Online Bookies UK

On this site you’ll find a definitive guide to bookmakers in the UK, with a particular emphasis on their online operations. When it comes to online bookies, there is a huge range to choose from with some punters opting to stick with the big names from the high street whilst others want to try something new. No matter which camp you fall into, we’re sure we can help you find what you’re looking for.

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List of Bookmakers Covered on the Site

For the larger bookies we’ve given them a thorough going over and have written reviews that cover almost every aspect you could want. From how well priced their odds are through to watch features are available, it’s all covered here:

How Do Online Bookies Work?

All of the bookies in our list have one thing in common: they all want to take your bets. A bookmaker effectively sits on the opposite side of the wager you want to place. So if you want to bet on Everton to win the Champions League, the bookie is betting that they won’t win. This is a massive over simplification, but if a bookie only took one bet on a market that scenario would literally be true.

Betting Market Customers Wager Bookmakers Wager
Arsenal v Chelsea Arsenal to win Arsenal to lose or draw
Liverpool v Spurs Both teams to score Both teams not to score
Grand National Tiger Roll to win Tiger Roll to not win

Notice that the opposite for Arsenal to win against Chelsea isn’t for Chelsea to win, it’s for Arsenal not to win. There’s an important distinction here because in addition to one of the teams winning, the match could also end in a draw. For the punters bet to win Arsenal need to finish victorious, whereas for the bookie to win it could either end in a Chelsea win or a draw.

In the real world what happens is the bookie accepts bets from a lot of different people, taking the opposite position each time. Naturally these bets will vary so the bookmaker finds him or herself taking on a wide range of wagers. Using our Arsenal v Chelsea example from the table, this could mean that the bookie is taking bets for:

  • Arsenal to win
  • Chelsea to win
  • The match to end in a draw
  • More than 2.5 goals scored
  • Less than 2.5 goals scored
  • and so on..

What the bookie hopes is that these bets will all even out and the stakes lost by one set of customers will pay the winnings of the others.

Here’s a fictional scenario using real world odds for an upcoming game between Arsenal and Liverpool. Three people have all decided to bet £10, one each on the different outcomes of the match. Let’s pretend the final result is a draw and see what happens:

Bet Placed Odds Bet Amount Result
Arsenal to win 31/20 £10 +£10
Liverpool to win 8/5 £10 +£10
Draw 5/2 £10 -£25

In this example the bookie wins £10 from the punter who bet on Arsenal, and another £10 from the person who bet on Liverpool for a total of £20. They then have to pay out £25 to the shrewd pundit who went for the draw. This means that for these specific results, the bookie has just lost £5. Don’t feel too bad though, they’ll make it up in the end.

But what would have happened if Arsenal had won? Let’s find out:

Bet Placed Odds Bet Amount Result
Arsenal to win 31/20 £10 -£15.50
Liverpool to win 8/5 £10 +£10
Draw 5/2 £10 +£10

This time the bookie won £10 from the punters that bet on Liverpool to win and the draw, for a total takings of £20. The customer who bet on Arsenal will be paid out at odds of 31/20 which costs the bookie £15.50, meaning that this time they came out on top with net takings of £4.50.

Finally let’s see what would have happened if Liverpool won:

Bet Placed Odds Bet Amount Result
Arsenal to win 31/20 £10 +£10
Liverpool to win 8/5 £10 -£16
Draw 5/2 £10 +£10

In our final example, both the Arsenal win and draw paid the bookie £10 each, again for a total of £20. The Scouse loving punter who bet on Liverpool to win would then need to be paid out by the bookie, for a total of £16. This time the bookie ends up with £4 left in their pocket.

If you look at the result of these three scenarios you’ll noticed that the first time the bookie lost £5.50, but then won back £8.50 in the second and third matches. This means that in our fictional series of games, the bookies ends up on top by £3.

This is essentially how bookmakers operate. They rely on the long term collective result of all of their bets to pay them a wage. Whilst some bets will lose, others will win and it’s about what’s left at the end of the day once everything has been counted up.

The way they do this is to set the odds in such a way that they’re ever so slightly less than the true probability of the event happening. It’s the equivalent of tossing a coin but saying if it lands on heads you, the customer, needs to pay the bookie £10, but if it lands on tails the bookie will pay you £9.

You may end up with a lucky streak of tails and could even hit 9 or 10 in a row, but eventually the maths will catch up on you and after 1,000 or 2,000 tosses then chances are the bookie will be well ahead.

The difference in the true odds and the ones you’re given to bet with is referred to as the vig. In our example the bookmaker made £3 from the nine bets of £10 which works out as approximately 3.33% of the total sum wagered. Here we could say that the bookmakers margin on the match is 3.33%, meaning that – in theory at least – they would expect to pocket just under 3.5% of the total volume of bets placed.

If instead of nine bets of £10 there was a total of £250,000 on the markets, then the bookmakers theoretical win would be just over £8,000. And that’s how they make their money. But they are, after all, a business, and it costs money to hire web designers, customer service agents, cashiers and odds traders.

What to Expect From an Online Bookie

Now you know how they get their money, you probably want to know what you can get for it. And what reasons are there to give one bookie your business over another. There are a wide range of features you’ll want to watch our for when assessing a potential new bookie, some of which should be fairly obvious, whilst others might not be.

  • Odds
  • Limits
  • Markets
  • Features
  • Banking
  • Site Functionality

Big Established Brands v New Bookies: Which is Better?

This is a difficult question to answer as it comes down to personal preference. That said, there is a huge difference between a proper new bookmaker and a site that’s just popped up as a fly by night white label. Whilst these sites shouldn’t pose any risk to your funds and may give you the odd free bet here and there, they won’t really do anything special. They are, after all, effectively just clones of the parent site.

Here where we talk about new brands, we’re talking proper new sites with custom platforms and proprietary features. These are the sites that are hungry to jostle into what is already quite a saturated market. In order to do that they need to really try hard and leverage anything they can to make them stand out.

These new sites can be quite good and we’ve seen some cracking features and promotions pop up over the years. We’ve even seen massive jackpot bets that run into seven figures. These type of bookie tend to have an emphasis on apps and mobile betting are much more present on social media, both of which appeal to some of the newer generations.

What the new sites can’t do, however, is compete with the infrastructure and resources that the high street giants have build up over the decades. As well as having been around the block more times than you’ve had hot dinners, they’re well positioned to offer you things that literally can’t be replicated by a new bookie.

One of the best examples of this is in person management of your account. Plenty of high street bookies have combined their online and betting shop accounts and allow their customers to deposit and withdraw cash at a bookies. Conversely if you have an online funded account and happen to be passing a shop, you can pop in to place a bet using your already deposited funds.

Realistically though, unless you’re looking for a feature that is only offered by one type of bookie or another then you’ll probably want to take a look at both types. Our advice is look for the features you’re most interested in – whether that be the best odds, frequent promotions or a snazzy app – and test out a couple that catch your eye.