Man with laptop made mistakeOne bookmaker advertising campaign to promote responsible gambling talks about the concept of “bet regret”. Bet regret in this context refers to making bets due to factors like boredom, addiction, a desire to win back losses and being under the influence of drink or drugs, and then feeling bad about having done so, especially if the bet loses. However, there is a different type of bet regret, one that occurs when you place a bet in error, or perhaps you simply decide almost instantly that it was a bad idea.

This can happen for any number of reasons but perhaps the most common is simple human error. Maybe you backed the home side when you meant to back the away team, or perhaps you placed a bet for £100 when you only meant to stake £10. Maybe you backed the wrong market or bet type, backing a horse to win when you wanted to bet on it each way, or backing a side with a -1 goal handicap when you meant to back them with a -2 goal handicap. Then there are times when you just instantly change your mind, either due to a gut feeling or perhaps because you have remembered that a particular player is injured, or that a player or team has an especially bad head-to-head record against their opponent, or that another betting site you use is offering bigger odds.

No matter why it has occurred, in this article, we look at whether it is possible to cancel or amend a bet once it is placed. In addition, we will consider what your options are if the bookie does not allow you to change your wager and if there is anything you can do to at least limit the damage.

Can You Cancel or Change a Bet?

Customer service

Anyone who has been betting long enough will have experienced that awful feeling of having made a wager and then instantly wishing they hadn’t or realising they have not backed what they wanted to. It is a terrible, sinking feeling and, depending on the scenario, can become a mix of frustration, anger with yourself and anxiety about the money you might lose. But what can you do in such a situation?

Well, the first thing to do is make sure that your bet is definitely confirmed. Different bookies have varying levels of confirmations prior to finalising a bet so if you are lucky, you haven’t yet clicked the final button required to actually make the wager. Okay, in truth, we are clutching at straws here but we have heard enough tales of people missing out on winnings as they didn’t confirm their selections to tell us that such things happen fairly frequently.

Check if Cash Out Is Available

If the bet is definitely placed then the first option is to check if cash out is available. If it is, there is a chance that the cash out value at that time will be the full amount of your stake. It usually isn’t but we have seen situations where it is, at least for a short period. That said, some bookies are now marketing this as one of their benefits – that assuming the odds have not changed, you can cash out a bet pre-match for the full value of your stake. So much may depend on what site you used to make the bet but either way, checking if full cash out is available should be your next port of call.

Contact Customer Service

Assuming the cash out value is lower than your stake, even if only a little less, the next step is to contact the bookie immediately. For the quickest response always use live chat or phone them. Your best chance of a satisfactory resolution is if the issue is dealt with immediately as this makes it more obvious to the bookmaker that you made a genuine mistake, rather than you trying to back out of a bet having heard some new information. For this reason, using email or a contact form is not recommended.

Simply explain to the customer service agent what has happened and that you would like to either cancel the bet entirely or change it to something else. What response you get will typically depend on the betting site’s policy, the agent’s mood and, most importantly, the individual scenario.

As far as we are aware all bookmakers technically claim that once struck, bets are final and cannot be changed or altered. However, from personal experience the reality is different and if you ask nicely and get a member of staff who both knows what is possible at their end of things and how to do it, you might just have a chance.

Explanation Is Key

As said, in truth no matter how politely you ask and how helpful and knowledgeable the customer service agent is, the biggest factor affecting whether or not they will cancel your bet is likely to be the individual circumstances. If you phone up and say that you have just backed Liverpool but have now heard that they are going to rest a number of players, you are unlikely to have much joy.

On the other hand, if you make a bet for £50 when you meant to wager just £5, and your usual stakes are typically less than a tenner, you are likely to have more joy. Equally, and one we know from personal experience, if you are betting on the Grand National, for example, and place a number of £5 bets on the nose, rather than each way, there is a good chance that the bookie will allow you to change those to £5 each way. It should be fairly obvious in both cases that an innocent error has occurred and, in the latter case, you will be helped by the fact that the change you want to make actually requires a higher total stake.

Whilst we usually feel that honesty is the best policy, in some situations a small white lie may give you a better chance of getting your bet cancelled. So, for example, rather than saying that you have found better odds at a different bookie, it might be better to say that you placed the bet entirely in error when you were only intending to check the returns. Alternatively, you might say that you only meant to bet £1 not £10 and that way you could leave a £1 bet there but place the other £9 at the bookie with the better odds.

Can I Complain If Bookie Won’t Change Bet?

If, for whatever reason, the bookie will not change or cancel your bet then unfortunately there is not really anything you can do about it. You could complain to customer services, try and contact a manager or even take the issue to IBAS (the Independent Betting Adjudication Service) but ultimately it is highly unlikely you will have any success.

After all, it is you that has made the mistake, not the betting site. You chose to place the bet and will have had to go through at least one confirmation step and possibly as many as three stages in order to finalise the wager. When placing bets in a rush, either because the race or game is about to start, it can be easy to make mistakes but the onus is very much on you, the customer, to make sure you are making the bet you intend.

The only possible time it might be worth trying to complain (always to the bookie in the first instance) is if you have been misled in some way. If the rules of the market are unclear or incorrectly worded, or the terms of a promotion you made the bet to claim are inaccurate there may be something you can do but in truth this is a different issue to the sort of “bet regret” we are looking at here.

Bookie Won’t Cancel Bet: What Can I Do?

Man upset

Assuming you have tried all of the options above and the bookie is refusing to budge – which is well within their rights – you have a few options worth considering. Here we look at those, starting with the simplest.

Let the Bet Run

If you have made a bet at 8/1 for £1,000 rather than the £10 you intended this is not a course of action we would recommend. However, if you bet £5 on a horse to win a race but then decided you actually fancied a different horse instead, simply letting it ride may be the best option. It is certainly the simplest.

