In Play Betting: How Does It Work & What Can You Bet On?

Live betting online

In play betting, or live betting as it’s sometimes referred to, is the ability to bet on a match as it happens. You can react to incidents on the pitch and alter your betting activity accordingly, and this opens up a whole new range of betting markets that can only be accessed after kick off.

The concept of betting live was very much the “poster feature” when online betting first started to take off. It’s not known for sure who the first bookmaker to offer it was, but many credit Betfair as they launched live streaming alongside.

Either way, in play betting has totally revolutionised the way that we bet. It paved the way for features such as cash out and fast markets, and it links in perfectly with live streams so we can watch the games at the same time as betting on them and see how the markets adapt. It has also been the driving force behind what keeps bookmakers ticking over throughout the day when there are no major sporting events taking place – there are almost always a bunch of tennis matches available to bet on live if nothing else.

The success of live betting means that there are now more in play betting markets available than ever before. In fact, the numbers seem to rise season upon season and on many more sports than just football.

In play betting is more than just a novelty feature though. People are actually making a living off markets that are directly related to this, and the bookmakers have had to totally adapt how they function because of it. No longer can they set pre-match odds and then close a book when the game kicks off. They even need a team of people to watch the games in order to adjust the odds for the various markets – a lot of this automated now but human input is still required.

If you aren’t familiar with in play betting or how it works, then this article is going to help you. Even if you don’t use the markets directly, we can guarantee that knowing the process and understanding how markets react is going to help you at some point in your sports betting journey.

How Does In Play Betting Work?

Live Betting

The process of betting in play is pretty simple, although it might be surprising to learn that it can actually start prior to the game kicking off or afterwards. This is because all pre-match wagers will turn “in-play” as soon as the game starts.

Let’s work from an example on the Win/Draw/Win market as this is probably going to be the most popular bet as well as one of the easiest to learn from. Let’s say the game is between Manchester United and Manchester City and pre match City were priced 2.00 to win.

The game kicks off and the pre match prices are now in play. You will notice that the odds start to change, often within just a few minutes – albeit only slightly if nothing significant happens.

City then score within 10 minutes. What happens just before they score is that all betting markets for the match will go into a “suspended” state. This is when the bookmaker knows that something is about to happen and they need to stop taking bets to make sure that they can change any odds if needed. The odds are actually 10 seconds or so behind to give the bookmaker time to react.

After the goal has been scored, it can take a few seconds and sometimes up to a minute before the in-play betting markets open back up. Once they do, they will reflect the new score line of 1-0. Man City’s price has now dropped from 2.00 to 1.50 given they are 1-0 up.

The goal is going to affect pretty much all in-play markets in some way. It’s worth noting that as long as the market is not suspended that you can still place a bet on it, and sometimes the market will be suspended and it will come to nothing so the odds won’t change much. This is the beauty of in play – it allows you to adapt your bets to how the game is going.

In Play Betting Markets

As we have stated above, the number of in play betting markets seem to grow all the time. There are literally hundreds that turn in play as the game starts, and then as they close others seemingly open to create new bets.

In play betting is an area that is constantly evolving, so markets will continue to open and close throughout. For example, a market such as over 2.5 goals will close after 3 or more goal have scored, but as a result the over 5.5 goals that previously wasn’t available to bet on might open up. This is one of the reasons why it’s so exciting, but also one of the reasons why it can seem quite intimidating.

Pretty much the entire range of pre match betting markets will also be available in play, but there are some that can only be accessed after kick off. Bookmakers are more than capable of hitting over 200 in play betting markets for a single match. We’ve completed a guide on football betting markets and how they work already, so it’s worth checking that out first.

There are some that are exclusive to in play betting though. These markets are what we like call “next” markets. They are basically bets that you place on what is going to happen next in the match. You can only place these in play, which is why they are important:

  • Next player to score
  • Next team to score
  • Next player to be carded
  • Next goal type – shot, header, penalty, own goal etc.
  • Who will win the next half?
  • Who will win the next corner?

The list can go on to be super deep, but you should get the idea of how these individual in play betting markets work.

Transmission Delays

Streaming Delay Frowning Laptop Football

Bookmakers never want to miss a trick, so there are delays that are applied to a lot of the transmissions and broadcasts that are played through things like live streaming channels. This is by design rather than through a technical issue, as it stops the punter seeing what has happened before the traders have had time to react to it.

But you will see the markets adjust before the stream has had time to catch up. Horse racing is actually a great sport if you want to see this in action; you can watch a live stream of the race when horses might be say 5 furlongs out, but you can see the odds react ahead of the stream, so you can tell who wins from the pricing while the stream shows the race is not quite over.

The markets and the odds react very quickly with most bookmakers. You can even be sat watching on TV via your cable or satellite top box and the bookmaker will be slightly ahead of even that.

The reaction that you see, for the most part will be “suspended”. The bookmakers will have someone either watching live or watching on TV (without a delay) that can react and suspend markets when needed so as not to offer prices on events that have already happened.

