Betting on Draws

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Of all the wagers one can make in sports, the draw bet is perhaps the most intriguing. It has the power to turn what would otherwise be a non-event into a winner, and typically at much higher odds than backing a side to win or laying a team to lose. What’s more, accumulators or combination bets made up of wagers on draws can yield stratospheric profits.

In spite of seemingly high odds against them, draws are actually quite common. According to one analysis of professional football played in 125 leagues from Australia to Brazil, Finland and South Korea, the number of draws out of all matches conducted in a season can range from a low of 8.24 (Norway’s 3rd Division) to a high of 40.82 percent (Cameroon’s Première Division). Of particular note are international events, such as the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers, where teams that rarely face one another consistently yield draws at a rate of 1-in-4 to 1-in-3.

Picking a match to end in a draw requires some knowledge of the difference in ability between the two sides and whether they are likely to become involved in a high-scoring contest. Ideally, the teams will be of equal strength and prone to low-scoring efforts. The fewer goals there are likely to be in a match the more likely it becomes that both teams will score the same number.

One study of ten seasons of U.K. Premier and Football League games showed that the average number of goals scored per match was 2.55, while 27% of all games were drawn. Closer analysis showed that low-scoring teams were involved in proportionately more stalemates than high-scoring teams—about 24% more on average. When games average between 2.9 and 3.0 goals, draws occur only about 25% of the time. But when the average is 2.1~2.2 goals, the draw rate increases to as much as 31%.

Based upon the statistics, out of 22 games played weekly at the Premier and Championship levels, somewhere from 5 to 7 matches might be expected to end in a draw. One strategy for taking advantage of these figures is to wager equal amounts on eight draw-worthy matches at odds of 3.0 or higher. If three or more of the selections are successful, the overall result is a profit.

Some handicappers advocate the use of betting progressions, such as Fibonacci, for betting on draws. It can be applied when all wagers are placed at odds of 2.62 or higher. The bet must increase progressively with each loss along the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc., where each new bet is the sum of the previous two losses. The idea is to continually increase the stake until a win occurs and overcomes all previous losses. The drawback, of course, is that a long string of losses can require a sizeable bankroll to continue the progression with ever-increasing risk.

There is, however, an interesting opportunity to hedge inherent in draw betting. It is based upon the premise that if two evenly matched sides are expected to draw, the goal total should be an even number. This is true not only for final results such as 1-1 or 2-2 but also for nil-nil matches, which most bookmakers treat as an even total.

The next most likely outcome between two sides of equal strength is that one of them will win by a single goal, thus ending the match with an odd total. By placing a side bet on an odd outcome to accompany the main wager on the draw, the two most likely results are both covered. Of course, it requires a bit of calculation to determine exactly how much should be staked, but betting houses usually offer rather high odds, often above 3.2, on the draw and odds of about 1.9 or 1.95 for the odd number of goals, so either result will show a profit if the wagers are optimised.

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