Guide to Live Betting, In-Play and In-Game Betting

Written by: Richard Janvrin
Updated May 18, 2023
21 min read

Once upon a time in the not too distant past, a gambler’s only betting option was to make a wager and watch the game until the end to see if the bet won or lost.

Those times, much like typewriters, cassette tapes, and Blockbuster Video are now completely obsolete.

These days the world of sports betting is not only growing, but it’s also evolving. One of its fastest-growing features is the ability to make bets on the fly, live, while you’re watching the gameplay out. That’s called Live Betting, also known as In-Play Betting, In-Running Betting or In-Game Betting.

This article will explain everything you need to know about live betting including how it works, how the odds and lines are calculated, and how it varies across different sports. We’ll also give you some strategy and tips for how you can use this modern twist on wagering to win more money.

Be sure to also check out our review of the best live betting sites, where we do a deep dive on each sportsbook's live betting experience.

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What Is Live Betting?

A live bet is one made any time after the game begins and before it ends. Like the title implies, your bet is happening while the game is live.

You can make lots of the same bets you’re used to in regular sports betting like:

Bear in mind that the lines and odds will be constantly changing based on what’s happening in the game.

There are also special proposition bets that are only possible thanks to live betting. One common one is a bet on which player will score next. When the next goal happens, that bet is resolved and a new market opens up to bet on the next player to score.

Because it’s a complicated system that relies heavily on technology to work properly, not all US online casinos and sportsbooks offer live betting. However, the top shops that can handle the job offer lots of exciting in-play bets paired with flawless software.

For now, since in-play betting lines are largely decided by human decision making, the general consensus is that in-play betting lines are looser simply because the oddsmakers have less time to study and are more likely to make subtle mistakes.

This holds true across all sports of live betting – which is what makes it such a special opportunity for gamblers.

Make bets live from your mobile with the best sports betting apps.

Why Are There Fewer Live Bets Than Regular Bets?

Sportsbooks that offer live betting give you certain lines of in-play wagers but not as many as are available before the game. The reason the list of in-play bets is smaller is because of a few factors, mainly the time and manpower it all requires.

There are just too many games happening across the board and simply not enough time or employees to offer a full range of accurate lines for in-game betting since each game’s dynamics change so quickly.

Every sport is different and each event has tons of constantly-fluctuating variables occurring simultaneously across a wide range of action.

As technology improves to give bookmakers the tools they need to be able to offer live betting, expect more and more sites to widen their range of in-play betting opportunities.

If we look across the spectrum of online sportsbooks operating now, how a site handles live betting is a huge differentiator.

Some sites have taken a big lead while others lag behind and are forced to make it up to their clients with things like extra sweet bonus offers and better betting odds.

How Are Live Betting Odds Calculated?

When bookmakers are tasked with creating new lines within the course of an event’s action it is called In-Running odds and the people who do it are sometimes called “odds compilers” or “traders”.

Because in-game action deals with lots of different events that are happening really quickly, calculating odds on the fly is really challenging.

There are two main things the odds compilers have to figure out:

  • The chances of the new future outcome of each match (and its various other in-game outcomes like props, totals, etc)
  • The house edge necessary for them to take on each given risk. For reference on how sportsbooks aim to achieve consistent profits, check out our article on “The Concept of -110”.

Top 5 Live Betting Strategies and Tips

Whether you enjoy a constant feed of new freshly-made lines to bet on for a high scoring basketball game or prefer the methodical in-game wagering strategy of football or hockey, there are tons of strategies that can lead you to short and long term profit.

The following are some of the most clutch tips to follow and make part of your daily sports betting routine:

1. Research the Games before They Happen

If you are putting time and effort into your pre-game wagers, the positive spillover effect will be that you are already primed for action when the live in-game lines come out.

As the game unfolds it will begin to tell a story. No matter which direction the story goes, it will have an impact on the lines as compared to the original lines. Try to think as if you are the author writing the story and each event in the game is foreshadowing what will happen later. If you get good at this skill you will be able to identify the best in-game odds and take advantage.

2. Pay Attention

Think about it this way: if you want to find an edge in a live bet you need to observe and analyze the game better than the bookmakers. That may be a tall order but at least you are making an effort and have a clear goal.

By thinking about it this way and putting your focus into the game you will have a way better chance of picking up on little details like momentum shifts or certain players getting hot, exploiting opponents, or having unusually good nights. Bookmakers are human so you might pick up on something they haven’t.

