Tennis trading on Betfair is a popular and proven way to profit from sports markets.
There are quite a few strategies in common use today. Some are simple while others take a bit more learning and practice to make consistent profits with.
This complete guide will explore all of them, as well as teaching you everything you need to know to get starting trading tennis on the betting exchange, and who knows, maybe one day soon you'll be making a living from it! It's entirely possible if you put the work in.
What Is Tennis Trading?
A tennis trader is someone who places back bets and lay bets on Betfair (or any other sports betting exchange) in order to secure a profit, either before the match starts, or during the event based on the run of play and any other in-play events.
In order to trade tennis matches successfully you should have at least a working knowledge of a few things:
- Some basic Betfair trading principles
- Tennis as a sport, including the rules, surface types, and how tennis scores work.
- Stats - You'll be checking a few tennis sites to study each player's form and serving statistics.
- Software - To trade properly you'll need software, the Betfair website isn't reliable or fast enough to use for such fast-paced live action.
- Coverage - You need a live stream or TV coverage of a match to be able to trade it. Do not trade without live pictures!
Betting Versus Trading
In the simplest terms, a 'bet' leaves the outcome to chance. A 'trade' removes that risk at the earliest opportunity. Thus the rewards are less, but more frequent and much more reliable/consistent.
A trader will take a position and trade out of that position once he's in a favourable situation. For example backing first, then laying later when the odds have shortened. (Or vice versa).
A gambler will place bets on the outcome of an event, with no plan to trade out regardless of what happens. His bet either wins or loses when the game is finished.
Value Betting On Tennis
It's important to note that whilst some people do quite well by just betting on the outcome of tennis games, sometimes even using form and statistics, this would still be classed as gambling in my book.
It's often called 'betting for value', or value-betting, and I have a lot of respect for it as an approach, but that doesn't make it 'trading' per se. It's viable, but it's not the same as trading tennis markets.
Trading sports matches should never be confused with gambling, even 'professional gambling', as that just means a gambler who does well.
I am a trader, not a gambler. I get in and out, sometimes hundreds of times in a match. A gambler will usually bet once, and await his fate at the end! I don't have the coconuts for that I'm afraid. 🙂
Why Choose Tennis To Trade?
Well firstly, I am not suggesting you should do that. But there are a variety of reasons why you might want to. Here are a few to consider:
Tennis is a hugely popular sport, and with Betfair's huge user-base these days, most games have a simply enormous amount of money involved, often referred to as 'volume' or 'liquidity'.
This means how much money is changing hands on the betting exchange before and during each tennis match.
The more 'liquid' a market is, the more stable it is, and the easier it becomes to get your orders matched instantly. This is vital when you want to submit entries and exits without having to wait for someone else to come along and take your money to complete the order.
Big Swings - Big Profits
At certain points in any match, such as when a player is about to win the set, the odds can swing wildly depending on whether that win is achieved, or not.
These big price moves are just what traders are looking for, so long as you're on the right side of the move of course. So the profit potential in tennis is very attractive.
Short Trade Time Frame
Most trades last just seconds, possibly minutes in some cases.
This means that you can bank your 'green' extremely fast, and that in turn means you can make your daily target in a very short space of time.
If you're doing this for a living, choosing tennis may mean you're in the 'trading seat' for less hours per week for the same gain.
Short Learning Curve
Don't get me wrong here, there certainly is a learning curve as there is with all types of trading. But in my view tennis trading offers one of the fastest routes to consistent profits.
By comparison, trading the pre-race markets (horse racing) can take not just months, but in some cases years to fully master.
Most games take place in sociable daylight hours and/or at weekends. This makes tennis trading highly suitable to beginners who have a 'day job' they are reliant upon while learning.
Ok, when you're more dedicated or full-time, you'll be trading matches abroad which can be at all sorts of ungodly hours! But if you're doing that, it just means you're successful and it's worth an early start or late night to bank some more profits!
One thing that attracted me to trading tennis matches was the lack of those pesky Betfair market suspensions.
As someone who has traded in play football for many years, it can be more than a little tiresome to see and hear the alerts that the market has been 'suspended'.
It can happen for a variety of reasons, a shot near the goal, a player badly fouled... the list is endless.
