How To Maintain And Protect Your Bookmaker Accounts

Our good friends at The Secret Betting Club have allowed us to reproduce this excellent article on extending the life of your betting accounts. You can find out more about SBC’s excellent work in the field of tipster research at

Secret Betting Club
The good, the bad and the ugly of the tipster world…revealed!

Betting Master Class:
Know your enemy: How to maintain & protect your bookmaker accounts.
Summary of findings
Why Betfair will never replace bookmakers.
The worst offenders.
How bookmakers work.
How to decrease the chance of being restricted.
What alternatives do you have if you are restricted?


When Betfair first launched, they ran some PR shots of a bookmaker in a coffin. Betfair was going to be the death of traditional bookmakers apparently. However, over a
decade on and the old bookmakers are still here. Betfair has been a welcome addition
to the party, but they have become a very useful alternative for most people rather
than the only place you’ll ever need for your bets.
So love them or hate them, bookmakers are here to stay. On paper, there are a large
number of bookmakers across the internet, allowing the diligent gambler to shop
around for the best prices just like you would do your car insurance.
Unfortunately, as many SBC members will know, finding the best prices is only half the
battle. Actually getting on to decent stakes, or catching the prices before they move
can be a real challenge sometimes.
With this in mind, we thought it was about time we put together a guide to using
bookmakers, so that complete beginners can start off on the right foot and keep their
accounts useful for longer. Most SBC members will already be active gamblers so we
also aim to provide some hints and tips on keeping existing accounts open, and the
alternatives you have available to you if you are already experiencing restrictions.
As the majority of our members are UK based, this article is aimed at the options
available to UK gamblers. However, we do know from a recent survey that we have a
growing international readership with members from the likes of Denmark, Sweden,
Germany and Australia. If you are reading this from abroad, please double check the
terms and conditions for betting from your own country as they may be different than
in the UK.

Why bookmakers are still useful

So why do we bother with bookmakers any more now that we have Betfair? Isn’t Betfair
meant to offer 20% better odds?
Betfair is still pulling in the punters with that line, but in fact it’s only partially true.
Betfair does offer bigger odds, but only really when it comes to outsiders.
If you look at any bet around the 3.0 level or below, you often find that Betfair’s odds
are either the same as the standout bookmakers or may even be worse once you taken
commission into account.

For example for the recent Celtic vs Arsenal game, the Betfair price on the draw was
5.4, but this is just 5.18 after paying commission at 5%. Pinnacle Sports were paying
5.3 which was far superior once commission is taken into account. Of course, not
everyone pays the full 5%, but even if you were down to 3% commission, Pinnacle’s
price was still superior.

The second reason that bookmakers remain useful is the attractive terms offered by Each Way betting.

For those not aware, an Each Way bet is actually two separate bets. Let’s say you
wanted to bet £5 Each Way at 10/1. You would be placing one win only bet for £5 and
another £5 on the selection to place. This usually means that you are betting it to
come 1st with one bet or 1st, 2nd or 3rd with the place bet. The selection is more likely
to place then win, so the place odds are lower than the win odds. With the place part
of the Each Way bet, the place odds are fixed at either ¼ or 1/5 the win odds.
Place terms depend on the event. In horse racing, 16 runner handicap races pay out if
the horse finishes in position 1,2,3 or 4. The place odds in this case are 1 quarter the
win odds of 10/1, which would be 5/2 (3.50). Other races pay out 1,2 or 3 places at
just one fifth the odds.

In golf you can get some very generous place terms, especially in the major events with
some bookmakers pushing the boat out and paying 1,2,3,4,5 or 6th for the place terms.
Betfair by contrast offers separate place and win markets.

What you often find, especially with big prices, is that the win odds will be over
anything available at a bookmaker, but the place odds will be much worse than the
terms you can get from Each Way betting.

A recent Betting Zone Golf tip illustrates this.
The bet was as follows:
1pt e.w. Dustin Johnson at 90/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)..
Our price – 90/1 widely available
Also – 120.0 to win and 19.0 to place on Betfair

On an Each Way bet, the bookmaker is paying 90/1 (91.0) on the win and 23.5 for
Johnson to come in the top 5 as the place part of the bet.

On Betfair, you were getting 120 on the win which is still miles better than the
bookmakers even accounting for commission. However, a top 5 finish has odds of just
19.0, which once you take into account commission is low as 18.10.

This happens because shrewd Betfair punters know that the bookies are hindered by
their place terms. They are being overly generous paying ¼ odds. However to get those
place odds you have to take their win odds which are stingy in comparison to Betfair.

