Laptop bettingSome punters have their favourite bookie that they have always used and happily place all their bets through that site. Others, take a more methodical approach and always try to maximise their returns by making sure they get the best odds available on whatever it is that they are backing. Of course, whilst gambling is just a fun hobby for most punters, and should be viewed that way (rather than as a way to make money), winning is intrinsically linked to the fun and so it does make sense to improve your chances of overall success by looking for the best odds.

Gone are the days where punters might choose between William Hill, Coral and Ladbrokes and there are now a huge number of bookmakers for betting fans to choose from. Competition is hotter than ever and the combination of greater competition and more bookies with a wider range of views on any given event means that odds can vary quite significantly from one site to the next. At least, that is what conventional wisdom would have us believe. But is it actually true? How much do odds really vary between bookies?

Odds Differences Between Betting Sites

Tiger Woods
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In order to give you an idea as to how much the odds vary from one bookie to the next, we looked at a trio of random events (random in that we selected them for no other reason than them being large events in a mix of sports at a mix of odds). The odds in the table below are based on the prices on offer at the time of writing, selected from a group of major UK sports bookmakers. Note that we have used decimal odds here to aid the comparison.

Event Bet Highest available odds Lowest available odds
Man City v Leeds United Draw 6.4 5.5
Mumbai Indians v RCB Mumbai to win 1.73 1.57
US Open Golf Rickie Fowler 81 41

As you can see, the difference between the very best and the very worst prices really can be a lot. Landing a winner at 40/1 will always feel nice but there can be no denying that the shine would be taken off a little when your friend showed you their return at double the odds of 80/1!

The difference at shorter odds is invariably less pronounced, in percentage terms as well as absolute ones, but even so, given the likelihood of larger stakes it still makes a real difference. A £100 bet on the Mumbai Indians would return £73 profit at the best price and just £57 at the worst. That £16 difference is, of course, 16% of the stake but it is a massive 28% when viewed as a percentage of the winnings garnered at the worst odds. In other words, by shopping around, our hypothetical punter could have won almost 30% more than they did.

Does the Difference Even Itself Out Over Time?

Some punters who do not bother to shop around may console themselves with the notion that any price differences probably even themselves out over time. Yeah, just like refereeing decisions do, and no doubt there is a perfectly plausible explanation for the fact that in the 2019-20 Premier League season Man United got 14 penalties which was more than Everton, Sheffield United, Newcastle, Norwich, Aston Villa, Burnley and Brighton combined!

In fact, chances are, the opposite will happen. It is not true to say that if a bookie has bad odds on one sport, market, or selection, they will definitely be bad in general. However, on the other hand, it is definitely true to say that some betting sites have higher odds, generally speaking, whilst others have lower odds, again, generally speaking.

So, you might love a certain bookmaker’s app, or you might really like some of their promotions but if your favourite bookie happens to be one whose odds are generally on the skinny side, rather than price differences equalling themselves out over time, they will actually add up. Returning to our IPL example above, if you are not a big bettor you may only have bet £5 on Mumbai, rather than £100. Using the prices indicated above, the difference between the best and worst odds would be 80p and you might think that is a hit worth taking given your preferred site’s flashy colour scheme and super-quick app.

However, if you place a couple of bets every day, some with bigger stakes and/or at longer odds, 80p here and a couple of quid there can soon add up. Even at small stakes you might be looking at a difference of £50 or £100 a year which could be thousands of pounds over a lifetime (with interest!). Why give money to the bookie when you do not have to? Or, more accurately, why not improve your overall outcome by making sure that when you do win, you rinse the bookies for every penny you can?

Should I Just Pick a Site with Good Odds & Stick to It?

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa
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Of course, in the same way, that many people do not shop around for their groceries or other purchases, there will always be some who want convenience and familiarity, and value that over squeezing every last drop of profit out of their bets. Such a punter may wonder if they cannot simply pick a bookie with above-average odds in general and then use them for all their bets.

Admittedly, the examples we have used have focussed on the extremes and comparing the best odds to the worst is always going to create a substantial difference. But what about if we compare bookies that are well known for their odds against the market leaders? Will we still see a pronounced benefit in shopping around?

Logically, the answer has to be yes. No bookie can ever offer odds better than the best available. They can only deviate one way from that – down. This means that even though the difference on one bet, or even five or 10 bets, might be small, over a lifetime of wagering, it will still add up.

None the less, let us look at the odds of two popular UK betting sites that are generally considered to offer good prices. We will compare these two bookmakers to the best available odds for the home team in each of the 10 games of a Premier League round. Once again, for ease of comparison, we are using decimal odds and selecting from a group of the biggest and best UK football betting sites.

Bet Bookie A Bookie B Best Available
Fulham to Win 2.45 2.5 2.62
Man City to Win 1.28 1.3 1.32
Liverpool to Win 1.5 1.5 1.54
Crystal Palace to Win 7 7 7.8
Burnley to Win 2.3 2.3 2.44
West Ham to Win 3 3 3.15
Spurs to Win 2.87 2.8 2.96
Sheffield Utd to Win 6.5 6.5 6.6
West Brom to Win 3.6 3.6 3.7
Brighton to Win 3.3 3.4 3.47

As we can see, in this example, which is far from a thorough examination of odds across sports or markets, our selected two leading bookies were beaten every time. The difference was rarely, if ever, huge. However, to give you some idea of how these differences can and do add up, especially for acca fans, check out the odds available on a 10-fold acca as above. Note this is not based on combining the best available odds for each game but on an individual bookie that offered the best accumulator odds.

  • Bookie A – 34,332
  • Bookie B – 32,783
  • Bookie C (best acca odds) – 53,188

Once again, using this limited example, even just picking the second-best available acca odds you would “only” get a little over 42,000/1. That is a big difference and whilst an acca magnifies these odds differences, it is still abundantly clear that anyone simply sticking to their favourite site, even if it is one with decent odds in general, is missing out on a lot of potential winnings.