Chapter 3 - Foundational Trading Concepts

Step into the core of Betfair trading, where every tick and market shift holds a story.

This chapter lays down the essential concepts that form the bedrock of successful trading. 

From understanding market forces to mastering emotional discipline, we'll equip you with the knowledge and insights to navigate the Betfair waters confidently.

Ready to decode the intricacies of the trading world? Let's dive deep into the foundational concepts that set the stage for trading mastery!

Emotional trading is the biggest mistake I have seen and one that I have made myself many times. Kill your emotions to become a better trader! - Philip Borrowman (Horse Race Trading Creator)

Before diving into the intricacies of trading, it's essential to understand the foundational concepts that underpin every successful trading strategy. The terminology can become quite geeky, but let's focus on the main ones you need to know.

These concepts are the building blocks that will shape your trading decisions and strategies.

The Concept of Backing and Laying

  • Backing: When you back a horse, you're betting on it to win. If the horse wins, you win the bet.
  • Laying: Laying is the opposite of backing. When you lay a horse, you're betting against it winning. If the horse loses, you win the bet.

What is a Tick?

A tick represents the smallest possible price movement on the Betfair exchange. Understanding ticks is crucial as they determine your profit or loss when trading. For instance, if you back a horse at 5.0 and lay it at 4.9, you've gained one tick.

Greening Up

Greening up is the process of ensuring a profit (or minimizing a loss) regardless of the outcome of an event. It involves adjusting your positions to spread the profit or loss across all possible outcomes.

Steaming & Drifting

Two terms that often pop up in trading discussions are "steaming" and "drifting." Let's delve into what these terms mean and how they can impact your trading decisions.


When we talk about a horse "steaming" in the market, we're referring to its odds shortening. This typically indicates that there's a surge in backing bets for that particular horse.

The reasons can vary - it might be due to positive news about the horse's condition, a notable tip from a trusted source, or even just a general consensus among traders that this horse has a strong chance of winning.

Example: Imagine a horse named "Rapid Runner" that starts the day with odds of 6.0. As the race approaches, there's a flurry of backing bets on "Rapid Runner," causing its odds to shorten to 4.0.

This significant move from 6.0 to 4.0 is a classic example of the market "steaming."


On the flip side, "drifting" refers to a horse's odds lengthening. This suggests that there's a lack of confidence in the horse's chances of winning, leading to fewer backing bets and more laying bets.

The drift could be due to various factors, such as negative news about the horse's fitness, unfavorable race conditions, or a shift in trader sentiment.

Example: Consider a horse named "Slow Starter." Initially, it has odds of 3.0, but as the day progresses, there's a lack of backing support. This results in its odds drifting out to 5.0. This movement from 3.0 to 5.0 signifies that "Slow Starter" is "drifting" in the market.

Traded Range

The traded range refers to the spectrum of odds at which a particular selection (like a horse) has been both backed and laid during a specific time frame.

In simpler terms, it's the range between the highest and lowest odds that have seen actual money matched on a selection.

For instance, if you're looking at a horse's odds throughout the day and notice that its odds have fluctuated between 4.0 and 6.0, then the traded range for that day is 4.0 to 6.0.

This range gives traders an insight into the market's sentiment and confidence regarding that particular horse.

Why It Matters

Understanding the traded range is vital for several reasons:

  1. Identifying Support and Resistance: Within the traded range, certain odds might see more activity than others. These points can act as support (where the price tends not to go below) or resistance (where the price struggles to go above). Recognizing these levels can help traders predict potential price reversals.
  2. Assessing Market Confidence: A narrow traded range might indicate a stable market sentiment towards a selection, while a wide range might suggest more uncertainty.

The Importance of Liquidity

Liquidity refers to the volume of money available in a market. High liquidity means there's a lot of money being matched on bets, making it easier to enter and exit positions.

Markets with low liquidity can be risky as you might not be able to match your bets at desired prices.

The Four Glasses Metaphor:

Imagine you have four glasses of water, each representing a horse in a race. The total amount of water in these glasses represents the book percentage.

If you pour water out of one glass (meaning the odds on one horse are shortening), you must pour that water into another glass (meaning the odds on another horse are drifting).

The total volume of water remains the same; it's just redistributed among the glasses.

Similarly, in a betting market, if the price on one horse drops, the price on another horse must increase to balance the book.

Market Forces and Price Movement

Prices on Betfair are driven by supply and demand. If more people are backing a horse (buying), its price will shorten. Conversely, if more people are laying a horse (selling), its price will drift.

Market Forces and Price Movement

The Betfair market, like any other financial market, is influenced by a myriad of factors. Understanding what drives price movement is crucial for traders aiming to capitalize on market fluctuations. Here's a deeper dive into the forces that move the Betfair markets:

1. Supply and Demand

At its core, the price movement on Betfair is driven by the basic economic principle of supply and demand. If more people are backing a horse (demand), its price will shorten. Conversely, if more people are laying a horse (supply), its price will drift.

2. Public Perception and Media Influence

Commentators, pundits, and even news reports can significantly sway public opinion. A horse that's been "talked up" by experts or has received positive media coverage might see more backing, leading to shorter odds. Conversely, negative commentary or reports can lead to a drift in price.

3. Real-Time Events

Events during a race, such as a poor start, a horse stumbling, or even a jockey's decision, can instantly affect the market. Traders need to be alert and responsive to such real-time events to adjust their positions accordingly.

4. Weather Conditions

The state of the track, influenced by weather conditions, can favor certain horses over others. For instance, some horses perform better on wet tracks, while others prefer dry conditions. Sudden weather changes can lead to swift market reactions.

