Football Bookmakers – The Best Bookies With Football Free Bets

Football is the most popular sport in the world (we obviously surveyed 8bn people to make sure) and also the sport that is most commonly bet on, certainly in the UK. As such, it is no surprise that every single UK-licensed bookmaker offers football betting. Indeed, we would venture that virtually every single bookie in the world accepts bets on the beautiful game.

That said, here we are looking at the very best football betting sites around. These are the ones that tick all the right boxes – and more – when it comes to betting on the many leagues and cups around the world. We will detail the basics and essentials that you should look for – in other words, what makes a bookmaker’s site a great football betting destination. We will also consider what extras the very best footy bookies possess and, last, we will look more generally at betting on football and offer a few pointers.

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What to Look for from a Football Bookie

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As said, pretty much all online (and offline) bookmakers offer betting on football. It is big, big business, with, for example, an estimated 40% to 50% of all UK betting going on football. Based on the most recent figures from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) that equates to online bookies generating a gross annual gambling yield (basically their gain on bets before costs are accounted for) from online bets on football in the UK of £1.2bn!

Bookies are keen to get their fair share of that huge pot and so even a bog-standard bookie should have a decent offering when it comes to football. The essentials that we would say are the minimum you should look for include the following areas:

Good Range of Leagues & Markets

If you intend to use a site as your primary football bookie, or even your only one, then making sure they have a wide range of leagues, competitions and markets is key. All sites will offer odds on the big competitions, such as the Premier League, the Champions League, La Liga, the World Cup and the Euros. But not all will offer reserve football, youth games, women’s football, as well as markets on footballing action from as far afield as Australia, India, South Africa, Nicaragua and so on.

In addition, any old football betting site will have the most basic markets, such as match odds, both teams to score (BTTS) and over/under 2.5 goals. Obviously, if that’s all you want to bet on then that’s fine, but many punters like to check out more unusual and interesting markets too.

Incredibly, the top bookies around now offer in excess of 700 different markets on major matches. Whilst many of these are related, or variations on a theme, that still means you can bet on just about any possible event, stat or aspect of a game, with markets often broken down by team, time period (for example the first half or the last 15 minutes), or both.

Decent Odds

If you are a recreational punter placing the odd bet here and there then the odds won’t make a huge difference to your life. That said, small differences can add up over time and few people deliberately choose worse value in any walk of life. If a loaf of bread costs £1.50 in one shop but the same bread is available at another shop for £1.30, why pay the higher price?

The same logic applies to odds and the easiest, most foolproof way to improve your long-term financial outcome from betting is to always place your wagers at the best possible prices. Taken to the extreme, that means opening accounts with many different bookies and always comparing prices before you make a bet.

However, a simpler approach is to make sure that whatever sites you use regularly offer odds that are above average, at the very worst. If you are a customer of five or so of the football betting sites that tend to offer very good odds, this should always enable you to access excellent prices without too much effort.

Strong In-Play Offering

Since the advent of mobile betting, wagering in-play has grown and grown. Now the majority of bets that some bookies accept on sports such as football are taken live, during the game itself. In-play betting has many, many upsides and is much-loved by loads of football fans. It can, though, be more addictive than pre-match and long-term betting because of the greater temptation to keep on betting.

However, for the millions of punters who enjoy it responsibly and safely each week, it offers flexibility, fun and the chance to maintain an interest in a game even after a pre-match punt has settled. It also means you can get a feel of how a clash is likely to play out before committing to a bet, making it very popular with those who fancy themselves as football experts.

Whilst live betting is now offered by lots of football bookies, the range of that offering varies considerably. Some bookmakers may only have in-play odds on the biggest games and the most popular markets. In contrast, our top picks when it comes to football betting have this style of wagering on most competitions, with all the core markets (and many others) being turned live at kick-off.

Above Average Payout Limits

The issue of maximum payouts might only be relevant to high-rollers and those that like placing large accas or crazy bet builders (of which more below). Your average punter placing £10 on their favourite team to win, or a fiver on a player to score first, won’t have to concern themselves with such matters.

Even so, it is well worth being aware that payout limits can vary significantly between different betting sites. Some bookies have surprisingly low limits on winnings, especially on games in smaller leagues and cups. Landing a huge 12-fold acca can be a great thrill and if you think you are looking at a five-, six-, or even seven-figure win you are sure to be dreaming of a new car, house or that dream holiday.

However, many bookmakers apply their maximum payouts according to the lowest limit within an acca. This means that if your 12-fold included a non-league game and 11 matches from competitions such as the Premier League and Bundesliga, the smaller limit of non-league football could well apply to the bet.

