Recommended Bookmakers

The Judge's guide to the bookies!

  • Who to place your bets with - and why...
  • Which websites are easy to use (and which ones aren't!)
  • Why sometimes it pays to pick up the phone...
  • Discover which sports each bookie specialises in...
  • Get the most from your bookmaking accounts - markets to look out for...

Welcome to the Judge's guide to the bookies!

One of the most common questions I get from members is, 'What bookies do I need to have an account with?'...

Of course, each bet is different. But there are certain bookies that I would class as 'recommended.' Established bookies that will take a decent-sized bet, offer a wide range of markets, have a telephone betting service and a user-friendly website. And I've listed and reviewed them for you in this exclusive guide...

As well as the big High Street names, I'll also point you towards other bookmakers that are well worth having accounts with.

Different bookies specialise in different sports and markets - and each has their own ‘personality' in the sports betting world. Having myself worked in the betting industry for many years - yes, some of those years were spent working for the enemy! - I know how the bookies work, how they think and how you can get the best out of them.

The Big Three - High Street bookies

I'll start with the household names - the three biggest UK bookies - William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral.

I'd recommend you have an account with at least one of these. All three offer a wide range of markets in their shops, over the phone and online. They're all massive companies, so your money will be safe in accounts with them. Generally they'll all take a good-size bet and stand by their opinion on a bet or price.

William Hill

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Betting shops: Over 2,000 across the UK

The William Hill website is my pick of the big three bookies' sites. The day's big events are always flagged up on the homepage and finding your bet by Sport is made simple by the big list of categories across the top of the screen.

A wide range of markets and events are covered - having a William Hill account will come in particularly useful for your weekly bets on football Match Results and rugby Handicaps. Recommended.

Useful to know...

It takes a big swing of money for Hills to dramatically cut their odds. And I find they also stand by their prices in the smaller markets, often offering industry-best Corner Handicaps on live football matches, for example.


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Betting shops: 1,900 shops nationwide.

Ladbrokes is another huge, established bookmaker. Having an account with them will come in useful for many of your weekly bets - in particular tournament winner bets, football Match Result markets, tennis bets and rugby Handicaps.

The site looks good and hosts a wide range of bets - but they are not always easy to find. You have to put the time in to navigating the menus and scrolling through the list of bets. However the site redeems itself with an excellent online ‘Bet Slip' (always shown on the right of the screen), that calculates your potential winnings with the ‘Check Bet' button, clearly shows your current selections and works out the odds on doubles, trebles and accumulators.

Useful to know...

Ladbrokes are the top bookie for Asian Handicap football bets - a market that often provides bets for us. As well as the top UK divisions Ladbrokes also cover European and Rest of World leagues, and their online Asian Handicap ‘coupon' lists all games with a useful explanation of what the handicap means and what results it pays out on.

When it comes to Tennis betting, Ladbrokes are in the small group of bookies that go by a ‘One-Ball' rule, paying out on the Match Winner if the match starts but is not completed. Useful, for example, when we're betting based on injury news and the opponent ‘retires' during the match.


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Betting shops: Over 1,600 shops in the UK

A good bookie for all major sporting events, tournament markets, Match Result bets and rugby Handicap bets.

Coral's site is not the most modern - but once you find the Sport and event you're after the coupons and bets are clearly displayed. The online Bet Slip is good, too - showing your bet selections and potential returns.

Useful to know...

The ‘Next 5 Sport Events' and ‘Next Live Betting' lists on the homepage show the matches starting soon - a good shortcut.

Coral also go by the ‘One-Ball' rule for tennis match bets (see above).

Recommended Bookies - The Best of the Rest

Thanks to the massive growth in online betting since the turn of the century - and the fierce competition between the bookies - you'll often find the best price on a bet, or a bet not available on the High Street with one of the following firms...

Paddy Power

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Irish bookie that likes to put a bit of ‘fun' in to betting - offering Specials and Novelty bets on everything from Wayne Rooney getting sent off to The X Factor winner and even the next James Bond.

It's not all fun and games though - Paddy Power offer a mountain of sports betting markets and these can provide us with excellent betting opportunities...

As well as all the normal Match Result bets, the Paddy Power website also has a huge selection of ‘Under and Over' bets on total Goals and Corners for live football matches and Total Points for rugby matches. Sometimes as many as 80 markets are available on a single match!

Useful to know...

Being an Irish bookmaker, Paddy Power has good coverage of the Gaelic sports and Irish events - areas other bookmakers might not offer you a bet on.

Stan James

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Stan James is one of the top bookmakers outside of ‘The Big Three,' and also has High Street betting shops.

