Back in the 1990s, some telephone bookmakers began offering live prices while events were ongoing. That means if you were an early adopter of the mobile phone, you could have been placing bets from pitchside long before the advent of mobile apps!
Fast forward to today, and there’s hardly an online bookmaker in existence that doesn’t offer at least a few in-play betting markets.
In-play betting is one of, if not the most important sports betting industry development in recent decades. Bet365, for example, was one of the first major online betting sites to offer in-play (also called ‘live’ betting) and now earns the majority of its revenue from punters placing this type of wager.
But how does it actually work?
Football betting in-play
Punters in the UK can place in-play bets on a huge range of sports but, for the purposes of this article (and because it’s by far the most bet on sport in the UK), we’ll concentrate specifically on how in-play football betting works.
In order to arrive at a price that is both attractive to the potential punter and also profitable for the bookie, specialist traders at betting companies analyse (with the assistance of plenty of computing power) multiple different factors that might affect the outcome of a football match.
These factors include historical results, location, recent form, weather, likely team selection, and weight of money (i.e. which outcome the majority of people are betting on).
Before the match has kicked off, it’s relatively simple for the betting companies to adjust their prices as new information comes in - perhaps a star player for one team is now out injured, or results elsewhere mean the other team more desperately need to win.
However, once the match goes in-play it becomes harder for the bookmakers to react to events on the pitch quickly enough to offer attractive live prices.
That’s where data collection staff at the stadiums come in.
The in-play odds offered by the top online bookies are often based on live data provided by staff - often freelancers - who are physically present at the football ground recording each event on a bespoke mobile application.
One of the leading companies offering these raw data collection services to UK bookmakers somewhat confusingly refers to staff recruited for this role as ‘soccer scouts’, but you might also see them referred to as analysts or data collectors.
Every time an event occurs on the pitch - from passes and penalties to cards and corners - the data collector must input that information into the bespoke app. The information is then relayed in real time to the bookmaker who feeds it through complex algorithms to update live odds.
All online betting sites that offer live betting implement a short delay (sometimes up to ten seconds) to ensure that they have time to react when key events occur and ensure inaccurate odds do not remain available (for example, when a goal is scored).
In-play betting tips
In-play betting can be extremely lucrative, arguably more so than pre-match betting. That’s because the constantly changing match situations give rise to many more opportunities where the odds being offered present excellent value.
There are plenty of different strategies out there for in-play betting - a quick search of Google or YouTube will reveal all manner of ‘experts’ who are willing to share their ‘guaranteed profit’ methods for in-play betting.
You should ignore those articles or videos that seem too good to be true. Instead, make sure you have a proper understanding of some of the fundamental concepts. Undoubtedly the most important fundamental concept to understand for in-play betting is time decay.
Time decay refers to the fact that at every point during a football match, time is quite literally running out - after all, normal matches are strictly limited to two 45 minute periods plus injury time.
That means that even if nothing happens in, say, the first 30 minutes of a match, the odds will still be constantly changing because there is now less time remaining. This is important for all in-play football markets but particularly important to take into account if you are betting on goal markets.
One of the best times to bet on goal markets, for example, would be just before half time or full time (for half or full-match bets respectively) because time decay is causing the odds to shorten at the fastest rate during these periods.
If you want to bet on unders, then placing your bet at these points in the match will leave your stake on the table (at risk) for the shortest possible time. Likewise, if you sense that a late goal is coming and you’re betting on overs, you will be able to place bets at extremely high odds if you leave it as late as possible.
The key is to time your entry in the market to perfection!
Best in-play betting sites
The in-play betting products on offer at the major UK online betting sites are all pretty high quality these days. However, you should look out for a few differentiating factors:
● Availability of live streaming: Being able to watch the action live gives you much more information on which to justify your wager selection and market entry point.
● ● Quality of online betting offers and promotions: One sure-fire way to get your in-play betting account off to a flying start is to leverage the offers regularly advertised by top online bookies. You can quite easily bag yourself free bets, match deposits or money-back offers if you know where to look.
● ● Match selection: Before you sign up to a particular online bookmaker, it’s worth checking out which matches they typically make available for in-play betting. Not all bookies offer the same selection.
● ● Cash out function: Cash out functions allow punters to effectively sell their live stake back to the bookmaker at an agreed price before the match has finished. This means bettors can lock in a profit even if the final result means their bet would have lost. Cash out is available on many in-play football markets at the majority of the top online bookmakers.