Exchanges revolutionised betting by allowing punters to request the odds they want, and enabling them to “become” the bookmaker i.e. the ability to Lay an outcome. In recent years Bookmakers have made steps towards improving their inplay betting experience and have incorporated “cashout” features, which mimics trading techniques used on the exchange.
But there are several other advantages of using Bookmakers that you may not have realised…
Best Odds Guaranteed
Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) gives bettors an advantage over the exchange for horse and greyhound racing. It’s simple: if the starting price (SP) is higher than the odds accepted by the bettor, the Bookmaker will pay out at the higher price.
e.g. Backing a horse at 10.5 and the odds are 14.5 at SP. You're therefore guaranteed 14.5.
The exchange has no such benefit, as by its very nature you compete for the best odds and/or attempt to predict the direction of those odds, as opposed to committing to a selection.
Check out my list of the UK’s Best Odds Guaranteed Bookmakers. Note that T&C’s vary for each site.
Better Bonuses & Free Bets
Bookmakers tend to offer better incentives and rewards to their players.
Betting exchange customers are thrown occasional free bet offers for continued loyalty. But it’s really the liquidity, commission incentives, and the uniqueness of the product itself that retains the customer base. Bookmakers are much more active and imaginative with the offers they create. This results in some generous signup bonuses and promotions to new and existing customers.
The most popular sporting events (such as big race days and football matches) give Bookmakers a regular excuse to offer promotional bets. Many of these you’ll see advertised on TV, or hear about on the radio. For example: “enhanced odds”, “cashback on first goalscorer bets”, or “a free £5 bet when you place £10 on the grand national”.
To learn more on free bets & promotions, check out my post: Precisely How Valuable Are Free Bets?
This isn’t strictly true all of the time — but popular bookies generally accept high stakes. Pinnacle Sports are notorious for their extremely high limits. Betting exchanges, on the other hand, rely on the market’s liquidity — which can be unpredictable.
What we define as a “high stake” varies for different people. For most bettors, a £100 stake on odds of 10.0+ is deemed as “high”. For others it’s “VERY high”. In my experience, regardless of the liquidity on the exchange, in most cases you will fulfill your £100 stake request at the large UK Bookmakers (particularly in betting shops).
Unfilled stakes at the Bookmaker are usually down to:
- The selection being “marked” due to huge volume/activity
- Your maximum stake size being capped at a lower amount than you requested
- Restrictions applied to your account due to patterns identified in your bets
And if you didn’t get all of your stake away at your favourite Bookmaker, then there’s no shortage of other options — even shops — that you could use to bet the remainder. In contrast, there’s only a few high-liquidity betting exchanges to choose from. So if your preferred one doesn’t have the liquidity you need, you may be forced to split your stake over lower odds, queue it, or attempt betting at a later point.
Another advantage, which doesn’t concern the majority of us, is that several of the main UK Bookmakers run “special accounts” that cater for individuals wanting to place very high stakes. We’re talking about wagers well into the thousands!
If you’re looking for the very highest limits, see my list of no-limit betting sites.
The Bookie’s odds fully represent the payout you’ll receive on a win — regardless of how often you bet.
Bets made on betting exchanges, such as Betfair, carry a commission in the form of a percentage on any winnings. Typically bettors are required to meet a minimum turnover to maintain or improve this commission %.
While the commission % usually doesn’t decrease your potential winnings enough to justify using Bookmakers, the most profitable Betfair traders are also hit with an extortionate, and highly controversial, “premium charge”. This makes using the supposedly “winners friendly” exchange poor value for professional punters.
The most popular Bookmakers offer more markets than the exchanges, with many niche subcategories to choose from. This is true of top flight Football, where some Bookies provide an enormous array of specials and unique bet types, all with sufficient stake limits. Learn more about Football Betting Markets.
Exchanges like Betfair tend to focus on the popular markets, ensuring quality over quantity. From their perspective, it’s better to have well-formed markets with high liquidity than to provide an abundance of illiquid markets.
Due to the fact that Bookmakers work on the model of selling odds with an overround, they have the freedom to make their own markets on less-popular events. In doing so they take on the risk themselves without relying on liquidity (i.e. the public) to form the odds.
Better yet, the less-popular markets are said have the most price inaccuracies. This presents value betting opportunities to bettors. So the niche markets benefit those with very specific areas of expertise. After all, how accurate can UK bookmakers be at predicting events such as the total number of yellow cards in a Kazakhstan first division league game?
Be aware though: very niche markets have less competition between Bookmakers, and so there’s more risk and uncertainty when making the prices. Odds may be hugely under-valued as a kind of “safety measure”.