The only way that you can really get ahead or even up to speed with the bookmaker is by being at the game and watching it live for yourself. Only then can you truly react in real time and gain the advantage with your betting.

However, there is even an issue with this. You see, when you place an in-play bet, the bet takes a few seconds to be accepted by the bookmaker. It’s usually around 5-10 seconds from the time that you click “place bet”.

It’s this time delay which stops the bookie being caught out by people watching at the ground, and it allows them a buffer. If a bet is placed and the market is then suspended before it’s been accepted, then the bet will not be accepted by the bookmaker and it won’t stand. This is the main way that the bookies prevent people from sitting with their finger over the “place bet” button and waiting for a goal to be scored.

Match Centre

The match centre is one of the most exciting parts of any in play betting section. It’s where you can track the game without watching the live stream. There is a computer-generated visualisation of the game that plays out in front of you, a bit like the old Championship Manager games. It seems awfully basic but it’s highly addictive and utterly encapsulating at the same time.

Most designs include an overview of the pitch and then text to highlight which team is attacking and roughly where abouts on the pitch. It can also show things like throw ins, free kicks, and penalties, all from roughly the right spot on the pitch so you know how dangerous they might be.

The match centre will run as “live” as you can get as well; it will be more up to date than a stream and allow you to see any events might be occurring. There are few things more exciting than seeing that you team is on a “dangerous attack” before the whole market goes to “suspended”, then waiting anxiously for news of a goal.

Match centre is often more than just a place where you can track the game as well. It offers a lot of data and information that you can use to make much better judgements about potential live bets as well.

The stats that you get will differ from each bookmaker, but expect things like number of attacks, dangerous attacks, shots on target, shots off target, corners, yellow cards, red cards, penalties and of course, the current score line. Sometimes there is historical data like head to head info or last five match results.

You even can adapt this data to form bets for matches that you aren’t watching live. For example, if you see that a team has had 70% possession and 10 shots on target with their opponents having just 1 shot on target, you know which team is massively dominating this game. A sensible bet would be to back this team as it’s likely that they are eventually going to score given the pressure their opponents are under.

The best thing about all this is that match centres are free. You don’t even need an account or to be logged in to use them with most bookmakers, and they can be a vital asset for in play betting if used correctly.

What are the Advantages of Betting In Play?

High Five Football

The main advantage has to be the ability to react to what is going on within that game. It’s all well and good sitting for hours, researching how a game might pan out and then placing your bets accordingly. But if a player were to unexpectedly score within the first 10 minutes then the whole dynamic of the match changes completely, and it could mean that your pre-match bet is up in smoke before it even got started.

By betting in play, you allow the game to flow and also get a feel of what might happen next if you are intuitive. The best part, as we have already mentioned, is that you don’t need to be watching every match to react. You can start picking up on trends such as possession, shots on target, and even bookings and corners to work out where the smart money will be going.

Another thing that many people overlook is that it’s you versus a trader, essentially. The traders are the ones that suspend markets and then adjust the odds accordingly, and they sometimes get this wrong. When they do, this is the punters chance to get in on some sweet value left on the table by the bookmaker.

Finally, the fact that you can hedge bets when live betting is another massively popular benefit. This means that you don’t need to wait until the game is finished before seeing your returns, and instead you can use a betting exchange to either back and/or lay a result to secure a net win from that market.

Here are some other key considerations:

Market Overreaction

Market overreaction is one of the major things that you need to avoid when betting in play. One of the worst times to place a bet that has seen a large adjustment is straight after it has come away from being suspended and gone back to being live. The odds on offer often dip massively and then slowly start to rebuild.

For example; if you back a team to win and they go 1-0 up, the odds for an even money bet might jump to as low as 1.30 initially, before eventually settling at around 1.50 after a minute or so.

Traders do this to protect themselves from an influx of bets on those specific results or to combat those that might have been able to get in before them. It’s worth waiting a minute or two for the market to settle before placing any bets in play.

20-minute Assessment

Statistical Match Analysis

One of the key things about in play betting is the 20-minute assessment. Like we’ve spoken about previously, after 20 minutes you can see exactly how the game has been going and how it might pan out, taking into account any upsets or any players who might be having an off day. You can’t get that info pre-match.

There are lots of people who use the 20-minute strategy to good effect and then place their bets around how teams might have started. Some say that you can miss value from early goals, but we would argue that it’s better to know how a game is panning out in real time, compared with a speculation of how it might pan out before a ball has even been kicked. Football can be a funny old game sometimes and it can be highly unpredictable, this strategy protects you from that somewhat.

Cash Out Betting

Cash Out

We have to address cash out before finishing up with the article, as it is intrinsically linked with in play betting. Cash out is where you settle a bet before that market has finished to lock in a net win, albeit usually for a lower price than if you were to wait until the end. Alternatively, it can also be used to minimise losses on bets that you think are going to lose.

The whole process totally relies on in play betting to set odds and then adjusts these as needed. As the in play markets move, so do the cash out prices; if they shorten then your cash out price is going to increase, but if they drift then your cash out price will reduce.