Live Betting Guide
Live Betting, also called ‘in-play’ or ‘in-running’, is defined as the act of placing wagers on an event, match, or race while it is still in progress. Welcome to read honest reviews and strategy tips with a special focus on in-play wagering.
See our top-ranked live betting sites.
What Can You Bet On?
It’s easier to find in-play opportunities on the most popular sports, leagues and games. Providing bets for in-running events requires a lot of resources (you have to follow the game closely to set odds on it) so it’s understandable that your favorite sportsbook may not have their linemakers following the lowest-profile games in the least popular sports and leagues.
For example, you can be sure of that sportsbooks have lines for sports like soccer, cricket and tennis. The estimated global following of these sports is in the billions.
Proposition bets at William Hill.
Bookmakers also consider the ease of setting live odds on a certain sport. For example, sports with a lot of scoring provide plenty of options for proposition bets during the events. And even though it’s relatively rare to see goals in sports like soccer, there are many statistics to bet on, such as which side gets more free kicks, corners, yellow cards, passes completed, etc.
Racing is one of the sports that’s difficult to create proposition bets for. If you like to bet live on Formula 1 races, for instance, you can pretty much bet on the same propositions that were available before the race. (The difference being that the odds constantly change during the race.)
What Makes It Different
Aside from the obvious fact that live sports betting allows you to bet on games as they’re being played (thus potentially making it more exciting for you), there are a few clear differences between pre-match wagering and live wagering:
You’re allowed to bet on each and every play so you’ll have a wide range of options. In fact, it’s important to be careful and not to make too many bets. You can easily bet on six different props during a half-inning of baseball.
All Prop Bets
All live bets are basically proposition bets. There’s always a decent amount of chance involved although there are still all kinds of statistics associated with the bets. You have to be able to understand the current situation and throw general statistics out of the window because they rarely apply to specific situations within a game.
Most of the bets are listed with a plus in front of them. This means the linemakers expect those propositions to happen less than 50% of the time (so the odds are against you).
A Marketplace for Bets
A betting exchange is a wagering platform where peer-to-peer action takes place. The world’s largest exchange is Betfair. In 2014, for instance, Betfair generated £244 million of revenue through its exchange (their standard fee is 5% of a winning bet).
Tennis odds at Betfair Exchange.
The concept of exchanges is rather simple: a punter can log in and choose to back a certain team. In order to do this there needs to be punters on the other side laying that team, which for the most part there always is. Alternatively, the punter can choose to lay a team, which has him effectively acting as the bookmaker; he puts his money on this team losing.
In-play wagering is perhaps the most popular activity on these sites.
During a match you can continue to either back or lay teams. The huge advantage to this form of wagering, often called trading, is that bettors only pay commission on their net win for each market. So for example, if through a series of live trades you lose $1500 on Spain and win $1800 on their opponent Germany, your profit is $300; this is the amount you pay commission on. The idea that hedging is –EV really doesn’t apply to exchanges; it still can be, but often times reversing your bet to lock in guaranteed profit is neutral EV and might even be +EV.
For more information, read our Betting Exchanges page.
Another area of in-play gambling that doesn’t get too much focus is spread bets. This sports gambling variant works much like financial trading. To run through it quickly, there was a Euro 2011 U21 match where prior to the match starting England was favoured over Czech Republic and the spread was 0.30 – 0.50 goals. This match was won by Czech Republic by a 2-1 score. Let’s take a quick look at how spread bettors faired.
Those who “SOLD” England won by 1.3 goals. This is because a SELL bet on the favourite gives you the underdog spotted the lower end of the spread. So a £100 per goal punter scored £130 in profit. Now on the other hand those who “BOUGHT” England lost by 1.5 goals, because a BUY wager is a bet on the favourite and you start behind the higher end of the spread. So here a £100 per goal punter lost £150.
This is just one example of a sports spread bet. There are dozens of other markets such as corners, shirt numbers, runs in cricket etc. Although popular matches are generally available for in-play wagering, this is a tough way to profit as spreads are generally quite large for in-play.
