- Always try and predict the way the market is going to go, instead of looking for a winner. There is a phrase among exchange bettors: ‘Don’t tip me a winner, tip me a price.’ The reasoning behind this is that if you can identify a steamer (a big shortener) in the market before it becomes a gamble, you can back it at the highest price and lay it off at a much reduced level, thus ensuring yourself a free bet. Bets don’t get any better than that. So keep an eye out for such gems as team news in Carling Cup matches and the like.
- Never be scared to request a price. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get. Betting exchanges match people who disagree on the outcome of an event; the more opinionated the layer, the bigger price the backer is likely to get. Sometimes, the price a layer is willing to offer will surprise. On the other side of the coin, don’t be put off in offering to lay an eventuality at a much shorter price than you think it should be. Many favourites are over-bet, even on a betting exchange.
- Always read the grey market text and rules and regs when betting. You wouldn’t sign a contract or agreement in any other walk of life without reading the small print, so betting should be no different. This is true of all bookmaker markets, not just betting exchanges.
- Never over react. It is all too easy for some punters to see ‘free money’ on the screen when they see a horse trailing the field, or seemingly ruled out of an ante-post race. However, in-running winners that have been backed and laid at 1,000 are becoming near-weekly occurrences – Family Business fell and remounted to win in 2002, and those who laid Kicking King at the maximum price after he was seemingly ruled out of the 2005 Gold Cup won’t need reminding of what happened next. Then there is the 2008 Derby winner, New Approach, for so long a non-runner.
- Betting at 1.01. Betting in the heat of the moment often leads to bad decisions, but try and take time out to avoid becoming a member of the unwanted and burgeoning Betfair 1.01 Club (punters who have backed at the minimum price of 1-100 on the exchange and lost). Try to look for potential pitfalls before you leap in; for example, has the horse that is ten lengths clear with ten yards to go hampered any rival during the race? Backers of Altay at Lingfield in January 2003 will know what I mean; it won by four lengths, only to lose the race in the stewards’ room for a minor infringement, and then was reawarded the race on appeal at a later date. That was no consolation to his backers on the day, though, who lost. However, there are times when a 1.01 chance should be 1.001. How big are your cojones, though?
- Always look to take a profit. There are two schools of thought on this.
The first is that each bet or trade should be based on its individual merits, and the above is generalized nonsense;
The second is that you should always look to take a profit when trading, or at least manoeuvre yourself into a no-lose position when the price or event unfolds in your favour.
The latter approach is best, especially as betting exchanges work to very tight margins, typically 101 per cent, so closing out a position is not as punitive as it can be with fixed-odds and spread betting firms. And the person who coined the City phrase ‘You never see a poor man take a profit’ wasn’t wrong, was he?
- Specialise. Betfair offers a mass of markets on its site, and clearly the number of people who know their Bandy will be considerably less than those who know their Premiership football. Put in the hours of research and the odds are you will know more than the person you are betting against. Providing you can find someone to match your bet on Bandy, that is… But you get my point. Look beyond the obvious.
- Take advantage of illiquid markets. Because of the nature of an exchange, most books tend to gravitate towards the 100 per cent mark. However, some markets are not as popular and may be virtually empty. See this as a great opportunity. If you price these up to 120 per cent, it is not too unlikely that your lay bets will be taken – giving you a healthy return for little or no risk. And if one of your lays is taken, then you shouldn’t be too worried; because you have priced it up to a defensive 120 per cent, then hopefully you should have laid under the odds anyway!
- Take advantage of the betting histories provided, both on markets and your personal account. At a touch of a button, Betfair allows its customers to call up their entire betting record in the past three months, broken down into sports, to the pence. Use this information to help you identify how you can improve as a punter – or indeed, just simply accept that you are clueless at betting on some sports! There is a very good reason that traditional bookmakers don’t give their customers such readily available and detailed information. Similarly, traditional bookmakers don’t publish their field books. By clicking on the graph icon on the site, exchange bettors can get a trading history for every runner/option. Use the info to help you improve/analyze your betting behavior.
- Use the free form products/betting options supplied. Because betting exchanges have no direct interest on whether their punters win or lose, take advantage of the free form products they provide. For example, Betfair often allows its customers to download a free Timeform card, and they are readily acknowledged as the best form for students and handicappers in the country. Also, keep on top of new betting products. The ‘Keep Bet’ option introduced in December 2007 on Betfair, which allows you put up an in-play bet as soon as the market is loaded, is proving a valuable tool for in-running bettors, as is Betfair SP.
- Exchange beginners should take it slow. Once punters are confident on exchanges, many find it a premier betting experience. Many never get to grips with it. Initially it can be confusing to some, so newcomers to the site should take advantage of the minimum £2 bet to acquaint themselves with the workings of the site. To that end, the bigger exchanges will provide online (and live) demonstrations that punters can download or attend. Take advantage before progressing with your betting.
- Look to oppose the general consensus. Bad punters lose money; that’s a fact. If you can understand what makes a punter bad then you are on your way to success – you just have to do the opposite. Sometimes a bet looks obvious – all straightforward logic points to it. You can bet that all the bad punters will be backing it and the price may be too short. In this situation your gut should be telling you to lay regardless of the fact that the bet has ticked so many boxes; it’s just too obvious.
- Don’t chase your losses. It’s not really an exchange tip, it’s a tip in general, but when you’ve had a bad day you should walk away early. You may be angry and upset; you’re not in the right frame of mind to be betting, so don’t do it. Tomorrow is another day.

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