facing price:

Avoiding England at the UK facing bookmakers appears to be a reasonable strategy, however there is no reason to believe backing them on the exchange offers value. International players will have influence on a market as liquid as Outright World Cup.

CONCLUSION: Reality that we can avoid them, however value is also minimal opposing them. Nothing to see here.

3. Betting on steamers

THESIS: A profitable betting strategy will regularly beat the closing line. When money comes in for any bet this can be used as an indication that syndicated (or smart) money is aware of something that the layer is unaware of. The perceived probability of that outcome then increases and the odds available decrease – this is known as a steamer. The opposite is a drifter, where the odds increase. A general assessment can be made that taking a price during a “steam” is more likely to beat the Closing Line than a drifter.

REALITY: Betting on steamers is an established strategy. We can utilise the power of syndicated money to gain an edge in betting. Whilst we may be unaware that the 17 year old Ghanian super stricker has picked up an injury we can monitor and follow the money that is smarter than we are to get an edge.


4. Inplay Betting

THESIS: Inplay markets are less efficient than pre-Kick Off. Pre Kick Off trading teams and market seeders have hours and days to run models that will estimate match xG and team xG. They will monitor team news and injury developments and will adjust probabilities accordingly. Inplay teams do not have this luxury. Inplay modellers have to estimate and model xG and resets in real time.

Every time a goal is scored a “reset” is necessary; match xG and team xG is re-evaluated for the remainder of the match.

An alternative inplay methodology is one that relies more on “Common Sense” and less on mathematical modelling.  Brazil play Serbia on the 24th November and the exchanges make Brazil 1.5 and Serbia 8.6. When watching this match inplay we determine that Serbia are outperforming and after 30 minutes possession is equal, shots on goal is equal, territory isequal and this game does not look like Brazil will win 67% of the time. Have the markets adjusted accordingly? Are Brazil still 1.5? Can we trust an instinct that the markets have not reacted accordingly and this match is much closer than the available odds suggest?

REALITY: It is true that inplay markets can provide substantial edges. In the World Cup most games run consecutively which means there will be a lot of eyes on a single match at any given time. This means the trading competition inplay will be a lot more congested than in normal matches.

CONCLUSION: REALITY with caveats. The edge is primarily for experienced, confident inplay bettors.

5. Arbitrage / Match Betting

THESIS: It is possible to profit from the bookmaker by finding odds that are higher than the exchange. We press max bet at the bookmaker and then we lay off at the exchange and gleefully skip off to the horizon. The bookmaker may give us a free bet, which we can lay at the exchange to ensure we guarantee a profit. We shout Boom a lot.

REALITY: Match betting is a tool for ultra-low risk players to guarantee very small returns. Most bookmakers are on the look out for bettors placing singles on arbitrage opportunities and for this reason there is a a high risk of account restriction. Further opportunity to profit from the bookmaker is then limited.

CONCLUSION: Real edge for low stakes players. Hedging is for gardeners

6. Football Coupons

THESIS: Shop football coupons can be exploited by monitoring the coupon in real time at scale and betting on teams that are steaming in. As smart money comes in for a match we can target steamers. The value in these bets can be compounded by putting bets into multiples such as trebles, trixies etc. We can target traditional markets such as Match Odds, or secondary markets such as Half Time, Match Odds and BTTS, Score Both Halves, Win Both Halves, Goal in Minute 1-30 etc. See this blog for more information on extracting value from shop football coupons. https://www.bookiebashing.net/2019/01/09/value-betting-strategy-following-smart-money-in-the-2018-19-football-season/

REALITY:  Games in the World Cup kick off concurrenlty (the exception to this is the third game of the group games). This limits our ability to target multiple steamers at the same time and placing these teams into multiples. 

CONCLUSION: REALITY, with caveats. We may not be able to maximise value on games from the World Cup alone, but by bringing in matches from competitions elsewhere in the world then value will be sustainable.

7. Secondary Goals Markets

THESIS: The Match Odds (1×2) and o2.5 markets are the primary markets for liquidity in football games. These markets will be seeded earliest and will be shaped efficiently. They are derived from first principles by looking at the expected goals for each team in the match. It can be difficult to price up matches such as Uruguay vs South Korea, where both teams qualified through different confederations and have a limited history. Therefore we can avoid this challenge and focus on secondary markets.

Secondary markets are derived from the same expectancies as the primary markets but are much less efficient. We can use off the shelf tools (e.g .Bookiebashing Game Centre) to reverse engineer the data from the primary markets to price up the Secondary markets – including Match Odds and BTTS, Team to win and over x.5 goals, team to be winning at 15 minutes, Asian Handicap etc.

