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There are two ways of placing a sports bet – at a fixed odds betting site or at betting exchange sites. At a fixed odds betting site the bookie sets the price and pays you out according to that price should your bet win. At a betting exchange the ‘prices’ are set by the customers.

Betting exchanges usually offer better returns for successful betting in comparion to fixed odds betting sites. Here at SafeBettingSites we’ll tell you the best betting exchange sites where you should boost your betting account with cash via PayPal and others, and then place and lay bets safely, securely and with the best chance of a profitable return.

Our Recommended Betting Exchanges UK

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Bet £5 get £20

  • Opportunity to back and lay
  • Plenty of markets
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Best Exchange Betting Sites – A Closer Look at the UK Top 5

So, we’ve given you notification of what we reckon to be the leading five sports betting exchange sites in the UK, but you’re probably hunger for a little more information. You’re also probably wondering what makes these sites so special, or at least what are our reasons for listing them in the order that we’ve listed them.

Below you will find a little more info about the sites we’ve picked out as the best betting exchanges available to punters in the UK.

1. Befair Betting Exchange - Free £20 exchange bet

It should be no surprise to anyone that the Betfair online betting exchange tops our list. Betfair exchange betting is where it all began, after all. Andrew Black founded Betfair in 2000 after years of attempting to drum up support for his betting business model. When none of the big gambling boys at the time would listen to him, Black went into partnership with Ed Wray and Betfair was born.

Betfair quickly established its place as the world’s number betting exchange, but only because it had zero competitors. Now other betting exchanges UK are available but the Betfair online betting exchange is still number one in many peoples’ eyes, and not only because of the £20 free exchange bet you obtain upon signing up. For market availability and the sheer number of site users, Betfair exchange betting cannot be bettered.

Betfair also has plenty of information about exchange betting, so you should find any questions you have about the Betfair betting exchange explained.

What we like:

  • A global leader – the number one betting exchange
  • Fixed odds betting too
  • ‘Prices’ are better at the exchange than any fixed odds site
  • Minimal commission charged
  • Outstanding market coverage

What we don’t:

  • The learning curve is steep for newbs
2. Smarkets Betting Exchange - £10 bonus upon joining

Smarkets makes it to number two is our list thanks mainly to its slick interface. What we particular like about the Smarkets betting exchange is the site’s in-play options – the buy and sell levels are updated twice per second so you never miss an opportunity to get the best ‘odds’ for your wager. There are price-tracking graphs too that make you feel like a financial trader as opposed to a humble sports bettor!

Despite being a relatively new betting exchange, the coverage of betting markets here is staggering and thanks to Smarket’s search function, you should be able to find any event – live or otherwise – that you wish to buy or sell. If you want to explore the Smarkets betting exchange but are new to betting exchange sites, there’s £10 worth of bonus credit ready for you to use when you complete your sign up.

What we like:

  • Incredibly slick interface
  • The amount of data available is sensational!
  • Outstanding market coverage for a new betting exchange
  • Great for horse racing exchange betting
  • Any event is easy to find

What we don’t:

  • Bewildering for the inexperienced
3. Matchbook Betting Exchange - £10 risk-free bet

The premise behind Matchbook is the same as behind any betting exchange. If you place a ‘back’ (i.e., to win) bet, the site will ‘match’ you with punter who want to ‘lay’ (i.e. to lose) the same bet. It really could not be any simpler. The Matchbook betting exchange makes its money off of commission, but the commission charges here are thankfully, very small.

Matchbook presents its data in the same way as other sports betting exchange sites, so if you are accustomed to betting exchanges already, you don’t have to study at all before you understand what all those numbers are about. There’s live betting here too with back and lay prices that are constantly updated. One thing also of note – for the first thirty days at Matchbook you pay zero commission!

What we like:

  • 0% commission for first 30 days
  • Decent interface
  • Nice apps for iOS and Android
  • Casino & virtual sports

What we don’t:

  • Not as many markets available as others
4. Betdaq Betting Exchange - Bet £10 get a free £10 bet

Betdaq may seem to you an odd name for a betting exchange, so allow us to explain. If you follow the news, then you’ve probably heard the word ‘Nasdaq’ being thrown around, especially when money markets are concerned. Nasdaq (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations) is actually the leading stock exchange and is based in New York City. When it came to naming their sports betting exchange, Betdaq just nipped the ‘Nas’ off of ‘Nasdaq’ and popped ‘bet’ on there instead – neat!

