The Complete Guide To In-Play Betting

Take a look at the likes of Betfair or Bet 365’s websites and you’ll find endless in play markets offered across a wide array of sports, such as football, rugby, golf and the like. Basically anything where there are televised pictures to accompany the fluctuating betting odds. In Play betting is the term given to bets placed while an event is live and on-going.

What To Bet On

An example of some typical in play markets in football would include: match result, over/under 2.5 goals, next team to score, next goalscorer (player), correct scores and odds on a sending off.

How It Works

In play betting offers a distinct advantage to gamblers who are both watching the event and are connected to the internet with a high speed broadband link, as they can often take advantage of a pivotal moment occurring within a game. It is for this reason that both the online exchanges and bookmakers insist on a time delay between the bet being struck and accepted in their markets. Typically there is an eight second countdown to you placing a bet and it being accepted by the layer.

Bookmakers will temporarily suspend a market if there is an occurrence that is likely to cause a substantial change in the odds. In football, that could include if a team are awarded a penalty, a goal or a red card. The market will then re-form with new prices after the incident, leading to the market suspension, has been resolved.

Strategic Thinking: Use The In Play

One clear advantage of in-play betting is that if you miss a pre-match price you were desperate to back, or can’t get your full stake placed, your patience will often be rewarded in play. If luck runs with you and if you can afford to wait say 20-30 minutes before you bet on the side you fancy the odds will drift to a more palatable price (as long as the game remains 0-0, of course). This kind of strategy (cross your fingers and hope to exploit a drift) is also a decent alternative to taking a poor value handicap or Asian handicap bet where the start offered or the price does not represent value.

Another potential slant, is when a favourite goes a goal behind and there is a massive overreaction to them conceding an early goal, you can either look to back the pre-match favourite or lay the underdog who have just taken the lead dependent on the time elapsed and your view of the game. Of course, it helps if you’re watching the pictures and have a good sense of whether the team that have fallen behind are capable of battling back. There will be countless instances of this every week where a strong favourite fall behind early to a sucker punch goal scored by ‘weak’ opponents.

In Play And Its Markets

My sense is that as a rule, In Play football markets on the exchanges specifically, are conservative by nature, with most punters wedded to the idea of the status quo. There also appears to be a related over reaction to game changing events in a match such as a goal, red card or significant injury. If you can correctly and consistently anticipate change in games you should almost, by definition, be able to make a profit from in play betting.

In tennis, not a game I follow, for example, the odds fluctuate dramatically, swinging wildly after service breaks and key points. For betting in-play on tennis matches, an established strategy is to look to selectively back pre-game favourites who has fallen one set down. Clearly though this is a strategy to be used selectively and you need both a good basic knowledge of the sport you are betting on and quick, accurate judgement for that matter to be sure of turning a profit long term.

Bookies love in play betting, precisely because it appeals to the worst ‘get rich quick’ instincts of punters’ but the flip side of that if you are patient, quick witted and unemotional in your judgements you stand a very good chance of making your experience pay with live betting.

If you’ve previously followed the live odds movements of a game before, you will have correctly surmised, no doubt, that that they’re the product of a computer model that is then manually adjusted by the odds compilers in line with the weight of money and sentiment in the market. At kick-off prices are generally efficient, but as the game progresses the odds can take a bit of an adhoc cast especially where games are poised and bookies’ traders are reluctant to take a strong line that flies in the face of the pre-match prices.

Sometimes good and bad teams both excel and flop outside of the bounds of normal expectations but you’ll find that those that set the lines, or establish the exchanges’ markets with their wagers are generally reluctant to confront their inherent prejudices. If you sense that these prejudices fly in the face of what is unfolding on your screen then congratulations, you have spotted an opportunity. Now all you need to work out is whether the prices available are greater than true odds should be – and strike accordingly


One area that needn’t vary live or pre-match is your staking. In either discipline you will still need to adhere to efficient bank management. If you’ve bet 2% of your bank on the 1×2 market before kick-off and then get carried away adding another 3% during the game, you’re almost always risking way too much – probably twice as much as you should have done on the same market (1/20th of your total bank).

What you should do more sensibly is either to diversify into other markets pertaining to the same match or take a view/watch another game entirely. If you’ve bet on the 1X2 or Asian Handicaps market, look to the Overs goals or the various Corners markets as an alternative source of value. Step lightly when live and you will limit your exposure to mad fluctuations within your betting bank. In this case, where you are betting off the cuff it is far better to have too little on than too much – regardless of how confident you feel about your chosen outcome.

