Unlike sportsbooks, where you bet against set odds, betting exchanges let you wager against other punters. Join us as we review the best exchanges online and reveal our top tips and strategies!
- What Is a Betting Exchange?
- How Does a Betting Exchange Work?
- Best Sports Betting Exchange Sites in the UK – Reviewed
- Backing and Laying Calculator
- How To Choose a Betting Exchange
- Best Betting Exchanges in the UK Compared
- Best Betting Exchange Offers
- Risks and Rewards of UK Betting Exchanges
- Betting Exchange Trading Tips and Strategies
- Betting Exchanges vs Sportsbooks
- Best Betting Exchanges FAQs
- ThePuntersPage Final Say
Best Betting Exchanges for Backing and Laying in 2024
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What Is a Betting Exchange?
A betting exchange is a platform that enables punters to bet on events and markets against each other, as opposed to against a bookmaker's sportsbook with fixed odds. This comes at a small commission charged by the site itself, which rarely comes close to your traditional sportsbook overround. The latter can easily be as high as 110%, meaning you typically get objectively more competitive odds.
The markets are not simply priced by the bookmaker, but by many hundreds or even thousands of bets being placed. Put simply, it’s the quantity of customers who are back betting and lay betting that helps determine the odds. What do these two terms mean exactly, you might be asking? Well, you are either betting on something to happen (“back betting”) or betting on something not to happen (“lay betting”).
Did you know that Betfair, the most popular betting exchange in the United Kingdom, was hugely influential in the evolution of mobile betting? In fact, their app was the first of its kind on the Apple store.
As you can see, betting exchanges are actually pretty simple in concept. Read on to see just how user-friendly they can be!
How Does a Betting Exchange Work?
Essentially, a betting exchange allows players to create their own markets – one for backing an outcome and one for laying against it.
Back Bet: Backing means that you are placing your wager on a particular outcome to happen.
Lay Bet: Laying means that you are predicting that a certain outcome won't happen.
For example, if you believe a football team's odds will increase after team news is released, you can request a higher price. If another punter disagrees with your prediction, they can match your bet at that price.
Consider a Liverpool vs Manchester City match. Instead of just backing Liverpool to win, you can lay a bet on Manchester City not to win, which another punter on the exchange will match.
In a nutshell, betting exchanges match your predictions with opposing views on an outcome, allowing you both to agree on a stake and odds through the platform.
How To Use a Betting Exchange – A General Guide
Betting through an exchange is straightforward, much like using a traditional sportsbook. Here's a step-by-step guide:
Sign Up: Choose an exchange site and create an account.
Enter Personal and Financial Details: Your information will be securely stored with robust security measures.
Make a Deposit: Be mindful of the amount, as it may affect your eligibility for a welcome bonus. Always read the terms and conditions of any bonus.
Once registered, you're ready to bet! Unlike traditional sites, exchange odds are in decimal format, but don't worry, calculating your potential returns is straightforward.
You'll find various markets across different sports, with your main decision resting on whether to place a back bet or a lay bet (betting it won’t).
For a safer approach, choose markets with odds that are dropping. Odds on exchanges update constantly, so keep a close eye on these changes for the best opportunities.
Placing a Back Bet
Let's say you are betting on Liverpool to win against Arsenal in a matchup. Here, your placed (back) bet will be countered by another customer who is punting on Liverpool to not win the match.
You win if Liverpool wins, just as you would have had you bet on the same outcome on a traditional sportsbook. It’s how the markets are determined, and who you are betting against, that distinguishes an exchange from a fixed-odds platform.
In terms of how it works on a practical level, it couldn’t be simpler. Here’s a very quick breakdown of how to place a back bet.
Sign up to the site if you haven’t already.
Make a deposit.
Select the sport and event you wish to bet on.
Click on “back” next to the selection you are interested in. You should be able to select your stake at this time (some bookies may have you press the odds yourself).
Confirm your bet on the bet slip. This is also where you should be able to see any potential returns.
Placing a Lay Bet
Using the same example as above, here you would bet on Liverpool not to beat Arsenal. Depending on the odds available, you may receive better value for laying a wager rather than placing a back bet. At the end of the day, it is all about using your best judgement.
In this scenario, your wager would be successful if Arsenal wins, as you would have bet against the other punters backing Liverpool to win instead.
Again, the way it works is incredibly simple, and very similar to back betting. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Sign up to your chosen betting exchange through their site or app.
Make your deposit.