Not only can you not place any bets during the suspension period, but your currently waiting orders get cancelled, which is horrible. Tennis markets don't suffer from this, they are continually open and accepting bets from the start of the match to the finish.
Finally, and this is obviously subjective, tennis can be a damn enjoyable game to watch, and therefore an enjoyable way to earn money.
Ok, some strange folks may absolutely hate it! But even for those die-hard tennis-haters, when you start learning a bit about it and making a few quid from it regularly, it'll become more than bearable!
As explained on Wikipedia, courtsiding is described as follows:
"Courtsiding is the practice of transmitting information from sporting events for the purpose of gambling, or of placing bets directly from a sporting event. It has been observed as occurring most prominently, although not exclusively, in tennis."
Some say it's illegal, but it is certainly not considered an offence in the UK, and it can be damn lucrative!
I've never done this myself, but I have known people who have, not only on Tennis but on other sports, football in particular but racing too.
The benefits are probably obvious. You have the shortest reaction time to in-play events, giving you a significant edge over the rest of the market participants, who have to sit at their PC waiting for the electrons to reach them! You can therefore place or cancel orders before 99% of the market know what you know. I need not explain the huge advantage this can bring in terms of profits!
Understanding Tennis Scoring
The full rules are explained in more detail here, but below are the essentials to be aware of.
Tennis is usually played as a 'best of 3 sets'. Sometimes it can be 5 sets, i.e. in men's grand slam matches.
To win a set, the player must win 6 'games' and win it by 2 clear games. If it's close, it goes to a 'tie-breaker'.
Each game consists of 'points'. A game is won by the player who wins all 4 points first, but again they must be 2 clear points ahead to win the game.
In tennis, zero is called "love".
So both players start a game at "love all", the equivalent of 'nil-nil' in football.
The points through the game are 15, 30, 40, and "game".
If a game gets to both players reaching 40 each, it's called 'Deuce'. The game then continues until one player gets 2 clear points ahead. Each time a player moves ahead from Deuce, it's called "Advantage".
So if you're at Deuce, you must win a point to get to "Advantage" and then you must win another point to win the game.
If you get to "advantage" and then lose the next point, it goes back to Duece and the drama starts all over again!
Why Tennis Odds Change
There are various causes for fluctuations in the odds during a tennis match, most are in play events but other factors influence prices even before the match such as weather, news, player injuries and comments made in interviews etc.
The best way to learn how and why prices move is to just sit and watch a game with the Betfair market open, and watch how the odds/prices respond to in-play events.
It's important to note that there is no possibility of a draw or tie in tennis, unlike many other sports such as football. This means one player must win, it's binary. One wins and one loses.
Due to this fixed outcome, the odds shift around more violently, especially at crucial points in a game. But odds move every second, reacting to every single point played.
One of the biggest price influences is the 'break of serve'. In tennis the player serving has a distinct advantage. He/she has a chance to belt the ball past their opponent at very high speed, well over 100mph in the men's game.
It's 'normal' for servers to win their service games, more so in mens tennis than women's tennis. As a result many games will 'go with serve', meaning each player wins each game they serve for, resulting in a tie-break at the end of the set.
Therefore in order to win a set, someone must win a game where their opponent is serving.
Doing so is called 'breaking serve'. Break point is the last point played before someone breaks serve, and the odds change dramatically around these points.
How To Predict Tennis Odds Movements
You can't 'predict' the future, but with a small amount of experience you can quickly learn to predict what the odds will do if A happens, versus if B happens.
You can therefore 'position yourself nicely' in order to stack a trade in your favour. With a strong focus on 'risk v reward', you can take a position knowing that it's worth the risk of losing, if the odds movement for a win is bigger than the odds movement for a losing position.
If you sit and watch a few tennis games while monitoring the live odds, you'll quickly see an interesting feature of break point, for example. (Same goes for set point.)
On break point, the odds usually move about twice as far if they do break serve, than if they lose the point and fail to break.
Accordingly, you can trade to take advantage of this difference, but more on that a bit later!
How Tennis Trading Works
First things first you have to do some fairly simple checks.
Then you implement your chosen strategy by waiting for the desired situation to arise, ordering your entry position at that point.
