What Is Scalp Betting? – Your Exclusive Guide

Patrick Lynch
By Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert
Updated Apr 4, 2023
Read time 10 min

Too many bettors look for the ‘BIG’ win, and in over 99% of cases, they are disappointed. The fact that the rare occasions where someone does win a life-changing sum of money are relentlessly advertised doesn’t help matters either. It sends a message akin to the lottery, where it ‘could be you.’

In reality, you need an extraordinary level of luck to get a major win in gambling.

Successful bettors, who comprise a tiny percentage of gamblers, understand that patience is a virtue and spend their time looking for ways to make small yet regular profits. Individuals who trade on betting exchanges have found a form of betting that enables them to make quick and easy profits.

They do this through “scalping,” a common scalp betting term that describes a method of making the most of price fluctuations. This article explains the process of scalp sports betting, provides some examples of it in action, outlines the best sporting markets for it, offers tips, and gives you an idea of how much you can earn.

What Is Scalp Sports Betting?

It is a method of making tiny profits onbetting exchanges by correctly determining which way the price of an event moves. This involves placing two opposing wagers on the same market. Generally, you ensure the prices are only a couple of ticks apart.

For example, suppose you think that a favorite in a horse race is likely to get heavily backed just before the race begins. You can bet $100 on it at odds of 2.20 and simultaneously lay the same horse (bet on it NOT to win) at odds of 2.16. You can then go on to earn a guaranteed profit via hedging if both bets are matched.

Alternatively, you can cash out for a ‘free’ bet. If the horse loses, you have a ‘scratch’ trade, which means you neither win nor lose. If it wins, you earn a slightly larger profit than you do through cashing out. Most professional traders prefer to take the guaranteed profit, rather than rely on bets winning.

You might only make $1-$3 a trade, depending on your bankroll. However, successful scalpers do it dozens of times a day. As you can imagine, it is a sum of money that quickly adds up, especially if you compound your stakes as your bankroll grows.

Examples of Scalp Sports Betting

Below, I completed three scalp betting trades to show you how it works.

Trade #1

The first is a basic trade on over 1.5 goals in an Australian league soccer match between Adelaide United and Macarthur FC. I laid over 1.5 goals at 1.13 and placed a back bet on over 1.5 goals at 1.15. The lay bet got matched within seconds, and the back bet was also quickly matched.

As you can see, I had the option to cash out for £0.16 or let the bet ride, hoping a second goal would be scored. If that happened, I would win £0.20.  On the other hand, if the game ended 1-0, it would be a ‘scratch’ trade. Professionals would generally cash out and take the money, representing an ROI of 1.6% minus the Betfair Exchange’s commission*.

For the record, experienced traders will view the above wager as a bad option, and I will outline why later.

Trade #2

The next trade involves horse racing, and there is a way to improve your chances of winning via a quick scalp trade.You can find out how much money is wagered on specific horses in UK racing on sites like Oddschecker. A solid option is to focus on warm favorites that are the focal point of a large percentage of bets.

If you’re serious about scalp sports betting, you must find as much information as possible on your trades. When scalping horse races on the Betfair Exchange, click on the small chart symbol beside the horse’s name to learn more about how much money is being wagered on it.

Trade #2 Explained

In this 13:30 race at Ffos Las in Wales, we can see that Vicki Vale is a very strong favorite at odds of 1.63. Click on the chart to learn more about the money being wagered on this horse. At about 35 minutes before the beginning of the race, almost £51,000 out of over £70,000 was wagered on Vicki Vale. This comprised approximately 72% of the money bet on this race at that stage.

The chart also revealed that the favorite’s price opened at 2.14 in the morning and quickly fell to around 1.52 before returning to the 1.60 – 1.65 mark. I felt there was a strong chance of this horse’s odds falling a little in the last few minutes before the race. However, it was also possible that its odds would increase slightly beforehand.