Seek out whatever market you are after.
Typically, you would then click on “lay” next to the market you wish to bet on. You may need to click on the odds themselves if this does not work. Ensure your stake is to your liking.
Your bet should now be available on your bet slip showing any potential returns, ready to be confirmed.
Matched betting involves placing multiple bets to cover all the outcomes of a match and ensure a risk-free approach, using free bet promotions and bookmaker incentives. You must have an account on two or more betting exchanges in order to do this successfully.
Here's an example: Say you use a free bet on one platform to back Liverpool to win a match, and simultaneously lay a bet against Liverpool's victory on another site, carefully adjusting your wager to ensure no losses. This combination of bets is known as a matched bet.
Best Sports Betting Exchange Sites in the UK – Reviewed
Check out our concise yet detailed reviews of the leading sports betting exchange sites in the UK below! We've highlighted key features, user experience, and reliability for each platform to help you make more informed choices in this competitive market.
Spread betting pioneers Spreadex are one of the best betting exchange sites the UK has to offer. With fixed odds betting also available, there are no shortages of options on the platform.
Every event clearly displays the choice between the two betting styles through clearly designed labels, ensuring effortless navigation.
In terms of functionality, the native Spreadex app is second to none. All links leading to options such as Open Bets, account details, home page, and your betting slip are laid out at the bottom of the page, and the sections load fairly quickly. Our experience with the app has been smooth, free from glitches or freezes when transitioning between sections, so the app’s stability checks out as far as we're concerned!
Spreadex also offers livestreaming of dog and horse races via both desktop and mobile, accessible via the in-play section. To use this feature, you need a funded account. Streaming an event is particularly beneficial if you enjoy in-play betting, as it enables real-time decision-making, such as cashing out, while watching events unfold in real time.
The site also comes with low trading fees, especially in comparison to rival exchanges such as Betfair who can charge up to 5% for a winning trade. Unlike a lot of other betting companies, Spreadex also provide a financial trading option for anyone interested in that sector.
Matchbook have a sterling reputation as one of the best in the business, and for good reason too.
We love the fact that there are numerous betting markets available from all around the world, including all our favourites such as football, cricket, boxing, and golf. The main site and the app are both aesthetically pleasing, not to mention technically sound. It’s clear there has been a lot of thought put into the design. In addition, improved security measures such as SSL encryption and responsible gaming tools allow for greater peace of mind when placing bets.
They’ve also found a great balance between security and useability. For instance, their app now locks your account after three failed password attempts for greater protection; but worry not, if you've simply forgotten your details, all you have to do is contact customer service to get back in the game again.
For an overview of Matchbook's high levels of user satisfaction, simply check out the reviews on their app – you don't just have to take our word for it!
Some of that satisfaction must be to do with their fantastically competitive commission policies, available on both the site and app. Alongside other excellent welcome offers, new customers also receive the option of 0% commission for the first 90 days of their tenure. There are also regular Bet10 Get10 promotions for existing customers on a variety of sports, including greyhound racing.
Matchbook charge a 2% commission on your net profits only (applicable to UK and ROI customers) with a 4% commission being charged to all other customers. Any losing bets will not be charged any commission. Make no mistake, in terms of both experience and generosity, Matchbook has few peers to contend with.
Smarkets is among the best betting exchanges sites for customers residing in the United Kingdom, currently charging 0% commission rate on all winning bets for 60 days. And that’s just scraping the surface of what they have to offer!
Another highlight is the great number of statistical details available across their betting markets. This doesn't extend just to sports, but also to the political sphere as well, with an exceptional coverage of political betting markets on elections around the world. This statistical focus offers a different angle to the usual betting exchange.
Smarkets use their vast knowledge to great effect, offering customers unique wagering opportunities alongside tactical advantages. The sports betting available on the exchange is top-tier, with a broad variety of creative and interesting markets across a huge selection of leagues and sporting disciplines, livestreaming and bet builders to make things interesting.
They are also generous when it comes to promotions, including cuts on commission and welcome offers, meaning you don’t need to miss out on the joys of a bountiful bonus page when making the switch from a traditional sportsbook to an exchange.
And all this is balanced out by a fantastically breezy and user-friendly site design, which somehow works even better on the app!
BETDAQ is one of the best betting exchange options for sports betting enthusiasts, mixing great site and app design, fantastically broad and detailed sports markets and coverage, and consistently generous promotions.
BETDAQ is commission-free on all markets apart from football, horse racing, greyhound racing, cricket, and virtual sports.
