As an example of match betting, you might bet on which player will win a tennis match, which team will triumph in a football match or which of two horses will perform better in a particular race. This type of betting market is very simple and easy to use, and is available for any sports contest featuring two participants.
How match betting works
Match bets are offered in two formats. The simplest format allows you to bet on either competitor in an event that is guaranteed to produce a winner, like a tennis match. If you accurately predict the winner, your bet wins and you’ll be paid out.
Match betting is also offered on events that may end in a draw or a tie, such as cricket or football matches. In these cases, you can bet on either competitor, or on the draw.
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Tennis match betting example:
Andy Murray plays Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. Ladbrokes offers odds of 9/10 on Murray and evens on Djokovic. Say you back Murray and the final score of the match is 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to Murray. Your bet wins and you’ll be paid out at 9/10.
Football match betting example:
England plays Italy in the European Championships. Bet365 offers odds of 10/11 on England, odds of 2/1 on Italy and odds of 3/2 on the draw. Say you back England, but the final score of the match is 1-1. Your bet loses because the outcome is a draw.
Horse racing match betting example:
Two racehorses, A and B, are set to compete in a handicap hurdles race, which also includes 14 other entries.
William Hill offers odds of 9/10 on Horse A finishing the race ahead of Horse B, and odds of 2/1 on Horse B finishing ahead of Horse A. You believe Horse B is the stronger contender and so back it to outperform Horse A.
Horse B finishes the race in sixth place and Horse A finishes the race in tenth place. Although Horse B didn’t win the race or finish among the top places, your bet wins and you’ll be paid out at 2/1.
Golf match betting example:
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both compete in the US Masters. Boylesport offers odds of 7/10 on Tiger Woods achieving a better score for the tournament than McIlroy. Evens are offered on McIlroy achieving the better score, and odds of 3/1 are offered on the players finishing tied in the final standings.
You decide to bet on Woods achieving the better score. Woods finishes the tournament on -3, two strokes ahead of McIlroy on -1. Your bet wins and you’ll be paid out at 7/10.
When to use match betting
It’s tempting to bet on matches all the time because these are some of the simplest markets to understand, and it can be fun to predict the winner of a single contest. However, it’s preferable to place a match bet only if you can get decent odds on the favourite, or back the underdog at high odds in a match when there’s a reasonable chance of an upset.
What to take into account for match betting:
- Conditions: Although one contestant may look stronger on paper than the other, sudden changes – for example in weather conditions – can shift the balance of power in an encounter, potentially leveling the playing field, or giving one of the competitors a distinct advantage.
- Head-to-head statistics: Research the head-to-head record between the competitors, focusing especially on recent encounters and seasons. A trend in favour of either competitor is likely to influence the way both contestants approach the game, their respective levels of confidence, and therefore the match outcome.
- Recent form: Bookmakers typically consider recent form when setting their favourite for a match, with the form competitor usually carrying a significantly lower price. More important than recent form is recent form against competitors of similar skill and strength to the one being faced in the relevant match. For example, a second division football club with five successive wins in its league won’t necessarily perform well against a first division team in a knockout cup.
- Motivation: It’s difficult for bookmakers to measure or price motivation, which means this important factor often isn’t considered during the setting of odds. Does either competitor have their back to the wall, or is one of them less likely to suffer serious consequences as a result of a defeat? It’s not unusual for players to have conflicts with management, or for managers’ jobs to be on the line. Although competitors may attempt to keep a lid on what happens behind closed doors, news of tensions often seeps out and is reported in the press. Gaining some insight into the psychological state of participants can help you determine which of two contenders will have a psychological edge on the match day.