Limits can also vary between markets and so it is perfectly conceivable that, depending on how your bet is made up and which site you placed it with, a maximum payout of “just” £10,000 – or even less – could apply. Now, few of us will be lucky enough to land a £10k winner and if we did we’d no doubt be very happy. But if you were expecting over £100,000, based on your stake and the odds, that £10,000 would be far from thrilling. As such, if you are a high-roller who bets big, or an acca fan or a bet builder beast, be sure to check what limits your preferred bookie has. In addition, check whether they use the lowest limit of any selection within an acca (most do).

Fair Approach to Maximum Bets

Just as most punters will be unaffected by payout restrictions, many will also feel that staking limits will not be an issue for them. When you first join a bookmaker, most will let you bet very freely, with maximum stakes far in excess of what the average punter is likely to be risking. On the match odds market for a big game you should certainly have no problem at all betting four-figure sums and, provided you do not fall foul of maximum payout restrictions, possibly even much more.

However, should you start to land a few wins, many bookies will quickly impose reduced maximum stakes that are personalised to your account. The endpoint to this is that your account is banned entirely and you cannot make any bets with that particular bookie. You may well feel that, as with payout limits, “the chance would be a fine thing” but sometimes these limits can be imposed surprisingly quickly.

There is a range of factors that affect how and how quickly this will happen. Simply winning is unlikely, at least at first, to be an issue. Bookies know punters have to win and that is all part of the game. However, if your wins come on niche markets, smaller leagues, when their odds are out of line (in simple terms, they are considerably higher than their rivals’), or especially some combination of those, alarm bells may well ring.

Pretty much all sites, aside from betting exchanges, work in a similar way in this regard. However, some bookies are certainly quicker to limit than others and we would suggest that if you intend to do a lot of betting on football, trying to avoid these is wise. There are dozens of betting sites to choose from though, so ultimately, this should not be too much of an issue as even if your bookmaker does ban you, there are plenty more fish in the sea!

Football Betting Features to Watch Out For

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As well as the above aspects of a football bookmaker, there is a range of extra features that many fans will want their bookie of choice to offer. Increasingly these are also fairly standard, though they are certainly not all universal. How important these are to you will depend on what you look for in a bookie, how you bet and personal taste, though our favourite football bookmakers tend to offer them all, and you a high standard too.

Cash Out

Broken piggy bankCash out is a tool that allows you to close a bet, or part of a bet (known as partial cash out) early, before the match ends or the market settles. It can be used in a range of ways but essentially you will be either taking an early guaranteed win that is worth less than the maximum you could have won, or, alternatively, accepting a loss, but one that is smaller than if you let the wager run its course and it failed.

Cash out is available both pre-match and in-play and can be used if you have changed your mind, the game is not going how you expected, new information has come to light, you just want to take a certain win, or for a range of other reasons. Nowadays most bookies offer at least some sort of cash out facility. However, the best football bookies have the slickest tools and the widest coverage.

Whilst some bookmakers may only provide cash out for big games and major markets, the top sites offer it on almost all leagues and games, as well as for a wide range of markets. In addition, whilst lesser bookmakers might only facilitate full cash out, where you either close all of the bet or not at all, superior ones offer partial cash out. So rather than closing the bet entirely, you can only end some of it, perhaps to cover the value of your stake if the bet is going well. This can give you the best of both worlds – a no-lose wager but one where you still have skin in the game.

Lastly, there are differences in how cash out is processed. Some bookies may have a tool that is clunky, slow to react or just hard to use. In contrast the top footy bookies have cash out interfaces that are intuitive and make getting your cash quick and easy.

Live Streaming

Live streaming on laptopLive streaming is another tool that is now widely available but where provision varies in terms of quality and coverage. With the rapid rise in internet speeds and stability over the past few years, plus the proliferation of powerful mobiles and tablets, live streaming has become more and more important.

It allows punters to watch a range of matches they wouldn’t normally be able to watch and keep up with the football wherever and whenever they want. This is great for in-play betting but at many sites you don’t even need to bet to be able to enjoy the game. A lot of live streams are free, as long as you have placed a bet within a given timeframe, or maybe even just have funds in your account.

The best football bookmakers stream hundreds of games a week, with high-quality feeds that really low you to enjoy the game and, if you want, make bets live. If live streaming is important to you then picking a bookie with a wide range of games (and live streaming for other sports too) makes sense. In addition, you should look for a site that allows you to watch matches without having placed a bet on them (unless having had a bet is the only reason you would use the service anyway). Last of all, but certainly not least of all, picking a site with a reliable stream, free from buffering, will make your experience so much more enjoyable.