The final minutes before any UK race are filled with frantic trading. Indeed, it is usually the case where more money is traded in the last 10 minutes than in the previous six hours!

You might also notice that back-and-lay bets at different odds are in a backlog as traders wait to get matched. To scalp successfully, you’ll need to learn how to read these markets to see whether a price is likely to increase or decrease.

In any case, I put a £10 bet on Vicki Vale at odds of 1.58 and added a lay bet of 1.56 with a £10 stake. I did the same at odds of 1.61, but decided to cash out for a scratch trade, as it was too early in the market. The lay bet was quickly matched as the odds on the hot favorite shrank even further. Ultimately, I had the option to cash out for a £0.12 profit or to take a free bet with the chance of winning £0.20.

Trade #3

In our final example, I once again looked towards a warm favorite that had plenty of money behind it. In a 13-runner race, over 60% of the money matched went on Uncle Bert to win. I placed a £10 bet on the favorite to win at odds of 2.30 and a lay bet at 2.24.

Once again, it was a quick match and a successful scalp. I had the option to cash out for £0.26 or take a free bet on Uncle Bert with a chance of winning £0.60.

Clearly, the sums I wagered were deliberately small. Professional traders will stake significant sums on an event. If I bet £500 on Uncle Bert, for example, in the above trade, my potential profit swells to £30 with a chance to cash out for £13.

*If you are a Betfair customer and plan to use it for scalp betting, go to ‘My Betfair Account’ to check your account plan. Switch to the ‘Basic’ Plan if you haven’t already. You lose out on certain benefits, but the commission falls to 2%. Sticking with a higher commission will lose you a lot of money in the long term.

What Are the Best Scalp Betting Markets?

This depends on your preferences. Many traders opt for horse racing because there are dozens of races every day and high liquidity near the start of a race. Others focus on soccer and lean towards in-play scalping.

Remember that various factors impact the odds, which vary depending on the sport. In horse racing, you must account for a horse’s recent form, its record over the distance, course, and going. You also must consider the weight it carries relative to its rivals in the race. Then there is the small matter of the horse’s trainer and jockey and whether they have a good record as a combination.

In soccer, team news, injuries, the weather, recent form, and respective team strength determine the odds. As it is a popular in-play scalp betting option, you also have to factor in the state of play. If one team dominates, the match’s odds can change quickly, even when no goal is scored. An event such as a red card or a goal dramatically impacts the odds.

Before risking money, become an expert in whatever sport you select. You also need to decide whether you plan to scalp pre-event or in-play.

Should I Scalp In-Play or Before the Event?

There is a significant difference between scalp betting before an event and in-play betting. It is fair to say that in-play scalp sports betting provides better rewards and carries a far higher disaster risk.

When you try to scalp before an event, you may find it trickier to get matched, because there are fewer price movements. This is certainly the case several hours before the event begins. In this period, the odds tend to remain stable, and major changes are usually down to external factors, such as news that a team’s key player will miss the game through injury.

The most eventful trading period in horse racing is 10 minutes before the race starts. This is when price movements go a little wild, as thousands of traders and bettors scramble to get the best prices. The odds can quickly go against you in this scenario, forcing you to consider leaving your position.

However, do NOT let an event start while trying to scalp, if this is not your intention. In a horse race, for instance, particularly one that takes place over fences, things can go bad quickly! For example, the horse you tried to scalp could fall at the first fence! The Betfair Exchange briefly suspends betting when the race begins. At that point, the odds fluctuate wildly, so there’s no telling what position your trade is in.

In low-scoring sports such as football, an early goal can torpedo your attempts to scalp. You risk losing your entire stake when you let a pre-event scalping attempt become an in-play trade.

Do NOT conduct in-play trading unless you have a plan. In football, for example, you can try scalping the under 2.5 goals market, but you should have a contingency plan in case an early goal seriously damages your position. 