3. Identify Factors That Can Change the Dynamics of the Game

If a football team is trailing by a large margin they will likely start to take more risk and pass more. A soccer club trailing by a goal late in a game will put more attackers forward which could lead to more corner kicks, shots on goal, or counter-attack chances the other way.

By understanding these forced changes you can anticipate what lines will change and how to bet them.

4. Look for Line Shifts When the Underdog Has a Good Start

When a favorite is losing early it can force a sportsbook to move lines too quickly. If you are confident that the favorite will come back and win you can take advantage of a line that is way more favorable than it was before the game started.

Again, be sure to actually watch the game with your own eyes and see why they are losing early. Is the underdog shooting the lights out or have they figured something out? If it’s the latter, maybe the favorite won’t make a comeback after all.

5. Have a Plan and Stick to It

Be prepared to move and move quickly but also stay within your bankroll and don’t get carried away. With live betting, you can find yourself chasing your losses multiple times per game. That’s a recipe for disaster.

How to Hedge Live Betting

If you spend enough time in the world of sports betting you are bound to come upon opportunities to hedge your bets. Parlay betting, where one single wager is dependent on outcomes for two or more games, is one really common example of where you can hedge and lock in profits regardless of the outcome.

This works because a positive bet in an early outcome in your parlay can give you leverage on a later event. Use our parlay calculator to make betting even easier.

With live betting the same layering of wagering outcomes can present itself. Let’s look at an example:

At halftime, you become nervous about your initial bet and consider checking the live betting lines to see if there is any way to counteract (hedge) against your original $100 bet. You check the book and notice that the favorite is now laying -130.

For argument’s sake, let’s say you decide to hedge and put $100 on the favorite. If your initial wager wins you will make $150 profit as you wagered a total of $200 (you original $100 bet and your $100 hedge) and won $350.

However, if the favorite holds on to win, you will break even since you’re in for a total of $230 (original $100 bet and $130 hedge) and get paid out $230 (payout on the hedge bet). Essentially hedging can give you a big safety net if the right odds present themselves.

The most important thing to look for is how much value you can get, what the score is in the game, and how much you got the other way before the game started.

Paying attention to the ebbs and flows of the game is crucial. You have to remember, professional odds compilers are also watching the same game and trying to eliminate any edge from average and savvy punters alike.

Live Betting on Football

When learning how to bet on NFL football, a key rule to remember is that a team with a large lead will tend to run the ball more and attempt to run down the clock. A team trailing by a large margin might need to throw more in order to catch up faster. How this factors into in-play betting is huge so pay close attention.

Specific strategies aside, the most obvious reason in-play betting differs from pre-game betting is the score. If an underdog comes out early and gets a lead, the line can shift dramatically and vice-versa.

A lot of sites only offer live betting for football at halftime. However, we are starting to see sites get ahead of the curve by offering a full selection of NFL live betting. We can only assume that soon others will follow their lead and get on board with a full suite of in-play wagering options.

One of the main advantages of live betting is the added information. Teams have entire weeks to plan their schemes, strategies, and tactics for a given opponent. They definitely keep this secret from the public.

Once a game begins, the cat’s out the bag and the information flows out in all sorts of forms including:

  • Unexpected changes in personnel and roster adjustments that a team was keeping quiet for tactical purposes.
  • We can observe how a defensive coordinator chooses to employ his defensive packages.
  • Whether or not each team comes out conservatively or aggressively in their play calling.
  • Are the respective coaches making decisions they normally wouldn’t? Try to figure out why and whether you can make an in-play bet accordingly.

None of these factors are guarantees before a game begins but they are at everyone’s disposable once the game has developed an identity. When this happens the information can shape new projected outcomes. If you want to start live betting on the NFL then you first need to check if your state or one near you has laws legalizing betting. Check out our guide on which states have legal NFL betting and our guide on which states have legal College Football betting.

Live Betting on Soccer

Soccer matches, while not normally high scoring affairs, still offer many intriguing bettable elements. The range of bets is vast and can be team-based or individual. Even in a scoreless match, you can find action betting on things like:

  • Total number of corner kicks per side
  • Free kicks per side
  • Yellow cards
  • Red cards
  • Offsides
  • Times of goals
  • Total passes

Now if you consider that all of these bets are available before a match even starts, think of how dynamic the line movement will be once the game actually kicks into gear.