Betdaq was founded in 2000 by Irish businessman Dermot Desmond in Gibraltar. The company has expanded to become the most-used sports betting exchange behind Betfair, with a seven percent market share. Betdaq was bought by Ladbrokes in 2013, and now operates an exchange alongside a fixed odds sportsbook, plus there are options too for casino play and virtual sports.

What we like:

  • Second most-popular sports betting exchange
  • Great deals – 0% commission on Euro 2020, for example
  • Up to £1,000 cashback from commission during your first month
  • 0% commission on a huge number of sports

What we don’t:

  • Commission on football, cricket, horses and greyhounds
5. Ladbrokes Betting Exchange - Bet £5 get £20
Unless you are a complete sports betting newbie, you will most definitely have heard of industry giants Ladbrokes, of course! They’ve been around … like … forever and can claim to lead the way when it comes to fixed odds betting in the UK. What you might not know is that Ladbrokes runs a betting exchange too (aside from the fact that they are the owners of Betdaq).

You may notice a lot of similarities between the Ladbrokes betting exchange and Betdaq, but that’s only because they use the same software platform (as is common across many betting platforms). The exchange at Ladbrokes has a lot going for it, including a simple, tiny charge of two percent commission on all your winning exchange bets. It’s superb for horse racing exchange betting and there’s access to plenty of markets, and of course access to all of Ladbrokes’ usual gambling goodness including their fixed odds betting site.

What we like:

  • Better prices than at Ladbrokes’ fixed odd site
  • Truly excellent mobile app
  • A true global brand
  • Access to Ladbrokes fixed odds betting too

What we don’t:

  • Not as many markets as others
  • More complicated then the fixed odd site

How we rank exchange betting sites

There are several things that we consider when compiling our lists. The criteria used for selecting the top five betting exchange websites can be seen below.

  • Commission – With exchange betting sites, commission is key. Due to the person-to-person nature of a betting exchange, winning players are charged commission. Those who excel in charging low commission rates generally rank as the best betting exchange sites. The stacked commission charges at Betfair are extremely fair.
  • Markets – What betting exchange websites in the UK offer in terms of markets is of critical importance. The more markets, the better. Those exchanges that offer a wide variety of markets rank highest, as not everyone wants to bet on only the biggest events of the day. Check out Ladbrokes for a wide selection of sporting markets.
  • Liquidity – This is a big thing to take into consideration when choosing a betting exchange. Some betting exchanges may offer just what you’re looking for in terms of market and odds, but if they offer poor liquidity, then it’s likely to be difficult for punters to place their desired bets. Liquidity is the amount of money that’s been staked on an event, and so is the maximum bet size that can then be placed. If you want to place a £20 bet but there’s barely any liquidity, then you will not be able to place your wager. Betdaq is one exchange where the liquidity is always high.
  • Features – Extra features can help exchanges rank above their competitors. Useful features such as cash-out, specific stats, great content, live streaming, and tips are now a must. Sites that make use of innovative and eye-catching features are what we’re looking for, including those that help punter by offering exchange betting explained. Check out Smarkets which has many superb, advanced features.
  • Usability – It’s one thing for a betting exchange to offer a great selection of markets, provide great odds and bonuses, but they also need to be easy to use. If a betting exchange rates poorly in terms of usability, then everything else they have to offer becomes slightly irrelevant. Only sites/mobile apps that requite little effort to navigate and that are up to date in terms of design feature on this list. Matchbook is an exchange that always ranks highly for usuability.

Online betting exchange sites – key features

So, what are the key features of betting exchange sites, and which of our ‘famous five’ have them? Below you will find listed what we feel are the key feautures available at betting exchange sites, and an exchange-by-exchange view of which sites are equipped with them, and which are not.

Feature Betfair Smarkets Matchbook Betdaq Ladbrokes
Commission 0%-5% 1%-3% 2%-4% 0%-10% 2%-5%
Apps available
Fixed odds betting
Live streaming
In play betting
Casino

What is a betting exchange?

What is a Betting Exchange sites

For those new to betting, the concept of betting exchange sites can be a little confusing. Where a traditional sportsbook/betting site operates on a bookmaker-to-bettor relationship, a betting exchange facilitates a betting relationship between two bettors. In standard sports betting, the punter is trying to beat the bookmaker, but on the exchange, punters take on each other.

How does a betting exchange work?

