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Understanding Courtsiding: Gaming the Gamers

Bettors who want to be successful always on a lookout for ways to give themselves an edge compared to the bookmakers. History is full of examples where people have tried to trick bookmakers. We have seen people trying to work out computer algorithms that can ensure their win. Also, in horse racing, people have tried to run two identical-looking horses just to trick the bookies, remember the Gay Future scandal?

Bookmakers nowadays are not that easy to trick and they have grown wiser with time learning more about the challenges they can face to keep the wins. But punters still come up with inventive ways to win big money from companies that allow them to trade big. One such practice is known as “courtsiding”. This strategy employs bettors communicating with someone who is watching an even live and getting information about the event’s outcome before the bookies have a chance to update the odds. This provides bettors with a small window of opportunity to make some good profits.

One of the most common sports, where courtsiding is at play, is in tennis.

How Courtsiding Works

Simply put, Courtsiding is nothing but the ability of the taking advantage of the delay in a bookmaker’s ability to update their odds. Now to fully utilize the capability of courtsiding you will need people who can communicate with you while watching the event live. The information they provide you then can be used to place a bet before the odds are changed or bet is closed altogether. If you are active in football betting then you will know how soccer odds change during an in-play betting event. Courtsiding betting is just the same but with expansive communication.

This strategy got its name because it is most commonly done during tennis matches as spectators sit at the side of the court and communicate the outcome of points or games to colleagues who are betting with a bookmaker on the other end. The courtsiding tennis activities were pretty common before it came to public knowledge when Daniel Dobson was arrested during the Australian Open. He was found with an electronic device connected to his mobile phone that was relaying the signal to others, who used the information to bet against the odds.

This brings us to the question, is courtsiding illegal? 

When you first get to know about courtsiding betting, you will whether it is a legal practice or not.

The answer is slightly complicated than simply, yes or no. In the UK and US, the practice isn’t declared illegal, but it’s not allowed either. When Dobson was arrested and thrown out of the Australian Open it was not because of courtsiding per se but for ‘engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome’. So, if you are found engaging in courtsiding you will not be arrested and thrown into prison, but you will be asked to leave the venue and most probably be banned for life.

This is why you have to be very good at hiding the traces that you are actually up to relaying the information outside the court. All the tricks like sewing devices in your shirt, wearing headsets in your wig and masquerading devices in various forms. But now venues have started employing courtsiding spotters. These people are responsible to keep an eye on people who seems to behave suspiciously and report them to the stewards. It’s like a game of cat and mouse chase between the spotters and people they are trying to spot.

But, as you can guess it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, people who are just casually doing their business also get into the crossfire as it happened with David Mawer who went to the KC Stadium to watch his beloved Hull City play. During the game, Mawer was just silly texting his girlfriend when he was spotted and approached at half-time and warned that we would be ejected from the stadium if he kept using his phone. He later Tweeted about his experience and was supported by other football fans who felt disgusted by Hull City’s behaviour.

Why Courtsiding Is Criticized by Some?

One might ask when courtsiding is not illegal then why do authorities frown upon it? The answer is quite simple. Because courtsiding provides the advantage to a few sets of people over a large population, just because they are watching an event live. Most court siders generally use exchange betting to benefit from the practice. This essentially means they are not betting against bookmakers but other people, this is the part the doesn’t still well with those in charge of events.

It’s easy to imagine. Suppose you are watching a football match in person and at the same time betting on an exchange. Now you are betting against someone who is watching the event at home, so as soon as you see a player shoot a goal you are clearly at an advantage as the broadcast can be as much as ten seconds behind the live match. This is why the idea of courtsiding is morally questionable as it puts other people at a disadvantage.

In courtsiding tennis, betting exchanges do not allow you to bet on individual points in a match but fixed-odds bookmakers allow the same. Now the companies make millions of dollars through betting so it doesn’t sit easily with them that there are people who can trick them and win huge causing a dent in their earnings. This is why these deep-pocketed companies try all they can to stop courtsiding practices. Problem is these restrictions sometimes get innocents like David Mawer into the net.

If you recall the 2019 show BBC produced called ‘Can You Beat The Bookies’, it was a full-fledged documentary on how people can trick the bookmakers to get into profits. During the series, the host, Lloyd Griffith, met a guy by the name of Joe, who has travelled the world to bet on tennis matches. Joe claimed to have won more than £300,000 all because of courtsiding. He was able to fully exploit the situation in which the umpires have to input the individual points into an electronic device that sends the information back to the bookies.

These devices are pretty much common on all matches that one can bet on. Joe was smart enough to look for umpires who are slow to input the information giving him a window during which he can place a winning bet. In a perfect scenario, Joe would look for slow umpires and poor players who are very less likely to score a point. It gave him longer odds and his chances of winning become even larger. He was so swift with his moves that bookmakers didn’t even realize that they were being taken for a small fortune, all of it because of the umpire’s incompetence.

Should Courtsiding Be Made Illegal?

At present courtsiding isn’t illegal, but whether it should be made illegal or not is a difficult question to answer. Many industry experts are pondering over this question. Many voices want that courtsiding on exchange betting should be banned because in peer-to-peer betting it’s only fair if all parties have the same information available to them. If one person has an advantage over the other then it means that he is taking money out of the other person’s pocket into his own.

That being said, the situation changes slightly when it comes to fixed-odds bookmakers. Because these guys try everything they can to keep odds in their favour, they have already covered for their losses. So if you win with them with courtsiding betting you are not going to make a lot of difference to their existence. If you keep winning with them, they will most likely restrict or ban your account, or if you are caught, they will refuse to pay you.

But the real trouble starts if more and more people start engaging in courtsiding that can cause serious financial trouble for companies. But as at present bookmakers are encouraging punters who lose money, in public opinion courtsiding is just levelling the playing field.

When Courtsiding Is Only For Wealthiest 

One of the strongest arguments against outlawing courtsiding is a practice found at certain racecourses where you can hire a box with high-speed internet connections. These are put in place to allow the wealthiest people to put in-live wagers with exchanges betting against other people. This gives them an unfair advantage to make money off other people as they have information that is not available to people outside the course.

If we allow courtsiding then essentially we are acknowledging that wealthy people who can hire boxes at racecourses are allowed to make money from other punters who can’t afford to hire the boxes for themselves. Exchanges are not badly affected with courtsiding as they take a percentage from the winning so as long as large sums of money is being bankrolled into their accounts, so they won’t do anything to prevent the unfair disadvantage.

It’s entirely based on your wisdom whether you want to go down that road or not.


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