How betting exchanges work

BetBTC (review) and Fairlay (review) have recently improved their bitcoin betting exchanges to the point we recommend you sign up.

Getting the hang of a betting exchange can take a while but it’s well worth it. The model will show you how odds and betting markets work from the sportsbook’s side and the bettors side. Betting exchanges give you the maximum control and options with your betting.

  1. What is a betting exchange
  2. Stake and odds when laying
  3. Set your own odds
  4. Liquidity
  5. Trading and hedging

What is a betting exchange

On betting exchanges you don’t bet against the operator you bet against other customers with the exchange acting as an intermediary.

This means you can “Back” and “Lay”. Backing is betting on an outcome to happen; when you back you bet against the layers. Laying is betting that an outcome will not happen; when you lay you bet against the backers.

So if you want to bet that Spain will win the World Cup you can back them to win, just like you would normally bet at sportsbook. If you want to bet that the Spain will not win the you can lay them. In this case you have every other team in the competition playing for you. Your lay bet wins if any team other than Spain wins.

Laying is taking the place of a sportsbook, if you win the bet you keep the backers stake but if you lose the bet you have to payout the backer’s stake multiplied by the odds just like a sportsbook does.

In this process the exchange

  • Puts up the market with selections for betting on.
  • Matches backers and layers and displays unmatched bets.
  • Holds the backers and layers money aside while the outcome is pending.
  • Pays out the winner with the losers money.
  • Takes a 2% – 4% commission from the winner’s profit.

So unlike sportsbooks the exchange doesn’t want you to lose. They have no position or investment in the outcome of any bet.

The exchange model has 2 big advantages.

1. Better odds
Betting exchanges commision is less than sportsbooks overround. A 2% commision is equivalent to a 1% overround.

2. The ability to lay
This gives you more options and control as detailed below.

Stake and odds when laying

When a bettor lays a selection the backer’s stake is what he will win if the selection loses, no matter what the odds are. However if the selection wins the layer will have to pay out the backers profit based on the odds. Take the following scenario

Selection: Spain
Odds: 3
Backers stake: 1 mBTC

If Spain loses the layer wins 1 mBTC. If spain wins the layer has to pay the backer 2 mBTC. The backer will receive 3 mBTC but 1 of those was his original stake, it does not come from the layer.

No image the same bet but with odds of 1.2. If Spain loses the layer wins 1 mBTC. If spain wins the layer has to pay the backer 0.2 mBTC. This shows why the layer wants as low odds as possible.

The layer’s liability is held aside just like a backers stake is held aside, until the bet is resulted. A layer cannot get a bet on unless he has the funds in his account to cover the liability.

The bet slip on the exchange will tell you what your liability would be on a lay bet. The calculation its.


Layer’s Liability = (backer’s stake x odds) – backers stake

This can also be expressed as


Layer’s Liability = backer’s stake X (odds – 1)

From the second example above example If the backer’s stake is 1 mBTC, the odds are 1.06 and the selection wins the Layers liability is


(1 mBTC * 1.2 = 1.2 mBTC) –1 mBTC = 0.2 mBTC

Set your own odds

To get your bets matched you can either take the best odds available at the time or request better odds by putting up an unmatched bet and hoping another user will take it.

It will go into the queue as an unmatched bet. If you are a backer your bet becomes available for the layers to match if they like the odds, if you are a layer your bet becomes available for the backers to match if they like the odds.

The backers want the highest odds possible but the layers want the lowest odds possible. That’s why exchanges display the unmatched back bets with the highest odds at the front of the bakc que and the unmatched lay bets with the lowest odds at the front of the lay que.

If you are a backer and you request odds that are higher than the best currently available back price but still lower than the best currently available lay price your unmatched back bet will be at the front of the lay queue. For example

Current best back price: 2.14
Current best lay price: 2.2

If you put up a request to back at 2.18 your bet becomes available for layers to lay at the front of the que because its now the lowest/best available lay price. Being at the front of the queue means you have a good chance of being matched.

However if you put up a request to back at the odds of 2.22 a layer has no reason to accept your offer because lower/better odds of 2.2 are already available so your unmatched bet will be behind that in the queue.

If the following conditions are true you can feel confident that taking the best price available will get you good value and there is no need to try to set our own odds.

  • Event start time is close.
  • Alot has already been matched on the market.
  • There is a small difference between back and lay odds.

Liquidity

Liquidity refers to how much money is being matched on a market. Betting exchange markets need a lot of liquidity to produce competitive odds. For that reason they display how much has already been matched on a market and individual selections.

When you bet a lot on a particular sport or league at an exchange you will get a feel for how much liquidity a market needs for the odds to be competitive. If there is not enough liquidity for good odds you will need to set your own.

Trading and hedging

Trading is backing a selection at a higher price and laying it at a lower price. If you can do this you can win no matter what happens. It is like buying shares at a low price and then selling them at a high price.

For this to work you would need the odds on a selection to come down after you have backed it or for the odds on a selection to go up after you have laid it. If you back a selection and then the odds go up you will not be able to trade into a guaranteed profit but you can still hedge out of your risk to some extent.

For how to do this please see our article Arbitrage betting, trading and hedging.

Conclusion

The only way to really appreciate the features mentioned in this article is to get on BetBTC or Fairlay and give it a go. Greater understanding will come with real use of the exchange model. Get your hands dirty with betting exchanges and it will change the way you bet and your profitability forever.

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6 Comments

  1. Joshuatree 1 year ago

    Does fairlay go live?

  2. bettercallsaul4 1 year ago

    Seriously? You recommend BetBTC over Fairlay?! Ok – I agree, they have nicer interface especially if you are used to Betfair – BetBTC is basically a (nice) copy. However – Fairlay has been longer around, they have WAY MORE liquidity, they have better odds AND they charge no fee at all on sport bets compared to the 2% of BetBTC. If you are serious about (value) betting it is totally NOT up for debate what side to chose.

    • Author
      James Canning 1 year ago

      Yeah you have good points, honestly I recommend both of them, sign up and deposit is instant and anonymous so there is basically no friction and no reason not to try both.

      If you only care about the best odds then yes go with Fairlay but most people care about the overall betting experience as a whole and for that, I think, BetBTC is slightly better.

      > “Fairlay has been longer around”

      Like 2.5 years compared to 2 years…

      > “They have better odds AND they charge no fee at all on sport bets”

      Aren’t these kind of the same point? They have better odds because they charge no fee, which is a temporary state of affairs.

      Anyway I do like and recommend Fairlay.

      • bettercallsaul4 1 year ago

        > “They have better odds AND they charge no fee at all on sport bets”
        Agree – this is basically the same point. I just wanted to point out that the odds on Fairlay are usually already better than those on BetBTC and in addition you have to subtract 2% on BetBTC – so the difference is even bigger than it appears on a direct comparison.

        But you are right: bottom line: Fairlay has better odds and a factor of >10 higher liquidity.

        By the way – very nice site overall! I really appreciate the odds comparison tool. One very helpful thing would be if the tool would directly link to the bet on the site.

  3. guseff 1 year ago

    I don’t understand why on this site you always highlight the better odds of fairlay versus betbtc when infact betbtc has the best odds, the only aspect where fairlay is better is on liquidity, on all the rest betbtc wins

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