Placing a Back bet


Back betting is the most basic type of bet there is. You wager money on a certain thing happening, and if it does happen, you win. Placing a back bet on the Exchange is something that’s just as easy to do as it is with any other online bookmaker – and is usually a better option, as the Betfair Exchange gives you better odds in the majority of cases.

Back betting is easy on the Betfair Exchange

For many, the idea that Betfair Exchange brings customers new ways of betting means it should be treated as something to be cautious of. In reality though, whilst the principle behind the Exchange is different to most bookmakers (as you can learn here) it’s also very easy to operate in exactly the same way you would place any other bet. And back betting is the prime example.

Let’s say you want to back a horse to win the 15.45 at Wetherby. You simply hit the Horse Racing button in the top menu, select the race you want from the list displayed, and you arrive at the market. Now comes the part that scares many people off, for two reasons:

1. Odds are represented in decimals, rather than the fractions you’re used to seeing with regular ‘sportsbook’ bookmakers.

2. There are different columns of odds next to each possible selection – one is blue, one is pink. If you’re using the Exchange on desktop, there are also white columns on either side of those – if you don’t want to see the columns, you can turn off market depth in ‘Settings’, in the top-right of your screen (find it in the A-Z menu on mobile).

However, though you might not be used to seeing them, decimal odds are easy to understand – as you can see in our guide, here. In fact, once you see how they work, they’re often far easier to use than fractional odds – particularly when dealing with shorter prices. This is why most sportsbooks will already show decimal odds on some markets, and they will usually let you switch from one system to the other altogether.

The columns meanwhile are unique to exchange sites, as they show two markets that exist side-by-side: the ‘back’ market, and the ‘lay’ market. As mentioned, a back bet is betting on something to happen, whilst a lay bet is betting on it not to happen. This is more or less the core principle behind the Exchange.

But don’t worry – there’s absolutely no need to ever have to place a lay bet, if you don’t want to. In fact, you can even turn off the lay columns if you like – again, hit ‘Settings’ and un-check the box for a back-only market, just like using a sportsbook.

Back an outcome to happen – just like betting with any other ‘traditional’ bookmaker

Going back to our example, placing a back bet is very straightforward. You want to back a horse in the Wetherby 15.45, so you find the horse you want, and you simply click the price next to it in the blue column. The blue indicates that it’s the current best price available to back your selection, on the Exchange. The pink column is for lay betting, but for the purposes of placing a back bet, you can ignore the pink column completely, and focus on the blue. 

Let’s say the horse has odds of 9.0 (that’s 8/1, in fractions) in the blue column. You click on the 9, and the bet is added to your bet slip. You then enter your stake (the Exchange has a minimum stake of £2) – let’s say £10 – press Place Bets, confirm, and the bet is on. It’s as simple as that. 

Backing each-way on the Exchange is done in exactly the same way, though you will notice the minimum bet is in effect £4, as you are placing £2 on the ‘win’ part and £2 on the ‘place’ part of the bet. Unlike with other bookmakers, there is a separate ‘each-way’ market on the Exchange – though for the best price, you can bet £2 on your horse in the ‘Win Only’ market, and separately, £2 on the ‘Place’ market – which again, is done in the exact same way.

Back to our example: if the horse wins, you’ll get back £90 – your £10 stake returned and £80 profit – minus a small percentage for the commission. Since commission is paid to the Exchange for every bet settled, Betfair can give a much fairer price to the customer, because unlike with other bookmakers, Betfair doesn’t have to add a profit margin on its prices to make money. Hence why the Betfair Exchange generally maintains best prices on over 90% of UK and Irish horse racing – and why you’re still banking more profit than you would be doing elsewhere. You can learn more about how commission works here.

So, if you’re a casual punter, and you just want to place simple bets like this to fairly low stakes, that’s pretty much all you need to know. It really is just like using any other online bookie. The main difference is that the Exchange doesn’t let you place your own multiples – but the flip-side is that single bets are, more often than not, available at a longer price. 


Placing bigger bets, at a better price

You’ll notice that underneath any price on the Exchange there’s an amount of money written in smaller text. This shows how much money you’re able to place on that bet, at the odds given. For example, let’s say your horse has a value of £30 appearing underneath its 8.5 odds in the blue column. That means you can place anything up to £30 at those odds on your horse to win, from the minimum of £2.  

Let’s say you’re feeling confident though, and you want to put £50 on that horse. It’s likely that you’ll be able to place all £50, but you might have to accept a shorter price on the remaining £20 of your bet, or wait for your outstanding amount to be matched. On the desktop version of the Exchange, you’ll see more white columns (remember you can turn off market depth in ‘settings’) either side of the blue and pink ones, that indicate how much money can be bet at less favourable odds.

You now have a choice. You can: 

1. Accept the best odds as given in the blue column, place the first £30 at 8.0, and place the extra £20 on your horse at the next best odds given

2. Place your first £20 at odds of 8.0 and wait to see if your remaining £20 is ‘matched’ at that same price of 8.0

3. Choose the odds you want, and see if anyone will match them. Learn how to do that, here

4. Accept the Betfair starting price, or BSP, for your horse. If you can’t already see the option for BSP, you’ll need to turn it on in ‘Settings’. Just like with any other bookie, you won’t know what the Betfair SP is until the race goes off. But if you think your horse’s price is likely to drift before the race, and you don’t want to miss getting your bet on, this could be the way to go

The Exchange gives customers the ability to offer their own prices on something to happen, or not to happen. So when a price is ‘matched’, it means someone else using the Exchange is willing to take your money at the odds you want. So it will be that person, or people, who will pay out on your bet if you win, or who will collect your stake if you lose. If you choose this option, you don’t have to do anything else – the Exchange will accept the rest of your bet automatically if your stake is matched, and refund your stake if it is not. 

Remember though – when it comes to placing a back bet, there’s no need to treat the Exchange in any other way than you would any other online betting site.