Bookmaker secrets: How bookies make money


With so many online bookies to choose from these days, how do you decide which is the right one for you? It’s not always an easy decision, so here’s some bookmaker secrets you might be interested in.

Bookies love to shout about their wonderful sign-up offers, don’t they? There are some other things they are less keen to tell us, and these can be important factors when deciding what to bet on, and who to bet with.

How bookies make money – 7 bookmaker secrets

1. Accumulators are just a bad idea

Most punters seem to enjoy a good accumulator bet. It’s understandable, I guess, who doesn’t love the chance to win big from a small stake?

The trouble is, the bookies seem to love the fact we love them too. That should set some alarm bells ringing. So why exactly is that? The answer is simple. They make bucket loads of cash from them.

Every time we place an accumulator bet we’re increasing the bookie’s advantage quite significantly. It’s already big enough, so why give them more of an edge?

For a more detailed explanation including some of the math behind it, we take a closer look at accumulator bets here.

2. Bookies limit winning accounts

Just like any other company, a bookmaker has a business model and if a customer doesn’t fit into that model they will restrict their account.

If you are a winning online gambler eventually you’ll find the amount you’re allowed to bet severely hamstrung.

Needless to say the bookie’s aren’t exactly keen to publicise this information. If you do get limited you’ll likely only find out when you try to place a bet.

For a more detailed look at account limiting and ways you can avoid it, see our comprehensive explanation here.

3. Exchanges offer a better deal

Betting exchanges such as Betfair or Matchbook operate slightly differently to a bookmaker in that punters are betting against each other rather than against the house.

You’ll get better odds on an exchange because there is no bookmaker overround. The exchanges generate revenue by charging a transaction fee on each bet.

In many cases, you’d still end up with a bigger return after the fee is deducted. So if you don’t use exchanges for certain bets, you really should be sign-up to Betfair here.

4. Arbing is possible

When it comes to bookmaker secrets, this is a biggie. With arbitrage betting punters can guarantee a profit by using the variation in odds offered by different bookmakers on the same event, either due to differing opinions or because of a mistake.

Arbing is easier to do these days compared to a few years ago, for three main reasons;

  1. Oddschecker makes it easy to cross-reference bookies prices on a single market.
  2. With plenty of market liquidity on Betfair you can lay pretty much any bet you like.
  3. There is such a wide selection of online bookmakers to choose from.

So what’s the catch? There’s always a catch. The problem is, bookies really don’t like you arbing. If they suspect you of doing so, they’ll almost certainly limit your account or even close it down.

As far as we’re aware, Pinnacle Sports is the only online bookmaker who don’t mind arbers. For a more detailed look at the whole thing check out this post.

5. Brand loyalty is pointless

You can’t seem to watch a sporting event these days without some form of betting advertisement involved.

‘Insert famous person here’ says we should bet with this particular bookmaker because ‘insert really good reason here’.

It’s all nonsense. If you stick with one bookmaker you are giving away money.

*Every single time* you place a bet, check the market on oddschecker and just pick the best price. It’s really simple, but definitely the best practice. There’s no reason whatsoever to keep placing bets in the same place all the time.

Do you think the bookie will show loyalty to you once you start winning a lot? Not a chance. They’ll shut you down if they think you’re unprofitable to them.

6. The overround can be huge

The overround, in case you were wondering, is the bookies profit margin on any event, known as the ‘juice’, or ‘vig’. Most punters don’t pay much attention to it, which is a mistake.

Have you ever wondered why the bookies never display their odds as a percentage? They don’t want people realising how big their margins are.

Take a look at this example using a leading online bookmaker’s prices. I’ve added in a column for the percentages;

1 % X % 2 % Total
Bournemouth Newcastle 2.10 47.62 3.50 28.57 3.25 30.77 106.96
Leicester Watford 1.80 55.56 3.75 26.57 4.20 23.81 105.94
Man Utd West Brom 1.28 78.13 5.25 19.05 10.00 10.00 107.63


In the total column, anything over 100% is the overround – 6 or 7 percent is quite standard, but it can be even higher.

If the bookies openly displayed this information we could see who is giving us the fairest deal. We can’t have that though, can we?  How dare us for wanting to compare the price of a purchase!

Pinnacle Sports have an overround of roughly 2% on most markets, (good old Pinnacle, eh?) so if you don’t have an account with them I’d consider getting one sharpish sign-up here.

7. Bonuses can be misleading

It’s not always the case, but sometimes bookie’s offers are not as great as they first appear to be. Be careful not to be suckered by misleading offers.

If the sign-up bonus is big, the chances are you’ll need to match a certain amount in bets before the bonus is released.  Always take a moment to consider how costly the overround could be if you’re required to place lots of bets.

The key is to always check the terms and conditions first, and figure out exactly what you need to do before depositing. If you are looking for a new account, take a moment to check out our compare betting offers page.

Related: How to stop bookies limiting your account
Related: How to become a professional gambler


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Professional gambler & blogger. Say hello or shout abuse @tarrou22