A massive range of markets are on offer - Stan James go to town with big events, offering 20+ bets for live rugby matches and 35+ for live football. They also have a wide range of markets on cricket, tennis, golf and many other sports. There are no fancy gimmicks on the website - finding your bet by Sport and event is straightforward. And the online Bet Slip is one of the best around - it shows the bet you've selected, the betting options (doubles, trebles, stakes etc) and how much you stand to win.

Stan James tend to go up earlier than several other bookies - and they often have standout prices on tennis, football and rugby matches.

Useful to know...

Stan James is one of the top bookies for ‘In-Running' betting, offering markets on matches and events during play - around the clock.


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Irish bookies Boylesports are relatively new on the scene - established in 1989 - but are now a big player, especially online. They've made their presence felt by offering a wide range of markets and by regularly going up with industry best prices. As well as the football and rugby, Boyles have a particularly good range of golf and snooker markets.

The website is very similar in style to the Stan James one - the menus and Bet Slip are presented in the same clear way (and if anything the Boylesports site has a more modern look to it). Boylesports may not be one of the best-known bookies (yet) - but they offer anexcellent service and a wide range of bets.

Useful to know...

Boylesports regularly put up unique ‘Soccer Specials' - for example most weekends they offer enhanced accumulators on Match Results, and bets on Highest Scoring Games and Total Goals Scored from the weekend's Premier League games. These markets often feature some good value prices.


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Skybet is a top online bookie with a large range of bets on all sports, and excellent coverage of live events.

They often go up early with their prices, and can also be relied upon to think up additional bets and Specials alongside the normal Match Result, Outright Winner and Handicap Bets.

The Skybet website has a few bells and whistles - plenty of flashy images and icons on screen - and some users do find it a bit clunky to use. However the sheer number of bets on offer, especially for live matches, makes it worthwhile.

Useful to know...

Skybet offer a huge range of bets on live football matches, with 60+ markets available before kick off including Goals, Corners and Booking Points. You can also bet many of those markets in-play.


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Betfred prides itself on being ‘the world's biggest independent bookmaker,' and on offering ‘bonus' bets and enhanced odds of football, racing and other sports - founder Fred Done refers to himself as The Bonus King. There are also over 800 Betfred betting shops in the UK.

All major sports are covered, and although there aren't as many specific markets on offer as some other bookies - all your day-to-day Match Results, Outright Winner and Handicaps are there. And prices are usually competitive. The Betfred website isn't the most attractive you'll come across - there's a lot to take in on the homepage screen. But using the Sport menus on the left of the screen (as with most bookies' websites), finding and placing your bet is simple enough.

Useful to know...

Betfred founder Fred Done is a famous Man Utd fan - he opened his first ever betting shop in Manchester way back in 1967 - and Betfred often offer Specials bets and best prices on Man Utd games. In 2005, Fred lost a £1million bet with rival bookmaker Victor Chandler that Man Utd would finish above Chelsea in the 2004/5 Premier League season (!).

Recommended Betting Exchange - Betfair

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The best price on certain bets can often be found on the betting exchanges. Betfair is the leading betting exchange. Members set their own odds for events and put up how much money they are prepared to bet. If your bet wins you pay a small commission (around 5%) on your profits.

Because of the competitive pricing on Betfair - and because you're betting against other people's opinions on a bet - you sometimes find higher odds on certain markets than those available with the traditional bookies.

As well as ‘backing' a bet to win as normal, Betfair also give you the opportunity to ‘lay' a bet - that is, to bet on something not happening.

The Betfair website is massive, covering hundreds of bets and events. The betting screens are laid out differently to traditional bookies, so take care to read the help and advice sections on their site before you start to bet on there. If you press the wrong button, you could end up placing your bet not to win by accident.

Telephone betting - Sometimes it pays to pick up the phone...

Though the Internet is a fast and accurate way of placing your bets - don't forget about telephone betting - the person-to-person way has several advantages. For instance, bookies often set their internet prices to come down if a certain limit on bets for an outcome has been reached - leaving screens with no prices on them at all.

This is an understandable fail-safe mechanism from bookmakers who don't want to be taken unawares by the gamble of the century. But these fail-safe limits are often very low and just a steady trickle of bets can trigger them. Depending on how efficient the staff are, and the mood of the trading manager, is how quickly the internet prices go up again. But if you don't want to sit around in limbo while they make up their minds - why not give the firm a call? Ask for a price and an amount on the outcome you are interested in and the operator will likely refer your call to one of the trading staff. You will often get what you ask for - or close to it - on a bet that is showing blank on internet screens.

Similarly - if your request for a bet on the internet is met with 'your stakes are too high message,' ring up and ask for the amount you want - in many cases you will be given a sum greater than the internet was set to accept. And remember - you have the choice of where to bet, so shop around for the best bets, the best terms and the best odds.


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