How to Use Betfair Exchange: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
If you’re new to the world of matched betting, trying to decipher gambling terminology can feel a bit like learning a new language.
Typically, it’s the exchange that trips rookie betters up. Terms like “lay” and “liability” might as well be written in hieroglyphics if you’re only used to placing “back” bets via a traditional sportsbook.
With this in mind, I’m going to walk you through the landscape of matched betting lingo by starting at the place that feels most alien for beginners: the Betfair Exchange.
Grab a pen. Pull out some paper. And by the end of this short guide, I promise you’ll feel a lot more confident about navigating markets, making lay bets, and totting up your liability.
What is the Betfair Exchange?
As you might have gathered, the Betfair Exchange is different from a traditional bookmaker.
Rather than the bookie setting the odds, members of the Exchange bet against each other. When you “back” or “lay” an outcome (more on these terms later), it’s matched against someone who believes the opposite will happen. Put simply, it’s punter to punter. Mano-a-mano.
Think of yourself as the bookmaker when you log into the Betfair Exchange. You’ll choose the odds — but it’s up to the market whether it gets matched.
For instance, if the current price is set at 2/1 for a team to win, and you offer evens (1/1) on the platform, it’s not going to get filled — as people can make more money from the former.
It’s similar to if you were to compare odds from across different bookmakers. You’d choose the one with the most potential profit, right? It’s no different on the Betfair Exchange.
The Betfair Exchange’s Commission
Betfair add a commission to winning bets. Commissions are typically set between 2 and 5 percent, but can change depending on what type of rewards plan you choose. This might seem pretty inconsequential, but it’s an important factor for matched betters.
I recommend opting into “Betfair Rewards” as soon as you get an Exchange account. This feature reduces the amount of commission you pay based on how many Betfair points you earn. For instance, if you regularly use the platform to back or lay bets, you’ll soon rack up points that could see commission levels drop below five percent. This is Betfair’s way of rewarding frequent users.
You can read more about Betfair’s market base rates on their website. Here you’ll see an example based on £400 net winnings combined with a five percent commission rate — minus a 40 percent discount.
Thankfully, if you’re matched betting, Oddsmonkey’s free calculator has a separate line for inputting any commission. That means you don’t need to worry about calculating winnings.
Placing a back bet
There are two betting options on the Betfair Exchange: Back or Lay. Let’s start with “backing”.
You’ll see all back bets highlighted in blue. Placing a back bet is something you will have undoubtedly done with a traditional bookmaker, such as Paddy Power or Bet365. It’s the process of choosing an outcome to happen, such as a team or horse to win. If said outcome doesn’t win, you will lose your stake.
Let’s use the Liverpool vs Leicester City match as an example. As you can see, all back bets are highlighted in blue and set as decimals odds.
If we predict that Leicester City will get an away win at Liverpool, we’ll want to focus our attention on the middle row. Here we can see odds of 4.0 (3/1) in blue — i.e., back.
You’ll see underneath the odds there is a figure of £165. This relates to the total amount of cash available in the market to stake at these odds.
Therefore, if you want to bet more than £165 on this selection, it wouldn’t match the total sum at odds of 4.0. There’s just not enough cash available in the market. This is why you might sometimes get a “partial match” when a bet is placed.
If, however, you chose to back Leicester City at odds of 3.95 (you can see this to the left of the 4.0 odds box), you could bet up to £478.
This will make more sense when we look at lay bets. Essentially, we need enough people to have already layed our selection in order for us to have the bet matched at those odds.
What’s more, the market will move as more money comes in. So, don’t be surprised if Leicester City back odds rise to 4.2 or 4.4 if people start to put more money on Liverpool.
Once you click the chosen odds, a pop-up on the right-hand side will allow us to input our stake — in this example, £20. The liability is our £20 stake (the amount we could lose), and the profit (£60) is the amount we’ll earn should Leicester City win.
It’s worth reiterating that you can choose any odds you like, but it’s not guaranteed that your bet will be matched. If we choose odds of 5.0 (4/1), for instance, and the match finishes, we’ll simply receive our £20 stake back as a refund.
The more money there is in the market, the greater chance we’ll have of getting our bet matched. At time of writing, there is £389,665 available in matched bets on this particular market.
The minimum bet on the Betfair Exchange is £2.00. So, it may be worthwhile wagering a few small back bets to get used to the platform. Who knows, you might make some profit in the process!
How to place a lay bet
A lay bet is the opposite of a back bet. That is to say, when you lay, you’re wagering that an outcome won’t happen.
These types of bets are the lifeblood of matched betting, and mimic the role of a bookmaker. When we place a lay bet on the same market as a back bet, we’re guaranteeing a return no matter the outcome. How much profit you make will be based on whether the lay odds are above or below the back odds you choose. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s use the previous Liverpool vs Leicester City example to see what a lay bet looks like.
Lay betting example
As you can see, a £20 lay bet on Leicester City at odds of 4.1 results in a £20 profit if the match ends in a draw or Liverpool win. We are essentially betting on everything except a Leicester City win.
Okay, let’s carry on with the premise that you’re the bookmaker. Imagine that someone places a £20 bet with you at odds of 4.1 for Leicester City to win. If Liverpool win or the match ends in a draw, you’ll make £20 profit.
If, however, Leicester City win, you must payout at odds of 4.1 — plus their original stake of £20. This payout is what’s known as your “liability” — in this case, £62.00 (£20 x 3.1/1).
Of course, if you had simultaneously placed £20 on Leicester City to win in our “backed” example, you wouldn’t lose £63, because we’d also be making money on the away team winning. This is the process of matched betting.
The important thing to bear in mind when lay betting is that you’ll need enough money in your account to cover your liability. For instance, if we wanted to place a £20 Leicester City lay bet at odds of 4.1, we’d need at least £82 available. If you don’t have sufficient money in your account, Betfair won’t accept the bet.
As we previously mentioned, the figure below the odds shows us how much money is in the market. For the Leicester City lay market, there is £1056.00 available at odds of 4.1 — plenty to match our £20 stake against.
How to lay accumulators on the Betfair Exchange?
An accumulator is one bet made up of multiple selections that combine odds to offer bigger payouts. I’m sure you’ve place one before. All of the selections need to come in for the bet to win — this could be a double, treble, four-fold, or even a ten-fold if you’re feeling lucky.
While you might be familiar with placing a football “acca” on a Saturday, the prospect of laying accumulators is likely a trip into the unknown. The Betfair Exchange offers the ability to lay pre-defined accumulators — once again, placing you on the side of the bookmaker.
So, how do you place a lay accumulator using the Betfair Exchange?
It’s super simple. Using the search facility at the top of the page, just search for “acca” or “accumulators.” You’ll then see a list of pre-made accumulators that are ready to lay.
Lay markets for accas are usually limited, and typically only arise when Betfair is running a price boost. However, this can be lucrative in the landscape of matched betting, especially if you are required to place an acca as a qualifying bet.
This guide to the Betfair Exchange is written by Mr Matched Better, who has 12+ years’ professional experience in the art of bashing bookies. He now spends his time teaching other people matched betting techniques.