Stick to your plan, whichever strategy you use!
Choosing The Right Match To Trade
You'll make this decision based on a few things but mostly the serving statistics of each player.
You're looking for games where you have a good idea of the strength of serve on each side. It's ok to trade a game where one player has a huge serve whereas the other player doesn't, and you can trade games where both players have very strong serving statistics.
There's a choice of stats sites you can use, I'd recommend sticking with the most authoritative: ATP.
Check the serving percentages, the 'first serves in', aces, and service games won percentage.
You should also look at statistics on how often they have their serve broken, versus how often they break their opponent's serve.
Take your time, and get a nice clear picture of how the two players stack up against each other in terms of strength of serve.
We don't care much about who wins most games or matches, you can get into that later but to get started you want to focus mainly on the service percentages.
This is not needed as often these days, as the sport has grown so much, as has Betfair's user-base.
But you should still do a quick check that there's enough money on the exchange for any game/market you're considering trading. You need to see sums being exchanged which are larger than the bets you will be submitting for your trades. If you can only see tiny sums like £10-20 at each price, it probably won't be 'liquid' enough for you, depending on your stakes of course.
(And that reminds me, you should always be using minimum stakes of £2, if you're a complete beginner. Why risk more than the minimum amount needed to learn your craft?!)
Low-Risk Tennis Strategies For Beginners
Anyone can sit and watch a game of tennis, spot that someone like Federer has had his serve broken, and is extremely likely to break straight back, and then make some green out of such an opportunity.
But this sort of in-play ad-hoc trading should not be attempted until you've mastered some much simpler, much more disciplined and planned strategies where you do your research before a game begins, and then you do exactly, EXACTLY what you planned to do for that game, whatever the strategy requires.
Here are two very simple strategies which are ideal for beginners who just want to dip their toe in the water, and bank some green without learning more complex methods.
Lay The Leader On Double Break
When either player in a tennis match breaks a serve, they can sometimes go on to break again. This is more common in women's games.
Having a double break is almost a guarantee that they will win that set. As a result, many players will relax and play a bit looser, due to the added comfort of the double break they have over their opponent.
Additionally, the odds will have shortened drastically on any player who gets a 'double break'. Why? Because everyone betting on that market also knows they are probably going to win that set! So they have started backing them heavily and this pushes prices down.
As a result, their 'win' of the set (which hasn't happened yet) is almost completely 'priced in', into the odds. In other words, the odds are almost down to where they will be if they do win the set.
But they haven't yet, have they?!
So by laying them at those short prices, you stand to make a nice bit of profit if they do relax too much and accidentally let their own serve get broken once. If they do go on to win and don't lose a break of serve before the set ends, you will lose some money, but nowhere near as much as you will win if their opponents breaks a service back against them.
Lay The Player Serving To Win
This applies to a player serving to win a set, or an entire match (3rd/final set).
This is another RvR (risk/reward) trade, where the upside beats the downside, and significantly too.
By laying the player who's serving for the set, you'll see a big profit if they get broken and don't close out (win) the set as expected. You'll see a smaller loss if they do.
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Most Profitable Tennis Strategies
But for now, I will summarise some of the best strategies below, and if you combine that with other articles about Betfair trading I have published, you will quickly see how to implement them.
Some people name these strategies, but I think it's more useful to readers if I give you the tennis scores at which you have trading opportunities, and explain what they are. The rest is for you to watch, practice, and in some cases adjust (on a per game/stats basis) to suit the exact conditions of the game you're trading.
Keep in mind the huge importance or risk versus reward at all times, as that should be what ultimately dictates whether or not you click your mouse and open a position.
0-0 ('Love All')
You can lay the server at the start of a game.
There's a small shortening of the server's price if they win that point, because they are expected to (especially on players with strong serving stats).
There's a bigger drift in price if the server loses that point. The difference is usually 100%. In other words, you can lose 2 ticks or win 4, but it varies of course.
You can hone this method by avoiding games (especially mens games) where the server has a huge serve with awesome stats, as you will not find many points being lost on serve.
If the server wins the point, their price will usually move a tick or two (more later in the game), but if they lose, their price can move 5 or more ticks.