The one key difference is that on a betting exchange, players can lay bets by offering odds to other players. In other words, they can bet on selections to lose as opposed to win. This essentially allows players to adopt the role of the bookmaker. Betting exchange UK sites also aren’t looking to beat players to make profit, as they simply make a profit by charging a small commission on all winning bets.

There are other differences between standard sports betting and exchange betting, such as liquidity. When playing at a sportsbook, the punter simply selects a bet, enters a stake, and the job’s done. On the exchange, players must ensure that there’s enough liquidity in the market. In other words, if there’s not enough money on the other side of the market that you’re looking to bet on, then your bet will be unmatched, either partially or in full.

For example, let’s say you want to have £20 on Tottenham to beat Arsenal at odds of 2.5. To get this bet on, there needs to be £20 in the market from players looking to bet against a Spurs win. “Back” and “Lay” are the terms used on an exchange. Like the stock exchange, to back is to buy, while to lay is to sell. Essentially, to buy a Spurs win, there needs to be enough money from those who’ve sold a Spurs win at the same price.

With any bet, the money is split into two pools – the money people have placed to back, and the money people have placed to lay. Each ‘pool’ is separated into pots based on the odds that have been offered. Depending on the result of any bet, the winning pool is returned to the people who backed the correct result, and they are paid from the ‘losing’ pool.

While setting your own odds does sound attractive, it’s usually best to stick with the odds offered by the betting exchange. These are the most common odds that people are backing and laying. If you try and offer outlandish odds, such as Manchester City beating Sutton United in the FA Cup at 100/1 then you will find there’s no liquidity as no one (at least no one with any sense) would be willing to lay such an outlandish bet.

We hope that now you know what is a betting exchange, and how to use one.

Betting exchange UK sites vs traditional UK sportsbooks

Are betting exchanges better than traditional sportsbooks? There are certainly pros to using a betting exchange instead of a sportsbook, though it really depends what you’re looking for. For a simple comparison of the two, see below.

Criteria Exchange Sportsbook
Set own odds ✔️
Back bets ✔️ ✔️
Lay bets ✔️
Trading ✔️
Restrictions ✔️
Liquidity issues ✔️

Pros and cons of a betting exchange

There can be no denying that betting exchanges have their place in the world of online gambling, though that’s not to say that there aren’t pitfalls as well as benefits. See below for the pros and cons of exchange betting sites.

Pros:

  • Ability to lay bets as well as back
  • Trading opportunities
  • Set your own odds
  • Much better prices than fixed odds betting sites
  • See betting trends and take advantage of them
  • Zero chance of bookie closing your account if you’re continually successful

Cons:

  • Liquidity can be a (minor) issue
  • You need to know how does exchange betting work
  • Commission can negate small profit margins
  • Odds often move very quickly

Betting exchange trading UK

How to bet on a betting exchange sites

Betting on an exchange also offers the opportunity to trade. Many people who’re not really interested in analysing sporting events from a betting perspective, trade on betting exchange sites, much like you might do on a stock exchange.

In short, sports trading or betting exchange trading is simply placing two opposing bets on the same selection, to create a profit regardless of the outcome of the event. As mentioned at other points in this article, trading on a betting exchange is not dissimilar to trading on the stock exchange. Rather than buying and selling, traders on the Betfair betting exchange or at Smarkets, Betdaq or Matchbook, are concerned with backing and laying as a means of betting exchange trading.

The real draw of trading on an exchange, at least for many, is that there’s no need to care about the winner and loser of an event. All the trader is concerned about is price movements. In stocks, the aim of the trader is to buy low and sell high, thus making a profit. The principle is the same for betting exchange traders, but in reverse. Lay low, back high. Any ‘betting exchange academy’ will give you this advice when outlining the best betting exchange systems.

Betting Exchange Strategies

The key advantage of betting exchange systems, as opposed to traditional betting, is that we can bet on something to both happen and not happen, and thus profit can be secured regardless of how things end up. The premise quite simple: back, wait, lay. So, we back at a certain price, wait for that price to fall, before laying off at a shorter price. Having done this, profit has been secured.

Step 1: Back

Identify a selection and back at a certain price, say 2.3

Step 2: Wait

Wait for the price of the selection to drop

Step 3: Lay

Identify an exit point, say 2.05, lay at this price, locking in profit.

Here’s a brief example.

  • Let’s say we feel that a selection will soon drop in odds, so we back that selection for £20 at odds of 2.3.
  • We wait a short while. Before long, the price has dropped to 2.00, which means that he opportunity to lay has arisen.
  • If we lay the same selection for a stake of £23, we lock in a profit of £3.00. It’s not much, but such trades soon add up.

