Betfair is the world’s largest betting exchange and one of the best sites for in-play betting. Here members are able to wager against one another using a betting interface that resembles more of a stock trading platform than it does a sportsbook.
For each match you have the option to “back a team” which is a bet that team will win, or “lay a team” which is a bet that team will lose. Using their in-play menu you can continue betting until the final horn, bell or whistle.
At the end, if you’re ahead they will charge you a small commission on your “net market win”. This commission starts at 5% and reduces as you reach higher VIP tier status.
The primary reason to choose this site as a preferred sportsbook should be obvious. At a bookmaker when you place odds or even wagers they require you to stake $1.10 for each $1.00 of potential win.
If the odds were fair they’d pay you $0.10 more per $1.10 wagered. With these being 50/50 bets this means 50% of the time you’re being shorted $0.05, and therefore the bookmakers advantage is calculated as $0.05/$1.10= 0.04545 which is a 4.55% advantage.
Here you’re charged a maximum of 5% commission on “net market win” so here the advantage is 2.5% or less.
One other advantage is hedging off your bets.
Let me give you an example: right now I’m watching a CFL football match (gridiron – American football) where before the match began the point spread handicap odds were Toronto Argonauts +13.0 points @ 1.91 odds (American -110) / Montreal Alouettes -13.0 points @ 1.91 odds (American -110).
I bet Toronto +13 for $550 to win $500, and amazingly they are up 13-6 late in the 2nd quarter, which means I’m covering by 20 points. At Bet365 the odds for their opponent are now 4.15, and over at Betfair they are 4.35. I decided I’m going to go ahead and hedge, which means I’m going to lock in my profit now for this match.
Because my first wager was at Bet365, not here, I first need to figure out my odds after commission on 4.35. If I was to bet $100, I’d get $435 back of which $335 is my profit. 5% of that is $16.75 so I’m actually getting $318.25 returned to me, so my effective odds are 4.183.
This is better than the 4.15 Bet365 is offering me, so I’m going to use Betfair to lock in my profit.
My next step is to head to scalpulator.com to calculate the amount I need to wager to properly hedge. Here I entered my original odds of 1.91 on line 1, and the new odds of 4.183 on line two. I then under max bet select the “risk” option and enter my original bet of $550. After clicking calculate I see right now I can lock in $226.69 of guaranteed profit by risking $228.31 on 4.35 at Betfair (4.183 after commission).
In this situation I made a mistake prematch. You see, if the odds were 1.91 before the match at Bet365, they would have been 2.00 at Betfair. Remember, there is no vig – only commission on “net market win”.
I’d also be able to do my calculations at scalpulator.com using the odds of 4.35, because again I’m looking to lock it the same profit no matter what the outcome, so the commission will be taken from that in the end.
So let’s go back to scalpulator.com and enter 2.00 on line 1, 4.35 on line two and click max “risk” of $550. Here you’ll see the guaranteed profit is $270.11, but after 5% commission it is actually $256.60.
You see that’s $29.91 more than I could have made by wagering and selling off at Betfair, as opposed to using the Bet365/Betfair combo. The fact that commission is taken only on “net market win”, combats old school wisdom that hedging is –EV, because doing so using the same betting exchange you’re simply cashing out your equity and therefore are making a neutral EV transaction.
There are not many disadvantages because this is the site you’ll most often find the most favorable odds. The major disadvantage is that you need to check to make sure your bets are matched. For almost all markets however there is enough liquidity that you can see right on the interface there is already enough available to have your bet instantly matched.
I’ll go ahead and give an example of a match where the market was rather small.
Here is a screenshot of the main in-play market for a Russian Division 1 football match that was taken at the 18 minute mark while the game was tied nil-nil.
Let’s say in this match we’re interested in staking $500 on Alania Vladikavkaz. Here we notice currently there is an offer available for us to “back” them at 1.79 odds, but notice this capped at $81.00. We then see there is another $81.00 at 1.78 odd and then plenty more available at 1.77. If we’re willing to bet these odds we could just click the 1.77 option enter $500 and confirm. Betfair will match as much as possible at the higher odds and give us the rest at 1.77.
