What Is a Pre-Match Bet in Football?

Man on mobile with football

Pre-match betting is a term we use, mostly in football but in other sports as well, to describe the markets made available before a match kicks off. Previously, we didn’t have to use this term as by definition in the past all betting on games was ‘pre-match’. Since the advent of live, in-play betting, however, it is now incumbent on serious or semi-serious sports betting punters to truly keep in mind the positives and negatives of pre-match betting specifically versus live betting.

Put simply, pre-match bets are any wagers placed on a sports event before it has officially started. This is different from an ante-post bet. For example, Manchester City v Tottenham is scheduled for 4pm on Sunday. Any bets placed before that time are considered to be pre-match bets. They can be placed in the days before the game, the evening before or on the morning of to be considered this way. Any bets placed on the game after kick-off are classed as ‘live’ or ‘in-play’ bets.

Advantages of Betting Pre-Match

One of the key plus points when it comes to betting in the pre-match markets as opposed to the live ones is that your odds are less volatile. Once a game has kicked off, the odds fluctuate sometimes wildly and don’t give you a chance to assess and reassess your position as you research. Pre-match odds can and do change, but slowly. Using football as an example, odds change on teams to win based mostly on injury news and rumour. If a key player is expected to be missing, then the odds go up. If a top player is expected to come back into the team in time for a game, the odds can contract.

That’s not to say the bookmakers don’t simply follow the pattern of money, much like in horse racing. If, for whatever reason, a certain team is being heavily backed during the week then a bookmaker will react to that and shrink the odds to protect their liabilities. Given that odds on pre-match markets shift very slowly, if at all in some cases, you have lots of time to do your homework, check the form and the team news, and place what you think is a value pre-match bet.

How Pre-Match Differs to Live Betting

People watching football on TV

Live betting as we know is when you place bets on games that have started. This is the case whether it is 2 seconds after kick-off, or whether there is only two minutes to go. Punters love to take part in live, in-play betting primarily because instead of doing research, they like to see how a game is playing out before deciding on who to back. Pre-match betting doesn’t give us that advantage.

While the odds are fairly stagnant in the pre-match markets, during a game they can and often do change rapidly. If a team has 80% possession in the opening minutes and has a couple of shots on goal, they can suddenly go from 7/4 shots to 5/4 in a minute or two.

When a red card is handed out, the odds move massively. When a goal is scored of course, even just one early goal, again the odds bear no reflection on the ones that sat all week in the pre-match markets. When you bet on a team pre-match at 5/4 and by Saturday afternoon they are 10/11, you reckon you’ve done well. In live betting, it’s all about looking for that major drift instead.

You may love the chances of the big home favourite at 1/2, but there’s no way you want to take those cramped, skinny odds. Should they lose an early go, however, their price will jump right up to about even-money although you may still strongly fancy them to win, making their price seem large.

The downside to this is that the quickly changing odds and the regular suspension of betting during a game can stop you getting your desired bet on. In the pre-match markets, you can go at your own pace and get enough research in before deciding on your bet and sticking with it. There’s always the cash-out option during the game should your pre-match bet be doing very well.

When Is the Right Time to Place a Pre-Match Bet?

When thinking about placing pre-match bets, it’s all about attempting to find that sweet spot between advanced betting and live betting. Betting live, in-play means being ready to place that bet at a second’s notice. This can often mean missing out if you leave it that moment too long and a team scores, gets a penalty or has a player sent off.

On the other hand, betting in advance, pre-match or ante-post, means taking more risks. Even if you’ve done some thorough research on the game in question and you think you’re backing the stronger team, something can change on the day of the game to knacker your bet. You can take a short price about a strong home favourite on Friday evening, only for the team you thought was going to line-up to look very different, weaking your chosen side and spoiling your bet.

The Sweet Spot

One hour clock

So, when exactly is the best time to place a pre-match bet? Well, using football as the prime example, we reckon the best time to confirm your pre-match selection is around one hour before kick-off. This is when the teams are officially announced by the media. Keep an eye on your chose live score app should it be reliable, or in fact the Twitter feed of the teams in question.

Once the teams are announced, you know for sure who’s playing and therefore who can actually influence the game. Do not underestimate how important this is. Just one or two good players missing out on a match can change a result and ruin a bet. This is a certainty and don’t let people tell you otherwise. True, Premier League squads have large squads and they rotate them. But, while football is a team sport, it is played by individuals and a look up and down the leagues will tell you some individuals are way better than others.

If you leave your bet too long, the bookies are aware of the effects of the teams being names and so are other punters. If you’re right about a team, their odds can keep shrinking before kick-off which means less value for you so be ready to go.