Live In Play Betting Sites and Guide
It's hard to imagine that before the advent of online betting there were only very limited ways to bet on sporting events once they had already started. Back then you needed to place your bets in advance using the best information you had and then wait to see if you win. Of course, you could place an 'in-play' bet on something like a cricket test match or golf tournament that takes place over days in a betting shop but it was impossible to bet on a live football or tennis match.
Things have changed so much that now over half of all bets are placed live during events, with the vast majority of those being through mobile devices. Technology is now so good that with some operators you can even bet on horse racing live. This gives punters ultimate control of when and what to bet on but it also gives you less chance to shop around and compare odds and offers to ensure you are getting the best value and terms. It therefore is essential when live betting that you wager with a solid reliable site so that you can be safe in the knowledge you are getting a good deal.
On this page we look at the best bookies for in play betting and why, along with tips of how to get the most out of live bets and associated tools such as cash out and live streaming. We also discuss the potential pitfalls and disadvantages of live event betting.
Best Live In Play Betting Sites
Bet365 is my personal choice for most of the live bets I place. They provide in my opinion the best choice of markets with phenomenal depth compared to others. You can always rely on the prices being good, if not the best, and the associated features are outstanding. This is one of the only places where you can set auto cash out (or partial cash out) and edit your bets by adding or removing selections when the markets are live. The live streaming available is also unbeatable.
The in play interface on both desktop and mobile is seamless and very easy to navigate and use, no small feat considering the number of events and markets available. If you are looking for a reliable bookie to bet with during sporting events then this is your bookie, Bet365 are the benchmark that every other operator aspires to.
If style matters to you then this is the best live betting bookie. With by far the best interface on mobile and desktop the quality of design means you can generally find your events and get your bets on quicker with BetVictor than with others. With timing being so critical when betting in play those that like to leave it to the last minute to get the best prices would do well to get an account here.
Offering cash out, bet builders and the best bet request service around too there are even more reasons to use them. Personally, this is the live betting bookie I use the most after Bet365, they also are renowned for offering good value odds, especially for football.
Betfair basically invented live betting and so you would expect a good service from them, and they don't let you down. One of the only sites that let you bet on horse races once they've started, kind of tells you all you need to know about the quality of this site. If you want to be at the cutting edge of technology with live betting then you need a Betfair account.
Betfair have every feature you would want in combination with in play, including cash out and streaming. They are known for running markets longer than other sites before they get suspended and for all major sports they provide excellent in play odds. Of course, Betfair also offer an exchange with full live betting availability, making this one of the only places where you can compare fixed odds with exchange odds live in play.
Coral are the best streaming betting site there is so if you like to watch the events you bet on then this site should be on your list. To watch sports you generally don't even need to bet on them, you just need to have money in your account, or have placed a bet within the last day (except horse racing, where you need to bet to watch).
Coral also have full and partial cash out, bet builders and fantastic market depth but the unique aspect about this bookie is their in play offers. If you are a punter that likes enhanced odds, linked pre-event/in-play deals or free bets then I can't think of anyone who does it better than Coral.
Part of one of the biggest betting companies in the world there are few that can match Ladbrokes for the sheer range and scope of live markets. Any regular live bettor must have an account with Ladbrokes as you will find many additional lines and events available here not found with other bookies.
Offering full cash out, bet editing and odds boosting features they provide a lot of utility to punters when betting in play. Price boosts and associated live offers are also very good, often enhancing value compared to other brands. Certainly not the most stylised in play section but something you can forgive them for to get access to the depth of live markets.
What Is In Play Betting?
Live betting covers any bets that are placed once an event officially starts. This covers everything from the events that may happen in the next few seconds of a match to the outcome an entire tournament. The 'live' element is defined by the bet you've placed.
If you bet on say Brazil to win the World Cup after the event starts then the bet is classed as in play until Brazil are knocked out or the event ends. If however you bet on Brazil to win an individual match after the kick-off then that wager is in play only during the 90 minutes of that individual game. Back a goal in the next ten minutes once the game has started then that bet is in play only for that 10-minute periods, etc.
How To Bet Live In Play
Every online betting site we list provides in play markets, but not every sport or event may be covered. Generally, if you check a market pre-event sites will indicate what lines will be available once the event starts. For example, in the screenshot above you can see the markets with a clock symbol indicating what bets will be going live.
