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Betfair v Smarkets

Level: Beginner
Updated: November 23, 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 you should sign up with both exchanges.

Background

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, focusing 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 will eat into your 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 and now offer 2% commission via their Betfair Rewards ‘Basic’ package.

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

Although Betfair have the higher standard commission rate, it’s somewhat justified because they outperform Smarkets in 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, Betfair has always been the place to lay greyhound bets. Although Smarkets now offer greyhound markets, they can’t compete with Betfair’s superior liquidity.

Betfair Exchange greyhounds.

It’s not all Betfair, though, as Smarkets offer an unrivalled feature that allows you to build and lay your own multiples (doubles, trebles, accumulators, etc.). With quite a few offers involving multiples these days, it’s a feature you’ll want to be familiar with.

It’s also worth mentioning that Betfair are part of the same group as Paddy Power and Sky Bet. This makes Smarkets the best place to lay any Paddy Power and Sky Bet offers.

For the vast majority of offers, though, you can lay your 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, your lay bet won’t get matched.

Traders use Betfair, so there tends to be more money in their markets than those at Smarkets.

The liquidity at both exchanges is more than enough for matched betting purposes. The odds available at both exchanges tend to be pretty much the same.

You’ll find that Betfair sometimes have greater liquidity in advance of an event starting. Still, Smarkets are quick to catch up as the event gets closer.

4. Reliability

Reliability is another area where Betfair 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 few and far between.

The issue of reliability is one of the reasons you should register an account with both exchanges. It’s essential to have a backup option should one of them experience unforeseen issues.

5. Usability

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

Both exchanges are quite different in their layouts.

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

Screenshot showing some Betfair Exchange markets for Greece v Spain.
Screenshot showing some Betfair Exchange markets for Greece v Spain.

Smarkets only display the main market, and that’ll often be the market you’re looking for anyway. However, if you’re looking for something else, you’ll need to scroll down and open it manually.

Screenshot showing some Smarkets markets for Greece v Spain.
Screenshot showing some Smarkets markets for Greece v Spain.

The upside to taking that approach is that Smarkets can keep the exchange looking tidy. Unlike Betfair, Smarkets are purely an exchange without 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. Suppose you have to go looking for a market, though. In that case, I 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.

Banner showing the Smarkets apps for iOS and Android.

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. Suppose the lay odds get shorter before you place your lay bet. If that happens, Smarkets will recalculate things automatically and adjust your lay stake accordingly.

7. Welcome Offers

With far more important factors to consider, the welcome offers shouldn’t influence your choice of betting exchange too much. Still, it’s nice to receive a bonus when signing up.

Betfair are currently offering new customers 2% commission on exchange bets.

Sign up using promo code ‘EXCCOS’, and you’ll pay 2% commission on your back and lay bets for as long as you stay on the ‘Basic’ package.

Smarkets are currently running a £10 bonus offer for new customers.

Sign up and deposit £20 or more via card or bank transfer, and Smarkets will refund your first £10 worth of losses in cash.

They’re two offers that are certainly worth taking advantage of when starting out matched betting.

8. Deposit methods

Both exchanges offer many different deposit methods, including debit cards, Neteller, Skrill and PayPal.

Smarkets also offer Trustly as a deposit method that enables customers to make instant online bank transfers directly to their accounts. Bank transfer is also an option with Betfair, though deposits can take up to 5 days.

It’s good to have deposit options, though I always recommend setting up a separate bank account for your matched betting and depositing with a debit card. Be careful when signing up and depositing with new bookmakers. Some deposit methods may not qualify for their sign up offers.

Conclusion

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

ComparisonBetfairSmarkets
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 isn’t much to choose between them. You’ll need an account with both exchanges if you want to complete all the available offers.

It’s good to have a backup account anyway in the rare event of any problems.

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