Bookmakers: What you need to know

A bookmaker is an online or physical betting shop. The bookmaker observes the probability of each outcome for an event and puts a numeric value on each possible outcome – this is the value that the bet is multiplied by if you are successful.


The bookmaker’s main focus is accepting bets on sporting events. The number of sports available to bet on can reach up to thirty.

They do not include only popular sports like basketball, football, tennis and hockey, but also more exotic sports such as golf, darts and cricket. However, betting is not only limited to sports; some bookmakers offer to take bets on iconic events from the political and cultural world as well.

Some of the different sports bets offered by bookmakers

In order to beat the bookmaker, you need to correctly bet on any of the proposed results. Bookmakers offer a wide variety of event results and a wide variety of bets.

Therefore, in a football game, you can bet on which team will win (betting on the outcome), on the total number of points that will be scored (over/under betting), or on the difference of scores with added or subtracted points (betting with a handicap). Total points, games and abandoned pucks take place in basketball, tennis and hockey respectively. In general, there is a wide range of results for betting. 

Other types of bets can be read about in other articles of our School of Betting

In addition to the basics, a bookmaker can also bet on a particular event both before the game starts and during the game (live bet). During a live bet, the speed of decision-making is important, because the quotes can change quickly depending on the course of the game, the current result and the time remaining before the end of the match. 

The proposed events combined with all the outcomes and the corresponding odds is called the bookmaker’s line. Thus, all possible bets before the game should be searched in the “line” section on the bookmaker’s website. 

What are the bookmaker’s odds?

Every outcome in the bookmaker’s line is assigned a factor that determines the size of the expected win. 

It is easy to determine the payment amount that the player will receive from the bookmaker if the bet is won. You need only to multiply the set amount by the assigned factor.

Please note that the payout size and profit rate are not the same! To determine the profit, you must first take away the amount of money you put down, which will determine your net profit after winning the bet. 

For example, the following quotes are offered for the Borussia Dortmund- Schalke match: 1.65, -4.44, -5.55 (Borussia Dortmund win, draw and lose respectively). 

If you bet $100 on Borussia Dortmund, the potential profit would be $65 ($100 x $1.65 = $165, minus the $100 you originally placed). 

The betting odds do not just show the potential payout to the player; in addition, they express the expected probability of the particular outcome of an event. The lower the odds assigned to the outcome, the higher the probability for this outcome, according to the bookmaker.

Thus, in the example of Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, we see that Borussia has a better chance of winning because of the lower odds. At the same time, it should be understood that the odds are the bookmaker’s assessment, an opinion that does not always coincide with reality. 

Odds of bookmakers can be recorded in different formats depending on the country in which the bookmaker operates. You can read more about other types of odds in the book odds: types and ways of calculating.

Bookmaker’s bonuses

It is not uncommon for bookmakers to encourage their customers to make more bets with various bonus offers. Most often they are bonuses on the first deposit (welcome bonus) or bonuses for free bets.

Please note: before you agree to receive a bonus from the bookmaker, you need to carefully read the terms of the promotion!

In most cases, receiving a cash bonus “on-hand” is possible only after placing a certain amount of bets. 

How does it work? 

Let’s say, for the replenishment of the game account (deposit) of $10, the bookmaker promises the player a 100% bonus of the deposit amount, that is, an additional $10 per account. However, the terms of the promotion require the repayment of this bonus in the form of, for example, a five-fold turnover of the deposited funds. That means that before you are able to withdraw the bonus money, you must first place at least $50 on bets. 

In the instance where a free bet is offered, the bookmaker will credit a certain amount of virtual money to the player’s account. The only way for the player to use this amount will be to place it on bets. At the same time, it is again worth paying attention to the terms of the action: the free rate of the bet can be a made a requirement! For example, if the bet is won, the player would only receive the net profit, while the amount of the virtual money for the free bet would not be converted. As a rule, the profit will immediately become available for withdrawal, but can sometimes require wagering.

What the bookmaker earns

Of course, a significant amount of a bookmaker’s profits is earned from the players' losses. However, there are guaranteed earnings initially laid into the coefficients. 

While assessing the probability of each event and putting the odds on an event, the bookmaker underestimates the odds, factoring in a margin. This margin represents guaranteed earnings that will bring in profits regardless of the event’s outcome.

In the case of an equal odds match, the objective odds should be 2.0 for both teams to win (50/50), but these odds will not be found in bookmakers’ lines. Rather, they will always be lower than 2.0 because of their margin. 

Take a basketball game between the Bucks and Lakers for example. The bookmaker offers odds 1.87 to 1.87 for the victory of both teams, thus estimating their chances of winning equally (50/50). The quotes, excluding margins, would be 2.0 to 2.0, and the net gain at $100 would be $100. However, if you consider the margin, the player will receive a profit of $87 ($100 x 1.87- $100) instead of $100, and the remaining $13 ($100-$87) the bookmaker takes for himself. This is the bookmaker’s margin, which provides him with a guaranteed salary.

Offline and online bookmakers: what is the difference

Bookmakers can operate in terrestrial betting points (PPP) as well as on the internet (online bookmakers). 

In the former, cash is paid at the betting point and the winnings are paid through the cash register. Some companies arrange their PPP clubs in a way that customers have the opportunity not only to make bets but also to fully relax and watch live broadcasts of sporting events. 

Despite the amount of comfort that bookmakers try to provide to customers at their betting points, the popularity of online bookmakers- those that take bets over the internet- is growing. 

Where to go in case of a dispute/conflict with the bookmaker 

Each bookmaker should have their own customer service, which can be addressed in case of questions and in case of disagreements with the company’s actions. 

We also recommend: 

Copy the token