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What is head-to-head betting?

Head-to-head betting, also known as two-way betting, refers to backing or laying one of two outcomes on an outright market. We explain what a head-to-head betting market is, and how to calculate your payout.

For a head-to-head bet, you're betting on the outcome of the match, either win or lose. Similar to 1X2 betting, head-to-head betting doesn’t seek to even out any difference in perceived quality between the teams or players - unlike Asian handicaps or totals.

How to calculate your payout for a back bet on a head-to-head market

You can calculate your payout for a back bet on a head-to-head market in two simple steps. Let’s say you backed Andy Murray to beat Novak Djokovic in the French Open final with a stake of £100 at odds of 5.50. 

Step 1: Calculate return excluding commission

It’s calculated as:

Odds * Stake = £ return

So in our example: 5.50 * 100 = £550

Therefore if Murray won your bet would return £550 - including stake, leaving you with a £450 profit.

However, because betting exchanges don’t add a margin into the odds - unlike bookmakers - you now have to subtract the commission from the profit.

Step 2: Calculate return with commission

It’s calculated as:

((Stake * (Odds -1)) * Commission rate

In our example that would be: ((100 * (5.50 -1)) * 2% = £9 commission

So you would be charged £9 commission, meaning your return would be £541 - a profit of £441.

If the match ends in a Djokovic victory, you would lose the bet and your £100 stake.

Even when commission is factored in to the odds, you will generally find that Smarkets has the best price - a result of our industry-low 2% commission on winning bets only.

Once you have learnt how to calculate betting margins, you can compare margins across bookmakers and exchanges to find who offers you the best value odds.

How to calculate your payout for a lay bet on a head-to-head market

Unlike a bookmaker when betting on a head-to-head market, you can also lay the result. As an example let’s say you layed Djokovic against Murray with a stake of £100 at odds of 1.68.

Similarly to calculating your payout for a back bet, there are two stages for a lay bet.

Step 1: Calculate return excluding commission

It’s calculated as:

Stake = profit

So in our example: £100 = £100

Therefore if the game ended in a Murray win, your bet would win, giving you a £100 profit (before commission).

Step 2: Calculate return with commission

Now you must calculate your lay bet profit, with the exchange commission factored in. At Smarkets - 2% commission - you can use the following calculation:

Stake * 0.98 = profit

In our example that would be: 100 * 0.98 = £98

Therefore you would be charged £2 commission, meaning your profit would be £98.

It’s important to note when laying outcomes on a betting exchange, you should be aware of your liability - the amount you would payout if the game had finished in a Djokovic win. This article explains how to calculate liability on an exchange.

For this example if the game had ended in a Djokovic win, your liability would have been deducted, resulting in a loss of £68.

Apply this to betting

You now understand what a head-to-head betting market is, how to make a back and lay bet and how to calculate your payout - giving you the best chance to make a profit on this betting market.


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