5. Insider Information

While the use of insider information is illegal, it's naive to think it doesn't exist. Sudden and unexplained market moves might be attributed to insider information. It's always wise to be cautious and not follow the market blindly.

6. Large Bets and Market Movers

Big players, often referred to as "whales," can single-handedly move the market by placing large bets. Their actions can create temporary imbalances in supply and demand, leading to price fluctuations.

7. Technical Analysis

Many traders use historical data and chart patterns to predict future price movements. While horse racing markets are more organic and less predictable than financial markets, patterns can sometimes emerge, especially in the larger markets with more liquidity.

The Betfair market is a living, breathing entity, constantly influenced by a plethora of factors. As traders, understanding these forces allows us to make informed decisions, anticipate market moves, and position ourselves for potential profits.

Emotional Discipline

Emotional discipline is one of the most crucial, yet often overlooked, aspects of successful trading. 

It refers to the ability to manage one's emotions effectively, ensuring they don't interfere with trading decisions. Here's a deeper dive into the importance of emotional discipline in Betfair trading:

1. The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Imagine watching a horse's price rapidly shorten. The market seems to be moving in one direction, and there's a nagging feeling that you should jump in before it's too late. This is FOMO in action. Succumbing to it can lead to impulsive decisions, like entering a trade without proper analysis or chasing a losing position.

Example: You notice a horse's odds dropping from 5.0 to 4.5 in a short span. Instead of analyzing why the price is moving, you quickly back the horse, fearing you might miss out on potential profits. Moments later, the price drifts back to 5.0, and you're left with a losing position.

2. Overconfidence and Greed

A few successful trades can lead to a feeling of invincibility. This overconfidence can result in taking on larger positions than usual or neglecting risk management strategies.

Example: After a series of profitable trades, you feel like you've cracked the code. On your next trade, you stake a significant portion of your bankroll, only to see the market move against you. The loss is substantial, wiping out your previous gains.

3. Revenge Trading

After a losing trade, there's a natural inclination to "make back" the lost money. This can lead to taking on riskier trades in an attempt to recover losses, often resulting in even bigger losses.

Example: You lay a horse at odds of 3.0, but the price shortens to 2.8, resulting in a loss. Instead of analyzing what went wrong, you immediately enter another trade, hoping to recover your loss, only to see the market move against you again.

4. Analysis Paralysis

Being overly cautious can be as detrimental as being impulsive. Overanalyzing every market move can lead to missed opportunities and an inability to pull the trigger on trades.

Example: You spend so much time analyzing a race that by the time you decide to enter a trade, the opportunity has passed, and the market has moved in a different direction.

5. Handling Streaks

Both winning and losing streaks can play havoc with a trader's emotions. While a winning streak can lead to overconfidence, a losing streak can result in self-doubt and a fear of entering trades.

Example: After three consecutive losing trades, you start doubting your strategy and analysis. Instead of sticking to your plan, you start avoiding trades or changing your approach frequently, leading to inconsistency.

Closing Thoughts on Emotional Discipline

Emotions are an integral part of human nature, but in the world of trading, they can be your biggest adversary. Recognizing emotional triggers, being self-aware, and having strategies in place to manage emotions can be the difference between a successful trader and one who's constantly chasing losses.

Remember, in trading, discipline and consistency often trump raw talent.

Resistance Points: The Significance of 2, 4, and 6

Certain price points, often referred to as "resistance points," hold significant importance. These are levels at which the price of a selection tends to face resistance moving in a particular direction. 

Among these, the odds of 2.0, 4.0, and 6.0 are particularly pivotal. Let's delve into why these specific points are so crucial and how they can be leveraged for bigger profits.

1. Incremental Tick Changes at Key Resistance Points

The odds of 2.0, 4.0, and 6.0 are not just psychological barriers but also represent pivotal points in the incremental tick structure on Betfair.

As the odds move, the difference between one tick to the next isn't always consistent. For instance, as you approach and cross the 2.0 mark, the tick increments change.

Below 2.0, the ticks move in increments of 0.01 (e.g., 1.99, 1.98, 1.97), but once you cross 2.0, the increments increase to 0.02 or more (e.g., 2.02, 2.04).

2. Increased Market Activity

Due to the psychological significance and the clear multipliers associated with these odds, there's often increased market activity around these points.

This means more money is being matched, leading to higher liquidity. For traders, high liquidity is beneficial as it allows for larger stakes to be matched without drastically affecting the market.

3. Opportunity for Bigger Profits

The resistance around these points can be leveraged for profit. If a price struggles to break through a resistance point, it might bounce back, providing an opportunity for traders to "lay" at a lower price and then "back" at a higher price (or vice versa). Recognizing and acting on these opportunities can lead to bigger profits.

4. Setting Stop-Losses

Understanding resistance points can also aid in risk management. Traders can set stop-losses just beyond these points, ensuring that if the market moves against them, their position will be automatically closed, minimizing potential losses.

The odds of 2.0, 4.0, and 6.0 are more than just numbers in Betfair trading. They represent significant resistance points that can influence market behavior.

By understanding the dynamics around these odds, traders can make more informed decisions, optimize their strategies, and ultimately, achieve greater profitability.

Closing Thoughts

With a firm grasp of these foundational concepts, you're better prepared to navigate the dynamic world of Betfair trading.

Remember, every successful trader started with these basics. As we move forward, we'll delve deeper into strategies and techniques to enhance your trading prowess.

Up Next: Dive into "Chapter 4 - Bankroll Management" where we'll explore the importance of managing your funds and mitigating risks to ensure long-term trading success.

Chapter 4 - Bankroll Management >>>