Betting online on any game or event starts with a particular bookmaker opening the odds and taking wagers. Which site opens the lines first depends on the sport, but once the odds open, dozens of sites follow within minutes each carrying conservative maximum bet limits.
If betting sites find themselves hit with lopsided action consisting of maximum bets on one team or the other, this is a sign the oddsmaker that opened the odds handicapped the game different than sophisticated punters who are wagering on the opener.
The goal of the gambling sites is to then adjust and keep adjusting the lines until lopsided action from professional punters ceases. Upon finding a point where smart money is no longer interested, they’ll increase their maximum bet and keep increasing it right up until game time.
I won’t go into advanced market theory, but it’s important to know that sports betting lines are sharpest and carry the highest maximum limits just prior to a game starting.
Oddly, many novice bettors buy into the idea that sports can be beaten by going against the public. Their theory suggests that if you find out what most the fans are putting their money on and then bet the opposite you’ll win more often than lose. This is silly because the odds are incredibly sharp and you need to beat the vig. If a bookmaker hangs out bad lines that catered to fans (who mostly bet $100.00 per game) they’d be eaten alive by the hundreds of €5,000 and €10,000 per game professionals and the few dozen syndicates capable of placing bets of €500,000 or more.
The betting market is mostly efficient. The odds offered just before a game begins generally represent the true probability plus bookmaker advantage. You cannot beat sports by fading the public, if you do it is just variance and eventually you’ll regress towards the mean.
The reason: if the odds were +EV one side or the other professional bettors would keep firing in bets until the bookmaker adjusts.
You Can Still Beat the Odds
A lot of people are disappointed when finally learning that sports gambling is an efficient market, feeling if they could just fade the public life would be so much easier. Of course, yes it would be easier, but at the same time there are many ways to beat sports gambling.
There are several reasons live sports betting can be profitable. For starters, the odds are created nearly “on the fly” each time the game’s circumstances change. Bookmakers are experienced with this; however, when a key player is injured, or ejected, moments later there is a score and suddenly it starts to rain there’s a lot to consider.
Of course all three of what I just mentioned occurring in a 3-minute timespan is rare, but all games have unique circumstances and these circumstances change considerably throughout any match. Unlike pre-match wagers where the betting site can slowly adjust odds and balance action, here they have to act fast.
In pre-match wagering, the closing line – meaning the line just prior to the game starting – represents the opinion of hundreds of the sharpest bettors in the world. On the other hand, even though live odds quickly settle in, initially the shifts and changes as the match progresses represent the opinion of a much smaller pool of sharp bettors and oddsmakers.
Furthermore, the public (fans / novice bettors) who don’t even put a dent in pre-match odds have a large impact on live odds.
Look for situations where you feel the market will overreact or underreact. If you know a team generally plays well from behind, and probably isn’t as much of an underdog as the market might consider them should their opponent score an early goal, then you can look for this situation, wait for the market overreact, and then back that team. On the other hand if you feel teams are doomed once falling behind early and expect the market won’t account for this properly, then you can look for this and lay that team as soon as their opponent scores.
There are hundreds of strategies that can be used to gain an advantage at in-running bets, most of these involve coming up with a game plan in advance.
Let’s say we know a strong team generally starts off slow and picks up pace later in the match. An option here is to shop their opponent prematch getting the best odds possible. When they do start off slow we can then back them for guaranteed profit. Using this strategy along with bonuses and promotions can be lucrative.
Another common strategy used is to lay the draw at Betfair, this means you’re wagering that there will be no draw. As soon as there is a goal scored you can then back the draw at far better odds, locking in a guaranteed profit. Most games have at least one goal, the time this strategy doesn’t work well are the times there is a nil-nil draw or the times there is an answered goal within minutes of the first. Other than that this strategy works well.
Of course we do need to mention that all forms of sports wagering have risk and this type of sports betting involves even more risk because a lot of decisions are made on impulse which can lead to sticky situations where you’re not sure what to do.
For this reason: have a plan, always stay within your bankroll limits, and don’t ever risk more than you are comfortable losing should things not go your way.
Start reading our Betting Strategy guide.