There are no dead certs in betting and you obviously at least fancied the horse at one stage. Of course, if the other horse wins you will kick yourself but that is the nature of life: change the bet and you would feel equally aggrieved if your original selection goes on to win. By letting the bet stand you are not sacrificing any money or value in order to correct the bet. Assuming that you are not one of the very few punters who regularly wins more bets than they lose, in the long term simply letting the bet ride is probably the best option unless you either cannot afford to lose the money or are absolutely convinced you have made the wrong decision.

Cash Out

If, for whatever reason, you do not want to leave the initial wager to run its course, cashing it out is the next easiest option. Of course, not all markets at all betting sites offer a cash out facility, so if it is not available, either reconsider letting the bet stand or move on to our next option.

If cash out is offered by the site at which you made the initial wager, this gives you a way of cancelling the bet with the littlest of effort or hassle. Just one or two clicks and your worries and anxiety about the incorrectly placed bet are over.

The downside to this is that when you cash bets out, the bookies take a little cut for themselves. In rare instances, if you opt to cash out immediately you may be offered the full value of your stake as mentioned at the start of this piece. However, the more likely scenario is that you will lose a small percentage of your bet. Assuming the odds at the time of cash out are the same as when you made the wager, this may be around 5% or 10% of your total bet.

That means that if you made a bet for £10 instead of £1, cash out might cost you 50p, or a pound, whilst if the bet was £100 rather than the intended £10, you would be looking at between £10 and £5, generally speaking. In this second position you could, if available, just do a partial cash out for the £90 extra you bet by mistake, thus reducing the loss to between £4.50 and £9. Note that these figures are just for guidance.

You may well feel that losing £5 or £10 is a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind and to quickly and easily rectify the situation. You should note that if the odds have changed from when you made the initial bet that this will alter the value of your cash out. If the odds have shortened you may well get your full stake back, or even be able to cash out for a guaranteed profit. On the other hand, if your selection has drifted, your losses will be greater.

Lay the Bet off at an Exchange

Whilst the two options above are very simple, a slightly more complex option may offer the best returns and limit the damage most efficiently. Betting exchanges allow customers to both back and lay selections. In the first case, you are making a “normal” bet on a side, horse, player or whatever to win. In the latter, you are laying that side, horse or player, which means you are acting as the bookie and taking the bets of another exchange customer on that selection.

By backing and laying the same selection you cancel out your liabilities so that no matter what the outcome, one of your bets wins and one loses. Let’s assume you make a bet on Novak Djokovic to win the Australian Open at evens (2.0 in decimal odds, which is what the betting exchanges use) but then realise it is not the value you thought it was because he has a very tough draw.

In general, exchanges offer higher odds than bookies, though they charge a commission, typically 5% on winning bets. Let us assume, however, that the odds at the exchange are also 2.0 (to lay, in this instance the odds to back the Serb supremo would probably be 1.98, narrowly odds-on). Let us also assume that you made a bet of £20 on Djokovic and wanted to completely cancel the bet.

In this situation, you could lay him for £20.51, which is to say accept the bets of other punters on him to win the title worth £20.51. Because the odds are evens, if he wins, you would have to pay out £20.51 and you would get £20 profit from your bet at the bookmaker for an overall loss of just 51p. On the other hand, if his tough draw proved too much and he didn’t win yet again in Melbourne, you would lose your £20 bet but win your £20.51 lay at the exchange.

You would then pay the 5% commission to the exchange and thus get £19.48 back, losing 52p. Given we have said cash out might cost you between 5% and 10%, or between £1 and £2, this is clearly a good result. However, it requires a little more effort and knowledge as you would have to calculate the optimal lay value based on the odds and commission, whilst also using another site (the betting exchange).

In addition, there is no guarantee that laying the bet in this way would be the best approach as your returns would depend on the odds at the exchange. Let us, for example, assume that Djokovic was not evens (2.0) at the exchange, but was instead 6/5 (2.2), prices that are perfectly reasonable. In this situation you would lay him for the smaller amount of £18.60, which would mean a loss of £2.33 irrespective of the tournament’s outcome, meaning that there is a good chance the bookie cash out would be less costly.

Dutching

Dutch Schultz
Dutch Schultz mug shot (Wikipedia.org)

One final option is similar to laying your bet at an exchange and is called Dutching. This betting technique is named after Dutch Schultz (real name Arthur Flegenheimer but Dutch Schultz sounds a whole lot cooler and is more befitting of a prohibition-era US mobster) who is thought to have pioneered it.

Dutching involves backing all the options in a race or contest and occasionally can be done in such a way as to guarantee a profit (exploiting odds differences between multiple bookies). However, let us consider now how it might be used to “cancel” or “alter” a bet that you didn’t want to make but that your bookie is refusing to change.

Whilst theoretically Dutching can be done on any market it works best in one with fewer runners. So Dutching against Djokovic would be tricky as, in theory at least, you would need to back 127 other players, calculating an individual optimal stake for each! However, let us consider a bet on the FA Cup final where you backed Man City to lift the trophy at odds of 4/5 for £55 when instead you have decided that backing both teams to score is the bet you would rather make.

In the market you have used there are just two options, City to lift the FA Cup or the other team (let’s say Manchester United) to do so. In order to get out of your bet with as much of your £100 intact as possible (thus allowing you to then back BTTS), you shop around and find that another bookmaker has priced the Red Devils at 6/5 to take glory.

If you bet £45 at 6/5 on United, then overall, whichever of the Manchester rivals wins the FA Cup, your total returns will be £99. Effectively, you have cashed out the bet but rather than it costing you up to £10, it has cost you just £1. You can then back BTTS… and just pray that the game doesn’t end 2-0 to City!