While Australia can lay to claim to having some of the best thoroughbreds in the world, its betting industry – one of the fundamental elements of racing – is many lengths inferior to that of other countries. As an expat Aussie working for one of the UK’s leading online bookmakers, I feel I am well qualified to pass this kind of judgement.

Aussie punters are subject to a marketplace controlled by the TABs and a select few bookmakers. In effect, there is little or no competition with punters being those that suffer most.

The introduction and availability of Betfair to punters in Australia was widely met with disapproval by those within the bookmaking industry because it challenged their monopoly. It has been the sole biggest “win” for punters in recent times, with a whole plethora of new betting options being made available. One of the most appealing opportunities that Betfair presents is that of “in-play” betting, which is available in Australia over the telephone.
In this article for PPM, I will provide some sound advice in using Betfair and attaining maximum profitability from betting “in-play”.

In-play betting is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of using Betfair. It allows punters to bet on many events – including horse racing – after they have started right up until they finish. The main difference from normal markets is that the odds change much more rapidly as the action unfolds. These wild betting fluctuations provide punters with a great opportunity to trade on these markets.

The key to “in-play” betting is being able to read the market and predict how the prices will change after the off. Knowing the racing pattern of particular racehorses is one way of getting an advantage in a race. Let me give you a couple of examples where knowing a horses’ racing style can give you an advantage on Betfair.

Say you want to back a horse that is a noted frontrunner who likes to go to the front and try to make all the running, a horse like Sunline for example. Knowing that this horse is likely to go to the front and at least look like the winner at some stage, she is likely to be trading at a shorter price in running than she was before the off. You could back her before the race and then lay the bet off in running.

Similarly, if you know that a horse’s style of running lends itself to getting a long way back, it is likely to be trading at a lot bigger price during the race when it is buried away near the tail of the field. You would lay this type of horse before the race and then back it in running. One horse that fits this description is English 2000 Guineas winner Cockney Rebel. He was trading at around the 30-35 mark before the off in that race, but when he was a fair way back with half a mile to go he was able to be backed at prices up to 90.

Knowing from his previous races that he was likely to be held up at the rear of the field, those that fancied this horse would have been best off waiting to back the horse in running, as his price drifted when he settled towards the back of the field.

Trading like this gives you the option of laying off your original stake/liability to give you a bet to nothing. Alternatively, if you know that a horse’s style of racing lends itself to a dramatic price change during the course of the race, you could back or lay the horse with the intention of trading the bet in running in order to make a profit.
Given the increased popularity of Betfair as a punting medium in Australia and the interest in the spring racing carnival, it is quite likely that there will be a lot of liquidity in some of the in-running racing markets in the coming months.

With this in mind, it might be a good idea to think about the best time to back the horses that you want to follow through the spring. Horses like El Segundo and Marasco – who most often get a long way back in their races – will probably be available at bigger prices in running than they will be before the off. In contrast, you would probably be better off backing a horse like Desert War before the race, as he likes to bowl along in front and is likely to trade at a shorter price during the race.

You may prefer to make a list of horses likely to appear during the spring that have a distinct style of racing. Back the horses that race up on the pace before the off and then trade them in running. Lay those that get a long way back before the race begins. When their price drifts in running, back them.

While most bookmakers suspend big race markets whilst races that can affect their prices are being run, these markets remain active on Betfair. For those that like to lay bets in the ante-post markets, you need to bear this in mind when the horse(s) that you want to lay are due to race. On many occasions, I have been able to secure a price on a runner for a big race immediately after it has performed well in a lead-up event. I have then been able to lay the selection off at a shorter price to those that weren’t so quick.

One recent example came after Epsom Derby winner Authorized blitzed his rivals to win the classic by five lengths. Knowing that traditionally the next port of call for the Derby winner is the Coral Eclipse Stakes, I snapped up the 9/2 available for him to win that race and was able to then lay him at half the price only five minutes later.

Of course, if a horse near the head of the betting for a feature race were to perform badly in a lead-up event, his price is likely to drift. Those with unmatched “back” bets would also be advised to act quickly should your selection disappoint. There will always be somebody ready to capitalise on your sluggishness in removing your unmatched bets.

The concept of making a profit on an event without your selection actually winning is one that can take a little bit of getting used to. This is where the whole concept of trading comes in. Like I said before, if you can correctly predict the way that a market is going to go, winning on Betfair is easy!

