In order to start trading football today, a betting exchange account is essential.
Bookie accounts do not allow you to trade in the same way, so they are not going to do the job.
We have already explained betting exchanges in detail, now we look at the four exchanges available in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
It's worth signing up to them all for the new customer bonuses, but you will also find lower commissions here and there. In addition, if you're going to become a serious football trader, you need to have a back-up plan in place for when your favourite betting exchange runs into technical difficulties. That happens from time to time and by being well prepared, you will avoid needless losses.
So here is our list of betting exchanges, starting with the biggest (but not always best).
Betfair is the world's largest betting exchange.It was formed in 2000 and, although being based in Hammersmith, West London, it operates under a Gibraltar licence. From 2 February 2016, the company has been listed on the London Stock Exchange as Paddy Power Betfair.
Betfair won a "Queen's Award for Enterprise" in April 2008. This was in recognition of the fact that more than half of all new customers come from outside the UK and account for 44% of all revenue. That might not be the case any longer, since Betfair pulled out of Germany, Austria, Spain and Portugal due to regulatory issues.
In September 2008, Betfair introduced "Premium Charge" which we have explained here. The company stated that fewer than 0.5% of their customers would be affected but that is still more than 20,000 successful traders, given their claim of having at least four million customers.
There was a huge amount of criticism for Premium Charge, including a Guardian article which stated that Betfair is "where winners have just become losers". However, you do need to be very profitable in order to hit this extra charge so it's a nice problem to have!
Every football trader must have a Betfair account. The market liquidity is better than any other exchange and many more matches are offered in-play. There's simply no other option for many football fixtures.
Matchbook was formed in 2004, but only became a major player after being acquired by a group of investors in 2011.
For any exchange, liquidity is vital and Matchbook have stated that, "we want to grow our community by focusing on our liquidity, one market and sport at a time. To do this, we ensure we have critical mass along with the best price and liquidity offering in the industry, before we add any further markets."
The ultra-low commission rate in the UK (and no Premium Charge) will certainly help attract customers.
There is still a way to go with football markets, though Matchbook claim to have "the most significant pool of US sports liquidity available". This includes NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
Can Matchbook challenge Betfair when it comes to football trading? Time will tell.
In the meantime, let's do our bit and take advantage of the much lower commissions whenever we can!
Smarkets is the newest sports betting exchange, having been founded in 2008.
In their mission statement, Smarkets state that they "take a stand for integrity by providing a superior online investment platform that facilitates honest, user-centered trading in regard to sports, politics and current events".
This all sounds very nice, but can Smarkets challenge Betfair?
They certainly seem to think so, saying that they are "gearing up their platform to pose a serious challenge to other established betting exchange operators".
Growth does seem to be picking up. It took Smarkets until April 2014 to hit £500m lifetime trades but then less than a year to double that, achieving the £1bn mark in March 2015.
March 2015 has seen Smarkets surpass £1bn in lifetime trades!— Smarkets (@smarkets) March 23, 2015
At 2% commission they will certainly attract customers but the key, as always, will be liquidity.
Betdaq was founded in 2000 by Irish businessman Dermot Desmond and acquired by Ladbrokes PLC in February 2013.
At the time of the acquisition, Betdaq had an estimated 7% share of the online betting market in Great Britain and Ireland and was generally considered to be the main competitor to Betfair.
Ladbrokes paid €30m for Betdaq’s exchange operator and also acquired a 10% stake in the company which provides the technology for the exchange. They have an option to either buy the remaining 90% or sell the initial 10% back. It appears that Ladbrokes were after this technology more than the exchange itself as very little appears to have happened since in terms of development.
Betdaq claim to handle in excess of £75M worth of bets every week. That sounds like a large amount of money, but Betfair regularly see more than £2m matched in one Premier League match odds market.
That obviously means that liquidity is not as good at Betdaq as it is at Betfair, but there's no Premium Charge either. Swings and roundabouts.