Bookies or Betfair: Where You Should Bet To Make the Most Profit

For decades, bookies on the High Street were the undisputed kings when it came to offering prices on the Sport of Kings. Then in 2000, Betfair was created and completely changed the way punters viewed betting. Instead of betting against the bookmakers, it became possible to bet against fellow punters on the Betfair Exchange. This was a significant development as now you could find better value than before.

There have also been some memorable gaffes made by punters on the Exchange and I have personally benefited from some strange odds. Then there was the remarkable race at Southwell in 2002 when Family Business, ridden by Tony McCoy, fell at fence #10. At this stage, you could have ripped up your betting slip. However, one by one, all the other runners fell with 4 fences left.

A void race was about to be called when the legendary McCoy heard the announcement over the PA system, got back on Family Business and proceeded to win the race! Two punters spotted this development and backed Family Business on the Exchange at 999/1!

Obviously, this is a freak development and should not be taken as an indication of Betfair’s superiority in terms of providing odds. However, it does provide insight into what can happen on the Betting Exchange.

One would expect the Exchange to offer better odds than the bookmakers in the long term; a large proportion of the books are close to 100% which means very small margins in some cases. In contrast, a bookmaker will normally have a book well above 100% in order to make more profit and cover their overheads.

Of course, it would be a mistake to take all of the above as fact so let’s take a closer look at the Profit + Loss you would have made on Betfair and through betting SP with bookies over the last 5 years. I will look at a number of different events below and commission has been taken into account.

Profit on Favourites

I was busily browsing through statistics in an attempt to find examples of criteria you could use to make some kind of profit when I came across this set of data. The criteria were as follows: (Please note; in the previous article I had actually included stats related to a specific odds range and NOT the favourites as I intended so apologies for that! This led to the other set of results which Tom kindly pointed out were incorrect.)

  • Flat races
  • 2012-2016
  • Favourites
  • SP of Favourite 1.02-2.00
  • Class 1-6
Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) Betfair (P/L) Betfair (ROI)
3101 1732 55.85% -208.59 -6.73% -145.26 -4.68%


The discrepancy between Betfair profit and SP profit is noticeable although both saw a loss. I decided to break things down into different Classes to see if there is a specific Class where Betfair punters found the most joy.

Class Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) BF (P/L)
1 197 110 55.84% -13.67 -6.94% -9.55 -4.85%
2 91 50 54.95% -4.4 -4.84% -2.18 -2.4%
3 162 86 53.09% -17.56 -10.84% -14.78 -9.12%
4 449 231 51.45% -57.1 -12.72% -51.4 -11.45
5 1163 580 58.47% -30.86 -2.65% -7.02 -0.6%
6 271 150 55.35% -18.11 -6.68% -11.76 -4.34%


It’s losses galore here but at least with Betfair the amount you lose is reduced.

Betfair It Is Then!

Not so fast! All we’ve determined is that Betfair is best when it comes to betting on favourites at or below Evens on flat races. The Class 1 race statistics probably aren’t a surprise as there is huge interest in what are usually festival events. It’s popular to back against odds-on favourites so the chances of finding a better price for a horse such as Order of St. George on the Exchange than at the bookies are pretty good.

As always, we must dig deeper for answers.


In a previous Race Advisor article, we looked at the performances of favourites over All-Weather and eventually found some ways in which it was possible to make a profit so I tried it again here using different criteria:

  • SP of 1.02-4.00
  • Between 5f-7f
  • Class 6
  • 2012-2016
Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) BF (ROI)
2451 828 33.78% -95.52 -3.9% +34.91 +1.42%

Although an ROI of 1.42% is not going to do much for your bank balance, it is a lot better than the 3.9% loss you would experience at the bookies so once again, Betfair is the winner.

National Hunt

Now I am going to look at events where punters can expect to lose money in order to determine if Betfair can keep your losses down. I randomly selected the following criteria for the performance of Second Favourites:

  • National Hunt
  • Between 2 and 3 miles
  • 2012-2016
  • SP of second favourite 1.02-3.00
Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) BF (ROI)
15281 2247 14.7% -5667.44 -37.09% -2772.29 -18.14%

This is a bad set of results no matter what way you look at it but once again, Betfair comes out on top even though a loss of 18% is horrific!

What about High Strike Rates?

As you have probably noticed, the win rate of horses within the criteria I’ve set has been pretty lamentable. Let’s see if bookies offer better value in instances where your selection is more likely to win than lose. This of course means odds-on favourites. First I will look at the overall record of horses at odds of 1.50-2.00 since 2012.

Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) BF (ROI)
8270 4386 53.04% -491.24 -5.94% -288.09 -3.48%

Yet again, Betfair Exchange punters fare better with a smaller loss. Let’s now divide the above into the three codes:

Code Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) BF (ROI)
National Hunt 3986 2127 53.36% -232.73 -5.84% -148.14 -3.72%
Flat 2486 1290 51.89% -186.58 -7.51% -131.15 -5.28%
All-Weather 1798 969 53.89% -71.93 -4.00% -8.81 -0.49%

All losses once again but you still do better with Betfair. Let’s end this on a high note and try to find some profits. All-Weather looks the most likely candidate so let’s divide the races into classes to see if we can find some winners. I’ve left out Class 1 and Class 2 events as are there are very few races using these specific criteria.

Class Bets Wins Strike Rate P/L (SP) ROI (SP) BF (P/L) ROI (P/L)
3 51 31 60.78% +4.65 +9.12% +6.34 +12.44%
4 148 73 49.32% -15.68 -10.59% -12.44 -8.51%
5 792 418 52.78% -48.56 -6.13% -19.97 -2.52%
6 588 325 55.27% -8.82 -1.5% +10.87 +1.85%

Although it’s not all good news, we can see that (the admittedly few) Class 3 events lead to profits across the board. However, the profits received on Betfair are higher. For Class 6 events you lose money at the bookie but win on Betfair.


I have looked at it from a variety of different angles and on every single occasion, Betfair comes out on top. However, it isn’t as simple as getting on the Exchange and finding the best odds for each race. There will be plenty of occasions when the odds you receive are lower than on one of the myriad of online websites.

The Exchange moves at warp speed so if you spot better odds on there, you must place the bet as soon as possible or you’ll lose the advantage. Remember, the statistics I’ve posted above relate to the best odds that were available on Betfair for every single race. Unless you’re glued to your screen 24/7 you’re not going to get every single best price.

The Betfair Exchange IS the better option but only when you know what you’re doing.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.


    1. Hi Tom,

      You are correct. I looked at data relating to odds and NOT favourites as I had originally intended. The result was a table of incorrect data and for that I apologise. I am updating it as we speak and it will be up soon.

  1. All very well and good, but Betfair won’t close down your account or limit you to £5 bets when you become a winner.

    1. I agree online bookies are a law unto themselves great when you are losing and when you are winning start blocking your accounts. Losing about £500 with coral so had £150 win on a 4.33 or 7/2 and i won so got my losses back and a few more bob to bet with but got blocked, so just took all my money out and went somewhere else.

      1. Hi Brian,

        In my experience, Coral are the absolute quickest bookmaker to block your account when you go on anything resembling a winning streak. Fortunately there are dozens more online bookmakers so you’ve plenty of choice!

  2. Hi The National Hunt table backing the second favourite caught my eye. The results appear to offer an interesting laying opportunity? 85+% strike rate at low odds appeals.

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