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Three-way bet

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A three-way bet refers to placing a bet on an event with three possible outcomes. It is also commonly referred to as a 1X2 bet.

A three-way bet predominantly consists of betting on the result of a game when there are three possible outcomes: home win, away win or draw. The bettor must correctly predict whether a game will finish in a home win, away win or draw for the bet to be successful.

As there a three possible outcomes, a bettor has a 33.3% chance of selecting the correct outcome with a three-way bet.

A three-way bet can be placed as a single, or incorporated into larger scale bets, such as doubles, trebles and accumulators.

Types of three-way bets

A FT result bet involves a bettor predicting the outcome of a match at the end of normal time in game, by selecting either a home win, away win or draw. It is one of the most popular and common bets placed on football matches.

A half time bet involves predicting what the outcome of a match will be at half time, by selecting either a home win, away win or draw.

Goal based bets in matches - such as over/under betting and both teams to score - are not three-way bets, as there are just two possible outcomes: yes or no. These are refererred to as two-way bets.

Three-way bet example

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace

  • Manchester United to win at odds of 1.70

  • Draw at odds of 3.60

  • Crystal Palace to win at odds of 4.40

A £10 bet on Manchester United to win would see a total payout of £17 if Manchester United beat Crystal Palace. A draw or a Crystal Palace win would see the £10 stake lost.

Can you bet on both teams to win?

In a three-way bet, a common question is can you bet on both teams to win? It is possible to bet on both teams to win, but only sensible to do so in one scenario.

You should only bet on both teams to win if you believe the draw is overpriced and that the odds for either team to win offer value.

For example, Everton are playing Liverpool and a bookmaker is offering the following odds:

  • Everton to win at odds of 2.90

  • Liverpool to win at odds of 2.45

  • A draw at odds of 3.30

First, you need to calculate the implied probability of those odds:

  • 1 / 2.90 = 34.5%

  • 1 / 2.45 = 40.8%

  • 1 / 3.30 = 30.3%

If you believe that the probability of a draw is actually 18%, that would mean there was an 82% chance of either Everton or Liverpool winning. In this instance, betting on both teams to win would be a good bet because the odds being offered by the bookmaker for either team to win have an implied probability of 75.3% (34.5 + 40.8).

Calculating the betting margin on a three-way bet

The betting margin is the difference between the implied probability of odds offered and the true probability of the outcome. It is also referred to as the bookmakers' margin.

To calculate the betting margin on a three-way bet, the following formula is used.

(1 / Home Odds) *100 + (1 / Away Odds) *100 + (1 / Draw Odds) *100

Then subtract 100 from the answer above for the margin.

For example

  • Chelsea vs West Ham - Chelsea to win at odds of 1.75 - West Ham to win at odds of 3.95 - draw at odds of 3.70

(1 / 1.75) *100 + (1 / 3.95) *100 + (1 / 3.70) *100 = 109.4

109.4 - 100 = 9.4

The betting margin is therefore 9.4%.

Handicapped three-way bets

Handicapping involves giving one selection a deficit to overcome in order to even out a sporting context.

Certain handicapped bets are three-way bets, however some forms of handicapped betting are not. Asian handicapping for example eliminates the possibility of a draw, meaning there are just two possible outcomes, making it a two-way bet.

European handicapping a FT result bet is a type of three-way bet. It involves giving one side a virtual handicap to overcome and/or one side a virtual lead in order to make the favourite's chance of success more difficult and consequently make a one sided event a more attractive prospect to bet on.

How to use three-way bets in betting

In order to place successful three-way bets, it is sensible to use implied probability to find three-way bets with value, where you believe the odds assigned by the bookmaker show the implied probability to be lower than the true likelihood of an outcome. 

For example, if Arsenal were priced at odds of 2.00 to beat Tottenham, this would give an Arsenal victory an implied probability of 50%. However, you could believe an Arsenal win was closer to 65% in probability - perhaps due to Arsenal's home form, recent scoring record or injuries to key Tottenham players - therefore this would be a three-way bet worth placing.

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