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Betfair v Smarkets

Level: Beginner
Updated: August 18, 2021
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?

In this guide, I’ll take you through the pros and cons of Betfair and Smarkets and explain why it’s best that you sign up with both exchanges.


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.

Let’s compare the two exchanges in all of the key areas…

1. Commission rates

Betting exchanges make their money by charging commission on winning bets. 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%. Betfair have upped their game recently though and now offer a 2% option as part of their Betfair Rewards ‘Basic’ package.

Small differences in commission can really add up over time. Over the course of a year, a difference of just 1% commission could equate to an extra £300-£500 in your back pocket.

You may be wondering why Betfair’s flat rate of commission is considerably higher than that of Smarkets. It’s somewhat justified because they outperform Smarkets in some other key areas, as you’ll see as you progress 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.

Betfair Exchange greyhound markets

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 often find with some of the more obscure sports and events that Betfair have the markets available before Smarkets. There’s never any need to rush though and you can always request a market via their respective live chat services. If it’s a market they feel would be popular, they’ll open it up.

3. Liquidity

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.

4. Reliability

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 that they struggled to handle the increased load at busy times. Fast forward to today 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 with ease.

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.

The issue of reliability is one of the main reasons you should register an account with both exchanges. It’s important to have a back up account should one of them experience unforeseen issues.

5. Usability

Over time, you’ll become familiar with both exchanges and will no doubt develop a personal preference for one over the other.

Both exchanges are quite different in their layout.

Betfair Exchange markets
Betfair Exchange markets

Betfair display a number of markets once you click through to an event, which probably gives them an edge when it comes to navigation.

Smarkets Exchange markets
Smarkets Exchange markets

Whereas at Smarkets, only the main market is displayed. That’s often the market we’re looking for anyway, but if you’re looking for another market, you’ll need to scroll down and open it manually.

By taking that approach, Smarkets are able to keep the exchange looking neat and tidy. The Smarkets site is also purely an exchange, unlike Betfair’s that has the added distractions of a Sportsbook, Casino and various other branches.

I would say Betfair tend to know what you’re looking for a bit better than Smarkets. If you have to go looking for a market though, I would give Smarkets the nod as their technology makes for a very nice user experience.

6. Technology

As I’ve just mentioned, when it comes to technology, Smarkets have the cutting edge.

In their own words, ‘Smarkets is the world’s most technologically advanced betting exchange’ and to be honest it’s hard to argue with that.

Smarkets iOS and Android Apps

Their iOS and Android apps are incredibly slick and their Trade Out and Instant Match features are great additions for the end-user.

They also boast clever lay betting, which means there’s no need to worry about fluctuating odds. If the lay odds get shorter before you place your lay bet, Smarkets will recalculate things automatically and adjust your lay stake accordingly.

7. Welcome Offers

With far more important factors to take into account, the welcome offers shouldn’t influence your choice of betting exchange too much, but it’s nice to get an added bonus on sign up.

Betfair are currently offering new customers a £20.00 risk-free bet.

Banner showing the Betfair sign up offer of a £20 risk-free bet.

Banner showing the Betfair sign up offer of a £20 risk-free bet.

Simply place your first bet on the Betfair Exchange and if it loses, Betfair will refund your stake in cash up to £20.00.

Smarkets are currently running a £10.00 bonus offer for new customers.

Banner showing the Smarkets sign up offer - £10 bonus
Banner showing the Smarkets sign up offer - £10 bonus

Simply deposit £20.00 or more via card or bank transfer and Smarkets will refund your first £10.00 worth of losses, in cash.

Two similar offers that are well worth taking advantage of when starting out with matched betting.

8. Deposit methods

Both exchanges offer a number of different deposit methods, including credit and debit cards, PayPal, Neteller, Skrill and Bank Transfer.

Smarkets also offer Trustly as a deposit method which enables customers to make instant online bank transfers direct to their Smarkets account.


Both Betfair and Smarkets are fantastic exchanges in their own right, for the number of reasons outlined above and as summarised in the following table…

Comparison Betfair Smarkets
1. Commission rates
2. Market availability  
3. Liquidity  
4. Reliability
5. Usability  
6. Technology  
7. Welcome offers
8. Deposit methods

With the 2% commission rate readily available at both exchanges, there really isn’t much to choose between them. My advice is to register an account with both and take advantage of both welcome offers.

You’ll soon figure out which exchange you prefer and want to use on a daily basis for the majority of your lay bets.

It’s just handy to have a back up account in the rare event that you run into issues and it’s great to have options so that you can maximise your profits!

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Matt Kirman - Matched Betting Blogger

Matt KirmanMatched Betting Blogger

Since 2014, I’ve blogged over £60,000 worth of profit, and made it my mission to make matched betting accessible to everyone.