Types of BetFair Users
There are many different ways in which you can use Betfair and the types of punter can probably be split into three loosely defined groups, although many will cross over.
The punter Whether professional, casual, or mug, the punter uses Betfair as he would any internet betting site or bookmaker, but just takes advantage of the better prices available.
A professional is unlikely to have formed an opinion until confronted by the odds. The prices on offer will determine his selection and he will not necessarily content himself with being a backer if something is obviously too short. A professional may use computer models, excel spreadsheets, anything to help him find an edge.
The casual punter will already have formed an opinion, but is likely to make sure the price on offer is the best he can get. He is more likely to concentrate solely on live events as fun is his main objective.
A mug knows exactly what he is going to bet on before logging on and will take a price regardless of whether or not it represents value.
The layer Laying bets is far more sophisticated than placing them and, believe it or not, it takes a good deal more effort to make money being a Betfair layer. If it is widely accepted that the marketplace heavily favours the backer, it stands to reason that the layer faces an arduous task. Anyone attempting to lay a full set of runners will have to work hard to ensure their book just creeps over the 100 per cent mark. This proves how hard it is to be a bookmaker and shows that the term 'play bookie' is wrong. Most punters would find it nearly impossible to make a book, so in essence they are just punting on one or more selections not to win.
The professional layer operates in the same way as the professional punter. If his figures say the prices should be bigger he will lay it, whether it is 1-2 or 100-1.
One of the advantages a layer has is that the market is rarely static and he can pick and choose when to lay.
A casual layer is far more likely to concentrate on the favourite or a team or individual near the head of the market. The reason for this is purely risk-related as the casual punter is far happier laying at short prices than long ones. He is not interested in risking £100 on a golfer he does not think will triumph just to win £10. In general there are enough mug punters around to ensure that even if the pro and casual layers come to the same conclusion about the favourite there will still be plenty of value in laying.
The trader He could not care less about finding a winner. His unique skill is not in knowing what a price should be, but what it will be. One of the well-known sayings among traders is 'don't tip me a winner, tip me a price'.
If you have an insight into how other people will bet (how the market will react), it can be a licence to print money on Betfair, whether you identify an upcoming gamble or a drifter in the betting. The strategy behind it is simple enough, although it takes a fair degree of skill.
Let's say you have identified a 4-1 shot which you are pretty sure will shorten throughout the day and may start at around 3-1.
You place £200 at 4-1, wait for it to shorten and then lay it back. You could lay £200 at 3-1 and give yourself a free £200 bet, or simply lay £250 at 3-1 and show no more interest in the event safe in the knowledge that you have made £50 whatever happens. Remember, commission is only taken from profits on any particular market, so if your selection wins, you do not pay five per cent on £800 winnings because your lay at 3-1 has cancelled out most of the profit.
Obviously that is a rather simple example and in practice it is rarely that easy, but there are many traders who make a comfortable living by never taking a position and they can do so even if the difference in price is only a few hundredths of a point. All you need is plenty of money in your account and an ability to call it right. However, the advantages far outweigh the negatives, especially for live sport, as Betfair's telephone customers can often be relied upon to snap up whatever price is there regardless of the value.
The problem with in-running telephone punting on the exchanges is that you have to make your decision pretty quickly. Punters sitting in a pub watching the afternoon action are less likely to want to leave a request up without knowing whether it has been matched, so often they'll just take what is available.
Which category of punter you fall into depends on what you want from your betting. For some there is no greater feeling than backing your opinion and being proved right. It's all about an adrenalin rush. For others making money is the be-all and end-all and if they can do so without any risk then so much the better.