This puts the bookmaker in a vulnerable position on the place side potentially.

To summarise, the bookmakers are offering you excellent terms with some of their
Each Way bets, especially as the place outcome is more likely to happen than the win.
This is also one of the things that bookmakers are hot on when it comes to restrictions
which we’ll come to later.

The third reason that bookmakers are still valuable is because some of them offer Best
Odds Guaranteed on certain UK horse races. This basically means that if you take an
early price in the morning at 10/1 and the horse drifts out to 15/1 at the off and wins,
the bookmaker guarantees to pay you the higher price.

If you take a similar bet with Betfair and the horse drifts higher, it’s tough luck!

Know your enemy

Before we look at the problems you may experience with bookmakers, it is worth
understanding how exactly a bookmaker operates.

Whenever you take a loss, it’s all too easy to visualize the bookmaker as thief who’s
laughing with your money all the way to the bank. While no one is suggesting
bookmakers are charities, it’s worth exploring how they actually make their money.

Bookmakers are so called because they run a ‘book’ on any event. This might be a
horse race, a football match or a reality TV program. They price up each outcome and
manage their book so that betting on every outcome won’t produce a profit. Their
greatest liability is usually on the favourite because this is where most of the money is
on usually. When Mon Mome came home in the Grand National recently at 100/1,
bookies were dancing for joy because although the price was high, they had very little
liability on that horse (very few people bet on it).

The bookmaker edge is called the overround, which is usually expressed as a number
above 100. PCB covers this in his 16 runner handicap races in more detail. The upshot is
that individual bookmakers will have an ‘overround’ of between 105% and 130% on each
event. This is their edge.

Although profitable, bookmakers don’t have a huge profit on turnover. For bookmakers,
it is all about volume or ‘vol’ as they call in it in the industry. Paddy Power recently
released their results, and it was interesting to note that the profit on turnover for the
internet operations was just 6.6% for the last financial year. If they lay punters
£1,000,000 worth of bets, they expect to make just £66,000 profit. Therefore, they are
keen to find any way possible to increase their volume while at the same time not
losing out too much with their profit on turnover. Bookies make money in other areas
such as fixed odds betting terminals, or casino games online, but the main driver of
business is their sports book.

Over the last financial year, many bookmakers have seen their volume decrease, so
they’ve had to introduce lots of new ways to keep their volume up. Recently a raft of
bookmakers started offering Best Odds Guaranteed on UK horse racing for the first
time, this is for one reason only – to increase volume.

Unfortunately for us, this increase in volume has to be paid for as they seek to
maintain their profit on turnover at reasonable levels

Old school bookmaking

If you ever go to a UK racetrack or even better a dog track, spend a few minutes
watching the on course bookmakers as they price up each race. Usually, each stand has
at least two representatives, one guy doing the business and adjusting the odds and
another behind him managing the book. This is usually done via a computer
spreadsheet. As business flows in, they manage the book and adjust odds accordingly.
They will have a greater liability on the favourite usually, so if too much money comes
in, they will slash odds to get business coming in on other outcomes.

In this open arena, they can see what other bookies are pricing events at, and they
make sure they’re not too out of line. They can also easily spot their best and worst
customers and have the right to refuse business if they want to, or restrict the amounts
they will let a certain customer get on. Individual restrictions are actually quite rare
with on course bookmakers, because they don’t want to be seen to be turning away
business, and on a practical level there are too many faces to remember. They will
have limits on the amount they will take on each event anyway.

This is bookmaking in its simplest form.

Unfortunately in their quest for volume and profit on turnover, bookmakers are
becoming increasingly competitive in managing their risk by restricting certain clients,
or slashing odds quickly.

Slashing odds

SBC members following a successful tipster such as Equine Investments, will identify
with this all too well. Most of the time, unless you are on the tip within 10 minutes the
advised odds will have gone (or be unavailable to you).

Bookmakers will have pricing analysis set the morning prices, but in certain races,
there will be a certain element of guess work. There are too many races to price up
each and every day for the bookmaker to be spot on in everything. Tipping services
such as Equine Investments, or Skeeve’s non league football tips are able to specialize
in certain areas in the way that a bookmaker cannot, so their ability to spot value is
what makes them so valuable. As a tipster becomes more popular, their following will
increase as will the amount money being wagered in total on those tips.