This is because 15-30 is quite a worrying position for a server to be in, if they lose one more they are facing a break point, tensions rise and they can often crumble under the pressure.
If the server loses the point and you have a nice bit of green, you have the option of banking it, or holding for another point won against the serve, which is a significantly profitable outcome as that's now 15-40 and the odds will be starting to 'price in' a break of serve against them.
Lay the server for reasons given in 15-15 above.
Here you would back the server.
If he wins the point he's highly likely to win the game so those odds get 'priced in' at 40-0.
If he loses to make it 30-15, it's of little significance and you can take a couple of ticks loss.
If the server wins the next point, it becomes 15-30 which is still 'dodgy ground' for the server to be on and so his odds don't move much, but at 0-40 the audience considers the server beaten and about to have his serve broken, so the odds move a fair bit making it a great RvR trade.
Many people back the server here as per 30-0. However I don't like it and I wouldn't trade this scoreline.
It just doesn't seem to produce results, the RvR isn't enough to warrant the risk so I'd advise you to sit on your hands and hope for 30-30.
Laying the server here can be a good move. Just another RvR trade, if the server wins you lose less than you will if the server loses and hits 'break point down'.
Lay the server for reasons you're probably already thinking about! If the server brings it back to 30-40, you only lose a couple of ticks as the serve is still under pressure.
But if they don't, they get broken on their serve and there's a nice green trade to drop into your Betfair balance!
Some may disagree but I don't recommend trading any other scorelines, the RvR just isn't favourable enough in my opinion.
As many of you know from my soccer trading course, I like to cherry pick only the best opportunities and keep my powder dry otherwise.
If you use the above as a guide, then sit and play with £2 stakes while watching a live stream of a match, you will quickly see how easy it is to pinch some profits quite easily.
Tennis Trading Software
I have already mentioned that you really need to be using dedicated 'order submission software' to trade properly.
My recommendation would be to use Bet Angel if you can afford it, or Gruss Betting Assitant, and finally Geek's Toy or Cymatic.
If you're not sure which to choose, have a read of my detailed review of trading software options.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Watching YouTube Videos. Yes, really!
Not only are there loads of videos of people basically guessing their way to profits (with their many failures being edited out of course) but there are some people showing methods which fail more often than they succeed. Unless you have access to their 'cutting room floor', where all the losing trades ended up, you have no way to know.
The best approach is to trade. You can get the basics of any strategy (from me or various other people), then go and practice on your own with minimum stakes.
That’s the only way to get good at it yourself. Watching others is not only useless, it can be worse than useless by giving false confidence and ultimately helping you lose your trading bank.
Don't forget I have been running UKFT for around 15 years now, and in that time I have heard all manner of horror stories! I've also learned from hundreds of readers exactly what led them down the path to ruin.
So please listen when I say you do not need to do any more than learn the basics, then practice practice practice. And that means with real money rather than the fake variety! No amount of 'paper trading' ever taught anyone to trade!
Without risk, you're not learning a thing. And there's no risk in watching YouTube videos, which is perhaps why so many people do it, if you get my drift! 😉
Real-world trading on small stakes, for as long as it takes, that's the only approach worth doing. It's what I did, and it's what every other successful trader I know of did. Success is earned, not learned. End of sermon!
This doesn't just apply to trading too many games, it applies (even more) to taking too many trading positions in any one event.
One of the biggest downsides to the power of trading software, combined with highly liquid markets such as the tennis markets, is the fact that you can click any time you like and easily get tempted to place obscene numbers of trades. Of course this usually happens when people are losing, and the losses can rack up exceedingly fast. So don't do it!
Choose one strategy to learn, then sit and wait for those opportunities and ignore all others. When you've mastered one, move to another, and so on.
Learning to trade is as much about learning to control yourself and your emotions, as it is about learning to implement proven strategies.
Trading With Money You Can’t Afford To Lose
I know it's obvious, but it's still one of the most common mistakes I hear about.
Set yourself a conservative trading bank, you don't need any more than £100-200 to get started, and don't load any more into Betfair than that.
If you're the type of person who may 'reload' after a big loss (many of us are that personality type, me included!), then a good tip while learning is to remove your card details from your Betfair account.
