Over three years ago, John May, a man described as one of the most fearless gamblers in the world, and an author of books on gambling, made the bold prediction that “Within five years the sports betting industry as we know it the world over will have been supplanted by the (betting) exchanges or will have adapted to incorporate the new system into their own network somehow.

It’s only when you begin to use an exchange that you understand how much better things can be for the punter.”

Back in June 2001 when May made those comments, betting exchanges were mainly confined to the UK, but since then gamblers world-wide, at least those wanting a better deal, have joined the client base of the likes of Betfair and Betdaq. Betfair for instance now has about 50,000 worldwide customers each week.

Not only is horse racing the only attraction for punters wanting a better deal, but sports betting on a wide range of events from football (soccer), tennis, golf to the more esoteric bets on who will win the US Presidential election creates enormous interest.

So, why choose sports betting over other forms of gambling? Putting aside the entertainment factor, there is one simple reason. You have a better chance of winning consistently.

Sports wagering offers a unique skill-based opportunity for winning as it essentially involves two opposing bets by individuals with the betting exchange acting as the broker.

The individual bettor is pitting his judgement on the outcome of an event against the judgement of another bettor. By doing your homework before making a bet, you can directly increase the chances of winning – particularly over the long run.

Sports betting is one area which attracts many new and younger players to risk their hard earned and for these as well as those older punters that may not be computer savvy there are pitfalls.

In the world of horse racing and sports betting, like life in general, it is important to set a realistic goal and then work towards getting there.

If you start uncontrolled betting, with high stakes to make up for losing bets, if you bet every day without any point, things inevitably will not work out the way you planned – that goal will remain elusive.

The first thing is to set up your betting account. This should consist of money that you are prepared to lose and if so, will have little or no effect on your lifestyle and importantly those that may be dependent on you, such as a wife and family.

Most importantly, the money put aside in this betting account should never be “borrowed”. You can either afford to gamble or you can’t – it really is as simple as that and you should never attempt to make up for your lack of funds by gambling.

The following 10 tips (edited) for Internet gamblers come from the UK online racing service provider Flatstats (www.flatstats.co.uk):

  1. Never leave your entire betting bank in their account (bookie or betting exchange).  From your betting bank you may decide to stake say 5 per cent of the bank. As the bank grows, your stake grows.  You don’t have to have the full bank invested with the bookie or exchange. Keep the money in your bank and let it earn interest ready for your next bet.

    As long as you do not pay charges for debits and withdrawals you may as well sweep out your Internet account each night. Just leave enough in there to cover your stakes for the next day’s trading. Keep track of your true betting bank in a spreadsheet, not by looking at your balance on your Internet account.
  2. Shop around.

    Don’t just open one account and stick with them. Unless your bookie offers prices higher than the others, or your bookie has a loyalty scheme (this will be the next big thing with bookies to keep customers on board) then open up horse racing accounts with different bookmakers or exchanges. You should do this anyway to ensure that you don’t get knocked back by placing too many big bets.

    Shopping around allows you to make arbitrage bets. Whilst prices can vary between bookies, exchange prices can vary widely too. Open up a couple of horse racing screens and watch what is happening on Betfair, Betdaq etc.
  3. Don’t wait until the off to place your bets.

    This applies mostly to hedging bets. If you have spotted a good hedge bet but are waiting for a price to drift or shorten, then be very careful if you are betting right at the off. You could find that the event starts and betting is suspended. This can leave you with a big liability which you are unable to claw back.
  4. Never bet “in running” (on horse racing).

    In running betting is too risky. It is a facility to squeeze a few more quid out of horse racing gambling addicts. If you haven’t made your selection by the off then forget it. Move onto the next race.

    Do not bet just for the sake of it.Betting in running is very dangerous because of the time lag between the real time of the race and the time in which you get to watch or hear the race. Internet radio/vision on horse racing and sports events can be delayed due to buffering.
  5. Beware of exchange horse racing “cheats”.

    Every so often some punters think they can be clever by posting up ridiculous prices. You will often see bets offered for 1.01 at $2,000. What this means is someone is offering you the chance to back a horse at 1/100. You get to risk $2,000 to win $20.The way this happens is with big horse racing gambles. Say a horse is being backed off the bookies’ boards from 16/1 down to 4/1.