Most betting websites have featured in play markets on their home page, this will include major football matches, etc., but for a full list of events you will need to visit the live betting section. This is usually very prominent in the menu bar.
The structure of the in-play section will vary depending on the site. Many brands provide punters with multiple different view options to allow you to filter your bets based on the categories you want. At the very least you should see what events are live now, what is due to go live next and markets broken down by sport. Some sites will give you a live schedule and will also indicate what sports will be streamed and if cash out may be available.
Placing a bet once you've found your market is no different to betting pre-event. Add the bet(s) to your betslip, select the stake and submit. What is different is the wager won't be placed instantly, there will be a lag time while the betting site checks to see if the odds have changed. If the odds haven’t changed your bet will place, if they have you will be asked if you would like to accept the new odds. Bets therefore are not instant, and you should try to place wagers at least 30 seconds before you want them.
There is no guarantee your markets will always be live. During highly changeable times in a game, especially the nearer to the result, you may see markets get suspended. For example, if there is a free kick outside the box in a football game then many markets will get suspended (result, score, next goalscorer, etc.) until the result of the free kick is known. Most live bets need to be placed during periods of open play for them to be accepted. If you wait for a corner, penalty, etc., you will likely see the market is suspended during that time.
Finding live markets, especially if not the main lines, can take time. It is therefore recommended you find your wager in advance and leave that page or screen open until ready to place a bet. It also helps to find a bookmaker with an interface you like on the device you like to use. BetVictor as stated earlier are my favourite site for finding markets quickly and the one I choose to bet with when I need to place a bet rapidly.
How are Live Odds Calculated?
Most live markets are calculated using software and algorithms that take into account the initial odds and then factor in anything that could influence those odds (goals, time left, red cards, subs and injuries, etc). Computers rapidly calculate probabilities and risk and the outcome of this is an odds price.
For markets that run over a longer time then odds traders will still set many of the prices. If you are say betting on a cricket test match, then the much longer game time means traders have the time to re-set the odds after each session or day.
Does Live Betting Offer Good Value?
The fact that most prices are electronically created it means there is a wider variation in odds between bookies in play compared to pre-event, as traders don’t have the time to compare prices to their rivals. If possible, it therefore makes a huge amount of sense to shop around in play by having several betting accounts with each relevant live page open in parallel.
Operators generally have set margins for in play markets built into the algorithms that calculate the odds. Therefore, you will tend to find that sites the offer good priced odds as standard will have lower overall margins in play.
When it comes to live betting you have very little time to assess prices, it is therefore recommended you find a few bookies with good overall prices for the markets you like to bet on and then compare between them where you can.
Cash out and live betting go hand in hand, most bets are cashed out in play by punters and if you use these tools well it can help to increase winnings and mitigate loses.
As an example of risk management let's say you've bet on Tottenham to beat Everton 2-0 and in the game it is 2-0 with ten minutes to go. Everton have gained the momentum in the game and you think there is a real risk they will get one back. Cashing out at 80 minutes will give you most of the money you would win if you let the bet complete but with the security that should there be another goal you won't lose everything.
Alternatively using the example above let's now say it is 1-0 to Tottenham on 80 minutes, you are watching the game and you think that Spurs are not going to score another. Cashing out at this point would at least give you some of your stake back, rather than losing it all should the game end 1-0. Of course, should Spurs score a second you might be kicking yourself.
Cash out is a lot of fun and puts more control of wagers in your hands, there is a huge BUT however. When you cash out you are in effect giving the betting site a double margin, the first taken at the time of the original bet and the second built into the cash out.
If you use cash out regularly then over time you are decreasing your chances of winning due to these double commissions. You should use cash out sparingly and only in instances where you really believe your bet will lose if left to run.
Nothing comes for free in life and the same is true of cash out, if you would like to know more about the feature read our cash out guide.
Bet editing is a relatively new feature offered by some of the biggest operators. It allows you to add and sometimes remove or swap selections from existing single and multiple bets.
For example, you may have an winnings accumulator and you want to increase you winnings so you may decide to add an extra selection into the bet to increase the odds. Conversely you may, for example, have four out of five teams winning in a 5-fold acca but the fifth team looks unlikely to win. You may decide to remove or swap that selection in exchange for lower overall odds/winnings but better chance of at least getting something.
