One of the benefits to being a modern day punter is the vast choice of bookmakers that are available to choose from. As the competition continues to increase it means these betting sites have to work harder for your custom. They need to keep evolving and improving because if they aren’t, then someone else will be.
A lot of betting sites provide a great range of features and if we are being honest, gimmicks. The majority of punters wont use them all, but as features such as cash out betting, live streaming and free bet offers continue to draw people in, it’s likely they will keep adding them, which can only be a positive for the punter.
Best Betting Sites for UK Punters
Are all Betting Sites the Same?
The basics of a betting site are to allow people to bet on a wide variety of sports and markets. At the end of the day, the goal is to make money, but it’s also to enjoy your time within a bookmaker to make the whole process much more appealing.
To answer the question if all betting sites are the same, then we would have to say no.
There are many subtle differences that appear on each site, with everything from design, bonuses, features and pricing being slightly different. If betting sites were all the same then they would have no appeal over their rivals and eventually the smaller sites would fizzle out.
It’s a good thing that sites aren’t the same though as what works for one punter might not for another. For example, if you are someone who likes to place accumulator bets then you will be more inclined to look for a bookmaker with the best odds and possibly cash out functionality to lock in your profits.
If you are a punter who is looking to simply place single bets but with large sums of money then you will be looking for a bookmaker that is not only going to allow you to quickly deposit large sums, but also get your money out in at timely manner as well.
Design is another key area where betting sites differ and for the majority of the bigger sites, the designs will vary dramatically. For a long time bet365 were one of few bookmakers that offered their site on a Flash platform, whereas other sites would be designed via HTML. The colour scheme and layout of each site will also vary quite dramatically.
How do Bookmakers Set Odds?
Bookmaking of often thought of as an art form, but in fact it’s purely maths based. Odds are set for each possible outcome to allow the bookmaker in the long term to guarantee a profit from that market.
The process is very much the same as any punter looking to place their bets on a Saturday morning for the upcoming football matches, but on a much larger scale. Each bookmaker will have a dedicated team of traders, analysers and odds compilers that will bring a ton of research to form the likelihood of each result. Their stats and data will go beyond your usual betting ‘tips’ site, but likely will be available to pretty much all punters if you know where to look.
The team will start with the possible results for each betting market. So, if they were to target a football match between England and Germany for the Win-Draw-Win market, they would be looking at the likelihood of a home win, away win and the draw. Once they have their likelihood for each result from all the data available, they then transfer this to a percentage, which might look like this:
- England to win: 50%
- Draw: 20%
- Germany to win: 30%
As you will notice, the odds need to add up to 100% for each market. The next step is to then convert these percentages into odds, which would look like this:
- England to win: 50% = 2.00
- Draw: 20% = 5.00
- Germany to win: 30% = 3.33
With these odds priced up to 100% it means in the long run, the bookmaker will break even. So, to ensure that they always have an edge, they bump their prices. Typically for football matches, this will be around the 107% mark and then adjust prices accordingly. For sports where they are a little less clued up (novices races in horse racing for example) this number could rise to as much as 120%.
They have the extra 7% to play with now and then they can utilise this is any way that they wish. Often they will give the most likely result more of a boost than the other two, so given that England are at home and the bookmaker is anticipating a lot of money coming in for the home team, they might increase this result more than the other two.
- England to win: 53% = 1.88
- Draw: 21% = 4.76
- Germany to win: 33% = 3.03
This gives the bookmaker an implied probability on this market of 107%. As a result, notice how the odds for each possible result has dropped. This is essentially how odds are set and also how bookmakers form their margins, guaranteeing them a profit.
Before we move on, you need to be aware that this method might not necessarily make them money on one specific result, but what it does do is over time guarantee them a profit over hundreds, thousands and even millions of different bets. It basically removes any variance and that extra 7% is the money that is lining their back pockets.
You will no doubt have seen times where you place a bet in the morning and then check back later in the day to see that the odds are now different than the price that you took.
The main reason why the odds move is due to the volume of money that is coming in for certain bets, which increases the bookmakers exposure. The goal for the bookmaker is to balance the books, meaning to get an even liability on each result. If everyone were to bet on the same selection then the bookmaker wouldn’t be able to do this, so in turn they need to be able to deter people from betting and look at other selections within the same market.
