Betfair v Smarkets

Difficulty: Easy Read time: 6 mins

Betfair v Smarkets

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?

My recommendation is that you sign up with both. There are a number of different reasons for this, which we’ll get to in just a moment.


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.

1. Commission rates

Betting exchanges make their money by charging a commission on winning bets.

This means 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%. This may seem like a small difference on the face of it, but over time the difference really adds up.

For an average matched bettor, over the course of a year, the difference could equate to an extra £1,000+ in your back pocket if you lay your bets with Smarkets.

You’re probably wondering why Betfair charge such a high level of commission in comparison. It’s somewhat justified because they outperform Smarkets in some other key areas, which I’ll explain as we move 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 Greyhounds

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 sometimes find with some of the more obscure sports and events that Betfair have the markets available ahead of Smarkets, but there’s never really any rush.

If you’re looking for a market that isn’t offered by either exchange, you can contact them via live chat and request it. If they feel it’s a market that 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; they struggled to handle the increased load at busy times.

Fast forward a couple of years 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 without the problems of yesteryear.

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.

This is one of the main reasons you should register an account with both exchanges as it’s really important to have a back up account should one of them experience issues.

5. Usability

Over time, you’ll become familiar with both exchanges, so preference for one over the other is simply a matter of opinion.

Both exchanges are quite different in their layout.

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.

When you click on an event 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.

Smarkets Exchange Markets

By taking that approach, Smarkets are able to keep the exchange looking neat and tidy. Smarkets are also purely an exchange, unlike Betfair who have the added distractions of a Sportsbook, Casino and various other branches.

I’ve never found Betfair difficult to use but I must say Smarkets’ 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 our choice of betting exchange too much, but it’s nice to get an added bonus on sign up.

Betfair are currently running a 0% commission deal for new customers. Any commission paid within the first 30 days will be refunded in cash, up to a maximum of £500.00.

Betfair Exchange Welcome Offer - 0% Commission up to £500

If you’re planning on hitting the ground running, that could easily be worth a couple of hundred quid in your back pocket.

Smarkets are also running a nice £10.00 bonus offer for new customers. They’ll refund your first £10.00 of losses into your account.

Banner showing the Smarkets Sign Up Offer

So, you just need to deposit £20.00 and place your lay bets as normal and Smarkets will refund your first £10.00 of losses. Not quite as lucrative as the Betfair offering, but a very nice bonus all the same.

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…

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


From a matched betting perspective, the 2% commission rate at Smarkets is hard to ignore, but there are plenty of reasons to side with Betfair too.

As mentioned at the top of the page, my recommendation is to register an account with both.

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 minimise your qualifying losses and maximise your profits!


  1. Andy

    Guest user

    I also suggest Matchbook as a great place for sports betting and trading at very low commission with best odds and excellent Customer Service.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *