Football's draw market: How to win from ties

When it comes to sports betting, though, draws can be underappreciated. The urge to back a stalemate between two teams is seldom as strong as tipping either one for victory. Yet if you know how to play the situation, betting on draws can bring success – particularly in handicap markets.

It goes without saying that draws are more common when the two sides are of comparative quality. Home advantage is a curious phenomenon in football and other sports, so this will often tilt the balance in favour of the team playing on their own patch, even if all other factors are equal. Nevertheless, it is clear that the league leaders are unlikely to drop points when they welcome a relegation candidate to their home ground. In this scenario we usually see an implied probability of a tie in the region of 14 per cent, which rises to 30 per cent when the two competitors are positioned in the middle of the table.

Let us envisage a scenario in which two sides who are positioned next to each other in the standings go head-to-head. In this situation it is a fair assumption that an average of 2.5 goals will be scored in total; that means each side will find the back of the net an average 1.25 times per encounter.

This in turn means that each team has a 29 per cent chance of ending the match goalless. By multiplying these two probabilities – that is, 0.29 multiplied by 0.29 – we find that there is an eight per cent chance of the contest finishing 0-0.  Meanwhile, a 1-1 draw is slightly more probable at 13 per cent.

Once we have calculated the figures for all score draws – 0-0, 1-1, 2-2 and so on – we can add the probabilities together to work out the likelihood of any type of tie between two evenly matched Premier League clubs. The number that comes out of the other end is 27, meaning a draw is expected to occur 27 per cent of the time.

It is also worth bearing in mind the impact that each team’s scoring profile has on the likelihood of a draw. Indeed, fewer anticipated total goals patently leads to an increased probability that each time will have lower individual goal tallies.

In a game short on goals – let us say, an affair in which the overall expected goals rate drops to 2.2 – the probability of a side failing to strike rises from 0.29 (as seen above) to over 0.33. This has a knock-on effect on the possibility of the game ending in a stalemate: 0-0 jumps from 0.08 to 0.11, and the overall unadjusted chances of a draw moves up to over 0.29.

Therefore, when a punter is on the lookout for a good match in which to bet on a draw, choosing one between two teams of similar ability is best. This is boosted further if the sides in question tend to be strong defensively and somewhat weaker going forward.

As ever, though, things are more complicated than they first appear. Indeed, if you have noticed the factors above, you can guarantee that the bookmaker has to. This means that the increased chances of a draw in the scenario outlined above will almost certainly be reflected in the price on offer.

Moreover, a side which demonstrates extremes of performance, even over the course of an entire campaign, could easily become less extreme in the future. For instance, a so-called tie specialist – such as the aforementioned example of Stoke in the second half of the 2018/19 campaign – will not go on drawing forever.

In the decade between 2006 and 2016, the clubs in England’s top flight with the most draws per season tended to be mid-table ones such as Aston Villa, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. This trip averaged almost 16 stalemates in their most tie-heavy campaign; by way of comparison, the average in the Premier League at this time was below 10. However, each side fell to around the league average a year after their division-high record.

It was a similar story for the league’s most successful teams such as Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, who went from drawing an average of fewer than five games per campaign to eight ties among themselves, which is closer to the league average of 10. Regression to the mean, then, is an important consideration in this field, much like it is across the board in sports betting.

There are some football leagues where stalemates are more common than others, although the difference is marginal. Ligue 1 has the most at (25.8 per cent), followed by Serie A (24.8 per cent), the Bundesliga (24.4 per cent), the Premier League (24.2 per cent), La Liga (23.4 per cent) and the Champions League (23.2 per cent). Across the competitions, the average stands at 24.3 per cent.

The fact that there is little to choose between the above numbers means that there is no need for bettors focus on the division in which a given match is taking place. Instead, look for a fixture between two evenly matched sides regardless of the location.

01.08.2019 < Back