There, they offer a fair and competitive rate of 2% on both on the site and their highly acclaimed betting exchange app. When you mix their rates with the cashback, free bet and best odds guaranteed promotions, you have an exchange that’s tough to compete with in terms of value.
Furthermore, apart from Betfair, BETDAQ is the only other betting exchange which offers a public API.
With a great range of sports betting markets and competitive odds, we rate BETDAQ as one of the top three on the market. They also have a separate website called BETDAQ Tips, where interested players can find detailed trading articles and the latest information about market movers.
Despite immense and growing competition, Betfair Exchange is still among the best in the industry. The site houses one of the most extensive ranges of markets for platforms of its kind, along with some of the most competitive odds online.
Because an exchange can provide more betting options the more people utilise them, part of their abundance of betting options therefore comes down to their sheer popularity, which is something very few others can compete with. Betfair is considered the best betting exchange for backing with big stake liquidity, and are especially popular for their football and horse racing markets.
But don’t forget – they got that popular, and remain that popular, due to excellent and innovative design, both on desktop and mobile, as well as their generosity, creativity, and dedication to customer experience.
Consider, for instance, their Betfair rewards plan, which allows you to choose to reduce your commission (which comes at the standard 5%) or receive other promotional benefits depending on your preferences. We also appreciate that the offers that are provided on Betfair’s sportsbook carry over to the exchange. Betfair don’t just excel across its desktop site and on its mobile app – they innovate and personalise, providing an immense amount of depth in doing so.
Betfair Exchange also offer an API system and integrated trading tools, which enable you to gauge in-depth data for betting markets and help you determine how the odds are drifting, or may drift.
You can also access the Tips & Previews and Historical Data sections on the site’s secondary navigation bar (first, make sure you have clicked the Exchange tab under the main Betfair logo on the top-left of the screen). This is also made surprisingly easy on the app.
You can argue – considering all the creative and statistical depth, alongside the sheer number of features and markets – that Betfair Exchange remain the absolute finest out there. We think there’s tough competition in that regard, but the fact that they are still in this particular conversation showcases their longevity and quality.
Backing and Laying Calculator
Use our handy hedge betting calculator to find out in seconds how much you can make when backing and laying on a bet exchange.
How To Choose a Betting Exchange
There are a lot of elements to consider when choosing the right exchange platform to suit your own needs and preferences. Here are our top tips for deciding which to use.
When signing up for a betting site, prioritise value for money by choosing an exchange offering the best odds. To do this, carry out an odds comparison by using available services online or through personal analysis.
Our research reveals Betfair Exchange as the top choice for competitive odds in football and horse racing. Remember, timing is crucial in exchanges due to fluctuating values.
Are you a new customer? If so, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for top welcome offers across the board, which often include free bets. Our research shows Betfair Exchange and Matchbook both offer a risk-free bet up to £20, refundable if the first wager loses.
While standard in the industry, these offers are more competitive than others. If we had to choose between the two, Matchbook stands out for its overall product quality and recent improvements.
A great betting exchange offers a wide range of betting options beyond simple wagers on outcomes, matching the variety found in traditional sportsbooks.
The exchanges we've reviewed, including Betfair Exchange and Matchbook, meet these standards with extensive markets, offering bets like over/unders and handicap wagering. Betfair Exchange, with its established expertise, slightly edges out the competition in our assessment.
Betting exchanges charge a commission for facilitating bets, but the rates vary. The most competitive exchanges charge a low percentage only on successful bets. We found Matchbook and Smarkets to be among the best, typically charging 2% to 4%.
In this respect, BETDAQ stands out by offering zero commission on Saturdays, though it's unclear if this is a permanent feature at the time of writing.
Best Betting Exchanges in the UK Compared
In a bit of a hurry? Our below table sums up the key features and benefits of the top betting exchange sites in the UK.
|Fixed Odds Betting
Best Betting Exchange Offers
- Whether you are a new or existing customer, you will always want to receive the best offers and bonuses from your chosen operator. These can come in the form of several options at betting exchanges, although they are not quite as lucrative as offers provided by sportsbooks and casinos.
- The best offers we have seen in regards to free bets come from Betfair Exchange and Matchbook, who grant their new customers a £20 risk-free bet on their first wager. Others such as Smarkets and BETDAQ offer smaller amounts as part of their welcome bonus, which may make you consider alternatives if you desire a more generous sign-up offer.