You can relate the movement back to the odds example above in that for popular bets or bets that the bookmaker assume are going to be popular, they can increase their margin on this bet. Above we noted that they split the 7% 3/1/3% between the three options, but they could quite easily have made this 5/1/1 in favour for the popular bet that they had already anticipated was going to move at some point.
What you will find is that as the number of selection within a market increases, the ease in which a bookmaker can balance the books decreases. A horse race with 12 runners for example, is going to be harder than a tennis match betting on the outright winner of a single match .
DO THE BOOKIES EVER GET IT WRONG?
In a word, yes. But, it’s pretty uncommon for them to do so. The fact of the matter is that sport is an unpredictable beast and event the best laid plans can be overturned. We’ve seen countless underdog stories over the years, Leicester winning the league, 100/1 winners of the Grand National and many more. Whilst they seem unlikely on paper, someone somewhere will have backed that result.
The key thing to remember is that whilst the opportunities are available to the Joe Public, long term the bookies aren’t going to lose, assuming they are able to form their margins correctly.
Let’s take Leicester winning the Premier League in 2016 as our example. Priced as high as 5,000/1 at the beginning of the season the bookies were essentially saying they had no chance of winning the league, and rightly so! But, they did and there were a number of people who popped up to say that they had a piece of the action at 500/1.
If a bookmaker has 100 people who had placed a £10 bet on it, this means they would have had to pay out £500,000. To break even they would have had to take over £500,000 throughout the course of the season on all other teams to break even. The reality is that even though the odds are excruciatingly high, bookmakers will likely have still made a profit. They would have been able to trade other prices, increase margins where needed and dangled the carrot for other bets to even out this market.
In conclusion, the bookmakers do get it wrong sometimes and there will definitely be times where they have paid out more than they are covered, but for the most part, the number game that they play is so well tuned and so precise that long term, they cant lose.
For the majority of punters, betting limits is not something that are going to be an issue. A £10 winner at odds of 5.00 certainly isn’t going to be troubling too many bookmakers, but as you start to increase your stakes or even the odds, then you will need to be aware of betting limits.
You see, all bookmakers will having betting limits in terms of the max that they will pay out per bet and the max they will accept per bet. Whilst two factors may seem connected, they are in fact very different and it’s important to know why.
The max you are allowed to stake on a bet is often correlated with the maximum that the bookmaker wants to pay out for that bet. So, for example, a bookmaker wants their maximum liability for a bet to be £1,000, and has set odds for the bet at 2.00 (even money). So, the maximum that you can bet on this £1,000, which if won, would give £1,000 profit.
But, let’s say that the bookmaker in their terms and conditions state that the maximum payout for any single bet is £500. This means that if the bet above won, they would actually only pay you £500.
It’s important to note that the bookmaker will still accept the bet that will pay out over the max pay-out limit, but will only pay you what the limit is set at and not your expected returns from that bet.
PAY OUT LIMITS
Below we have taken some of the main bookmakers in the industry and highlighted, where possible, the max pay out and the max bet within that bookmaker.
|BOOKMAKER||MAX PAY OUT||MAX BET|
We spoke earlier in the article about some key features that bookmakers were now able to offer their players. A lot of them are a little thin on the ground if you ask, but there have been some great additions over the last 10 years or so and we have highlighted our favourites below.
Cash out betting has been an absolute revelation for all forms of punters. The concept is pretty simple in that at any point of a in-play bet you can cash your bet in either lock in a profit or limit a loss, depending on the amount offered to you from the bookmaker.
The reason why it’s been so successful is that no longer do you need to let your bets run. It could be for a number of reasons such as your happy with the profit on offer or simply your bet that you placed pre match doesn’t look as strong with the main striker out injured in the warm up. Either way, it’s safe to say that there have been as few successful innovations in the betting industry in recent years as cash out betting.
Live streaming allows you to watch live sports direct from your bookmaker. The range of games will vary between each betting site, but you can often find a good number, especially on the bigger sites such as bet365 and Betfair.
What’s great about live streaming is that the games are often free to watch. All you need is a funded betting account and you can enjoy thousands of live games every year. The popularity of it all means that bookmakers are now starting to invest more money into game rights, allowing them to get higher profile games. For example, bet365 now offer football matches from La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, three of the biggest footballing leagues in the world.