As such, the in-play live betting aspects of a game can escalate quickly. Statistically speaking in soccer, most professional matches are 0-0 at halftime. This tends to happen as teams make fewer mistakes early on when their sides are at maximum capacity both mentally and physically.

What many punters in soccer focus on, as games continue to remain tied into the second half, is the lengthening of the odds on the favorite. The closer it gets to 90 minutes with the game being tied, the longer the odds get for a late-game goal for the favorite side (and the underdog for that matter).

Situations like this can present great live-betting opportunities.

Live Betting on Basketball

Unlike soccer or hockey, basketball games have tons of scoring. With so much scoring basketball presents the most action for in-play betting. In fact, a lot of the technological progress made in live betting has been aimed specifically at NBA basketball.

It used to be that you had to wait for a timeout to see fresh in-play betting lines but now on some sites, you can get new lines that are constantly refreshing throughout the game. Data reports have shown some sites offering more than 2,200 in-play line changes in a single 48-minute game.

Since the live betting lines move so much, you need to plan and be prepared. The main things to focus on are:

  • Which players are on the floor.
  • What the players tendencies and shooting percentages are.
  • How the coaches choose to utilize their starters and their bench.

Substitutions are rampant in basketball. So too are fouls and free-throw attempts. Every single one of these events changes the dynamic of the game and the live betting lines.

Some coaches rely on their 6th man (off the bench) to come in and change the tempo of a game offensively or defensively, or both. Other coaches will being in an entire second unit who play the game completely opposite to the starters. Learning the basic strategic tendencies of each team’s coaching is the first step towards becoming a winner at basketball live betting.

Another important tip is to be patient. Games often undergo big swings and what may appear to be a blowout can actually just be one team getting hot while the other is struggling to find their range.

Shooting percentages tend to balance out over the course of 48 minutes. Know which players are on the court and check out their season averages. Make your wagers based on the numbers they normally produce. Before you get started betting you need to know if you can place your bets, check out our guide on which states have legal NBA betting to find out more.

Finding Opportunities to Bet the Middle

Since lines can move so drastically in basketball, there are lots of opportunities to “middle” your bets. Middling is when you find a spot to make a second wager such that you CANNOT lose both but you CAN win both.

An example would be if you have a pre-game point spread bet on the Raptors at +5.5 against the Spurs in San Antonio. You see that the Raptors have a great start to the game and take a big lead midway through the second quarter. In-play odds now have the Spurs at +3.5 and you decide to take this bet to “middle” it.

In this case, seen you’ve got two tickets with “underdog” odds, you are guaranteed to win at least one ticket because someone has to win the game. The great part is that you actually have an opportunity to win both bets if:

  • The Raptors hold on to win by less than 4
  • The Spurs come back to win by less than 6.

Live Betting on Baseball

Oh, baseball! If ever there was a sport made for the data analyst, baseball is it. Nine innings of math and statistics over 162 games per team per year. Whether you are a number cruncher or just a lover of America’s greatest pass-time, MLB live betting is rich with opportunities to make money.

What’s so beautiful about baseball in-play betting is you can delve into the mind of each team’s manager to predict what they are likely thinking. Then, even if you are 100% accurate in your prediction, you still need the right outcome from the battle between the guy on the mound and the one in the batter’s box. Check out our legal baseball betting guide to find out if your state has legalized sports betting yet.

Strategy literally changes with every pitch and so too do betting lines.

Here is a list of things to consider when making live bets for baseball:

Pitching is Everything

A pre-game line is largely based on the expectations for the game’s starters but unless the hurler is having a night for the ages, chances are each team is going to go to their bullpen at some point during the game. Has the bullpen of the team you’re planning to bet on been hot or cold recently? A hot bullpen is likely to equate to a solid bet if your team has a lead past the middle innings. If they’ve blown some saves recently, take caution.

Don’t Fear Early Deficits

If you like a heavy favorite and they are down early, check to see how much the line moves towards the underdog. If the value looks good consider getting in as the odds have shifted in your favor with many outs left on the board.

Listen to the Announcers

Whether you have access to the game on TV or can only tune in to the radio broadcast, make sure to listen to what the announcers are tracking. If one team is heating up, or if one pitcher is on/off, the broadcasters tend to pick up on it early – especially if it a player on their home side.

Have Their Been Changes in the Line-Up?

Stay on top of things. The loss of a big bat on either team can shift lines and change Over/Under ranges.