That way, if you feel a sudden urge to 'reload' to conduct a bit of 'revenge trading', you can't! You will have to go through the boring process of adding payment info again.
Want an even better tip?
Leave your wallet round a friend's house, says the ageing voice of experience here 😉
Trading Too Many Variables
These impact the gameplay in a very big way, and they can speed up or slow down a game considerably.
Just watch a game on grass and compare the same players to a game on a hard surface, you'll see the difference immediately.
Keep in mind that the advantage of serving is increased exponentially by the hardness of the surface.
Find a niche to learn in, such as men only in clay court games, and stick to that for a while. Don't flick between different surfaces as you will get caught out. Patience is a virtue. 🙂
Failing To Monitor Live Stream
It may sound obvious but it's surprisingly common and easy to do, to actually 'forget to watch' the pictures you have in front of you!
Again, this comes from years of hearing from beginner traders telling me their war-stories, and me sharing some of my own (I made this mistake a lot when I was learning.)
What usually happens is you get so involved in the price action on the ladders, that you forget to glance back at the match. I have done this in every sport I've ever traded, it's surprisingly easy, so be aware of it.
Obviously the converse is also possible, being too glued to the live pictures to remember to check what the odds are doing.
Ideally set up your screen so you have both the prices and the live action within your frontal viewing area. If you're using the TV for your pictures, don't have it over in the corner between the dog's bed and the Dyson! Have it mounted on the wall right above your computer screen.
You'll thank me for this one later I promise!
Trading The Commentary
You need to resist being swayed by commentary. Many think that the reason you have the live pictures is to listen to the commentary for your trading decisions, and that couldn't be more wrong.
In fact it's so wrong I often advise novice traders to mute the audio!
Try muting the audio and see what you think. You'll get a much more “sterile” view of what’s going on.
For most trades all I want is the scorelines, the service stats, and as few opinions in my ears as possible. The only opinion needed is mine, and that’s based on hard evidence such as player stats, serving stats, first serves in, recent form and so on.
Anything else only runs the risk of distracting you from your trading plan, and the plan is the only thing which sets apart the gamblers from the traders. This took me years to learn, so read this paragraph again to make sure it sunk in!
Failing To Check Player Form and Injuries
One final check before trading should be to check the major news sites for any reports about the match you intend to trade, and the players involved.
You want to make sure there are no injuries or other things which could impact on the stats and the play you expect to see from each player.
Tip: When it comes to Andy Murray, save time and don't bother checking, just assume he has at least three injuries to explain his defeat. 🙂
Finally, as already alluded to, chasing losses is remarkably easy, remarkably common (nearly everyone does it), and incredibly dangerous.
Not just to your trading bank, you can get another one of those (if you made it minimal as I advised!), but to your future career as a sports trader.
I speak from a wealth of experience here, as someone who blew some pretty huge banks in my time, and as someone who very nearly jacked it all in on several occasions.
Every single one of those occasions followed a bad trading session where I ... chased losses. I ran around the hills after the damn things, and I can assure you, you never EVER catch the swines!
Losing trades are an integral and essential part of trading. You might like to do as a few others have done, and print that off, stick it to your screen surround, and read it every time you trade!
Another thing I have often said, and wholeheartedly believe, is that the biggest thing that separates successful traders from those who failed or gave up, is ...
Your ability to put losses behind you and move ahead calmly into the next trade.
We all have losing trades. If we didn't then trading wouldn't exist.
But those who can stop themselves in a moment of heightened emotion, go and make a cuppa, and come back calm and ready to carry on doing the right things without being influenced by a losing trade, those are the ones who always end up successful. Please, please, remember that.
Thanks for reading.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make money trading tennis?
Tennis trading can be very profitable. There are plenty of full-time tennis traders which shows how reliable profits are possible. Tennis is a beginner-friendly sport for learning to trade on Betfair.
Is tennis trading easy?
Trading tennis matches is one of the easier ways to learn sports trading. There are lots of novice-friendly strategies, the liquidity is good, and the rules of tennis are easy to learn.
What is the lay the leader strategy in tennis?
Laying the leader is a simple Tennis trading strategy whereby you place a lay bet on the leading player in the hope that their opponent breaks their serve, creating an opportunity for profit.