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How to bet at Betfair

What is Betfair? How does the Betfair exchange work? We break down the Betfair interface, explain back and lay betting, and help punters learn how to use Betfair to maximise profits.

Betfair is an integral part of wagering these days and can be very beneficial for profitable punting if understood and used properly. In this article, we’re going to run through the basics of backing and laying selections in a horse race so that you can use Betfair with confidence, and in future articles we’ll explore betting strategies such as in-play betting, hedging, and back to lay strategies that take your punting to the next level.

What is Betfair?

Betfair is a wagering platform known as a betting exchange. It is effectively an open marketplace for punters, where one party can offer odds on a selection and others can back that selection at the odds if they desire. The party offering the odds, known as a ‘lay bet’, effectively becomes the bookmaker in the transaction, and the person who takes the bet is the punter. For every winning transaction, Betfair take a small commission fee, usually somewhere between 5-10% of winnings.

Lay Betting

The main aspect of Betfair people struggle with is lay betting. If you think of the lay bettor as any other bookmaker (eg TAB, Sportsbet, etc) it can be easier to understand. For example, I place a bet of $10 on a horse at $4.00 odds. The TAB is ‘laying’ that horse at $4.00, and they stand to lose $30 (stake x odds minus stake) if the horse wins. According to the market that horse will only win 1 in 4 times, so in theory 75% of the time the person laying the horse will win, and they simply keep the $10 stake the person bet.

What’s Different?

Being able to lay a horse can be a very effective way to bet. Finding a winner can be tough, but if you think that a horse is under the odds (ie. will struggle to win and should be longer in the market), it can be easier to lay that horse rather than try to find the winner of the race.

Betfair Lay Betting

Even for regular punters, the nature of the Betfair platform is that it is essentially an open marketplace. While bookmakers compete with each other, they can still frame markets with a huge % in their favour, sometimes as high as 130% on race day, meaning if you staked every horse to win the same amount, you’d lose 30% of your stake no matter what. With Betfair, there are thousands of punters offering odds and competing for the best odds. This competition will ensure the market % drops down, often to as low as 101% for big races. A Betfair market looks something like this:

Betfair exchange

The blue column is the ‘back’ column, currently the highest odds on offer to bet on that horse. The dollar amount underneath is how much you can stake at those odds – effectively how much someone has offered to lay at those odds. It could be made up of multiple people offering those odds, totalling the current amount.

The pink column is the ‘lay’ column. Looking at horse number 1 ‘High Done’, the lay odds are 13.5, meaning someone wants to back the horse at $13.50 odds, and they want to have $27 on at those odds. If I were to lay the entire $27 at those odds, I would stand to lose $364.50.

The columns on either side of the back and lay columns are just the next best odds and stake available at those odds.

The other feature Betfair offers is the Betfair Starting Price (BSP). This is effectively Betfair’s tote option and will generally be pretty close to the best available odds come jump time. If your bet does not get matched before the race, you can click ‘take SP’ which allows your bet to remain on at the BSP even if you didn’t quite get the odds you wanted.

Depending on where the race takes place, the Betfair commission will be slightly different. It’s always good to check before using Betfair for the race, and it can be found by clicking on the ‘i Rules’ button at the top of the market.

The Betfair interface can be a little overwhelming for new punters, but once you break it down and understand the way back and lay bets work, it is quite easy to use and a great way to maximise your returns. In general, you’ll get better odds on Betfair that regular sportsbooks, and even with the commission accounted for, you’ll end up with more profits in your back pocket. So Betfair is a vital tool in every punter’s arsenal!

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