Sure betting involves betting a good price at a bookie, and then hedging that at an exchange. This is the big difference from “value betting”, where you just bet at the bookie. But even if that is a good price, that is making you a profit in the long run, the variance/downturns can be huge. Therefore, surebettors hedge their bets by betting the opposite at a fair price. The fair price is most often found at a betting exchange.
Before you hit on the “Play” button, read this guide to the end and discover more about the best betting exchanges.
What is a betting exchange?
A betting exchange is a site where users can bet against each other instead of betting against a bookmaker. This means there is no margin priced into the odds. The betting exchange earns a profit by charging a fee (usually 2-5%) on winning bets.
Betting types available at betting exchanges
You can use a betting exchange the same way you use a bookmaker. This will often give you better odds after commission than betting with a bookie. But in addition to being a regular odds taker, users can post their own bets. That is commonly referred to as posting a “lay” bet. This is the preferred bet type for most surebets. A“back” bet is placed at the bookie, and a “lay” bet on the same outcome is placed at the exchange.
History of betting exchanges
The first betting exchanges started operating in the late 1990s. Betfair got a dominant role and is currently the market leader. Now, there are several Betfair White Labels available, that use the same order book as Betfair, but can offer some additional features and lack others. Betfair has gained a first mover advantage, and now has a position that looks difficult to overtake for the smaller exchanges.
How to play at betting exchanges
If you want to use betting exchanges as another bookmaker, make sure to press the “back” buttons when placing a bet. This is the regular bet type, where payoff is calculated the same way as with a sportsbook. Odds will generally be higher, but remember the commission on winning bets. Make sure to play with an exchange that offers you as low commission as possible. Several exchanges (including Betfair) have a high standard commission, but you can lower it yourself in settings.
How to place hedging bets/lay bet at exchanges
When using betting exchanges for surebetting or Matched Betting the “lay” button will be the most common bet type. When laying a bet you are opposing someone else on the “back” side of the bet. You act as a bookmaker, creating a surebet. This locks in a profit if surebetting or maybe a neutral position or small loss if you are involved with Matched Betting. Matched Betting is similar to Surebetting, but not for profit per trade, but to gain rewards like bonuses or cashback from sportsbooks.
Things to consider before joining a betting exchange
- Liquidity / turnover
- Banking options
- Currencies available
- Customer service
- Premium charge
Are betting exchanges safe and secure?
Betting exchanges are generally safe. We have never heard of anyone not being able to withdraw from an exchange. Their business model typically involves charging commission to bets, unlike bookmakers that are the counterparty on all bets. This means exchanges have little risk of losing money. The biggest risk you take when betting on an exchange is the risk that someone gains access to your account. If they do, they can place bets on some illiquid event, and place bets at very bad odds. Then the scammers can take the opposite side of the bet themselves. So it is very important to protect your login details.
How we rate the best betting exchanges
Liquidity / turnover
Betfair is by far the largest liquidity pool available. But this does not mean that you have to bet with Betfair directly to gain access to the liquidity. Can you use different White Labels that offer the same liquidity but may be even better in other aspects, like customer service or banking options. Smaller exchanges like Matcbook, Smarkets and betdaq usually offer lower liquidity on most events.
Commission generally varies from 2 to 5%. Some places, like Betfair, you can choose the commission scheme yourself. Where you get different types of rewards if you choose higher commission. We generally recommend going with the lowest rate. But liquidity is more important than commission, and some of the other factors mentioned here may also be.
Payment methods supported
For bettors from some countries payment to betting exchanges can be quite difficult. If you prefer deposits through crypto, you will probably have to go to a White Label. The range of methods available is important. Especially if you are surebetting or doing Matched Betting, as you will need to transfer funds between bookmaker accounts and exchange.
Quick and precise response from customer service is very important for the overall quality of the exchange. Also, what methods can be used to contact them is important. Some can be reaced only through telephone and email, while others can also be contacted through Skype or other messaging services.
Premium charge is an extra charge that Betfair is charging its customers that have too high winnings compared to the commission they have paid. This can be very frustrating, and a good reason to bet with White Labels that offer the same liquidity without charging the premium charge.
Frequently asked questions
Are betting exchanges legal?
Yes, at least in most parts of the world it is perfectly legal to bet with betting exchanges. The US online betting industry is in the middle of a transformation these days. But the 1961 Feder Wire Act still creates some problems. The main problem is that each site can only accept bettors from the state it is located.
Do betting exchanges offer bonuses and promotions?
Some do. But this comes at the cost of paying higher commissions, therefore in general is not worth it.
What sports can I bet on?
Betfair and Betfair White Labels offer good liquidity in the following sports, ranked approximately by turnover:
- Football (soccer)
- Horse Racing
- American Football
Then there is liquidity, but not as good, in the following sports (alphabetically sorted):
- Australian Rules
- Gaelic Games
- Greyhound Racing
- Ice Hockey
- Motor Sports
- Rugby League
- Rugby Union
- Winter Sports
What banking methods can I use at betting exchanges?
This differs significantly from exchange to exchange, also based on your location. As a general rule, White Labels offer more banking methods, including crypto.
Are betting exchanges only for surebettors?
No, although ideal for surebetting and Matched Betting, betting exchanges are mostly used by regular bettors. The exchange welcomes everyone that wants to place a bet.
Are betting exchanges mobile compatible?
Yes. Betting using mobile devices in general has been in tremendous growth in recent years. All betting exchanges offer either a mobile optimised web page or an app.