When it comes to choosing a betting exchange to place your lay bets, Betfair and Smarkets are head and shoulders above the rest.
Opening an exchange account is one of the first steps you must take as a matched betting newbie, but which betting exchange should you use?
My recommendation is that you sign up with both. There are a number of different reasons for this, which we’ll get to in just a moment.
The Betfair Exchange was launched way back in 2000 and faced very little competition in the early days. That enabled it to become the largest betting exchange in the world, boasting over 4 million customers.
The Smarkets Exchange was launched in 2010, with a focus on simplicity, transparency and industry-leading commission rates. It’s one of the world’s most technologically advanced betting exchanges and has become a serious challenger to Betfair in recent years.
1. Commission rates
Betting exchanges make their money by charging a commission on winning bets.
This means the higher the rate of commission, the more it eats into our matched betting profits.
Smarkets offer a flat commission rate of just 2%, compared to Betfair’s standard rate of 5%. This may seem like a small difference on the face of it, but over time the difference really adds up.
For an average matched bettor, over the course of a year, the difference could equate to an extra £1,000+ in your back pocket if you lay your bets with Smarkets.
You’re probably wondering why Betfair charge such a high level of commission in comparison. It’s somewhat justified because they outperform Smarkets in some other key areas, which I’ll explain as we move through this guide.
2. Market availability
Betfair cover more sports than Smarkets and offer a wider range of markets. For example, we can only lay greyhound bets at Betfair.
For the vast majority of offers though, we can lay our bets at either exchange. Smarkets are continuing to add new sports and markets all the time.
You’ll sometimes find with some of the more obscure sports and events that Betfair have the markets available ahead of Smarkets, but there’s never really any rush.
If you’re looking for a market that isn’t offered by either exchange, you can contact them via live chat and request it. If they feel it’s a market that would be popular, they’ll open it up.
Liquidity is the amount of money available in a market. If there’s no liquidity, then our lay bets won’t get matched.
Betfair is used a lot by traders, so there generally tends to be more money in their markets compared to those of Smarkets.
For matched betting purposes though, the liquidity at both exchanges is more than enough and the odds available at both exchanges tend to be pretty much the same.
You’ll also find sometimes, that Betfair have greater liquidity in advance of an event starting but as the event gets closer, Smarkets are quick to catch up.
This is another area where Betfair just get their noses in front.
In the early days, Smarkets struggled with reliability. The popularity of their exchange was growing at such a rate; they struggled to handle the increased load at busy times.
Fast forward a couple of years and things are much better. They’ve spent a lot of time and resources improving their scalability, which now enables them to grow their customer base without the problems of yesteryear.
Betfair are generally very reliable too. Like all websites, they’ve had occasional periods of downtime but these have been very few and far between.
This is one of the main reasons you should register an account with both exchanges as it’s really important to have a back up account should one of them experience issues.