A Guide to Ante Post/Futures Football Betting (Part 2)
This is the 2nd of 3 Parts dedicated to my guide to Ante Post football betting. If you haven’t read Part 1 you can read it here:
After covering the philosophy and general rules in the first part, in this second I wanna shift the attention to “how and when to choose the right bets during the season”.
1) STUDY THE TEAM/LEAGUE
The most important thing in order to have success in long-term betting is preparation.
You should really know everything about the team you are betting on, and also about every direct opponents. You need to breathe the football of the league you are betting on, reading newspapers online, watching games or highlights.
Usually I don’t advise to bet on a league without having followed closely for at least 2-3 years. This will give you a chance to know the best teams involved in the title race, and how the arrival or the departure of a certain coach or player can change the value of a team.
Be prepared means also study as much as you can the game of football. Many fans and bettors are following extremely close their team and the best competitions, but they lack proper knowledge of how the game is played.
The game can be easy to watch for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that It’s always easy to understand, especially from a tactical and technical point of view.
There are plenty of books and information on the internet if you want to expand your knowledge on the game itself, rather than players or teams.
You shouldn’t become a new Guardiola, but you should definitely know the basics as well as understand the differences between the game of different teams. If you are too lazy to do it and you just don’t think It will help you in your bets, remember that you are putting at risk your money on your knowledge of the game.
2) FOLLOW THE CYCLES
Football, like life, is all about cycles.
The Real Madrid of the 60s, the Ajax of the 70s, the AC Milan of the late 80s-early 90s, the Guardiola era with Barcelona or the Bayern Munich of the start of this decade.
Teams are always going through cycles. From the birth of a great team with the appointment of a new manager, to the success in domestic competitions, to the conquest of Europe, to the slowing down, the sale of key players, the change of manager, sometimes the economical crisis of a club, the transitional years, the rebuilding and so on.
Most of the time the start of a great cycle for a team coincides with the fading or the moment of crisis of the direct opponents, but sometimes It can happen that two or even three great teams will be at the top in the same period.
In relation to bets we should think about team cycles like waves. Some of them will grow just a little and break very soon, some others will grow in height, will last longer but eventually they will all break. Your job is be prepared and recognize when a big cycle is starting or It’s in the making and act when the team is about to reach or at their peak.
Team cycles can last 3-4 years, like the recent Juventus team, or even just 1 year (Andre Vilas Boas’ Porto). It all depends on how many years the manager will last, how much the team is hungry for success, and how well the club will refresh the squad every year.
3) KNOW THE COACHES
Betting on Ante post football and studying a little bit more the game, the tactics, and the psychology you will soon find out how influential are managers to the success of a team.
If you have the chance to read and study the statistics about how many titles most of the coaches have won in the top leagues, you will find out some outstanding information.
Most of the league titles and cups are won constantly by the same managers, and the majority of the coaches in top tier divisions have never won a single league title in their career. In fact, only 16% of the coaches managing in the top 5 European division (Premier League, Serie A, Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1) have won at least one league title in their career.
The league with the highest number of winners is the English Premier League, which is in fact one of the most competitive and tough to predict.
If we exclude the EPL the number drops to 12.5% for the other top 4 leagues, which means only 2,5 managers per country.
This can be read in two ways. One is that these managers are always managing top clubs, so they have more chances to win titles. A lot of people think that they would struggle managing middle table or small clubs. This is usually the point of view of people who watch football occasionally, or fans without knowledge and football education. They think managers like Mourinho, Guardiola, Ancellotti are winners because they are always managing big clubs where they have the chance to spend big on players.
This is just in part true. First of all because most of them have earned the right to manage top clubs thanks to results in lower teams. And second because there have been others managers coaching the same big clubs with plenty of opportunities and money (Mazzarri, Moyes, Stramaccioni, Avram Grant, Luxemburgo, Tata Martino, Lopez Caro, and the list goes on and on) but they failed for different reasons, without coming close to what the few winners have achieved in the same settings.
The other way to see it is that the few winners are phenomenal in creating the right environment to win and that they are excellent in bringing the right mentality to achieve trophies. They are also smarter tactically and they are the best in bringing out the best from their group of players.
You can quickly draw a line and put most of the managers in categories regarding their achievements.
There are coaches who are very good at building up a team, but they lack that killer instinct of the winners and they are constantly underachievers, others are good managers but they have never won even a regional cup (as Mourinho have once stated), like Mazzarri or David Moyes, and others are just winners (Guardiola, Ancellotti, Mourinho, Capello) and wherever they go they win titles, in great fashion or in ugly ways, but they win.
Knowing coaches can make a great deal when choosing where to bet your money, and with the time you will end up knowing the difference between good managers, great managers and winners. But always remember that you need to study them and the football philosophy they bring to a club.
One of the most intriguing thing in Ante post betting is of course spotting a young inexperienced manager, who can quickly become a winner if given the right opportunity. People like Mourinho and Vilas-Boas at Porto, Conte at Juventus, Capello at AC Milan, Simeone at Atletico Madrid were all managers at their first job in a top club, but all proved to be successful within a short period of time.