    On the exchanges, the layers will want to cancel their bets so that they don’t get stung on a downward market. The odds-on layer is the only bet left on the board. If you spot a gamble going off and click the “back” button you may think you’ll be getting the 10.5, 6.2 etc. but as those layers have cancelled their bets you will end up taking the cheater’s not so generous odds of 1/100.In the heat of the moment you may not notice this and end up having 1/100 on a 4/1 chance. It does happen and if so then complain immediately to the betting exchange about what occurred.
  6. Never bet on a drifting antepost hotpot.

    This scam works by connections laying their fancied horse. The horse is a big drifter and his price is not in line with the bookies’ prices. A few days before the horse racing day, the horse is pulled out. Connections scoop up all the stake money that they took on their horse. This happens often on the exchanges. Connections need to be caught red handed and banned for life.
  7. Beware of horse racing non-runners.

    This is similar to point six. You place bets on a horse, then another horse in the race becomes a non-runner. All prices in the race are adjusted in accordance with the “reduction factor”. In some cases punters find that they are left holding bets much worse than they would have with bookies. When the proper trading starts, they are unable to hedge and claw back some of that built in loss. Responding to the criticism some of the exchanges have changed their procedures for handling Rule 4 deductions.

    (Note: The Betfair non-runner rule is based on the Tattersall’s (UK) Rule 4 and Internet punters are advised to be fully aware of this rule, particularly if betting “antepost”.)
  8. Watch out for allegedly “bent races”.A favourite may shorten with the bookies, but drift on the exchanges. The weight of money willing to lay the horse far exceeds the weight willing to back the horse. It is as if the exchange layers know the horse will not win.

    Any fancied horse that is shortening quite rapidly with the bookies, but drifting right out on the exchanges, has to be suspect. You will see backers take a fair chunk of exchange money, only for other layers to weigh in and offer more stake at higher odds. On Betfair there is a facility to see a graph of traded bets, and prospective bets. By clicking on the name of the horse (team or contestant) in question you can roughly sum up the amount of blue “to back” figures, and pink “to lay” figures.

    Most of the time you will see a fairly balanced market, but if the amount of “to back” money vastly out-weighs the “to lay” money then you can be sure that the exchange punters are most certain the horse will lose.
  9. Don’t just take the best price you can get.

    If you have set yourself a minimum price, stick to it. Too many punters take any price they can get because they want to be “on”. This contradicts value betting. If you can’t get the price you want, leave the bet alone and move onto the next one.
  10. Always check your returns.

    Check your statement each day to ensure that there are no errors. Mistakes are easily made.

To the Flatstats list of 10 can be added the following, particularly for those that gamble with offshore casinos or sports bookies.

Make sure the casino/sports bookie is licensed. Search the licensing information on the casino/sports bookie site. If you can’t find any, ask their customer service support/help desk. Don’t gamble there if they don’t have a licence.
Make sure the casino/sports bookie has 24/7 customer service support and test it out.

When betting with online casinos learn the rules and strategies of the game being played.

Also learn how to collect bonuses; and importantly learn how to play them right. If a casino offers you a bonus make sure you read what you need to in order to get it.

Don’t start gambling in big amounts until you trust the online casino/sports bookie. My advice is to first gamble only in small amounts, cashing-out any winnings, testing to see how fast they pay out.

Online gambling should be fun and should not become a hazard to your financial wellbeing. Yet, often even the slightest chance of a “big win” keeps some players gambling longer and that increases the amount of money they will lose.

It is very much a truism that the main reason the majority of all gamblers don’t win is their own greed, and most of them have unreasonable goals for how much money they want to win.

It is important to have a predetermined win plan (goal) as well as a set loss limit. Without this type of money management strategy, the chance of losing increases.

The biggest problem with many gamblers, particularly those playing casino games, is that they play until they run out of money. The danger when playing on the Internet is that it is all too easy to top-up the account through use of credit cards. Self-control is therefore needed to resist this when things get tough and the betting bank diminishes.

Do not increase your bets or bet on more games in order to make up losses. You will experience losing streaks as well as winning streaks. You must stay disciplined. By chasing losses all you do is put your betting bank at risk. If you experience a losing streak, reassess your research and handicapping efforts.

If in hindsight you would still make the same bets, then relax and stay consistent. If you see gaps in your skills, then spend some time learning.

Frankly, the learning experience never ends.

Do not increase your bets or bet size because you are on a winning streak and believe you can’t lose. You can and will.

By EJ Minnis