How to Bet on Betfair Exchange

Betting exchanges are still a relatively new concept and many are now trying to grasp how they work and what it means for your betting experience. You may have come across terms such as matched betting, lay bet, unmatched bets or lay odds and want to find out more about what they actually mean.

The good news is, it isn’t difficult to understand how a betting exchange works differently from a traditional bookmaker. You may know a lot about horse racing betting and in play betting for example, and if you can get your head around all that’s involved with the gee gees, then betting exchanges by comparison are a doddle! Once you read up up on any particular event, you start to feel comfortable enough to place a bet, and it’s the same with an exchange.

Betfair are the biggest betting exchange and if you’ve never used a betting exchange before then you should definitely start with them.

It became apparent to me recently that there are still a lot of people who have been betting for years, even decades but don’t know how betting exchanges work. Betfair accounts for most of my betting activity these days and we mention them a lot at and it’s easy to assume that everyone knows what we are going on about.

Betfair’s exchange looks more complicated than it is and this article will explain in very simple terms all you need to know before you start using it.

Betfair are now split into two companies, the sportsbook which is now the default and the Betfair exchange. The sportsbook works exactly the same as any other bookmaker so no worries there and this is the default because Betfair would rather you bet with them than other people as they make more money that way. To switch to the Exchange you need to select it from the main menu at the top of Betfair’s homepage.

If you are a serious punter and you start to make even very small profits you will be stopped from betting with most bookmakers nowadays and if you want to continue to be successful you’ll almost certainly need to use the Betfair exchange.

You’ll also need to use a betting exchange if you want to do any kind of matched betting or trading.

Betfair sportsbook has itself told many a customer that they can’t have Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG), limited punter’s staked or even stopped them betting altogether and have instructed customers that they are only allowed to use the exchange.

What is different about Betfair Exchange compared with a traditional bookmaker?

Betfair exchange facilitates the betting between other people and they take a commission. You are not betting against Betfair themselves but other punters instead. It was revolutionary when it first emerged, similar to the Football Index which is a trading platform that enables you to buy and sell real football players.

It should also be pointed out that the minimum bet on Betfair is officially £2 but there is a way to bet less than £2 on betfair.

For this reason there are two price boxes available per selection a you will notice below in the blue and pink boxes. The blue one is just the same as the box you’d see on any usual bookmaker and the only difference is that you can see an amount at the bottom of the box that is available to back. This means that you can only back this amount.

What you can do in the settings box on the right hand side (‘Betting’ section) is set the minimum amount you require to be available to back e.g. £10 and you will only see odds where there is at least £10 available to back.

How does betfair work

If it’s only backing you are interested in, you can update your preferences in the settings box (‘Main’ section) remove the lay boxes (pink) and market depth, leaving just one box and then the Betfair exchange won’t look much different to any other bookie.

Betfair exchange settings

Occasionally bets might not get matched fully and you may have to adjust the odds to a smaller price but if you’ve set the amount to your usual stake as mentioned above this won’t often be a problem.

When you win a bet on Betfair you are automatically charged 5% commission from your winnings (on the market) to begin with but this commission can be reduced if you bet big sums of money but there’s no chance of you being restricted or banned from betting on the betfair exchange.

Bookmakers actually short change punters on long shots and you’ll find nearly all selections above 10/1 with the bookies at even higher prices on Betfair. The only downside is there’s no Best Odds Guranteed but horses drifting and winning isn’t too common to be honest.

Lay Betting

If you would like to experiment with lay betting then you just need to understand that you are betting on a selection NOT winning.

When you lay bets for £10, by default you are laying to win £10 and your liability i.e. how much you lose will be the same as what the bookie would lose if you won a £10 bet betting on the selection to win. To learn more, check out our complete guide to lay betting here.

By laying bets you are in effect acting as the bookmaker.

You can see how much you would be set to lose if you layed for £10 in the what if box and by default Betfair has a confirm bets functionality which is a second chance/are you sure to review your bet before actually placing it.

The aim is still to drive your net winnings up, just in a different way than you typically would if you were using your free bets on a standard accumulator on your bet slip. Lay betting has become increasingly more common over recent years, as more people are aware of what a lay bet means.

Betfair lay bets laibility

Backing Bets

As well as lay bets, you can also choose to back bets on the Betfair Exchange. The best place to start is explaining how a typical ‘backing’-style bet using Betfair Exchange works.

Let’s imagine we are betting on the England national football team in a game against Scotland. There will be three different results we can bet on, an England win, a Scotland win or a draw. We will choose England to win at odds of 9.4 and we are that confident we decide to bet £50. When it comes time to submit the bet, there is a total of £30 available to stake at the odds given. If we select odds of 9.0, that means there is £155 to stake.

It is up to you which odds and stake you want, but you must always remember that you can’t guarantee that your stake will be matched. If your bet doesn’t end up being matched and the game finishes, your stake will be refunded. The odds and available cash to stake will fluctuate as more and more bets get placed. You want volume as the more bets are placed, the higher chance your bet will have of being matched. A back bet is just as simple to place as a traditional wager.

Other Betfair Exchange Concepts

There are other things to be learned or understood about Betfair, including cross-matching, odds increments, how Betfair start price works, trading, matched betting, third-party software for automating your own betting and you can even create your own bots to bet for you automatically like I do. If you’re interested in knowing more about anything specific, then please let me know and I will write about it. If you are a beginner though, this is all you need to get going and start making use of Betfair and betting exchanges.

I will always recommend you placing smaller bets to begin with as practice if you are just starting out using the Betfair Exchange. That way, you will feel more confident when it comes time to place some larger bets.

Start taking and requesting better odds than with the bookies and open a Betfair account today.