After all, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day …

Football Betting Exchange Strategies

Football betting remains the most popular betting market in the world, even though there’s always a problem with wagering on the global game. That problem is the pesky draw. You can back a team to win, but there are two possible outcomes to the fixture that will see you losing money – your backed team loses, or your backed team draws. Of course, you can use ‘double chance’ fixed odds betting, but the odds are significantly impacted.

There are several ways you can use a betting exchange to improve your chances of coming out on top with your football betting. Say you are going to bet on Everton to beat West Ham. Instead of backing Everton, you could instead lay West Ham. That means you are backing West Ham not to win as opposed to Everton winning. You also have that pesky draw covered, because as long as West Ham don’t win, your bet is covered.

You could of course back both eventualities – back Everton at one site and back West Ham at another. This is know as arbitage betting or ‘dutching’. It may be more profitable to lay both teams instead as that you have have the draw covered twice.

One final option is to use double chance at a fixed odds betting site and laying the draw at a betting exchange. That way, again, you have all eventualities covered. If your backed teams wins, then you win both bets. If it’s a draw, then your double chance bet wins, and if your backed team loses, then laying the draw wins – all eventualities covered. Of course, you are only likely to make a profit if your backed team does win, but betting this way ensures that you do not lose the entirety of your stake.

Tennis Betting Exchange Strategies

Tennis betting is extremely popular at betting exchanges. Matches in tennis are more predictable than football matches and the favourite wins over 70 percent of the time (compared to football, where the favourite wins around 60 percent of the time). Tennis betting at exchanges is also popular as each game must have a winner – there are no ties.

Live betting is an essential tool for a tennis betting exchange strategy. Live prices change all the time, just like financial markets. For tennis, the key time is usually at the conclusion of the first set. If the favourite in a match loses the first set, backer’s panic tends to set in and people start to back the underdog. Even the strongest players tend to lose the first set though and then bounce back to take the next two or three, and you can use this to your advantage. The ‘back’ price of the favourite is usually at its most profitable (potentially) if that favourite goes a set down.

Another high price point to look out for is during a tie-break when a player goes 0-3 down. This gives the false impression that they are losing heavily when in fact, in all probablity they have only lost one service point. The price at this stage of the losing player is at its most profitable and you can use this to your benefit. All the player has to do to equalise before their opponent reaches seven points is to win a non-service point and hold serve twice.

How to Place a Bet at UK Betting Exchanges

If you are accustomed to placing bets at fixed odds betting sites, then you may open up a sports betting exchange and be flummoxed about what you see. In truth, placing a bet at a betting exchange is no more difficult than placing a bet at betting site with fixed odds, as long as you know what you are doing.

Here is our quick guide of how to place a bet at our favourite UK betting exchange, Betfair.

Step 1:
Once you’ve signed up for your Betfair betting exchange account and deposited your stake, you can find the event you want to bet on. Here, we are going to bet on England beating Croatia at Euro 2020. You can bet on any aspect of the match but here we are going to concentrate on the the ‘1X2’ aspect. If you find the detailed page of the event you’re wagering upon, you’ll be presented with the follow figures:

This screen is less complicated than it looks. The prices in blue are the best prices offered for the event to happen. So, for a England win, the best price is 1.71. The figure beneath is the amount of liquidity available, which is £191. If you want to back England for £200 at 1.71 you would not be able to, as there is not enough liquidity – you’d have to accept the price of 1.7.

The prices in pink are the best prices for the event not to happen – i.e. in England’s line this is for England NOT to win. Note that when laying you only win your stake if you are right. If you lose you are liable for (will lose) a proportion of your stake. At 1.72 you are liable for 1.72 x your stake, minus your stake. If your stake is £20, that would be (1.72 x 20) – 20 = £14.44. So you would be risking £14.44 in the hope of winning £20.

We are going to back England to win at 1.71, so we click on the blue part of England’s line.

Step 2:
Our bet is now on the betslip. You can see the odds you’ve chosen, but you can use the up and down arrows to change them (remember there must be sufficient liquidity). Your liability (your stake, which here is set at £20) is displayed here too, which is the amount you will lose if England do not win. You can also see the amount of profit you will make if your bet is successful. To place your bet, click ‘Place bets’.
Step 3:

Here we are going to cover the possibility of placing a lay bet instead. Instead of backing England to win, we are going to back Croatia to lose, and back the draw not to happen (eventually the same as England winning). We have adjusted the stake for each so our liability is the same as our bet on England winning.