So, if no other user were doing the same simultaneously we’d end up with $81 available at 1.79 odds, $81 at 1.78 odds and $338 at 1.77 odds. The benefit to this is we wouldn’t need to sit waiting to see if our bet is matched.
If you look however, you’ll see the odds to “lay” (bet against) Alania Vladikavkaz are currently at 1.81. What we could do is click the 1.79 “back”, enter $500.00 and confirm. Chances are we’d get that $81 that’s sitting there now matched, and the screen would then adjust with the first lay column reading 1.79 $419.
Then we would need to sit waiting to see if any users made a “lay” wager (a bet that Alania Vladikavkaz will lose) with the new more favorable odds we are now offering them.
When you’re first starting out, only make wagers up the amount you see available for given odds. If your bets are not matched, they will tell you instantly and a cancel button will be available. Use this, wait and then make a new wager up to the dollar amount available for the odds you want to take.
Later when you’re more advanced and have the hang of it, you can leave bets unmatched for a while, while waiting to see if someone takes them, therefore gaining yourself better odds.
Going back to my earlier example: when we were at the 18 minute mark of a game tied nil-nil. We wagered $500 on $500 on Alania Vladikavkaz at 1.79 odds. Although we loved this bet at the time, the match has reached the 78 minute mark and is still scoreless. In football (soccer) the markets are 3-way so if the game finishes in a draw we lose. We decide to check the odds and see what it is going to cost us to get off this bet.
Those odds are:
In the image above you’ll see Alania Vladikavkaz is listed in the lay column as 2.02 odds. These odds we’ll need to give our opponent, to calculate our own odds we need to do is use this magic formula: LAYODDS = 1 + ( 1/(BACKODDS-1) )
In this particular case our own odds on the lay calculate to 1.98, this might seem simple but when dealing with figures much further from 2.00 that formula I just gave you is vital so make sure to save it somewhere safe, and use it when the need arises.
Getting back to limiting our loss, here we head to scalpulator.com, enter the odds we got earlier of 1.79 in the first row, enter the current odds of 1.98 in the second row, under max bet click the radial button “risk”, enter $500, and click calculate.
This now tells us we have the option to get out of this bet with a guaranteed $57.02 loss. With only 12 minutes left in this match that sounds better than the potential of losing $500.00.
So to execute this, we click the 2.02 “lay” for Alania Vladikavkaz, enter the figure Scalpulator gave us of “Bet 2: $452.02”, and then click “payout” (not “liability”) before confirming my bet.
We’ve now gotten off this bet and Betfair has already added the money the difference of $500 less $57.02 back to our account balance. That’s right – you don’t even need to wait for the match to finish. This is another benefit to trading with betting exchanges over traditional bookmakers – hedges are credited instantly.
One popular Betfair strategy is to “lay” (bet against) the draw in football (soccer) at the very start of the match. Once the first goal is scored you can then back the draw for a guaranteed profit.
This system is profitable more times than not, however it is not without risk. There are times no goal is ever scored, and other time where the market is too small and you’re not able to find someone to match your bet. This system does however work and some people make a living on it.
If you do attempt it just know to limit your bankroll, and not go overboard. Winning with lay then back the draw requires a lot of discipline.
Perhaps the best way to use this site is the exact same way you would a traditional bookmaker. Back the games you wish to bet for a reasonable (conservative) amount and then let them play to the finish. You’re still benefiting from the better odds than you would find at online bookmakers. Now, if on occasion you happen to hedge for a guaranteed profit or to limit a loss, you have the added benefit of doing so juice free, because commission is settled on “net market win”.
A final strategy is to look for teams you know generally get off to a slow start, but then dominate later in the match. Here you might choose to “lay” the team early and when they do get off to a slow start, turn around and back them for a guaranteed profit.