If a bookmaker puts an early price up for a horse at 15/1 and suddenly sees a massive
flood of business coming in for it, they will do the sensible thing and cut the amount
you can have at that price, while they figure out what price it should be at. Others
take a different approach of slash first, ask questions later.

There’s little you can do about this other than make sure you’re ahead of the crowd,
and get on the bet as soon as it comes in.

A sensible bookmaker will subscribe to the tipster themselves. We’re told by a former
pricing analyst at the Tote that they used to subscribe to Isiris when the service was at
the top of its game. They would have an alert ready for when a bet came in and slash
that price as quickly as they could. A sensible bookmaker would do the same with
Equine Investments.

It’s not a coincidence that some bookmakers will stop slashing at just below any
suggested minimum price. We’ve seen this happen so many times with Equine’s bets.

They might say “bet down to 8/1”. The bookmaker knows that anything below 8/1 is no
longer value so they put up 7/1 to attract business from mug punters who want to get
on the bet no matter what the price.

Directly following a tipster isn’t the only way a bookmaker will know when to adjust
prices on a fairly basic level, if their book becomes too heavily weighted on a certain
event, they will bring prices down to adjust. Bookmakers now employ price trackers to
keep and eye on the order flow, and predict where prices might be going and what’s
driving them.

They will mark certain accounts as being from successful punters, and use software
that tracks all their activity. If successful punters make a move on a certain selection,
they know something is up and will move odds quickly.

Individual restrictions and account closures.

Slashing odds is something that perhaps many punters could understand, but what is
more galling is when a bookmaker manages their risk by keeping a certain price up, but
restricting the amount that certain punters can get on it. Certain bookmakers (which
we’ll name and shame in a moment) are more likely to restrict than others.
The next step is for the bookmaker to restrict all bets, not just certain events. The
final step is for the bookmaker to close accounts, although they may already have done
this in effect by limiting the punter to pennies.

The problem with these dark arts is that there is no discernable pattern to it. Some
punters find they can have winning bets with certain bookmakers for years with no
problems, while other punters have their account closed within months even when they
haven’t made a profit with them.

Some bookmakers are worse than others though as our recent bookmaker poll revealed.
We asked SBC members to let us know about the bookmakers they use and the
problems they have had. In some ways, the poll will be slightly skewed because those
who have faced restrictions will be more motivated to complete the poll, but it at least
allows us to compare between bookmakers.

The first column shows the bookmaker, and the second column shows the % of
responders who have an account with them. The next column is the percentage of
people with an account with that bookmaker who say they experience severe
restrictions in getting bets on. The last column is the percentage of people who have
had an account closed with that bookmaker.

BookmakerResponders with an account, percentage with Severe
Restrictions, percentage with Account closed

Bet365 84.00% 32.14% 4.76%
Ladbrokes 76.00% 19.74% 3.95%
VC bet 75.00% 21.33% 16.00%
BlueSquare 72.00% 33.33% 2.78%
Coral 72.00% 38.89% 1.39%
Paddypower 72.00% 34.72% 4.17%
Tote  70.00% 18.57% 5.71%
Sporting Bet 66.00% 56.06% 3.03%
Betfred 63.00% 46.03% 11.11%
StanJames 62.00% 45.16% 4.84%
Boylesports 58.00% 50.00% 5.17%
Skybet 57.00% 36.84% 3.51%
Centrebet 44.00% 6.82% 0.00%
Canbet 43.00% 0.00% 2.33%
William Hill 38.00% 52.63% 36.84%
Extrabet 38.00% 2.63% 0.00%
Bwin 30.00% 30.00% 3.33%
Pinnacle 29.00% 3.45% 0.00%
Unibet 23.00% 26.09% 0.00%
The Greek 19.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Nordic bet 19.00% 36.84% 0.00%
888Sport 17.00% 70.59% 17.65%
188bet 15.00% 0.00% 0.00%
BetChronicle 14.00% 7.14% 0.00%
Betsson 13.00% 23.08% 0.00%
Expekt 10.00% 60.00% 0.00%
Sbobet 9.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Bodog 6.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Jetbull 6.00% 83.33% 0.00%

It’s interesting to note that most people have an account with Bet365, possibly due to
its wide European user base.

In terms of severe restrictions, amongst the more popular bookmakers, the survey
seems to confirm anecdotal evidence about Sporting Bet, Boyle Sports and BetFred. In
our experience, these (especially Boyles and Betfred) are amongst the worst
bookmakers in the industry when it comes to restrictions. They are usually the quickest
to restrict accounts while still posting up certain odds. Some of the lesser used
bookmakers such as Jetbull show a high number of restrictions, but this data may be
skewed by the low number of responses.

