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Betting Exchange vs Traditional Bookie - What are the Key Differences


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Today you’ll find a huge number of places to take a bet online, but for those that are new to the industry you perhaps won’t be aware that sites can be broken down into two key categories.

Both traditional bookmakers and betting exchanges are hugely popular at the moment, both offering different takes on how bets are placed. There are many reasons to use both, but for those who aren’t sure what the key differences are, we’re here to help.

Below you’ll find full explanations to the key differences between traditional bookies and the increasingly popular betting exchange…

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What is a Traditional Bookmaker?

It’s likely you’ll be fully aware of what a traditional bookmaker is and how it works. The likes of William Hill and bet365 are household names, and gameplay is relatively simple.

With traditional bookmakers all you’re required to do in order to play is place a bet on the odds offered by the bookmaker. This essentially means you’re competing against the bookmaker.

No matter what the market you play, whether it be a Football To Win bet or Each-Way on a horse racing meet you are going up against the bookie. If your bet comes through you win, while if it loses the bookmaker wins.

There are hundreds of bookmakers available to play with in the UK, with all the most tried and trusted found here.

What is a Betting Exchange?

Betting exchanges operate slightly differently. There are much fewer betting exchanges to play at, with the Betfair Exchange perhaps the most recognizable name.

Unlike traditional bookmakers where you bet against the bookmaker, you play against fellow punters, with you required to set the odds and other players expected to match them. The loser then pays out to the winner.

You’ll also find a slightly different way of placing bets. At bookmakers such as Coral, William Hill and other traditional betting sites, you place a back bet on an outcome, essentially meaning you expect a certain selection to happen within a sporting fixture. With betting exchanges you can also lay bets, which means you can place a bet on an outcome NOT to happen.

lay and back betting

For example, in football betting, you’d place a bet on a football team to win with a regular bookie. With an exchange you can bet on a football team not to win. In order to do so, you then have to match another punter’s odds, which are highlighted on the particular betting market.

Due to the fact a betting exchange is acting as a go-between for punters to place bets with each other, they will take a cut from the winnings. This is known as commission and can be from as little as 1% and go up to 5%.

Among the most popular betting exchanges are Betfair Exchange, Betdaq, Smarkets and Matchbook, with more information about the brands available here.

Traditional Bookmakers vs Betting Exchanges: Which Should You Play?

There are a number of key differences between traditional bookmakers and betting exchanges. The three main differences being who you’re betting against and the types of bet you can place.

  • An exchange you play against other players. With a traditional bookmaker, you’re betting against the bookie.
  • You can place lay bets at a betting exchange, which means betting on a selection/outcome not to occur. This is not possible at a traditional bookmaker.
  • Betting exchanges take commission on winnings, unlike traditional bookmakers.

The traditional bookmaker is perhaps the more simple site to play at. You don’t have to set or match odds, you simply have to play the odds the bookie is providing. You’ll also find a much larger selection of sports to bet on and markets to play in many cases.

However, it’s likely you will find better value odds with a betting exchange. Because you’re setting the odds, you can play the odds you want to make and achieve bigger payouts, as long as another player matches your bet anyway.

There’s certainly a place for both. More experienced punters using betting strategies will regularly use both. Matched betting is a strategy that requires both types of betting site, and is used to guarantee profit no matter what the outcome of a bet.