If you recognize the winners from the others you are also gonna bet on them and grow your capital as they keep winning.
4) KNOW THE CALENDAR/FIXTURES
Fixtures can play a key part in every season and league.
There are teams that have an easier run of fixtures in the key months of March, April, May, while others have a tougher path in the same period.
It’s not easy to determine that already in August when the season is starting, because we don’t know yet the real value of every team, but we need always to have a look at the calendar before making a long-term bet on the winner.
The fixtures can play a key part also in deciding when to bet on a certain team. Sometimes we are pretty sure of our decision to back a winner, but the team have one or two very tough games ahead. In these cases It’s usually better to wait a little bit and back them at higher odds (if they don’t win these matches) after the difficult period.
On the other side, sometimes we have a pretty tough calendar coming up for the direct opponent, so knowing that probably the odds will become lower for our team of choice, that’s a good time to back them to win the league.
Remember that we are always trying to eliminate every possible doubt we have before backing our winner.
Timing a long-term bet is a bit of an art in itself, and the calendar is always gonna play a part in our choices. When we are in November, December we know already a lot about the teams involved in the title race and we can have a look at the calendar in the short term (next 6-7 games), to see if an opportunity will be available, and long-term (last 7-8 games of the season) to see if they could struggle in those months.
Most of the leagues, from a betting point of view, are already decided in January or February, because after that period the odds on the favorites will start to become too low and unbettable.
5) BE AWARE OF THE SMALL SIGNS (MOJO)
Luck is a very important part of the equation when it comes to winning a domestic league.
With luck I don’t mean that you should be lucky in order to back the right team. It’s either you did the right analysis on a team or not, there is no luck involved for me. What I mean with luck is that the winners have usually a lot of things going in their favor during the season. You have heard it a lot of times when referring to: “it’s their year”.
There are in fact a lot of small signs you should be aware of during the season that will point towards a winner. I believe that in sports as in life there are certain things or coincidences we cannot explain. It’s what people refer to as the “mojo” of a team. A good luck, charm or skill that seems to come from something magical or supernatural. In football terms the “mojo” of a football club is usually displayed during a single season, and we should always reexamine these signs of luck when a new season is starting. Part of this “mojo” can be: luck with injuries, suspensions, referee decisions, manager’s decisions, arrangement of fixtures and so on.
Sometimes it seems like there is no way a certain team won’t be crowded as champions in a competition in a given season. The team and their “mojo” are just too strong for any other club.
There are of course plenty of example to mention (Chelsea in 2014/15, can be one of them), but the two I remember the most happened in cup competitions.
One is Inter Milan, coached by Mourinho, in the 2009/2010 season in the Champions League. Past the Round of 16 with the 0-1 victory at Stamford Bridge It was clear there was something special about that team, an awareness of their mental strength and a mission to win the cup.
Same story happened with Italy during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the team was mentally strong and with a very strong “mojo”.
These are just two examples to show what I mean with “mojo” when talking about a football team, but that doesn’t mean that spotting these trends in cup competitions It’s easier than in domestic leagues. In fact, cups are a lot more tough to predict as all the teams can have a bad day during a 90 minutes game and jeopardize their path in the competition. The same bad day in a league would be soften by the length of a domestic championship, usually running for 30-38 games.
6) TIME YOUR BET
Timing your bet is absolutely crucial in long-term betting.
As I said before, the majority of the opportunities arise in the months of November-December, for leagues played from August to May, and July-August for Scandinavian leagues running from March to November.
In long-term usually you don’t wanna bet too early during the season because it’s possible that a team have a fantastic start of the season but could pay the price in the middle and second part of the season.
Sometimes, especially in leagues where the title race is decided between just two teams, if a team starts the season very strongly and there are no good signs from the direct opponent, you can risk something and start to bet early on on the favorites, because if you wait too long the odds will get lower and lower.
Time your bet means also that you should always take a look at the upcoming games before betting, not because two or three games can change completely your perspective on a team, but because with a tough run of fixtures a favorite team can drop points and the odds will get higher.
7) DON’T BET ON A THREE HORSE TITLE RACE
The ideal scenario for a long-term bettor is a league where there is a clear favorite team (stronger squad, coach, better form, mojo), but the odds are not extremely low because there is a chance that the close second will win it (although we know that it’s just a remote chance).
There are usually one or two perfect scenarios in a season in the ten most important leagues in Europe and you need to be able to see it before the odds become too low (under 1.3).
The worst scenario is when the league can be won by more than two teams (usually not more than three). In these cases if you bet on a team and you regret your choice after sometime, you cannot close your position backing the direct opponent, because there might be the possibility that the third team will win the league and leave you too exposed.
Of course you might be able to lay that team with a betting exchange, but the result would be that you would have to put a lot of money to close the position.
The 2013/14 edition of the Spanish Liga was a perfect example of a three horse title race, and It was even more dangerous from a betting point of view, because nobody was expecting Atletico to win it in the end, and It was nearly impossible to see a third club break the duopoly formed by Barca and Real Madrid.