Odds, markets and features vary between bookmakers, so there’s great benefit in holding more than one membership. This broadens the selection of markets available and it enables you to shop around for the best odds.
At the same time, having too many memberships is an inconvenience. Your funds are spread more thinly and it takes time to assess who offers the best odds for a particular selection.
What you need is an efficient portfolio of memberships to deliver the greatest benefits from the smallest number of accounts.
This article uses bookmaker margin data from our 2023 bookmaker margins survey to determine the best bookmaker membership combinations for sports and race betting.
The title of this article is actually a misnomer. We will also look at the betting exchange Betfair and the role it can play within a portfolio of memberships.
A key consideration when selecting memberships is determining the impact on the effective bookmaker margin.
The bookmaker margin is the hidden amount charged by a bookmaker for accepting a wager. The bookmaker margin is a measure of the bookmaker’s profit margin for an event and is a hidden transaction cost for punters. This profit is how bookmakers finance their services but bookmakers vary in the margins they apply. From a punter’s perspective, the lower the margin, the better. The difference between 1.90 and 1.92 line odds may not seem significant for a single wager, but when betting repeatedly this difference has a compounding effect. This can make the difference between winning and losing money in the long-term.
There are different ways to calculate margins, but the important principle to know is the lower the margin, the better. Click here to learn more about bookmaker margins.
The effective bookmaker margin is the margin achieved by holding multiple bookmaker memberships. For example, during our 2023 bookmaker margins survey we observed the following head-to-head odds for an NRL fixture:
The bookmaker margin for Unibet was 4.9%, while the margin for Colossalbet was 5.6%.
If we held memberships with both bookmakers, then the best available odds were:
The effective bookmaker margin for these odds is just 2.3%.
By combining multiple bookmaker memberships we can lower the effective margin. Generally the more memberships you hold, the lower the margin, however some bookmaker combinations yield lower effective margins than others.
Bookmaker Membership Combinations To Reduce Margins
We have analysed various bookmaker membership combinations and found that the best combination of two to three memberships depends on what you wager on.
We have split the results into two categories: sports and racing.
As we will discuss later, a huge omission from our latest margins survey was Betfair. Our 2014 effective margins survey found that including Betfair in the portfolio had a huge impact on lowering the effective margins.
The table below lists the average sports bookmaker margin for a selection of bookmakers. The margins were calculated using head-to-head and, where applicable, line and total score markets. The table also lists the effective margins achieved by combining two, three and all of the bookmakers’ odds.
bet365 had the lowest margin of any single bookmaker, but combining it with Unibet lowered the effective margin from 4.7% down to 3.8%. Adding either Dabble or PlayUp lowered the margin further to 3.52%, while adding both in together lowered the margin a fraction lower to 3.47%. We achieved a 3.2% margin by combining all eight bookmakers.
If you’re tossing up between Dabble and PlayUp, we recommend Dabble if you only wager using a mobile device and PlayUp if you wager using a laptop or PC.
The table below lists the average racing bookmaker margin for a selection of bookmakers. The margins reflect the average fixed odds win margins across thoroughbreds, greyhounds and harness racing. It also lists the effective margins achieved by combining two, three and all of the bookmakers’ odds.
Colossalbet recorded the lowest margins of any single bookmaker. They finished a fraction ahead of Picklebet, who use the same fixed odds but were slower to post markets for some harness races.
An interesting finding from the survey was that while BoomBet had higher racing margins, they frequently recorded the best available odds for certain runners. These runners were often the race favourites.
When we combined Colossalbet with BoomBet we lowered the average margin from 26.8% to 23.9%. By adding in bet365 as well we lowered the margin further to 23.0%. By combining all nine bookmakers were were able to achieve 22.3% average margin across the surveyed races.
Bookmakers vs. Betting Exchanges
An unfortunate omission from our 2023 survey was Betfair. Our 2014 effective margins survey found that including Betfair in the portfolio had a huge impact on lowering the effective margins.