- Free bets are often part of welcome packages offered by the best exchanges, but another alternative is reducing the amount of commission they take from your winning bets. The top operators in the industry are competitive in terms of the percentage they will take from your successful bets. The lowest we have seen is 2%, but they will attempt to lower this further for a period of time, which can see these levels drop to as low as 0%. In the past, we have seen these kind of promotion from Matchbook, BETDAQ and Smarkets.
- Unfortunately, there are downsides to exchange betting promotions. For one thing, they are not as frequent as offers you may find on regular sportsbooks, and the potential of 0% commission will often be fleeting, as the operator will have to take their cut at some point. Therefore, it is crucial that you capitalise on these offers when they are available.
Risks and Rewards of UK Betting Exchanges
- There are benefits to using betting exchanges and there are elements of risk. The top platforms online ensure that their customers receive the benefits of premium value on their odds and a wide range of betting markets, while reducing the negative aspects of the system in the process.
- The rewards for using a betting exchange is the value you can find in your betting odds. Since you’re not betting against a bookmaker, you can define the price yourself if you can find a punter on the other side of the coin. It can be more lucrative betting on the exchange if you’re savvy enough with your odds and markets. Knowing when to bet and what markets to target are crucial to securing a sizeable profit.
- You also have the advantage of laying bets, which are not available from traditional sportsbook. Lining up a wager on an event not to occur can be more beneficial and lucrative, especially on events such as horse racing, when leading contenders can have very narrow odds to win. Betting on the other side of the coin for a loss on their part can increase your profit margins.
- The risk element is always a factor when gambling, so you should always weigh up all your options before finally placing your wager. Some bets on the exchange may require a minimum stake, which might sway your opinion about lodging your bet. If you surpass a threshold regarding your stake on a certain bet on the exchange, it might not be accepted by the site in question.
- When laying against a bet with long odds, you might be susceptible to a hefty payout if the selection wins rather than fails. If you were to place a £1 on a 20/1 team or horse to lose, and if they were to win, you would be liable to get paid out up to 20 times your stake.
Betting Exchange Trading Tips and Strategies
Before you try out exchange betting for the first time, be sure that you fully understand the concepts of backing, laying, and matched betting. Keep in mind also that different exchange sites come with varying commission rates.
If you are looking for high-stake liquidity, the best betting exchange for back bets in this regard is Betfair, while Smarkets is the best for lay bets.
To mention yet another operator, BetConnect are a rather new exchange platform, having been launched in 2018. They are accepting commission-free lay bets, making their platform a rather intriguing prospect, to say the least.
Betting Exchanges vs Sportsbooks
As a summary, we've laid out the main differences between betting exchanges and conventional sportsbooks below.
Exchange Commission vs Bookmaker Margin
Sportsbooks have in place a margin of profit called the bookmaker’s margin through which they earn profit. Meanwhile, exchanges charge a commission fee on winning bets that usually appears as a percentage (e.g. 2% or 4%).
On a traditional sportsbook, the odds are fixed by the bookmaker themselves, and how competitive they are depends on the popularity of the betting market in question. On the other hand, at betting exchanges, you set the odds yourself, though the quality here also depends on the popularity of your chosen market, as you'll have to find someone to match the price you're offering.
Backing & Laying vs Fixed Markets
A sportsbook does not involve the concept of backing and laying. Players bet on the outcome of an event as is provided by a betting site, and the platform has direct control over placed bets. In contrast, at a betting exchange, you can choose to back or lay an outcome (i.e. wager on something to happen or not to happen respectively). In a sense, you'll be acting as the bookmaker yourself.
Best Betting Exchanges FAQs
On an exchange, you’ll be betting against fellow punters instead of the bookmaker. Exchanges also allow for lay betting, which means wagering on an outcome not to happen. They also tend to offer more markets compared to traditional sportsbooks.
Although there are quite a few out there, we’ve listed the 5 top for you to make things easier.
Yes. Betting exchanges are available in certain locations, depending on the site in question. Read the terms and conditions of the exchange before you sign up to their product.
ThePuntersPage Final Say
If you came here looking for some of the best betting exchange sites the internet has to offer, we hope that all your most burning questions have been answered! We've done our best to explain the most important terms as clearly as possible, such as backing, laying, and matched betting. In addition, we've provided a few useful tips on potentially minimising risk which we think are well worth keeping in mind. So, if you feel ready, simply pick a site from the ones we've recommended above, and try out exchange betting for yourself!