Low Value Bets: What Are the Worst Bets at the Bookies?

Man with thumbs down holding a football

When betting, finding value in the odds that are set out by the bookmakers is key. To do this we look at the odds on offer and then determine whether we think they are higher or lower than they should be. If higher, then they offer good value, if lower then they offers poor value.

There are always going to be certain bets or markets in football that offer better value than others, and it can vary with each bookmaker and even each match, but you need to be able to find value in each bet that you place if you are going to be successful at football betting.

What’s not often talked about though are markets that offer poor value. Poor value can come in a variety of forms, such as basic pricing given the information we have based on that match or market, but also it can include the margins that the bookmaker is working with, which aren’t as obvious to spot.

Bookmaker Margins


Just before we dive into the bulk of article, we wanted to give a quick tutorial on bookmaker margins and how they work. For those that don’t know, bookmakers price markets in such a way that they have an edge on every result.

For example, a coin toss would be a 50/50 chance or even money, this is the “true odds”. But the bookies will have this priced at something like 1.90, instead of 2.00 for either heads or tails, meaning they make 0.10 on each result. They win regardless of the outcome.

The same principle is attached to football betting. In the match betting market for example, the bookmaker will price on an outcome that gives them a margin based on all results happening. They do still need to get the money in to balance the books, but the margins allow them to do that.

We will go more in depth on which markets offer up what sort of margins for some of the bigger bookies later in this article.

Bets to Avoid

There are certain bets that you want to avoid straight out the starting blocks, and these are the markets where the outcome can actually can be covered elsewhere with less risk to you.

0-0 v No Goalscorer

0-0 Scoreline

We’ve a full article on this topic on the site already, so we won’t go into huge depth here, but if you do want to know more then it’s well worth checking out as it’s a real eye opener.

The 0-0 result is from the correct score market and the no goalscorer bet is taken from the 1st goalscorer market. You would think that if there is no goalscorer than the bet is the same as the game would still finish 0-0, right?

Well, that’s actually incorrect. There is a key rule to take into account with the no goalscorer bet which throws a spanner into the works. You see, in the betting terms and conditions for pretty much all bookies, it will state that if an own goal is scored as the first goal then for the purpose of the market the goal will not count, and the market will remain live. This market is only settled when a player scores a goal in the right net. So, if an own goal is the only goal of the game, even though the official result will be 1-0 the no goalscorer bet will be deemed a winner.

However, if an own goal is scored and you’ve backed 0-0, then the goal will stand towards the overall score. This means that by backing the no goalscorer bet you are covering own goals without them affecting your bet.

What’s interesting is that the odds are pretty much the same for both bets as well, so you lose very little, if any value by choosing the better option. Here is a table we have taken from one the leading bookies in the industry to highlight the difference.

Match 0-0 Price No Goalscorer Price
Barnsley v Fulham 11.00 11.00
Blackburn v Charlton 10.00 10.00
Nottingham Forest v West Brom 11.00 11.00
Bristol City v Leeds 10.00 9.50
Huddersfield v Derby 10.00 10.00

To tie this up, it goes to show how poor value the 0-0 correct score market is compared to the no goalscorer market which covers more eventualities and offers more or less the same rewards.

Handicap v Asian Handicap

Many Footballs

These two handicap betting markets are a similar comparison to that of the correct score and no goalscorer bet, in that they essentially mean the same thing but are executed slightly differently. We have more on this subject here.

What you need to understand is that they are actually two different markets. The Asian handicap works with fractions and this means that it eliminates the draw results from any outcome. The traditional handicap market works only with whole numbers, which means draws still come into the equation. You will find that these games will still class as losing bets though, given that they are often part of a 3-way market where you can bet a tie as part of your selectin.

The margins on this are small, but they are still different, and any bit of extra value is worth taking. Let’s look at a game in the Championship between Luton and Middlesbrough as our example.

Let’s say that we want to bet on Luton at -1.5 goals on the Asian Handicap. The same bet on the traditional handicap is represented as -1. The two bets mean the same thing; Luton need to win by two or more goals for this bet to win. Here’s how the prices differ:

Team Traditional Handicap Asian Handicap
Luton 4.33 4.40

As you can see, the margins are small and some may suggest not worth worrying about, but the fact is that you get more money for betting on the Asian Handicap and as stake rise this becomes more significant. If you were to place a £100 bet on each result, then you would get £7 more back for the Asian Handicap over the traditional handicap bet.

It’s also worth noting that this is actually a fairly small margin for this bet, and if you shop around, you can see discrepancies of up to 10% between the two. You will see even bigger margins if you compare the best Asian price to the worst handicap price, highlighting that it’s imperative to shop around.

How Vigorish Works in More Popular Markets

Mathematical Equation

Vigorish is just another name for a bookies’ margin, and it’s a big factor in whether or not you are getting good value because it eats into your potential net wins. Different bookmakers have different margins for different markets, and while we aren’t going to process each and every market here, we wanted to pick out some of the more popular ones that people bet on day to day.