Prior To Kick-off: Get Yourself Ready

Before the game starts, try to get a sense of both teams likely line-ups, strengths and weaknesses. This is especially worthwhile when the two teams are unfamiliar. Some basic research – on team news, match reports and maybe some opinions of the game will help you get an idea of what has shaped the odds – and what you can expect to see. It might seem unnecessary, when you are raring to go, but that bit of prep will give you a context against which you can judge what you are seeing against pre-match preconceptions. After 10 minutes of play you’ll know if the sides are in their usual formations and tactics if the game seems more open or defensive than you were expecting and also whether the odds relate to what you are seeing unfold on the pitch.

Writing down the line-ups in formation will help you quickly get a sense of what is happening on the field. Also make sure you have the relevant game prices opened up at and also the relevant bookmakers and exchanges funded to allow you to bet quickly. If you don’t want to leave money sitting in your accounts you can always withdraw it after the game but if you do intend to bet in play, you don’t have time to waste depositing funds you need to bet with.

During the Game

Once the game kicks off the pursuit of value is much the same as in any non-live scenario – you have to compare your own prices with those on offer and then only bet where your win chance is bigger than the available odds appear to imply. On a practical level, the only significant are of difference is that everything must be evaluated ‘in the moment’ as the odds whizz and turn all around you.

The available markets are merely in play versions of the things you most likely bet on normally – with one distinction: Asian Handicaps.

When betting on Asian Handicaps live, the bet is settled as if the game was level at the time you placed your bet and the handicap restarts whenever a goal is scored. So when you see an Asian Haandicap quote offering the home team with a -0.5 AH for 2.50 when they’re 5-1 up then give yourself a pause. What’s gone before is irrelevant, you will still need the home team to score at least once more in order to win.

Quickly get a sense of the game’s tempo. Is it a needly, cagy affair played at a preseason pace? Is the passing scrappy and chances few and far between? Then you must take a view on the Under 2.5 goals quotes quickly – firstly because the odds are gradually deteriorating as the 90 minute mark draws closer and secondly, because others will no doubt be coming to the same conclusion too. Just hopefully, not as quickly as you have.

With an open game, packed with chances, the odds on Over 2.5 goals take their cues from the clock just the same but this time you are playing a game of chicken as you look to place your bet on overs at the optimum price, just seconds before a goal goes in. Accept the fact now that you will be kicking yourself if your perspective turns out to be right but the goal goes in, just as your fingers are poised to place the bet. Get used to it and walk on. It’s simply an occupational hazard.

Always Consider The Key Men

Once you have a feel for the big picture consider how each side’s key men are performing. If the sides are unfamiliar your pre-match research and the commentary can give you a massive steer as to who those crucial players are on each side. Generally prematch odds reflect a sides general form going into a match and the challenge in hand. But, what if the star striker is having a nightmare or the world class keeper is holding everything that comes near him? Then, the chances are, that at least initially, the odds will not reflect these specific circumstances. If your smart you can factor both collective and individual performances into your view of the likely result in most markets

Goals Mean Goals

You will frequently see a weird shift in odds just after the first goal has been scored – an AH +0.00 (draw no bet) line that was previously 1.95/1.95 has now been reconfigured as 2.07/1.85. Initially that price looks way out – especially so as you’d assume the side in the lead have at least as much chance of soring ‘first’ again. After all, haven’t they already shown themselves to be the superior side and therefore, shouldn’t their price be even shorter?

The answer is not necessarily. Unless the game is a mismatch, the trailing side actually have a greater chance of scoring the next goal. They will likely throw caution to the wind to get back into the game and the side leading could find themselves caught between two stools: do they go all out for a clinching second goal or look to defend what they’ve got? Too often sides in this position do neither – and they end up paying the penalty. Then there is the issue of the current leaders being content to play on the break rather than force the pace of the game. Again any tactical or tempo changes you spot should be a good clue to forecast the next phase of action in a match.

This change of emphasis once a goal is scored is also the main reason why more goals are scored in the second half than in the first – players tire also of course but games tend to open up if one side are chasing an equaliser. Basically goals breed goals, as the force an immediate change of tack for both sides and ask questions of the teams physically, mentally and tactically. This is an important principle to keep in mind when betting live.

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