Like cash out these tools are designed to give you more control of your live bets. The issue however is the new stake offered is calculated using the exact same algorithms used when you cash out. Therefore, this means by using bet editors you are also giving the bookies a higher rate of commission and subject to the exact same pitfalls as described in the last section.
Of course, this doesn't mean don't use bet editors, just use them sparingly and only when you think they will truly add value. For more about the feature read our bet editing article.
With so many live streamed events for a whole host of sports now available it makes sense to watch for free if you are going to bet on them anyway. By watching an event live you can gain far more information than by not watching it. Let's say you are live streaming a football game while betting on it, you will be much more able to see changes in momentum and play by watching than just by looking at an in-play graphic.
This is one of the best reasons to have several betting accounts as you can pick and choose where to bet based on who is streaming. Often to stream you only need to have a positive account balance or to have placed a wager within a certain time frame. This means you don't even need to place your bets with the same site you are streaming through. I will often live stream through one site but place my bets in play with whatever site has the best prices for the market I want to back.
Again for more about watching sports live from UK betting sites see our live streaming guide.
This is a new form of enhanced odds in play betting. Basically, you place a wager on a pulse bet market, with someone like 10Bet, on an event to happen within a certain time frame, such as a goal within the next minute. The odds you are given increases the closer the clock gets to the end. Therefore, is your goal is scored after 55 seconds you will get a lot more than if the goal is scored after 5 seconds.
You can see from the example screenshot above there are lots of time frames you can choose with different tiers depending on when the scenario occurs.
In many ways this is a bit of a fad and I wouldn't recommend placing bets you wouldn't normally back just to use the tool. If however you place these types of bets (such as goal within next 10 minutes) regularly then you may as well use something like Pulse bet to increase the returns you will get over time.
When to bet pre-event vs In Play
There is no magic formula as to what bets you should place before an event starts vs those placed once the event is live. There are some general tips however that may help detailed here:
- If you are backing a strong favourite in something like a football game, say Manchester United to beat Wigan, then waiting for the event to go live can often give you better odds. If United don't score for say the first 20 minutes, then you will find that after this time the odds on them winnings are better than they would have been pre-event.
- Conversely, taking the previous example, if Wigan were to get the first goal then the chances of United winning will be much better. If you think they can easily overcome a one-goal deficit then this is the time to back them.
- Many people use in play markets to hedge bets. Let's say you've backed United to win pre-match and Wigan take the lead, then you may also bet on Wigan, or the draw, in play to mitigate any loses or give yourself more chances to win.
- Overall when backing outsiders, you will usually fine better prices pre-play as the odds will decrease each minute the game is live.
- Backing a draw is often best-done pre-event as once the clock starts the draw odds will decrease until someone scores. Conversely if you think it will be a score draw waiting until one team scores will usually increase the odds.
- Many sites want you to bet in play as they know people are more impulsive when playing live. Therefore, many sites have linked pre-event / in-play offers, especially for bigger events. This may be something like bet £10 pre-game get a £5 free bet in play. Again, this is a good reason to have several betting accounts to take advantage of these deals.
- Using the above logic if you tend to get emotional during events then you may be better off betting prior to it starting as you are more likely to have an objective outlook.
- Some markets are only available in play, such as goal within the next ten minutes, next goalscorer, etc., of course you must back these events live. Watching an event via streaming can help a lot with decision making for these wagers.
- On the flip side some markets are only available pre-game and usually a symbol next to the line will tell you if it will become a live betting market.
Common In Play Rules and Terms to be aware of
As always it helps to understand some general rules before you bet live. Here are some common terms or factors to be aware of:
- Live betting markets may not contribute to offers or wagering requirements in the same way as pre-event bets so check the terms if you are enrolled in a free bet club for example.
- Cashed out bets will often invalidate any offers or enhanced odds you have taken. Therefore, check any terms before deciding what to do.
- Live betting markets are not guaranteed to be available when you want them. Make sure you don't wait too long to back your market if you have your heart set on it.
- As mentioned earlier when betting in-play your bet will not be processed instantly and may take 30 seconds or more to go through. Backing a market is therefore a balance between the optimal time to bet vs not leaving it so long the market gets suspended.