A guide to understanding betting on penalties in football

Love them or hate them, penalties are a big part of football. Whether a spot-kick is awarded in the middle of a match, or are used to settle a cup tie, they always bring about an added touch of drama and excitement.

A penalty is a great moment in a football match. It’s when the game stops to see if a player can convert from 12 yards. It’s a battle between the penalty taker and the goalkeeper and nothing else.

Aside from the excitement that a spot-kick brings in a game, what about things from a betting perspective? Is there any value in betting on penalties in football? This is what we will explore in this guide. 

Key statistics to cut through the randomness

Frequency is big key area in which a bettor needs to look when it comes to statistics. Of course, there is no rhyme or reason why a penalty wouldn’t happen in every 3 pm kick-off in the Premier League on a given weekend. It’s just unlikely.

But one match is not more likely to have a penalty kick awarded than another. So how does a punter narrow all this randomness down to try and find a bit of value in betting on penalties in football?

It will come from taking a bigger look at the picture. In a league competition what can be done, once good handful of games have been played in a season, is to find averages. Let’s focus on the Premier League. 

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The frequency of penalties being awarded

The place to start would be to look at how often on average, a penalty is being awarded across the course of the season. It may be something like 0.25 per game in the English top flight. So that’s once every four games played. Not too common.

But here’s the kicker. If you were to bring into focus Europe’s top five leagues, this is where some very important comparisons may happen.

If you were to figure out the average amount of penalties per game awarded in the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and La Liga, then the results will vary.

For example, if Germany’s Bundesliga had an average of 0.33 penalties awarded per game, then that is suddenly far more favourable numbers for the punter. That’s an average of one every three games as opposed to one every four games from the Premier League. 

Penalty To Be Scored

But there is another stat which could help in betting on penalties in football. That is the conversion rate of the penalties awarded. This is where it all gets even more exciting. What a punter is looking for here is the average conversion rate of all penalties in a given league.

Penalty kicks, of course, get missed. Some more famously so than others.

Again there will be varying numbers across different leagues and again, this comparison is so important for a bettor to drive towards the best value in penalty betting in football. If Bundelisga had a conversion rate of 75% but the Premier League had a conversion rate of 81% then that is a vast difference.

So from a very basic summary, it could be assumed that the Premier League, despite having fewer penalty kicks awarded on average, would be the better option to back in expecting a penalty to be scored.

Penalty betting markets

The most common of the penalty betting markets is the simple proposition bet of ‘Penalty In Match’. This will be just a straight-up choice of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and because of the infrequency of penalty kicks being awarded in the grand scheme of things, then there is usually an odds-on price on the “no” option in this market. This is a bookmaker-friendly market with high margins and little in it for the punter.

The other common penalty betting market is the ‘To Score A Penalty’. This is a three-way market where the options will be Either Team, Home Team or Away Team. The odds within this market are naturally going to be longer than the aforementioned ‘Penalty In Match’ market. That is because of the specificity involved in making one of the selections.

It is possible to look around at different bookmakers and find even more penalty related markets. Variations of penalty betting markets can be presented as a ‘Penalty To Be Missed’ or the ‘1st Goal To Be Scored Penalty’ as well as ‘To Be Awarded A Penalty’. The bulk of penalty markets are simply proposition wagers.

Penalty considerations in other betting markets

When it comes to cup games where there is a potential for the fixture to go to a penalty shootout, then there is a big alternative market which could be looked at. That is the ‘To Qualify Market’ which backs a team to get through the tie by any matter possible, including a penalty shoot-out.

There is also a potential with some bookmakers to explore penalty markets through bet builders. A bet builder allows a punter to build a custom bet taken from preset markets such as the number of corners in a game, number of cards and outright winner.

Then there are goalscorer considerations. If a team has a player who consistently takes their penalties, and he happens to be their main striker then that is kind of pulling two things together. That would put extra weight to them scoring in a game where you think a team has a good chance of getting awarded a penalty kick. 

Betting on penalties in football summary

Backing a penalty to be scored in a match is a fairly random thing which is why the price options on them happening are long. It is therefore, not the most stable of markets, but statistics can help at least in terms of frequency.

But at the end of the day even knowing that a penalty is awarded once in every three games for example, there still comes the tough call of deciding which of the games in a coupon of 10 fixtures is going to have those penalties awarded.

Now the intervention of VAR has made penalty decisions even less defined, more fickle. The best way to approach penalty betting in football is to study the frequency of penalties being awarded and conversion rates and perhaps focus on the proposition markets if interested.

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