Bookings | A Guide To The Cards Market


CARD KING Gavin Murphy (@GamePlanGavin) has been in stupendous form since signing. Here he explains the ins and outs involved in bookings bets.

A Guide To The Cards Market

Welcome to the mad world of cards. I promise you will never look at a football match in the same way again!

It remains an evolving market and certain bookmakers don’t price it up at all. Even those that do offer different markets and that is why I believe it provides a unique opportunity to punters.

I started writing about cards for WeLoveBettingUK in September 2015 and it is fantastic to see so many people getting involved.

Most lines are around the 5/6 mark, so you need to be getting around 60% correct to make money if betting odds-on.

An Emotional Sport

Football and emotional cultures are a significant differentiator with cards. My point here is that simulation, as an example, is frowned upon in the UK but is applauded in countries like Spain and Italy.

Consequently, it goes a long way to explaining why cards are higher in Latin leagues. There are fundamental cultural differences between leagues.

The referees in Latin leagues don’t mess about – you watch an English game and the officials are extremely lenient. In Spain and Italy, if it’s a foul then more often than not a card follows. You also get cards a lot more for things like time wasting and dissent.

One of my biggest frustrations in the UK is when people say ‘don’t send him off, it will ruin the game’ – what ridiculous nonsense! In that case, why have rules?

A foul is a foul and foreign referees will act more decisively than British whistleblowers.

What To Expect

As a general rule, Scandinavian, Dutch, French, German and English referees are lenient giving 3-4 cards per-game whereas Spanish and Italian officials give closer to 6-7 cards per-match.

It is not unusual to see 12-15 cards given in La Liga, hence why I’ve nicknamed some referees as Senor Moonpig and Senor Confetti.

Derby matches are usually good for lots of cards. My favourite fixture is the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis – you can guarantee at least eight cards normally. Other derbies to target are Roma v Lazio and Genoa v Sampdoria.

In the UK, London derbies between any two of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea are good for cards plus the derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool.

What are frustrating aspects of cards? Well 0-0s don’t help unless you are backers Unders. Goalless games kill cards, presumably because sides lose the intensity you normally get when one side has a lead to protect and the other a deficit to overcome.

Research & Homework

My research usually consists of several factors: using experience of betting on cards for many years, analysing the referee, head-to-head history and if there is a particular pattern such as perhaps no cards or most coming in the second-half.

These days I have my own record of fixture history and referees but I use websites like Soccerway and Transfermarkt (note the spelling) for recent trends.

Unlike mainstream football markets the cards lines are usually posted late (sometimes just a few hours before kick off) which gives minimal time for analysis.

Referee appointments are released on Mondays in England and Spain whereas not until Thursday in Italy. It is frustrating to me that Spanish games are known 3-4 days before the lines are available. Why?

The referee appointment is also usually crucial. I have a big database on referees and some average 3.00 cards-per-game and others as high as 9.00 cards-per-game – huge differences!

There has been a trend of novice Italian referees being blooded at Serie A level in lower profile games and that has presented several winners for us too.

Benefits Of Asian Cards

Some of you regularly ask about the Asian line. In card bets it can be useful as it can provide some insurance or simply better odds.

For example, the normal line for a match might be Under/Over 5.5 cards at say 5/6. However, if the Asian line happens to be set at 5 cards, I’ll typically suggest using the Asian line if I’m looking at Overs.

Why? Well when punting Asian cards – similar to Asian Handicaps – if I backed Over 5 Cards, I’d see my stake returned if exactly five cards were dished out and be in profit if six or more were flashed. It gives us a bit of insurance.

If the Asian line in this example happens to be 5.5 cards, then often you will get slightly better odds too. It may be say, even-money. So why take 5/6 when evens is available?

If you want the full card benefit you need to open an account with Bet365 and William Hill. Bet365 are the only bookie I’m aware of who offer the Asian cards line so it’s well worth having that option for the reasons explained.

Unique Card Markets

William Hill offer two unique markets, which I regularly tip – these are Second-Half Cards and Between 4-6 Cards.

In Spain the average number of second-half cards is over four historically so it’s useful to back that market. Also, refs like to keep things tight in the first-half before the game opens up.

I like the Between 4-6 Cards market because it gives a nice margin for error. In English matches very few fixtures would feature 7+ cards, so this market gives us a nice angle to exploit.

There are other specialist card markets such as Time Of First Card, Team Cards and individual players to receive a booking. I tend to use these on select occasions rather than regular bets but you may love them as they can offer big prices (e.g. Fernando Torres at 7/2 in the Champions League final). If you want in, 888 are the best bookie to use.

I’d like to see more companies offer in-play opportunities. Bet365 aren’t bad but I’ve noticed they have really cut back. I put this down to not understanding Spanish games in particular where there can be a flurry of late cards.

Three cautions in injury time wouldn’t be out of the question in La Liga so perhaps that makes the market hard to price? Who knows but it’s worth keeping an eye on half-time markets.

I think that just about covers the key aspects of betting on cards. If you have any thoughts or feedback, do let me know on Twitter (@GamePlanGavin).

As always best of luck and remember to play your cards right!

Gavin Murphy’s Golden Rules To Cards Betting: 

  1. Latin leagues are more likely to produce high card counts.
  2. 0-0s can ruin card bets.
  3. Target derby matches and high-intensity matches.
  4. Utilise the benefits of Asian cards and the 4-6 card count.
  5. Do your homework on the referees – they’re the stars.

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About Author

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I first got interested in gambling through my cousin. He's a professional gambler and got me hooked as a teenager when you had to pay the 9% tax. Who remembers that?! These days I prefer to specialise on one market rather than spread myself too thinly. Hence my love of cards! Hopefully I can make others a few bob in the process of sharing my bets on WeLoveBetting. On a personal note I love most sports especially cricket, rugby and NFL. I support Tottenham and all things Welsh and outside of sport I enjoy reading autobiographies particularly with a glass of good wine!

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