10 AFL Strategies to Specialise in

Casually placing a bet before the first bounce is not going to reward you in the long term. If you want to make money on AFL you need to be calculated. Narrow your focus and specialise in one or two niches within the national game.

We’ve identified 10 opportunities.

1. Live Betting

Betting live on AFL still remains underserved. This is largely due to the online restrictions. People just don’t want to call up and place their bets. You can join the chorus and be frustrated or you can take the perspective that there’s less competition for process, yet still enough liquidity.

The greatest part of live betting is the volatility. It can be like a 20 year stock market cycle condensed into three hours. And this creates opportunity, whether it be subtle differences or wild swings.

For example, the team that started at $2.10, who you liked already, may have conceded the first two goals, and are now $2.34. Do you have the historic data and confidence to know that the market has overvalued the goals and to bet now at the better price?

Or is there more opportunity in laying the teams who are four goals up in the first half? Do you know which teams start strongest and which teams finish strongest? There may be a strategy. How about the accumulated fatigue on 6-day breaks or long distance travelling? Or which teams are specialists at coming back from large deficits and which teams concede leads?

There are endless strategies that uniquely apply to live betting, and many of them are ignored because of the phone call effort.

2. The Brownlow

The Brownlow is an event in its own right. The volume of transactions are staggering, particularly in the final week, with team and prop markets becoming available.

If you watch a lot of football there’s nothing stopping you from creating a Brownlow leader board of your own. You need minimal Excel skills and there are plenty of websites that also hold count, so you can compare your thoughts. Just google “Brownlow leader board” and use sites like FinalSiren to view the stats of games you missed.

The Brownlow markets are not necessarily the most sophisticated either. You’re competing against opinions, biases and fellow spreadsheet compliers.

Brownlow Medal night is another opportunity for live betting too. The fluctuations can be erratic.

3. Futures

We’ve gone into depth about the Premiership market before. It’s a great opportunity in its own right, with two of the top four teams in 2016 trading at $70 or bigger. The fluctuations over the course of a season are bigger than you imagine and the finals are just as volatile.

But you’re not just limited to the premiership market. If you have a superior ratings system or a strong understanding of the draw, you can make informed assumptions on the final ladder.

Additionally, there are all sorts of historic predictive models that show the relationship between the opening games of the season and how they can forecast ladder predictions. Knowing that information you can lay well respected teams that start the season poorly in top-4 and top-8 markets (eg. 2017 Sydney). Similarly, you could implement the opposite strategy with 2017 Richmond who started at 5-0, which historically almost guarantees a finals spot, yet they have the reputation of not making it. In the above example, you’ll find the most value backing Richmond after consecutive losses or laying Sydney after consecutive wins.

4. Live Futures

A unique characteristic of Betfair futures markets are that they are available during live matches and you don’t need to call up to place a bet.

For example, if Greater Western Sydney is losing to Brisbane by five goals at three quarter time, you might find opportunities in the Premiership and Least Season Wins markets. As well as the top four, top eight and minor premiership markets, depending on time of the year.

Another example occurred at this time of writing, with Richmond vs Sydney in Round 13 2017. Fourth placed Richmond were up by six goals and looked to be a legitimate contender. Their premiership odds fell from $26 to $18. Then the Tigers lived up to their reputation and lost the match, pushing their premiership odds out to $34. That’s a dramatic market move for one regular season game.

The above example shows that match odds aren’t your only opportunity to trade during a game.

5. Early Bird Gets The Odds

The Betfair starting price, when there is significant liquidity, represents the true probability of an event occurring. If you graphed the starting price alongside the results, they would run linear. So a team that starts at $3 when the ball bounces will win one in every three games. It’s phenomenal how weight of money on both sides finds the true odds.

That’s why it’s a hard task to be a successful sport punter if most of your bets are just before the game starts. The same isn’t necessarily true for horses or greyhounds. However, in sport, there is little price value in betting after the teams are confirmed before the game.

The greatest opportunities occur as the market is being set. A team that is $1.70 on Friday night may have been trading above $2 until Thursday. A 10-30% fluctuation occurs on many AFL games each week. Conveying the volatility and opportunities that exist in early markets. Often you’ll get even bigger market swings like Brisbane and Fremantle in Round 12.

Brisbane were $4 at the start of the week and started the match $2.44. Similar movements occurred in the minor markets. The big movement was aided by the omission of Sandilands but more than anything the early markets just overvalued the Fremantle team and undervalued Brisbane at home.

There are multiple ways you could have found Brisbane that week. Team ratings, player ratings, home ground advantage biases, an accurate Fremantle rating (the market had them as a top eight team before losing three in a row) or just personal opinion. If you watched the Dockers lose the week before to Collingwood at home you would have seen the warning signs. The 20 point margin made the scoreboard look a lot closer than it was.

7. Margins

Margin betting is a way to get bigger odds and offers multiple different angles.

For example, recreational punters are often predictable in their preferences, placing bets on teams 1-39 or 40+, depending on how big the line is. A heavy favourite will attract a host of 40+ bets, a close betting game will be popular with 1-39 or 1-24 punters. There’s obviously an opportunity to lay the outcome at under odds.

Backing 1-24 might prove valuable if you’re able to foresee inclement weather before the market.

Another overlooked option is laying the draw. The last draw, at this time of writing, was round 21, 2015. That’s over 345 games in a row without a draw. Yet, the draw options in margin markets primarily trade between 50/1 to 67/1.

8. First Goalscorer

A corporate bookmaker’s favourite market. The popularity and profit margins are staggering.

You lay favourites on Betfair. Or create a database and find people who kick first goals more than their odds. Surprisingly, Jack Riewoldt used to be one player who kicked the first goal in the game more than his $8-9 odds.

9. Player Prop Markets

Player disposal predictions are a great niche. Create a simple spreadsheet using data from a site like FinalSiren and monitor the biggest ball winners for each team. Spot form slumps or a player’s favourite team to play against.

Some teams, like Hawthorn of old, would allow offensive shoot outs and players like Gary Ablett would religiously collect 35+ disposals.

Even more lucrative is identifying who the team tagger goes to. No one loves Ben Jacobs, or Ryan Crawley of old, as much as a player prop specialist.

10. Totals

Forecasting conditions, strategy and goal kicking accuracy sounds complicated but totals are some of the most lucrative markets for sharp punters. Keep a dedicated eye on the weather and use historic data.

There are successful professional punters who only bet on totals.


The market rewards expertise. Pick a particular niche within AFL and hone that skill. Start with a simple spreadsheet and improve your database over time. Record your bets and reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. You’ll improve over time and you can stake up on what’s working and drop the losing habits.

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