The other key feature of Betfair is the fact that it’s a betting exchange.
A betting exchange is a marketplace where members can bet for or against specific outcomes. Rather than bet against a bookmaker, members bet against one another. Members set the odds for an event and others take up those odds. For every transaction, one member places a ‘back’ bet to play the role of the punter and the other places a ‘lay’ bet to play the role of the bookmaker. The betting exchange earns income by charging small commissions on winning bets.
Betfair is the largest betting exchange in the world and it is the only betting exchange that is licensed in Australia.
Why Join a Betting Exchange?
There are two key reasons why a betting exchange membership is a worthwhile companion to a bookmaker membership.
First, it enables the punter to play the role of the bookmaker when they wish. Suppose in a horse race you aren’t sure which runner will win, but you spot a runner you are convinced will NOT win, or at the very least you believe it should be at much higher odds. A betting exchange enables you to place a lay bet and profit if any runner other than that horse wins. The same applies to sporting outcomes. You might look at the English Premier League futures and spot a team that you are convinced won’t win, or you it feel represents terrible value. You can place a lay bet and profit if any team but that club wins the Premiership. You can also bet against specific certain scores, specific winning margins and a plethora of other match outcomes.
The second key benefit of an exchange is the odds are often more competitive than the offerings by bookmakers. This is particularly the case for popular events. It is also the case for markets with numerous possible outcomes, such as a horse race winner or the correct score for a football match. For markets with many possible outcomes bookmakers will employ higher bookmaker margins as they attempt to balance the books across all of the offered outcomes. A betting exchange, in contrast, effectively treats each outcome as its own market. Will the correct score be 2-1? Yes or no? Will the correct score be 2-2? Yes or no? The result of splitting these options into separate markets is generally a lower margin.
Learn more about Betfair.
Why Join a Bookmaker?
As good as betting exchanges are, they suffer the drawback of offering poor liquidity on less popular markets. For liquidity reasons they are also less ideal for wagering a long time before an event start. Betting exchanges are also more difficult to learn than bookmakers.
Best Bookmaker Combination for a Beginners
The simplest option is just bet365, because it’s so well-rounded. In our latest bookmaker margins survey, bet365 had the lowest sports margins and the third lowest racing margins. bet365 also recorded the greatest number of leagues for which it offered same-game multis. bet365 also topped the survey for the number of markets offered per fixture. Another key benefit is bet365 offers a strong in-play (by phone in Australia) betting service. bet365 also offers higher win limits than most other bookmakers.
Best Bookmaker Combinations for Sports Enthusiasts
Our recommendation is the following trio:
bet365 and Unibet offered the first and second best odds in our latest bookmaker margins survey. They also came out first and second, respectively, for the number of markets offered per fixture. Pairing them resulted in considerably lower sports margins than either service on its own. Adding Betfair to this duo increases your versatility dramatically due to the ability to lay selections. Betfair will also lower the effective bookmaker margins on popular events, as well as for outcomes with many possible outcomes, such as football correct score markets.
If you’re looking for additional memberships to lower your effective sports margins further, we recommend either Dabble or PlayUp. We recommend Dabble if you only wager using a mobile device and PlayUp if you wager using a laptop or PC.
Best Bookmaker Combinations for Racing Enthusiasts
Our recommendation is the following trio:
Colossalbet recorded the lowest margins in our latest bookmaker margins survey. BoomBet had higher margins, but they came out second for the frequency of offering the best odds for any given runner. Pairing them resulted in considerably lower racing margins than Colossalbet on its own. Betfair will further lower the effective bookmaker margins. It’s Betfair Starting Price product beat Best Tote by 12.5% on average between September 2016 and September 2023. Betfair also increases your versatility due to the ability to bet against specific runners.
If you’re looking to for one additional membership to lower your effective racing margins further, we recommend bet365. It had the third lowest racing margins and it finished third for the frequency of offering the best surveyed odds on a given runner. It’s addition would further lower the effective bookmaker margin.