Tennis – Rules Differences

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Please note that this post applies only to match odds markets. Set Betting (correct score) markets are usually* match complete at both bookies and Betfair. Outright markets are usually settled on the player winning the tournament, and you are advised to avoid other markets (eg number of sets etc), both because of liquidity and also because of potential rules differences.

*Avoid set betting at Gamebookers and Partybets – they will settle your bet as a loser if it had already lost when a player retired, whereas Betfair will void the whole market. (This may no longer be valid since the tennis rules have now changed at Gamebookers and Partybets to match those at Bwin.)

The big issue with tennis is that the bookies have various different rules if a player retires, and most of them differ from Betfair. Never arb tennis unless you understand the bookie’s rules and know the implications of a retirement, as these are remarkably common. Tennis is a tough sport physically, and even the best players can get injured.

Betfair rules:

If the first set is not completed all bets on this market will be void.

The bookies fall into 4 groups:

Ball Served

The player going through to the next round is deemed the winner providing a ball has been served.

If you bet with a ball served bookmaker and lay at Betfair and your player retires during the first set you lose your bet stake and your lay is void. If you have backed the player who is not injured, your back bet wins, which is obviously nice. Arbing tennis with these bookies is basically a gamble that your player will survive the first set without retiring.

Personally I would never risk losing my whole stake in this way.

Match Complete

All bets are void unless the match has been played to the full number of sets required to determine a winner.

If you bet with a match complete bookmaker you are gambling that the player you have the arb on will be the one that is injured if a player retires after the end of the first set, in which case you win your lay at Betfair. If it is the other player who is injured you will have to pay out on your lay, which is expensive at high odds. You may feel the risk is worth taking if the odds on your player are very low – see below.

First Set Complete

Arbing at these bookies is safe as the rules are the same as at Betfair.

The bookies who have the same rules as Betfair are listed in the left hand column of the table below.

Betdaq changed their rules to 2 sets complete a while ago, but have now changed them back to first set complete.

2 sets complete

There are very few of these, the best known being The Greek and most of the others being Oddsmatrix sites. The 2nd set is the danger zone for retirements here.

There are a very small number of bookies who fall into none of these categories – see table below.

As is often the case, rules differences mean that you can end up gambling. The safest thing to do is to stick to bookies which have the same rules as Betfair, then you will have no problems. However, there is a case for using match complete bookies on very short priced favourites.

Suppose Nadal is 1.04 to win his match in one of the first few rounds of a tournament and you find an arb at a match complete bookie (eg William Hill). You know that Nadal sometimes has injury problems, and you might think it worth the risk of placing £100 on the arb for a decent reward if Nadal retires. The possible results are as follows:

Nadal wins or loses, finishing the match. Your arb returns a small profit.

Nadal (or his opponent) retires in the first set. Your money is returned at Betfair and at William Hill.

Nadal retires in the 2nd set or later, and his opponent goes through to the next round. William Hill void the bet but your lay WINS at Betfair. You win about £100.

Nadal’s opponent retires after the first set. Your bet is voided at William Hill and you LOSE your lay at Betfair. You lose about £4 (at 1.04).

This becomes increasingly expensive as the odds get bigger, if your player wins after a retirement, so it is only worth doing at very short odds.

The other case, where the bookie is ball served, has a shorter “danger” zone, but as you lose your whole stake at the bookie if the player retires during the first set, this is much more expensive. The plus side is that you can win your bet at the bookie with your lay being voided if the other player retires during the first set, but I would not recommend it.

Using the Rules Table

While every care has been taken to place the bookies in the correct category in this table, bookies can and do change their rules without warning. You are advised to check for yourself if you intend to arb tennis on a regular basis as sooner or later you WILL hit a retirement. If you do find an error in the table I would appreciate it if you could let me know and I will amend the table accordingly.

Rules for Betfair and Betdaq can be found on any tennis market.

Clicking on the link for a bookie should take you to the rules page, as near to the tennis rules as possible. To find the tennis rules, use ctrl-F and type in tennis, and you should be able to find the tennis rules very quickly.

Some bookie sites do not have a separate URL for the rules and you are then taken to the homepage – I can’t do anything about these.

Some bookies do not have links, and this is because I could no longer find the rules for them. These have been left in the sections which they were in when the rules were last available.

Table updated 5/1/15.

* I cannot access these sites from the UK to check these bookies now. When I last checked Mansion88 was match complete and Offsidebet was 1 set complete.

**These bookies currently do not appear to have tennis specific rules on site.  They are listed under the last known rule type.

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