Tennis Betting Rules
It is often the case that different books will have different rules for betting on the same sport. However, there are few sports where these rule changes are as important as in tennis. Knowing how tennis betting rules can differ and how to take advantage of these rule differences can make a substantial impact on your success as a tennis bettor.
The reason for the importance of betting rules in tennis boils down to the fact that tennis is an individual sport.
In most sports, if a player is injured or not up to playing, they will be replaced by a substitute. In tennis obviously, there are no substitutes: if a player is injured during a match, they will retire, and their opponent wins in a walkover.
Not all sportsbooks handle retirements the same way, and that’s where knowing the rules for tennis betting at various bookmakers can help improve your results as a handicapper. Each sportsbook will set their own rules for when a match becomes “official” and when bets are voided.
At some books, the first ball played will make all bets play, while others will require the first set to be completed before any action is valid. Still others will not pay out on any retirements; the match will have to be played to completion, or else all wagers are void.
If you’ve read some of our other articles, you may know that retirements are far from random. Some players are more apt to retire than others, and the importance of a match can also influence the likelihood of a retirement. Perhaps the most obvious example is that of a strong player participating in a minor tournament as a warm up for a more important event that will be taking place in the next week or two. Such a player, if they have a minor injury heading into a match, has a higher-than-normal chance of retiring.
This isn’t to say that they will retire; if their injury were that bad, they wouldn’t play at all. But should they feel significant pain or discomfort during the match, they’re unlikely to continue through what is essentially a meaningless match for them, when aggravating that injury could damage their chances in the tournament they’re preparing for.
Such a match is one in which you may be able to take advantage of varying rules at different sportsbooks. If you can bet the injured favorite at a sportsbook that will void bets upon a retirement, while simultaneously betting the underdog at a book that will pay you if the favorite retires, you can often lock in a profit, and will absolutely show a profit on these bets in the long run.
You will fairly often win your bet on the underdog after a retirement, while having your bet on the favorite voided, costing you nothing. Depending on the odds offered by each book (and how aggressively you’ve line shopped), you may even find yourself in a position where you make a profit regardless of the result.
These rules are also important to keep in mind when you see the odds on a match change dramatically in the hours before the match. While it’s not an everyday occurrence, there have certainly been plenty of cases in tennis where it has become clear that bettors have gained inside information on when a player is likely to retire – or possibly even when a match in a minor tournament may have been fixed.
If there is a heavy favorite in the match that is suddenly a smaller favorite (or even an underdog), it may be smart to bet on them at better odds – if you can do so at a book that voids bets in the case of a retirement. Similarly, betting on the underdog (if you can still get a good price) is not a bad idea, if you can win in the case of a retirement.
While some of what we’ve said here may make betting on tennis seem like a shady enterprise, it’s really anything but – cases of suspicious activity during tennis matches have been relatively rare, and usually confined to minor events. Even in most of these cases, it’s likely that someone caught wind of an injury that wasn’t publically reported, rather than there being any illegal activity or match-fixing going on.
But regardless of the reason, it’s clear that there are situations in which taking advantage of the likelihood of retirements from certain players opens up the opportunity for you to make some smart bets at the right sportsbooks. By keeping an eye on matches where retirements are likely and making bets at books that void (or do not void) bets when players retire, you can save yourself money in cases where you normally would have lost a bet, and win big when you correctly predict that a player won’t finish a match.