When it comes to account closures, William Hill appear to be the worst with VC bet and
Betfred not far behind. Of the more popular bookmakers, Totesport come out quite
well overall as do CentreBet.

How to protect your bookmaker accounts

Successful betting is all about finding value and that value is all about getting the best
prices. So to continue to make betting pay, we need to find ways to keep the best
prices open to us for as long as possible.

Although restrictions are almost inevitable with shoddy bookmakers such as Betfred,
there are ways to keep your account active with most bookmakers. Here’s how:

1. Know your enemy and what they hate.

The first thing to do is to prioritise your bookmakers in terms of the ones you would
miss the most if you were to be severely restricted. Remember the sort of bets
bookmakers hate – Each Way bets with generous place terms.
Where at all possible try to avoid placing these sort of bets with the bookmakers you
wish to protect.

One thing we have noticed based on feedback from members is that it isn’t
automatically the amount you win that leads to problems, but the way you bet. Big
Mike has suggested throwing in some small ‘stupid’ bets to throw them off the scent
such as speculative multiples.

2. Spread your bets.

If practical for you, instead of lumping on £100 on one bookmaker, try to spread your
bets so you place £50 with one bookmaker and £50 with another. This lessens the
impact of one bookmaker taking a big hit. Of course with time sensitive tipsters such as
Equine, you may not have time for this. However, taking the time to spread your
wagers around at other less time sensitive points, may mean you are able to get
amounts on quickly on your terms when you need to.

As a rule of thumb, bookmakers seem to be relatively comfortable with stakes around
the £50 market. A good approach is to spread your bets around certain tipsters or
methods rather than lumping it all on one tipster or system. We personally have our
portfolio weighted to Equine Investments and try to place all other bets so as to
protect the accounts we need most for Equine.

If for example you do a lot of football betting, try to place these bets away from the
accounts that might be vital for a key horse racing tipster.

3. Rotate your bookmakers as much as possible.

Try to randomly use different bookmakers when placing your bets. For example, you
might use Ladbrokes a lot for the simple reason that you’ve got lots of money in there.
Try not to do this, if different bookmakers offer the same odds. If 5 bookmakers offer
the same odds, use one that you haven’t bet with for a while.

4. Look beyond the usual big name UK bookmakers

There are more bookmakers out there than you think, especially when it comes to
football betting. Make full use of odds comparison sites and don’t just stick to familiar
names just because you know them.

For UK horse racing, your options are perhaps limited beyond the big names for Each
Way betting especially, but even here there are bookmakers that it seems members
may not be making full use of.

We use for placing a number of bets from our own systems and find
them to be pretty accommodating at stakes under £50. Canbet are also a useful firm to
use with their Best Odds Guaranteed offers. Centrebet, the Australian bookmaker often
has excellent odds, and according to our survey rarely restricts members too severely.
Aside from Betfair, which we’ll come on to in a moment, there is an entire world of
bookmakers for you to make use of. Restrictions aside, it makes sense to use these to
make sure you get the best value in the first place.

Don’t just rely on one odds comparison site. Different sites display slightly different
bookmakers to each other.
The best odds comparison sites are as follows:

If you have time, it’s worth checking all these sites. There’s little point doing this with
horse racing because there’s little variation between the first two. However for
football and other sports, there can be some hidden gems.

For example Oddschecker lists the odds from Extrabet whereas Best Betting does not.
Extrabet can often have some excellent stand out odds. Best Betting lists JetBull which
Oddschecker doesn’t.

Betbrain is a very useful odds comparison site and often overlooked. The main reason
we like to check it is because it lists the odds from the excellent Pinnacle Sports.

Pinnacle Sports are a fine example of how bookmaking should be done. Sure they move
odds in response to weight of money, but any sensible bookmaker would. On the
positive side though, they are very unlikely to restrict you and we haven’t heard of a
single person who had their account closed with them. Their prices are also usually
very good.

For example in the recent Arsenal Celtic game, according to Best betting and
Oddschecker, the best non exchange price on offer on Arsenal and the draw were 1.33
and 5.05. A quick check on Betbrain and Pinnacle were offering 1.37 and 5.30.

Betbrain will list the odds from a number of minor and or European based bookmakers
that are well worth using. Bookies such as Betsson may not have the biggest wagering
limits and might be quick to restrict, but shouldn’t be completely ignored. If they are
offering the same odds as say Ladbrokes on a football match, and you know Ladbrokes
is an important account for you, it would make sense to go with Betsson.