Scalp Sports Betting Tips

If you’ve never scalped before, but this article has piqued your interest, keep reading to learn these essential tips.

Invest in Software, the Best Scalp Finder for Betting

The main tenet of scalp betting is the ability to quickly exit your current trading position. Therefore, speed is of the essence, and software is essential. The top-rated products on the market include Geeks Toy and Bet Angel. With the tools provided by either software provider, you can monitor several markets simultaneously and automate your trading.

If you try to scalp manually, you’ll quickly discover that you’re no match for the thousands of traders who use software that limits their exposure and gets them out of the market ASAP.

Limit Your Risk

Successful scalp sports betting involves reducing your risk as much as possible. This is why in-play scalping is far riskier than before an event. In the first trading example, risking money on the over 1.5 goal market when the game had already registered a goal was a bad idea. If either team scored while I waited for the back bet to get matched, I would have lost my entire stake!

Therefore, if you decide to scalp bet in play, select a market that won’t result in you losing your entire stake if something goes wrong. Choosing the over 2.5 or over 3.5 goal markets was better than over 1.5 goals in trade #1.

If scalping on horse racing in the last few minutes before the race starts, don’t wait too long to close your trade!

Stick With High Liquidity Markets

In layperson’s terms, a high liquidity market is one with lots of money waiting to be matched. I have included an example of a low-liquidity market. In this soccer match, taking place a few hours after I took the screenshot, you can large gaps between the available back and lay prices. Furthermore, just £32 was matched on the match-winner market then!

If you try to enter the market at this point, you face a long wait for someone to match your bet. This is the opposite of scalping!

Don’t Be Greedy

The point of scalp sports betting is to take a small profit, exit the trade and find another profitable position. Therefore, once the market moves a few ticks in your favor, close the trade! Do not make the mistake of thinking the price will continue to move the way you think. Otherwise, a profitable trade will lose in the blink of an eye.

Learn To Take the Loss and Move On

A huge part of limiting risk involves knowing when a trade is unsuccessful and moving on. You will experience occasions where things go south, and the market moves four or five ticks against your position. At this point, you may find it is best to close the trade and take the hit.

However, experienced traders might decide to hold firm. This is if the market conditions suggest the price will eventually move in their favor. It is helpful to decide your maximum acceptable loss before each trade and get out once that scenario occurs.

Avoid All Distractions

Set aside a specific amount of time you dedicate to scalp betting daily. During this time, don’t allow anything to distract you from your goal. If someone rings your doorbell when you’re in the middle of a scalping opportunity, let them wait! Even the slightest distraction could result in losing most, if not all, of your stake.

How Much Can I Realistically Make via Scalp Sports Betting?

This depends on the size of your bankroll, your expectations. Also, the amount of time you can dedicate to the pursuit. For the record, most scalpers will get involved in between 30 and 50 trades a day. Full-timers may approach the 100-trade mark if they include multiple sports or scalp several times on one market. Typically, you should aim for between 1% and 5% profit per scalp.

Suppose you have a bankroll of $10,000 and are willing to risk $200 each time. Let’s say you want to get involved in 50 trades daily. And your aim for a 3% ROI or a $6 profit per trade. In theory, you could earn up to $300 per day. Realistically though, you will likely make significantly less.

Why? Even the best traders incur losses and have scratch trades. You must learn when to get out of a position for a scratch or a small loss. All it takes is a few poor trades and an inability to get out quickly to severely dent your bankroll.

In the end, before considering scalping, you must first consider your profit expectations and compare them to your available bankroll. From there, you can decide whether your earning goals are realistic.

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Patrick Lynch
Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert

Patrick has been a professional writer since 2009. He knows the issues players face when trying to find reputable casinos and performs forensic analysis on every site he reviews. Since joining in 2021, Patrick has had his eyes opened by the potential of the cryptocurrency market. With a background in sports betting, he realizes the possibilities afforded to successful bettors when using digital currency.