Bet Builders

Bet builder conceptBet builders have been around for almost a decade now and allow punters to make what some refer to as “same-game accas”. Normally, bets on a single match cannot be combined, so for example you can’t place a treble for Real Madrid to win, both teams to score and over 3.5 goals. This is because these are what are known as related contingencies, so they do not combine as a traditional acca. This is because the probabilities of the picks are related and if Real win and both teams score, the chances of over 3.5 goals are far higher than the initial over 3.5 odds would suggest.

This is where bet builders (different sites may use different names for the facility) come in. These allow punters to combine numerous selections (perhaps up to around 12) into a single bet, with markets covering just about every statistical element of a game. You can usually add bets relating to the outcome of the game (including for either half, or both), how many goals there will be (again, split by half if you want), bookings and corners; as well as lots of player-specific bets, such as a named player to have x amount of shots, shots on target, or to score, assist or be booked.

There are so many markets to choose from at the best bookmakers but they can all be combined in a way not previously possible. You simply enter your selections and the bet builder gives you the cumulative odds as you add each selection. These are not calculated like a traditional accumulator, but instead the odds are formulated behind the scenes using the bookmaker’s algorithms.

Many football fans love bet builders because they allow them to create really specific wagers, often with huge odds. Add in the odd named player to be booked, another to score and another to assist and the price can soon hit three figures and potentially go much higher if you opt for a correct score as well.

As with the other features we have looked at here, some bookies do not have a bet builder-type tool but many do. However, among those that do there are big differences in functionality, odds, ease of use and the range of markets available.

Stats

Statistics graphicWhen it comes to betting on football you can go with a hunch, simply follow your heart and back your own team, listen to expert pundits, use online (or offline) betting tips or, perhaps the best option, do your own extensive research. Quite how seriously you take that analysis depends on how serious you are about your betting but even if you only do basic research into your bets, you need access to decent stats.

The football bookmakers that we use most regularly offer excellent stats and information, meaning you can make informed choices about the games without having to leave and check another website. No bookie can compare or compete with the top stats and data websites out there these days, which offer enough info and analysis to make even a football geek’s head hurt.

However, for the average punter, basic info on things like recent form, head-to-head, injuries and even something as simple as the league table, is enough for them to make their bets. The sites we feature here offer all that and more, whereas many bookies have virtually no accompanying data.

A Quick Guide to Betting on Football

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Now that we know what separates the wheat from the chaff as far as football betting sites are concerned, it would probably be rather useful to understand some basics about how to go about making your bets. We know where to bet, but what should we be betting on?

Football Betting Markets

As noted, the biggest games will see top sites offer more than 700 different markets. We won’t be listing all of those but here are some of the most popular ones.

  • Match Odds – A simple bet on which side will win the game, or if it will end as a stalemate (i.e. a draw).
  • Both Teams to Score – Known as BTTS, back on whether both teams will score or not.
  • Over/Under Goals – Over or under 2.5 goals is the standard bet but you can opt for higher or lower depending on how you view the contest.
  • Correct Score – What will the exact score be at full time? A good bet for those looking for longer odds.
  • Goalscorer Bets – Bet on which specific player will score the first or last goal, or back a player to score at any time during the match.
  • Half-Time/Full-Time – The HT/FT market is a good way to increase the odds from the standard match odds. You are betting on the result at the break and also at the final whistle, so you might back Man City to be ahead at half-time but the game to be a draw at full-time, listed as Man City / Draw.
  • Handicaps – Handicap markets give one team a hypothetical head start and then the bet is essentially the same as the match odds but with the handicap applied.
  • To Win to Nil – Back a side to win and keep a clean sheet.
  • Double Chance – Like the match odds but you pick two of the three possible outcomes and only lose if the other one occurs. So, you might back the home win or the draw, albeit at shorter odds.

Rules to Be Aware Of

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When it comes to betting on football things are fairly straightforward and often self-explanatory. If you are unsure about any aspect of a bet, market, or how a wager has been settled, you should contact the bookmaker’s customer service team as a first port of call. You can also find more information either alongside the market when you place a bet, or by checking the bookie’s general, or sports-specific rules.

90-Minutes

That said, there are a couple of fairly basic points (once you know them) that punters should be aware of. First, unless specified, all markets apply to 90 minutes only. This includes injury time (unless it is a specific market such as a bet on the first 15 minutes) but not extra time or penalties. Obviously this only generally applies to cup and play-off games. Exceptions include bets that specifically relate to extra time or penalties, such as a wager on a team to win in extra time.

Own Goals

A second general rule to be aware of is that for many player-specific markets, own goals do not count. In general they count in most goals-related markets and ones that concern the match outcome, but not ones where a named player is involved. So, if you back BTTS and one (or more) goal is an own goal, your bet will still be a winner. Likewise, if you back the away win and they triumph 1-0 thanks to an own goal, your bet will still pay out.