It is sometimes easier to pick up value on secondary markets at both bookmakers and exchanges due to the fact they are less efficient.

REALITY:  It can be common for a bookmaker to cut the primary markets first and for there to be a delay in the price changes in the secondary markets. It also may be easier to find discrepancies in opinion in the secondary markets because they attract less attention from syndicated money. Exchanges can be a good source of value for secondary goals markets.

CONCLUSION: Reality. Secondary goal markets provide a good edge for advantage bettors.

8. Players Goals

THESIS: Markets that attract a wide range of opinion (such as the expected number of goals a player will score) are easier to exploit than markets that are shaped by models that roughly agree with each other.

Finding an edge with Neymar to score in a match may be easier than finding an edge with Brazil to win the match. There is a smaller number of trading teams estimating player xG. News and media can be followed and if a player is at risk of not starting then outright goals markets can be exploited. Players can often steam relentlessly on the exchange due to recreational money; in a previous world cup the FGS price of Ronaldo would shorten by 25% over the day of the game like clockwork. The predictability of this price movement created a big opportunity for value.

REALITY: Player Goal bets offer a niche opportunity for exploiting value in betting. During a previous World Cup a player had scored 2 goals and picked up an injury that sidelined them for the rest of the tournament. Under 2.5 tournament goals was still available on SSBTs. Alternative models can be used that independently estimate match xG and player xG to determine First Goalscorer prices. FGS carries a wide range of opinion at both bookmaker and exchange, which can be exploited. Adjusted models such as 2+ and 3+ can uncover value in multi-goals markets. Betfreds Double Delight Hatrick Heaven

CONCLUSION: STRONG REALITY. By using a good methodology for benchmarking player xG and projecting this forward to First Goalscorer and 2+ and 3+ we can find value both at the bookmaker and the exchange.

 9. Shots on Target

THESIS: The Shots on Target market is a popular market with bookmakers often pushing headline boosts. Before team news these Player bets carry a health warning; there is a risk the player starts on the bench and comes on late in the game. This risk is factored into the exchange price, but not the bookmaker price. The bookmaker is able to maximise their profits when players are subbed off early or subbed on late – the shots on target bet becomes massively -EV for the punter.

Two trading teams price up shots on target for the majority of UK bookmakers. Two bookmakers  also offer the Over and the Under on Shots on Target lines. Having access to both the Over and the Under allows us to estimate of the xSOT used to price up the line available at the bookmaker. For a blog on more informaiton on this subject see here: https://www.bookiebashing.net/2022/09/08/shots-on-target-and-poisson/

An option for extracting value in shots on target is to look at the exchanges when the bookmaker offers a headline boost. A bookmaker may boost Salah to have 1 shot on target from 1/10 to Evs. The fair odds may be 1.35. The exchange price may be pushed out to 1.8 due to a prevalence of layers over backers playing in the market. This bias can provide opportunity for advantage players.

REALITY: Shots on target provide an opportunity for advantage players, especially in biased exchange markets. At all times it is important to be aware of the expected playing time of a player and the risk of not starting in the lineup.


10. Alternative Outright Markets

THESIS: Value exists on alternative outright markets. We can define markets as primary or secondary depending on their liquidity and efficiency. The World Cup Outright market has £2,516,000 matched on it on Betfair (as of 9th November 2022) whereas the winning Confederation has £4,268. These markets are both taken from the same dataset. Winning Confederation is simply a summation of teams within the Outright market.

Similarly value may exist on the Group Winner and Runner Up markets. Group stages matches can be seen as Markov Chains – if England win game one then they will be a certain price in game two, and if they win both games a certain price in game three. With only 3 outcomes per game the number of permutations through the Group Stages is computationally finite. We know the odds of Games 1,2 and 3 from the Wisdom of the Crowds on the exchanges. If we can apply a suitable momentum factor to each team that comes from winning then we can model all of the permutations of the group stages in a finite list, sum up the probability of each team Winning or qualifying and then look on the exchanges and bookmakers for value.

REALITY: The CONMEBOL to be the Winning Confederation means that one of Brazil (5.3), Argentina (7.2), Ecuador (300) or Uruguay (60) has won. We can work out the probability of one of these teams winning using an non-mutually inclusive OR calculation and taking the sum of the reciprocal of these odds (1/5.3) + (1/7.2) + (1/300) + (1/60) = p(0.35). In decimal odds this is equal to 1/0.35 = 2.88. 3.00 is currently available on the exchange for the CONMEBOL to be the winning federation, and 3.3 is available at some bookmakers.


World Cup 2022 Stats