Betfair Exchange Review, Free Bets and Offers

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What is the Betfair Exchange?

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Put very simply, a betting exchange allows members to bet against each other rather than a bookmaker. Customers can offer odds to, or request odds from, fellow Betfair gamblers. 

The brainchild of software developer Andrew Black and finance expert Edward Wray, the Betfair Exchange began trading on 9th June 2000, and as well as being the first, has remained the largest exchange in the world, in terms of customers, money staked, countries operated in and markets available.

Why is the Betfair Exchange different?

Having been the first to successfully use the internet to democratise the way betting is done, it’s fair to say that the Betfair Exchange is a truly revolutionary product. Compared to traditional bookmakers, it has:

• Generally much better odds

• More transparency

• An experience that feels intuitively fairer

So how can this be the case? Before the Exchange, everyday punters could only place back bets, and prices were always subject to the decision of the bookmaker. The bookie could effectively choose the profit margin he added to his markets, and would only have to make his prices competitive with other bookmakers.

The Betfair Exchange democratised this process by allowing bettors to place lay bets as well as back bets – effectively allowing the customer to play bookmaker themselves – and creating a forum for bettors to wager against each other online. Customers can offer odds to, or request odds from, fellow Betfair gamblers, and as competition is so high, the profit margins have to be very low – better rewarding those with the best knowledge, and ensuring the prices offered are generally the best in the business.

Perhaps most crucially, the Betfair Exchange is unlike traditional bookmakers in that it does not go head-to-head with punters, and so does not require customers to lose in order to make profit – instead charging a small commission on each bet made. It can therefore say in all honesty that it wants punters to win! 


How the Betfair Exchange works

If you want to place a £10 bet on a horse to win at 10/1, which returns a profit of £100, you effectively need someone else to risk £100 on that horse not to win, at 1/10, to win your £10. The latter is known as a lay bet.

The Betfair Exchange facilitates this, by bringing all those who want to lay, and all those who want to back, together, to form a market. This market then appears as a page of odds you can click to bet on, more or less the same as any other online bookmaker. It really is as simple as that.

Why you shouldn’t be nervous to try Exchange betting

If you’re used to betting on sportsbooks (which includes all traditional bookmakers, whether they have shops, like Paddy Power, or whether they don’t, like 888Sport) you will notice that the Betfair Exchange looks slightly different on first impressions.

Rather than a column of outcomes next to a column of prices, you’ll see a column of outcomes, next to a blue column of decimals, and a pink column of decimals. You’ll also notice that the closer you get to an event starting, the quicker those decimals seem to change.

The explanation for all this is much more straightforward than it looks:

• As you’ll have guessed, the decimals are the prices. Very simply, they’re fractional odds in decimal format, always shown as plus 1. 

• For example, 5/1 is represented in decimals as 6.0 and 40/1 would be 41.0, whilst Evens (1/1) is 2.0, and an odds-on bet of 1/2 is 1.5. For more info on understanding decimal odds, you can read our guide here

• The blue buttons are to back a selection, at the odds displayed. Simply click to add to your bet slip, and enter the stake, just as you normally would

• The pink buttons are to lay a selection, at the odds displayed. Again, you can bet on this in exactly the same way

• Not comfortable with lay betting? There’s no obligation to place any lay bets!

• Finally, the prices are changing because of the sheer number of people using the Exchange at any one time, constantly competing to offer the best value odds


Choose your own prices

Another fantastic feature of the Betfair Exchange is that you can choose what price you want to bet at. To explain this, we’ll give an example.

Let’s say you want to back Tiger Roll to win the Grand National. However, the bookies are offering 5/1, and you don’t think that’s a fair price – it’s an unpredictable race after all, and you think he should be more like 7/1. With the Exchange, you can find the Grand National market, click on the blue ‘back’ button, and where it comes to enter your stake, also enter your preferred price – in this instance, 7/1 equals 8.0. Then hit ‘Place bets’. If then, at any point, someone offers odds of 8.0 for Tiger Roll, some or all of your bet will be matched – it’s on!

Whether your bet is matched relies on other customers laying your bet (and most likely the bets of many other people who have done the same as you), so it’s not guaranteed to go through. It can also be only partly matched, if there’s not enough money to lay your entire bet. But it is guaranteed that if any part of your stake is matched, then you will get the price you requested, and if it is not, that you will get any remaining stake refunded in full.

There’s so much more you can do with the Exchange, including guaranteeing yourself profits if odds on your selection then shorten. To find out more about how this works, click here.

Get the best prices on the Betfair Exchange

To go back to our above example: there’s a good chance that if high street bookies are offering 5/1 on Tiger Roll to win the Grand National, that the Betfair Exchange will already be offering the 7/1 you wanted. In fact, the bigger the race, the worse the value you’re likely to get from bookmakers, due to the added risk they take on when so many people are betting on one event. So it’s no surprise the Betfair Exchange has so far had the best SP odds on 95% of ITV races in 2019. 

Get started now with a risk-free bet

Not signed up to Betfair? Like most bookmakers, Betfair usually run a sign-up offer for new customers. This generally takes the format of a ‘risk-free’ £20 bet – bet using the Exchange once, and if you don’t win, you get your stake refunded. You can find this offer, along with free bets deals for almost 30 other bookmakers, at the Timeform Free Bets page. 

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