However, if you bet on Lionel Messi to score first and he somehow registers an OG, that bet will not pay out. Unless, that is, he then scores the second goal legitimately, equalising, to make it 1-1. Own goals in most markets such as this are disregarded, so Messi’s second (but first at the right end) would be classed as the opening goal of the game.

If there was another own goal in the match and it ended 2-1 thanks to it, Messi’s strike would settle as the winner for both bets on first goalscorer and last. If his initial own goal was the only one of the clash, however, whilst bets on 1-0 would pay out as a winner, the only winning goalscorer bets would be those placed on “No Goalscorer”.

Postponed Matches

One final area of concern relates to matches that are postponed, abandoned or delayed, as well as bets that are voided due to a player not featuring. There are so many different variables concerning what might have occurred, what bet you placed and when it was made. In addition, there is no industry standard regarding each scenario, so you would probably have to deal with this on a case-by-case basis. In addition, thankfully, such scenarios occur infrequently, with most wagers settled as normal, without any complications.

However, as a general rule, where games are cancelled, postponed indefinitely, or postponed for more than a few days, bets are voided and stakes returned. If a clash is abandoned bets that have not already settled will usually be made void. As for player bets, if you back someone to score first and they either do not play or only come on after the opener has been scored, you normally get your stake back.

In contrast, if they come on at 0-0, bets will stand, even if they come on in the 96th minute. Likewise, if you backed them to score at any time, as soon as they enter the field of play, even if that is as a very late sub, the bet will be live.

Tips & Strategy

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Betting is fun but if your aim is to beat the bookies consistently, it is very hard work. No, make that very, very hard work. In fact, for most people, it is probably fair to say it is, in practical terms, impossible. That is why betting on football should generally be a bit of fun, rather than viewed as a way to make money.

Betting should enhance your enjoyment of football, not dimmish it and that should apply whether you win or lose. Of course, winning will always be better (unless, perhaps, you bet on your team to lose a big game!). But losing should be accepted as part of betting.

Research & Value

That said, for those that do want to try and get the better of the bookies more often than not, with real dedication it is, for some at least, possible. The two central pillars to bear in mind are research and value. The former is designed to help you identify the latter. By gathering as much information on the teams, players and matches as possible, you might be able to spot something the bookies have missed.

When it comes to major competitions, such as the Premer League, this is very tricky. However, some expert punters can cash in by using their knowledge of less commonly gambled-upon leagues, like those in Bolivia or Colombia, to outsmart the bookies. Depending on how seriously you are looking to take your football betting, hours of research may be needed, entailing watching several matches a week, subscribing to specialist stats and data sites and analysing the odds being offered by the bookmakers.

Once you have done all this, spotting discrepancies between the odds offered on a match or football market, and what you believe are the chances of a certain outcome happening, is key. This is what we mean by finding value and if you can consistently find value, in the long term you may well be able to get the better of the bookies.

How Many Different Bookies Should I Join?

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There are currently 269 companies on the UKGC’s official register when filtered by remote (online) betting companies. We aren’t sure exactly how many online bookies are actually operating but it is safe to say there are well over 100. Of those we would suggest there are around 50 that we would broadly recommend, meaning they provide reasonable assurances of safety, transparency, fairness and, ultimately, paying out on your bets and winnings.

So, how many bookies should you join? Well, whilst in theory many punters could get by for a long time with just one site, we recommend opening a betting account with several. There are various reasons for this, chiefly:

  • Welcome Bonus or Free Bet – Almost all sites offer a free bet when you join, so why miss out?
  • Ongoing Promotions – Many bookies also offer regular freebies and promotions to their existing customers and, the more accounts you have, the wider the range of promos you have access to.
  • Better Odds – You can place your bets at whichever site has the best odds and prices between bookies can vary significantly at times.
  • Flexibility – If one bookmaker is having IT issues, bans or limits you, or has planned downtime, it is always handy to have instant access to an alternative.
  • See What’s Out There – If you stick to just one or two sites, how do you know there isn’t a better alternative that you’d like even more? With a free bet to try a new bookie and no obligation to stay, it’s worth playing the bookmaker field!

You will probably end up sticking to a core group of three or four sites that you enjoy using. It might be you find their odds best for the markets you favour, you like their app and the various features it offers, or there is a particular promotion they run that you enjoy.

However, it still pays to join just about any football betting site that you believe is trustworthy. Give them a whirl, claim their welcome offer and if you like them, use them, if not, you can simply withdraw any balance and then never use them again … unless perhaps they offer you a free bet to give them another shot!