Sports betting is not just about who will win and who will lose a particular event. In fact, the outcome of the overall event is completely irrelevant when wagering on many proposition bets such as the yellow and red cards/total bookings markets.

Wagering on yellow and red cards might not seem like an obvious bet choice to new punters, but it is a very popular market amongst more seasoned bettors. This is because the statistics are easy to research, and rules are straightforward.

This gives the bettor more of a sense that they are making an informed decision based on data rather than just going on gut instinct. Of all the stats-friendly markets, betting on cards is one of the easiest for punters to quickly get up to speed on.

Those looking to become knowledgeable about a particular market can easily find stats or keep their own records of cards issued in their league of choice, or even across multiple leagues. By delving deep into these niche markets, it can sometimes be easier to find high-value bets.

So let’s take a closer look at the choices available in the bookings market.

First Bookings

There are several ways in which you can bet on yellow and red cards. The first, and most simple, way is to bet on which team will receive the first booking in the match.

The odds for each team to be booked first are usually quite close to EVENS in this market, while the odds for no booking at all are typically quite high, often as much as 16/1 such is the rarity of this occurrence. You can find all betting odds explained in our handy guide.

Cards Betting

A much harder bet to predict is which player will be booked first, but there are plenty of hot-headed characters out there who attract action in this market.

This bet can also be attractive if there is a big derby game involving a player with a feisty reputation. In such a situation, the next bet types could also come into play.

Team To Have A Player Sent Off

Bettors who feel that a particular game might get a bit heated could be tempted to delve into this market. Just predict if a team will have a player sent off at any point in the encounter.

The price you are offered could be affected by many factors such as the team’s reputation, their previous dismissal record and which team they are facing.

A Specific Player To Be Sent Off

Much like the previous bet but you must name the player who you think is going to see red. Certain players are more likely to get sent off than others and certain games can produce more reds than others.

Identifying the teams, players and head-to-head encounters that are more likely to draw a dismissal is the key to finding value in this market.

Of the players still active in the game, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos holds the record for the highest number of red cards received with a total of 23 accumulated over a 16 year period.

But remarkably, he has never been sent off while playing for the Spanish national team despite making 149 appearances.

Having said that, Ramos still has a long way to go to match the record of 46 red cards picked up by retired Colombian defensive midfielder Gerardo Bedoya.

The hot-headed former Millonarios and Santa Fe man was once suspended for 15 matches for violent conduct following an incident in the Bogota derby.

Total Booking Points

This market is appealing to regular punters because there is no requirement to predict the exact player or team to which the cards will be issued.

Wagers are simply placed according to the overall number of booking points that will be accumulated in the game.

Cards Betting

To bet in this market you need to understand the booking points system. All bookmakers use a points system to allocate values to the cards.

For example, at 888sport, the following point are allocated bookings:

  • Yellow card = 1 points
  • Red card = 2 points
  • Two yellow cards leading to a red = 3 points

This makes it easy for bettors to understand and allows markets to be set at certain benchmarks. Here are a few bets that you may be offered in this market:

  • Over 3.5 booking points
  • Under 3.5 booking points
  • Home team Under 1.5 booking points
  • Home team Over 1.5 booking points
  • Home team Under 1.5 booking points
  • Home team Over 1.5 booking points

So, for the Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle in December, 888sport were offering 5/4 for under 3.5 cards and 11/20 for over 3.5 cards.

However, Arsenal were 6/4 to receive over 1.5 points, while Newcastle were 1/2 in the same market, suggesting that visitors were expected to take up more space in the referee's book.

Handicap Cards Betting

Handicap betting on cards works the same as in any other soccer handicap market. The bookmaker will give one side an advantage or head start over the other in order to balance any perceived bias between the two.

A team with a -1 handicap would have to receive one booking point just to draw level with the other team who would start with a +1 handicap. If the first team received two more booking points than the second, the handicap bet would win.

But if they received the same or fewer points, the second team would win. If the first team received one more point, the points would be equal when the handicap is applied resulting in a push result and stakes would be returned.

888sport promotion

The push scenario can be avoided with fractional handicaps. So, one team might have a -0.5 handicap and the other a +0.5. In this situation, a push is not possible as one team would always have the edge over the other.

For example, if the first team (-0.5) gets one more card than the second team (+0.5) they would have a half point advantage and would the bet would. But if they have the same or fewer points, they would lose once the handicap is applied.

Crunching The Numbers

You can look at stats to help you make a decision. For example, with 18 games played this season, all of Brighton and Hove Albion’s away matches had produced 3.5 booking points or less, while 77.8% of West Ham’s away games had produced that number or higher.

It is also worth noting that some match referees tend to give out more yellow cards per game than others, while some hand out fewer yellows but are more likely to show red.

These kind of discrepancies can be used to help you make your final decision. So it is important to check which man in black will be taking charge of a game before placing any bets.  

By looking at all the numbers and also considering other factors such as card-happy referees, derby matches etc. sharp punters can make accurate estimations about the total number of booking points in a game.


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.

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