Live Betting on Hockey

NHL live betting is a lot different compared to the other sports we’ve covered so far. With less scoring than basketball, football, and baseball, and fewer sub-categories to wager on than soccer, the hockey line movement often focuses on early game action and how teams respond to early deficits or leads.

Here are some important factors to pay close attention to in regards to NHL live betting action:

Shots on Goal Compared to Power Play Time

For example, let’s say you see a game that is tied after two periods where the underdog has had much more time on the power play and a couple goals from it, yet the overall shots on goal are equal.

This should lead us to the conclusion that the favorite has still been the better team as they’ve still managed an equal number of goals and shots but have been short-handed for longer. An even more accurate measure to use here could be ‘quality scoring chances’.

Each Team’s Period by Period Stats

As a season plays out, for whatever reason, certain teams fare better or worse in different periods and when they are at home or on the road. By knowing where a team is most likely to excel and outscore their opponent you stand a much better chance of winning in-game bets. Note that in hockey the second period of every game is a longer change for both teams.

Anticipate the Empty Net

This is huge, especially with live betting because as you near the end of the game, your betting odds are going to be influenced by whether either team has a lead and by how many goals.

A one or two-goal deficit in the third period is likely to result in a team pulling their goalie for an extra attacker in the dying minutes of a game. If the deficit is more than a goal a coach is more likely to pull the goalie sooner which means the game has a higher chance to have another goal.

This plays huge in Over/Under betting as well as point spreads of +/- 1.5 goals. Different coaches employ different late-game strategies so it’s best to read up before the game.

Live Betting on Horseracing

Betting on ponies is fun but if you’re a beginner, just looking at an odds sheet and a program can be intimidating. Add to that the complexity of in-game betting and it can be downright overwhelming.

The truth is, in-game betting on horses relies on a lot of the same information you have to learn in order to profitably bet on horses in general.

What you want to start with is a daily race form. It is a necessary pamphlet of information crucial to everyone from noob all the way to expert. It has all the data you need to make educated bets as well as all the explanations of what everything means, how the bets work, and how to understand the pre-race data.

By clearly understanding everything on the race form you can then begin to make informed deductions and logical conclusions about who you should bet on and why.

Start with learning about the horses and the jockeys. Then take it a step further and find out about the horse’s owner, the stable, and everything else you can find. Soak it all up. Even if you lose a bet, go back and look at who won and try to figure out why.

When you’re making live bets on horse racing, consider things like:

Odds on Each Horse

How does it compare to their career record, their year-to-date record, and what have their times been at the distance they will be running in today? Does he like to muck it up on wet conditions or prefer a sunny day? Is he a front runner or does he wait for the homestretch?

Jockey Performance History

Has he won a lot of big races? Does he perform best with a specific horse and at a specific race length?

Owner’s Ranch and Pedigree

Do they have mostly healthy horses? Have they had any recent problems?

Once you’ve put in the time learning the details it’s time to place a bet. For beginners, it is best to keep things simple and stick with Win, Place, or Show single outcome bets.

Once you get more advanced you can begin to experiment with parlay bets and boxing various outcomes. These are slightly more complicated and expensive bets where you choose more than one horse and they have to finish in a specific order in order for your bet to win money.

You can make these before the race and as live, in-running bets as the race is unfolding. Similar to other sports, the odds and betting lines will move during the race based on how each horse is performing.

If you are interested in live betting on horses from home, you should shop around at different sportsbooks. Some will offer you free-of-charge live streaming of the races which is a nice added bonus.

Start Live Betting on Your Favorite Sport Now

Compared to how sports gambling used to be, the modern internet era has made betting sports online way more advanced, enhanced, and exciting. And we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. As technology improves and computer processing continues to advance, we are going to see even more improvements in live betting.

It will get faster, smarter, and broader. This is great news for punters but will also favor the house in terms of edge and juice. You can bet the bank that casinos the world over are working on ways to expand their live betting capabilities because it’s proven to be so popular.

Now is a great time to start studying live betting because there are still tons of opportunities. Only time will tell how the development of artificial intelligence and modeling technology will affect the casino’s ability to set lines on the fly but right now it is possible to beat them.

Keep studying and when you feel comfortable with what we’ve covered, fire up a few in-game wagers the next time you’re watching your favorite team.

Good luck.

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Richard Janvrin

Sports Betting Analyst

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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report,, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of English/ Journalism
Favourite Sportsbook: FanDuel Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: BetMGM Casino
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