The 2018 World Cup is only a few weeks away and sportsbooks are getting ready to release their World Cup betting odds. As the premier sporting event of the year, World Cup betting is a gold rush for bookmakers as international fans rush to place bets on their favorite player’s team to win the prestigious trophy.
The excitement is understandable, but also a little understandable because it’s such a lucrative market. After all, who doesn’t want to bet on their favorite team to win the World Cup? It’s the ultimate dream to be able to wage war against the bookies at your local sportsbook and put your money on the right squad to take the cup home.
Whether you are a seasoned sports bettor or you just feel like trying your luck at the betting pools for the first time this year, understanding how to calculate soccer odds is important. After all, you’ll never know what odds are unless you know how to calculate them! So here we are, breaking down the methodology for calculating World Cup betting odds so that even the beginner can succeed. We’ll go over the basics of probability, which is key to understanding how to bet on sports, and then we’ll dive into the world of soccer specifically to calculate the odds for the 2018 World Cup.
The Basics Of Probability
The backbone of all successful gambling is strong math skills and the ability to calculate odds. Let’s face it, casino gambling is all about odds — you’re constantly being fed statistics about the chances of winning or losing a certain amount of money at a certain table or slot machine. And it’s the same with sportsbooks. So it’s no surprise that many professional sports bettors can’t get a job in professional sports because they lack the basic math skills needed to compute odds.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to learn how to do basic probability. In fact, it can be considered a discrete math skill that sports bettors have to know how to compute. So before we start diving into the intricacies of soccer odds, let’s review the mathematical basics you need to know to place bets and win.
What Is The Margin Of Victory?
When you gamble at a casino or sportsbook, the house always wins because they take the risk. The casino takes the risk of losing your money, and the sportsbook takes the risk of losing your money on a bad set of odds. It’s the same in sports — the team that covers the spread wins, and the bookmaker takes the loss.
When you’re placing a wager on a sports team or event, you’re making a prediction about the outcome of the game or event based on certain circumstances. Let’s say you’re picking the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the San Francisco 49ers. You’re saying that under certain circumstances (defined by us), the Chiefs will score at least one point in a game that the 49ers play. That’s it, plain and simple.
But there’s a lot more that goes into it. To begin with, you need to understand that not all points scored by one team will count as a win for that team, and not all losses by one team will count as a loss for that team. Each point scored by one team counts as a win, regardless of how many points the other team scores. For example, if the 49ers score a field goal on their first drive and the Chiefs score a touchdown on their first drive, their win probability will rise dramatically because now they have two possessions instead of one. That’s how probability works. Every additional score by either team (or if one team misses scoring entirely) reduces the win probability of the other team.
The Point Scoring System
Another important concept to grasp is the point scoring system. Essentially, if you look at a game like American football where each point is worth three points, the first point is worth one point, the second point is worth two points, and the third point is worth three points. Every additional point after that is worth one point.
In soccer, goals are worth three points and assists are worth one point. So if you’re watching a game and a player scores a goal, you know immediately how many points he scored because you know exactly what the conversion rate is for that sport. However, if you see a player make an assist, you don’t necessarily know how many points he assisted with because the conversion rate is not always publicly disclosed. In fact, some bookmakers will not even list the conversion rate for assists because they assume that it’s too unpredictable. But as we mentioned earlier, just because a bookmaker doesn’t list the conversion rate for an assist doesn’t mean that you can’t calculate it easily enough using basic probability.
Odds Are The Proportion Of Winners To Total Numbers
The final key concept to grasp before we dive into the specifics of soccer odds is that of odds. In the world of sports betting, odds are simply the proportion of winners to total numbers of bets. For example, if I bet $100 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning and they win, then my win odds are $100/$200 = 50%.
The more people that bet on the Buccaneers, the higher the odds that they will win. Similarly, if I bet $100 on the Green Bay Packers and they win, my win odds are $100/$200 = 50% because there are twice as many people betting on them as there are betting on the Buccaneers. In this case, the higher the betting pool, the better for me because my odds of winning will increase.
How Do Bookmakers Set The Line?
So how do bookmakers set this line? It’s actually quite simple — they look at the public perception of whether or not each team will win. For instance, let’s say the Chiefs are a 6.5-point favorite against the 49ers. The public perception is that the Chiefs will win, but only by seven points. So the line has been set at +7 points. As a bettor, if you’re feeling lucky, you can now bet on the Chiefs and risk $100 on them winning by seven points.
This type of line is usually set by the bookmaker within a certain range. For instance, if the range is between -3 and +3 points, then the bookmaker is saying that based on the public perception, they believe that the game will end up between -3 and +3 points. But the line will never be set at a number that is more negative than the public perception or more positive than the public perception — it will always lie somewhere in this range because this is the only way the bookmaker can hedge their risk.
More Than Meets The Eye
When it comes to wagering on sports, there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, there are literally dozens of variables that could affect the outcome of a game. For example, if I wager $100 on the Cleveland Browns winning and they lose, then my winnings are just $100 because they came up short. But if I wager the same $100 on the Los Angeles Rams and they win, I’ll win $200 because my gamble was successful. But the problem is, if I don’t calculate my odds of winning correctly, I could end up losing more than I win because the variance is too large — the result is a negative EV (expected value).
When you place a wager on sports, you’re essentially placing a wager on the total outcome of a game. So if you wager $100 on the Cleveland Browns and they win by four points, your winnings will be $100 because you bet on a 4-point victory. But if the Browns lose by three points, your EV will be $200 because you bet on a 3-point loss. In this scenario, you would’ve won $100 if the Browns had lost by two points, but you lost $300 because the result was a 3-point defeat.
As a general rule of thumb, you should never risk more than you can afford to lose. This is especially important when betting on sports because the downside is so much greater than the upside — if you lose money, you’re out of luck because the bills will have to be paid somehow. When you’re winning, it’s easy to forget that the other side can be losing altogether and that’s what makes sports such a great test of theoretical betting knowledge. It’s always nice to be the king or queen of the casino, but it’s nicer still to be the prince or princess of the sportsbooks because then you can truly make a difference — you can help others win and ensure that everybody walks away happy.