Generally what you will find is that the live streaming platforms are linked with the in-play betting section as well, meaning you can watch and bet at the same time. Some bookmakers have totally redesigned their live betting section to allow this function to work better and you can even access most platforms via your mobile to watch on the go.
Live betting isn’t all that new anymore, but it is one of the most well used areas of any modern day online sportsbook. The feature allows you to bet on games as they are taking place, which means you can react to certain events as they play out within the match.
In fact, the concept has become so popular that many professional bettors use this section almost exclusively when betting as they feel they are better suited to spotting patterns within games that will lead to a higher success rate for their bets.
The statistics section within online betting sites is an area that has grown massively over the years. They are generally powered by one or two developers who then hire their data out to the bookmakers, who then allow punters to view it for free.
The level of detail for these sections is pretty impressive these days and they are able to cover a huge number of sports and data. We think that they are one oft the easiest ways for beginners within the industry to make much more informed betting decisions and in turn, making them more money.
How to Choose a Betting Site
There are plenty of places where you can place a bet on the internet. However, most bookmakers are definitely not equal and there can be dramatic differences between two bookies, even if they look the same on the surface.
The most obvious difference that affects where you place your bet are the odds. If one site is offering you 10/1 on Liverpool to win the FA Cup and another is offering you 15/1 for the same bet, then clearly you’re going to want to place it with the second one. Doing anything else would literally be throwing money away.
Then there are the less obvious factors to consider, such as the range of markets and events they offer. If you just want to place a couple of bets on the match odds market of Saturday’s Premier League games, then you may not even notice the difference. But if you want to bet on matches involving smaller leagues or more exotic bets, then all of a sudden it starts to matter.
For example, most betting sites offer scorecast bets on big football matches. But what if instead of betting on the first goalscorer and correct score, you want to bet on the match result. This is known as a Wincast and is much less common. In fact, we can count on one hand the number of bookies who offer it on a regular basis.
Some bookies will even let you go ‘off menu’ and offer special odds on request on things they don’t normally cover. So if you want to place a bet that your son will one day play for England, then find yourself a good bookie and you may be able to do just that.
So far, we’ve only talked about football – seeing as it’s the most bet on sport in the UK, that shouldn’t be suprising. But when it comes to other sports you really start to see differences in the bookies offers. Even big sports such as horse racing (the #2 in terms of betting turnover in the UK) get wildly different coverage – with some sites not offer markets on it at all!
For this reason we’ve written a series of guides to different sports, bet types and features to help you find the right site for what you want to do:
- Sports – Boxing, Cricket, Darts, Formula 1, Football, Golf, Horse Racing, Rugby, Snooker, Tennis
Sign Up Bonuses
Introductory offers are one of the key ways in which sports betting sites encourage new customers to sign up and bet with them. They’ve been around pretty much as long as betting has been online, although the way in which they’re offered has changed many times throughout the years.
At first offers were simple matched bets – so bet £25 and you’ll get £25 free. But then as more betting sites went online and competition increased, the bookies have had to continuously up their game to get noticed, with free bets worth three or four times your qualifying bet not uncommon.
We’ll delve a bit deeper into how it all works later in the article, but first we’ll head straight to the good stuff – the offers.
Betting Offers for Existing Customers
Hold up a minute, you might be thinking. Why is it only the new customers who get the bonuses? After all, once you’ve been around the houses and claimed with every bookie, you’ll be left with no one to sign up with and no new offers.
If that sounds like something you’ve said, then you’re right – the very best betting offers are reserved for new customers. The reason for this is quite simple, they’re often offered at a loss to the bookie to get new blood to their site. And if they offered that level of promotion to everyone every day of the week they would go bust pretty quickly.
But that doesn’t mean that once you’ve signed up there’s nothing more for you to claim. In fact many sites run regular reload bonuses or free bets on a very predictable schedule. In addition to free bets, there’s also a huge wealth of money back and enhanced odds promotions which you can take advantage of no matter how long you’ve held an account with a bookie. But we’ll get to those in the next section.
Sports Betting Blog
In our blog we expert provide tips, analysis and previews of upcoming matches and tournaments – including pieces on football, golf, darts, cricket and much more. In fact, if you can bet on it, we’ll write about it.
We’ve now moved the blog to it’s new home, but you can see a list of historical posts in our blog archive.