What is a bookie?

by Big Al Staff

What is a bookie?

We're living in a modern society where anyone has access to anything they want at any moment.  When I grew up, if I wanted to purchase a rare, out-of-print record, I would have to travel to different cities in the USA or England to hunt for it.  Now, to find a rare item, it’s as easy as going to Ebay, and you’ll generally have it shipped to your doorstep within a few days.  Going back even further, American settlers had to grow their own food, or hunt for it.  These days, you can order food delivery through Postmates!  Within minutes you might be enjoying cacio e pepe and a chopped salad.  This eliminates the need to leave the house, so we get more comfortable within the comfort of our own four walls.  The rise of the internet has brought a lot of conveniences and even more possibilities.

One sector which has drastically changed because of television and, later, the internet is the sports industry.  Before television, professional gamblers might find the need to be present in the arena to stay up to speed on the teams, and to gain the needed edge.  When you were interested in wagering on a match, you had to make a telephonic call to certain people who took bets.  These people were called bookies -- short for bookmakers.  They might either be at an arena, or in a back room, ready and willing to take wagers, before professional sportsbooks were established (and before sports betting was even legal).  My, how the world has changed!

These days, there are hundreds of offshore sportsbooks that you can easily access to place a wager.  Also, since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was struck down in 2018 by the Supreme Court, the state of Nevada now has national competition too, as multiple other states across the country have legalized sports betting.  Plus, more importantly, with the rise of the internet in the late 1990s, you can now follow the play-by-play of any sporting event online.  The result is that sports bettors now have unlimited access -- both to sports information, as well as to bookies.  However, with strong competition among bookies, bettors might get overwhelmed when trying to decide the best ones to join.

In this article, we'll dive deep into the art of bookmaking.  We'll take you through identifying the right bookmakers to use, and the bookmaker’s role in the sports betting industry.  Basically, everything you need to get started as a successful bettor.

What makes the right bookie?

The term bookie is slang for bookmaker, a person who accepts bets on sports or other events.  Bookmakers might operate illegally on their own, or as part of a fully-licensed organization, known as a sportsbook.  A bookie sets the betting odds of each match himself, or in collaboration with an oddsmaker.  Large bookmakers will take millions of dollars of wagers every day.  For example, across the state of Nevada, in December 2019, the licensed sportsbooks accepted bets worth over 571 million dollars, and profited over 26 million dollars on those wagers.  Bookmaking is a complicated operation, and there is still intense competition within the industry.  Every year, new sportsbooks pop up, and the market becomes more saturated.  As a bettor, it’s critical to pick the right bookies, and we’re here to guide you through the process.

Safety and regulations
The first thing to consider is the reputation of the sportsbook.  After all, if you’re going to risk your hard-earned money, then you need your capital to be safe and secure.  Whether you choose a licensed bookie inside the United States, or offshore, you can gain comfort in the fact that such bookmaker was granted the proper licenses and certificates to operate in their jurisdiction.

It's important to research who you're dealing with.  In our Top 10 Sportsbook rankings, a big factor for being ranked highly is a sportsbook’s longevity.  If a book has a perfect payout record over decades, then it’s a warranted assumption that your money will be safe, and that you will be paid any winnings.  Intertops Sportsbook, for example, was the first sportsbook to take bets online, and it has maintained an unimpeachable reputation throughout its existence.  

Technology in sports betting
Since we're talking about online sports betting here, we're very much concerned about technology.  A big differentiator among online sportsbooks is the book’s user interface.  That is, does it have a modern, intuitive website, which is easily navigable by its customers.  Also important is a sportsbook’s live betting platform.  Over the last several years, in-game betting has overtaken pre-game betting as the more popular wager type.  Key to in-game betting is the speed of a sportsbook’s betting platform, as bettors often have a scant amount of time to place their wagers before the odds change.  Additionally, some online sportsbooks even deliver statistics and analytics within their wagering platform to inform their customers about the two opposing teams.  If you’re a bettor who wants the most advanced technology at your chosen sportsbook, then Bovada would be the best sportsbook to join (and is our #3-rated sportsbook, overall).  

With the growth of technology, another factor to consider when choosing a sportsbook is its banking methods.  The most advanced online sportsbooks will have a wide range of banking methods, including bank transfer, e-wallets, credit cards and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The more options, the better, since it gives you more flexibility.

The importance of betting odds
Perhaps the two most important factors in selecting your bookies are the betting odds, and the uniqueness of their lines, because these two factors directly impact how much, and how often you will win your bets.  First, let’s discuss betting odds.  It’s standard for bookies to offer -110 odds on football and basketball games.  But certain sportsbooks, like BetAnySports and WagerWeb offer reduced juice.  Indeed, BetAnySports is our #1-ranked sportsbook primarily because it offers -105 odds on football and basketball games rather than -110 odds.  And that fact alone is worth over $10,000 dollars a year to the average $500 player.  Besides the odds, the other major factor to consider is whether a sportsbook has unique lines.  Let’s explain.  First, you should understand that each sports gambler needs to have accounts at multiple sportsbooks in order to shop the lines to get the best numbers.  At a minimum, you should have three sportsbook accounts, but ideally, you would want to have five.  And the reason is that every half-point is worth roughly 2% to your win percentage.  You need to have accounts at several online sportsbooks in order to bet into the best numbers.  Of course, this strategy only works if you open accounts at sportsbooks that have unique odds, instead of just copying the odds of other major books (which many sportsbooks actually do).  It would do you no good if you had an account at, say, BookMaker, but also accounts at two other sportsbooks that just copy BookMaker’s numbers!  Most of our top-rated sportsbooks do have unique odds, and include BetAnySports (#1), BetNow (#2), Bovada (#3), BetOnline (#4), BookMaker (#5), and BetUS (#10).  It doesn't matter on which sport you're wagering, the betting odds are paramount.  You might have the New York Yankees at -150 at one bookmaker, but -134 at another.  So, you need to shop around.

What is the role of a bookmaker in sports betting?

Bookmakers are essential when it comes to the sports betting industry.  Without bookmakers, bettors would be out of action since they would have nowhere to go to place their wagers.  And especially professional bettors.  When you're just betting small amounts of money, it doesn't really matter much, so you could convince a couple of friends to accept the bet.  But, when you want to take things to the next level, you need a proper sportsbook to handle your operations.  Since you're now aware of the essential role of a bookmaker in the industry, let's look at how a bookie makes money.

How does a bookie make money?
Do bookies make money when bettors place bets?  Of course, without bettors, a bookie wouldn't exist.  But often people don’t understand exactly how a bookie earns money.  First, it must be understood that bookies don’t charge gamblers to place a bet.  There is no service fee, for example.  Instead, the bookmaker charges a fee only on bets that lose.  Typically, that fee is worth 10% of the stake, but some books -- like 5Dimes -- only charge 5% of the stake.  So, if a bettor actually wins over time an amount of money 1.1 times greater than he loses, the bookmaker won’t earn any money off that bettor.  Therefore, it would be reasonable for a sportsbook to try to level the betting action on both sides of a wager.  That means, for example, when the Lakers play against the Knicks, a sportsbook would hope to have an equal amount of money on each team.  This will result in a situation that no matter if the Lakers or Knicks cover the point spread, the sportsbook will make money from the fees it charges on the losing bets.

After reading this article, you know all about bookies.  You know it started as an innocent practice that didn't require too much knowledge, but has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry.  We've discussed what makes a proper bookie, and how sports bettors should select their bet shops. Whatever you do, we are here to assist you in any way!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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