Where possible, we use the likes of Jetbull and Betsson when they offer the same odds
as mainstream less ‘expendable’ bookmakers. Better to get some winners out of them
and protect your main account.

Asian Bookmakers

Betbrain often, but not always lists the odds from Asian Bookmakers which is another
area that shouldn’t be overlooked. These bookmakers service the fervent interest in
gambling throughout Asia. They mainly specialize in the Asian Handicap market on
football, but they increasingly offer odds on a variety of markets such as traditional
home/ draw/ away football betting.

Their odds are competitive and crucially they are happy to accept large bets without

Until recently, the only way to access Asian Handicap betting was through third party
agents. Their regulator jurisdiction was often opaque at best, putting may people off.
However recently, Asian Bookies have become more main stream. 188bet, Mansion88
and Sbobet sponsor premier league teams which is certainly a statement of intent. The
target market for this sponsorship remains Asia for the moment though, were interest
in the premier league shows no signs of slowing.

What this increased presence has done is to have encouraged Asian Bookmakers to
become more open to European clients. 188bet and SBobet are now regulated in
Europe by Maltese authorities, and now accept more regular payment method such as
credit cards and Moneybookers.

It is well worth double checking the odds from these Asian books for your football

You might understandably be concerned about security of funds with these Asian
bookmakers and the minor books. The answer is to never keep too much money in
these accounts and withdraw at regular intervals.
MoneyBookers is recommended for such transactions.

5. Stagger withdrawals

On the subject of withdrawals, one suspicion that some members have is that large
withdrawals will trigger account restrictions. We’re not sure if this is true, but it’s
worth keeping in mind, and won’t be too hard to work around. If you have some big
winners stagger withdrawals over time rather than in one lump. We’ve heard other
rumours that keeping large sums of money in the account can be a warning flag. In
both cases, slow and steady withdrawals seems to be the optimum strategy.

6. Make use of Betfair as much as possible

Although highlighted the fact that after commission, BetFair’s odds can sometimes be
worse than a bookmakers, this is certainly not the case with every bet.
With anything at 8/1 and over, you’re very likely to find better odds at Betfair and as
prices get up 20/1 and beyond, you will almost certainly be able to grab higher odds on
the exchange.

Even if BetFair’s odds are the same as a bookmakers or just slightly worse, it’s worth
placing bets there. This goes back to what we were saying about protecting certain
accounts. In addition, the more you bet with Betfair, the lower your commission

In play betting can be a god send as well. If you miss the advised odds on a bet,
especially in horse racing, you can request those odds to be matched in play. You
won’t be matched all the time on the winning horses, but it can be a better substitute
than missing the bet entirely especially on the longer distance horse racing events.
This approach can also work well in football, although there is no option to keep bets
‘in play’ on Betfair. You can request odds, but your bet will be cancelled if not
matched when the game starts.

However, using a Gruss bot, it is incredibly easy to request odds and ask for the bet to
remain as a request as the game goes in play. If there is no goal in the first 10-15
minutes, you might be able to catch the price you requested.
Betfair gets the lion’s share of volume, so this is the usual focus, but don’t ignore Betdaq entirely.

Every so often someone will pop up on Betdaq offering you better
odds. It’s worth keeping an eye on BetChronicle which gets its price feed from Betdaq.
The price on offer is usually lower than Betdaq, but sometimes higher than it would be
once you have paid commission.

7. Use all different bookmaker channels.

This point is especially important if you are already facing restrictions. Bookmakers
that offer different betting channels often have different risk limits. So for example
with William Hill, you might be restricted online, but still be able to get big amounts
on via the phone.

Not all bookmakers offer phone betting etc, but it is certainly worth trying your
bookmaker on all the channels they have available such as:

Wap (mobile betting)
TV (Sky mainly)
In the shop

Note that not all bookmaker offers such as Best Odds Guaranteed are available away
from the Internet. Ladbrokes offer BOG on all channels, but William hill, Coral, VC bet
Stan James do not allow it on the phone. Stan James also only allows BOG for certain
customers (losing ones)

8. Friends and Family

A last resort is to open up new accounts in the names of friends and family. In this case
it may work to use a friend or family member’s name but use an anonymous Money
Bookers account to fund these accounts with.


We hope this helps you keep your accounts running for longer, and if you are just
starting, to start out on the right foot. It is well worth using all the above measures
because two years down the line you could be thanking your preparation.

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