As you can see, we are risking £20.00 in total to win £7.42. This is around half the profit we’ll make if we back England to win only, and that’s because we have more outcomes covered – if England win or the game ends in a draw, then our first bet wins, and if England or Croatia win, our second bet wins. This is why lay betting can be very useful – here ALL eventualities are covered in one way or another, so we don’t lose our entire stake if England fail to win.

How to Use a Sports Betting Exchange calculator

Even if you’ve had exchange betting explained, backing or laying a bet at a betting exchange is slightly more complicated than betting at a fixed odds betting site. If you hand a bookie a fiver to bet on England winning Euro 2020 at 3/1 (4.00) you’ll get £15 (your winnings) and £5 (your stake) back.

Say you bet with a mate – you say ‘I’ll bet you £5 that England won’t win Euro 2020′. Your mate may say, ‘okay, but if they do win you have to give me £20, and if they don’t, I’ll give you a fiver’. If you accept the bet, you have a liability of £20 which you’re accepting in the hope of winning £5, which is how exchanges work. However, working out your liability and potentional profit can be tricky, especially when you throw commission in too. This is where you need to use a betting exchange calculator.

This is the lay betting exchange calculator at the Betfair betting exchange. You enter your stake, which – as you are lay betting – is the amount you hope to win. You also enter the odds of your lay bet and the commission charged by the site. The calculator will update by itself to give you the information you need.

Here – your liability is £7.20 which is the amount you will need to pay if your bet loses. Your potential profit is £9.80, which is your winnings minus that two percent commission.

Betting Markets Guides

Want to improve your betting skillset? We bring you the best betting exchange sites sports betting guides and expert winning strategies across the most popular markets and sports. So be sure to check out the following articles that form part of our betting exchange academy and are designed to help punters with placing bets online.

Bottom line

If you’re serious about betting, then using a betting exchange is a must. Some betting exchanges offer markets that are not available with many sportsbooks, such as a variety of Asian Handicap markets, while there’s no risk of being restricted, as by their nature, exchanges encourage winners. We hope by reading this article you’ve had any questions about a betting exchange explained.

Trading opportunities and the ability to lay bets as opposed to just backing are other reasons as to why a punter would have at least one exchange account. There are fewer betting exchanges than traditional sportsbooks, but the choice can still be a tough one. So, which is the best betting exchange? After much deliberation, we arrived at the conclusion that Betfair, generally considered the king of exchange betting sites, is the best exchange in terms of overall quality, though both Smarkets and betdaq are viable alternatives, especially when it comes to low commission rates.

Our No. 1 Recommended Betting Exchange

FAQ

What is a back bet?

In exchange betting, a back bet is simply where you bet to win. For example, in football, you can back either side to win the match. Similarly, on a betting exchange, to back is like to buy on the stock exchange. You can back something to happen at a certain price, much like you would buy stock at a certain price.

What is a lay bet?

A lay bet is the opposite of a back bet. If you lay a selection on a betting exchange, you’re essentially betting on that selection to lose by offering odds to another play who wishes to bet on the same selection to win. To lay on a betting exchange is like to sell on a stock exchange.

What is the difference between a matched bet and an unmatched bet?

On a betting exchange, for a bet to count it must be matched. For example, if you want to place a £20 back bet at a certain price, then there must be enough layers’ money available at the same price. You can request a different price to the one currently visibly available, and wait to see if it becomes matched, though if the bet is not matched by the time the event that you’re betting on takes place, then the bet will not stand. Therefore, an unmatched bet is one that is yet to go through, while a matched bet is a bet that has been completed and will stand.

Do betting exchanges take a percentage of any profit?

Yes. Betting exchanges UK charge winning punters a small commission. Since exchange betting facilitates person-to-person betting, the exchange itself isn’t winning any money like a traditional bookmaker. Charging a small commission is how betting exchanges make a profit.

How much commission will I pay?

The level of commission varies. For example, on betfair, the standard rate of commission is 5%, though this can go down depending on the level activity on the account. Regular bettors can see their commission go down as low as 1%. There are alternatives to betfair, such as Smarkets, who charge a very reasonable starting commission of only 2%.

About Peter Addison

Peter is an experienced iGaming wordsmith who has been working in the industry since 2013. He has written more words on all aspects of iGaming than he cares to remember, and has provided content for many big industry names. When not writing Peter can be found out running or gaming on his Xbox.