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To the uninitiated, bookmakers are the people who make books. In fact, most professional bookmakers or ‘bookies’ don’t have anything to do with traditional books at all. Rather, they have to do with odds.

Bookmaking, as a betting profession, began at the horse track in 1780 and has gone on from there to the football stadium, tennis court, hockey rink, and just about anywhere else there is the opportunity to put money on a predicted outcome. Presidential elections are even within their realm!

Professional bookmakers are that most critically central of all gamblers, the one who posts odds, accepts wagers, and collects or pays out on bets placed. The slang term, bookie, came from the practice of filling notebooks with the records of wagers.

While many give bookmakers high marks for shady behaviour, honesty is a key cornerstone of the profession. In fact, the honesty of the bookie is critical to the success of his or her wagering operation. Punters have to be able to trust the odds and receive reliable payment on bets. Having a reputation as an honest player will also help when it is time to collect monies owed. Most modern bookies function somewhat like actuaries. Although chalk-marked odds are still present at the track, most of the off-track betting requires advanced calculations and swift technology.

Bookmakers do not seek to gain on any set of individual bets but rather on the total event. The goal is a ‘balanced book’ wherein there are an equal number of bets on both sides of the wager, or by varying the amounts wagered to cover the odds. If a particularly high bet comes in on one side of a given book, the bookie can attempt to balance that book by buying bets off another bookie. Some also charge a small fee per bet placed, especially for the online services.

Rather than being fly-by-night, the profession is both legal and well-regulated. Bookmakers are subject to strict laws. However, they are also part of the game in the modern age. Some bookmaking firms sponsor sporting events and advertise. They have also embraced the latest technologies, as the internet makes it easier to balance books by more readily matching for and against bets on any given sport event. This further paves the way for expanded betting and brings in a wider audience, guaranteeing that future bookmakers will be open for business.

The term ‘bookmakers’ often also refers not only to the profession of individuals but to whole sports betting companies like Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet365, etc.

On our list of recommended bookmakers you can see which bookmakers meet the highest standards of quality. You can also read bookmaker reviews and bet bonus details for the best promotions bookies are offering to new customers.

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