For each market we have tested three different bookmakers in BetVictor, Ladbrokes, and William Hill, to compare how much the margin can differ from one bookie to another.

Remember, from a punters point of view you want to be looking at the bookmaker that takes the lowest margin. This means that they leave more in the pot for the punter in terms of odds.

For those that don’t know, the way in which we work out the bookmakers margin is by first making sure the odds are in decimal format, which you can often toggle on the bookmakers site – if not there are odds converters online. Next, you divide 1 by the decimal odds on offer and multiply the result by 100. Do the same for all variables in the market and add them all together to reveal a number a little over 100. Whatever that bit that is ‘a little over’ is counts as the margin.

For example, you have a game where home win is priced at 1.80, the draw at 3.50, and the away win at 4.00.

  • 1/1.80 = 0.55 x 100 = 55
  • 1/3.50 = 0.2857 x 100 = 28.57
  • 1/4.00 = 0.25 x 100 = 25
  • 55 + 28.57 + 25.00 = 109.12
  • 109.12 – 100 = 09.12

In this example we see that the bookmaker is making a 9.12% margin on this market. This would be considered a high margin.

Match Betting

The most obvious place to start with this is the match betting market. This is where most people bet, so it should theoretically be one of the lowest margins as more money can be made from the volume of bets taken.


BetVictor Match Betting

(1/2.375) + (1/3.3) + (1/3.25) x 100 = 103.18 – 100 = 3.18% margin


Ladbrokes match betting

(1/2.30) + (1/3.2) + (1/3.10) x 100 = 106.99 – 100 = 6.99%

William Hill

William Hill Match Betting

(1/2.30) + (1/3.3) + (1/3.20) x 100 = 105.03 – 100 = 5.03%

We can see that each of our 3 bookmakers significantly different margins involved. What’s interesting is that BetVictor offer the best or equal to best price on all outcomes for this market, which is why their margins are so much lower. In fact, they are less than half of that of Ladbrokes, which is quite amazing really.

Both Teams to Score

This is another highly popular betting market and one that pretty much all bettors will take on at some point or another. It is simple a bet that both teams will find the net at some point in the game, regardless of the result.


Betvictor BTTS

(1/1.727) + (1/2.05) x 100 = 106.67 – 100 = 6.67%


Ladbrokes BTTS

(1/1.80) + (1/1.90) x 100 = 108.19 – 100 = 8.19%

William Hill

William Hill BTTS

(1/1.85) + (1/1.85) x 100 = 108.11 – 100 = 8.11%

As you can see, the margins have increased once again for this popular betting market. This is likely because they don’t take quite as much money on these as they do with the match betting market and there are only two possible outcomes, but either way, the margins are still high regardless.

Accumulators Massively Increase the Margin

ACCA AccumulatorWe know lots of you really enjoy your accumulator bets, but if we are being honest here, they actually offer really poor value in terms of what the bookmaker takes from them. They have their margin on each individual price already, so when you combine multiples it grows even bigger. There’s a reason bookies love to advertise acca deals.

As stated in the coin toss example at the top of this article, the bookies will never give the true odds for any game or selection, so if they think a team has a 50/50 chance of winning they will offer you odds of 1.90 or thereabouts (evens is represented as 2.00 in decimal odds).

In an accumulator you are basically increasing this margin with each extra selection you make. For example, let’s take 5 games that have true odds of 2.00 and look at what those odds might look like as an acca:

2.0 x 2.0 x 2.0 x 2.0 x 2.0 = 32.00

We know the bookmaker won’t offer that, so let’s adjust it to 1.90 for each selection:

1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 = 24.76

The adjusted price is some 7.24 less than what the true odds would have been.

When you include the implied probability into this, to get the overall margin this is only going to increase. Let’s assume implied probability for each result is 50% and true probability is 60% for each.

Implied = 50% x 50% x 50% x 50% x 50% = 3.13%

True = 60% x 60% x 60% x 60% x 60% = 4.67%

Overround (margin) = 4.67% (true) divided by 3.13% (implied) minus 1 = 13.61%

The more selections that you add, the greater that this margin becomes and the more the bookies make in terms of margins from these bets.


To wrap this article up, there are a few key findings from our research. The first thing to note is that there are certain markets that are very similar to each other and you need to remember which one offers you the edge, however small.

Getting this wrong is like walking into a TV shop, seeing the exact same TV priced at £500 and £550, and buying the more expensive one regardless.

In terms of the worst football bets, well these can be anything with more a few selections to choose from. As you can see, markets like match result and both teams to score have reasonable margins involved, and whilst they still take their toll overall they are pretty much the “fee” that you need to pay to bet with any bookmaker.

The robbery comes from markets with a wide range of bets. These are things like your goalscorer bets, correct scores and player markets. The more options there are, the wider the margin the bookmaker takes. Whilst we had an inkling that this would be the case, the margins that we saw still surprised us, some of them are shameful really.

There will still be times where you want to bet on these types of markets and that’s fine, but at least you will be going into it with your eyes open.