Even if you do not fancy a selection but can see the value in the price and that it is likely to go down, you can play it as a trade. While trading is something that can be done at any time on Betfair (and any other betting exchange), being able to bet in running gives punters so many more opportunities.

During this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament, I was watching the Women’s Semi-Final between Justine Henin and Marion Bartoli. Henin was a very short price to win the match before it began and when she went a set and a break ahead, there was hundreds of thousands of pounds ready to be matched on Henin at 1.01 (1/100). Knowing that Bartoli’s price was only going to go one way, I thought that this match would be a good opportunity to make some easy money. So I laid Henin at 1.01 hoping that her price would get out to about 1.1 (1/10) enabling me to back her and make a profit from the match.

Bartoli fought back to break Henin’s serve and hold her own. Her price was out to about 1.06 (1/16) at which point I decided that I would “get out” and back her. I got rid of my liability on Henin and had a bet to nothing on her then going on to win the match. As it turned out, she ended up losing and the great position that I had on Bartoli winning the match (from laying Henin at 1.01) disappeared when I then backed Henin.

Although my bet was unsuccessful in this instance, I didn’t end up losing money on the match. The point that I am trying to make is that in pre-empting the way that the market was going to move, I had put myself in a position where I couldn’t lose but could still make a profit from the match. It could have gone the other way of course and Henin’s price may not have drifted, but when laying at such short odds, you put yourself in a position to make a big profit with only a small liability or stake.

This is a great option for small stakes punters who want to try and make big money from a small outlay. The minimum stake for placing a bet on Betfair is $6, so when backing a selection your minimum liability is going to be $6. If you are laying a selection you only have to lay a minimum stake of $6. That means that you could have a liability as little as 6c if laying at 1.01. 

One recent example that springs to mind was the Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne at the end of June. I didn’t fancy a wager at the prices before the match, but with Australia trailing 15-6 and New Zealand a man down after Hayman was sent to the sin bin, I thought that All Blacks price was too short.

I could either lay them at 1.04 (1/25) or back the Wallabies at 22 (21/1). Laying the All Blacks effectively gave me a bet on the Wallabies at 25/1 – better than the 21/1 I could have backed them at – so I took that option. I will explain why focusing on the shorter priced selection is the smartest way to trade in a minute.

When the Wallabies got to within two, I was able to cover my bet by laying my original stake on the Wallabies, effectively giving me a bet to nothing with an All Black win meaning I lost nothing but an Aussie victory ensuring a healthy collect.

When betting on a head to head contest, most people back the team that they think will win. When using Betfair to bet on such events, you need to remember that the market revolves around the most favoured selection – the favourite – and you need to trade accordingly. The reason for this is because this side sees far greater liquidity, or turnover of money.

The market revolves around the shorter priced selection. If you don’t fancy the favourite and are able to lay it at 1.5 (1/2), you are effectively backing the alternate option at three (2/1). Laying at the shorter prices gives the market a make up of closer to 100 per cent than you would get backing the other side. This is a better option than backing your selection on Betfair at a likely price of about 2.9 (15/8) where the market is about 101.5 per cent. The advantage of using Betfair in an instance like this is apparent when you consider that a conventional bookie would give you 2.5 (6/4) in a market made up to 106.7 per cent.

As it is the favoured selection that dictates the market and the market is generally not made up to more than 100 per cent, laying is also the best option if you fancy the favourite. Using the same scenario as above, being able to lay the outsider at 15/8 – or any price less than 2/1 – is better than backing the selection at 1/2. In effect you are betting at 8/15.

The only time when the market is not controlled or dictated by the favoured selection on Betfair is when the other side goes to a price over 100/1. Since the lowest price that you can trade at is 1.01 (1/100), any price over 101 (100/1) will mean that the makeup of the book will be less than 100 per cent. If you are able to back a selection at bigger than 100/1 in a head to head contest you would be able to lay it off at 1.01 and be guaranteed to make a profit.

As a UK resident I have unrestricted use of Betfair and all of the wonderful betting options that it offers. As well as those already mentioned, they offer a wide range of in-play betting markets on cricket, AFL, rugby league and many other sports. Given the reluctance of the powers that be to give punters a fair go and a proper freedom of choice with their betting options, you have to make the most of what you’ve got.

One of, if not the best betting option that punters have available to them at the moment, is in play betting with Betfair.

By Jason Colley