Have you ever found a bet that you thought was too good to be true, or wondered what the bookie was thinking when they came up with their odds? Sometimes you might just genuinely have found a great bet and, at other times, it might be you that has made the mistake and either missed some key piece of information or misunderstood the market.
However, there is also a good chance that you have seen a palpable error in action. In this piece, we will look at what this bookmaking term means, what is likely to happen if you back such a selection and what you should do if you think something you are about to bet on may be a “palp”. We’ll also look at some classic examples of how and why a bookmaker might make a palpable error and some incidents where they have, as well as what your rights are.
What Is a Palpable Error?
The term palpable error could, in theory, be used in any area of life but is most commonly associated with the world of bookmaking. The word palpable comes from the Latin palpare, meaning to feel. In normal usage, palpable means that something can be felt or touched, or that an atmosphere or emotional feeling is so powerful it seems it is nearly tangible. In this latter sense, you may have heard sports commentators describing a close, nervy finale by saying that “the tension is palpable”.
A Bookie’s Error
Another dictionary definition of the word is the one at play when we talk about a palpable error and it is (as per dictionary.com) “readily or plainly seen, heard, perceived, etc.; obvious; evident”. In short, a palp is an obvious, evident and readily seen error. More specifically, it is such an error made by the bookie, as opposed to the punter.
IBAS, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, say that a palpable error must “have been discernible to a customer with a reasonable knowledge of betting and the sport in question”. IBAS talk about palpable errors solely with regards to pricing issues, in other words the odds, but they can crop up in other ways too, for example with regards to payment, offers or advertising.
E.g. Leaving a Market Open After It Has Been Settled
Chiefly, however, a palp means an instance where a bookie has either left a market open after an event has started, or even been settled, or where they have very clearly and obviously got the odds on a particular selection wrong. IBAS give as an example “when two prices are transposed”, meaning in simpler English when the odds are the wrong way round.
Or, Accidentally Reversing the Odds
For example, if you see Ronnie O’Sullivan at odds of 10/1 and the world number 458 at 1/10, it would seem reasonable that anyone who had a “reasonable knowledge of betting and the sport in question” would know that those prices were the wrong way round.
Typical Palpable Errors Made by Bookmakers
Some other fairly typical examples of a palpable error might be:
- Selection priced at odds of 100/1 instead of 10/1
- Odds are clearly far too big
- Odds are the wrong way round (as above, where the selection you would expect to be the clear favourite is priced as the underdog and vice versa)
- In-play market left open after a goal has been scored, a race has finished or other key event has taken place
What Happens If I Place a Bet on a Palp?
Should you place a bet on what turns out to have been a palpable error, on the simplest level, one of two things will happen. Either you will get paid, or the bet will be voided. However, it may be a little more complex than that as, if you do get paid, you might only get winnings based on what the bookie claims would have been the correct odds.
If the betting site realises their error they should, ideally, notify you as soon as possible and confirm that the bet has been voided, or, even better, give you the choice of accepting the lower “correct” odds, or having the wager voided. Such best practice is quite rare though in our experience and the more likely scenario is that the bet simply disappears from your account and the stake is refunded to your balance.
If this happens you may be unsure what the reason for this is, especially if you placed the bet in good faith. If in doubt, contact the bookie and ask why the bet has been voided. If it has, you may be able to make the bet at the correct odds, assuming you still want to. On the other hand, if you only find out about this issue after the event has taken place there is not all that much you can do. Equally, should the bookie just pay out at the correct odds, once again, this is something you will probably just have to accept.
What Can I Do?
If you believe your bet should stand then the first thing to do is contact the bookmaker. However, the concept of a palpable error is often written into the Ts and Cs of a betting site and, moreover, it is firmly established as an acceptable, legal practice. Whilst if you made the wager believing it to be fair and genuine, it may sting to discover it is a palp, simply arguing that you made the bet, they accepted it and they have to pay will not get you very far (and by very far we mean anywhere at all).
What IBAS Has to Say
IBAS do, however, state very explicitly that “Obvious error or palpable error rules must not be used to protect operators from errors of judgement or movements in the market they have failed to detect and respond to.” If, for example, they are offering odds of evens on Liverpool to beat Man City but then in the warm-up, some freak incident sees Erling Haaland, Ederson and Kevin de Bruyne all get injured, most bookmakers might slash Liverpool to 4/6 or perhaps even shorter.
If you manage to spot that one betting site has not yet reacted to this news and still has Liverpool priced at evens or higher, this would not be a palpable error. It would simply be the case that the bookie in question did not change their odds quickly enough. With an incident like this it is unlikely that any respectable bookie would even try and claim it was a palp but if they did, and refused to back down, going to IBAS would be the best step.
They would look into the bet and market and the timing of the various incidents. IBAS state that “In general terms we do not consider the principle of correcting obvious errors to be unfair but in each case we will check whether the rule has been implemented reasonably and fairly.” In a scenario such as we have described, they would certainly find in favour of the punter and whilst their verdict is not legally binding, usually the bookmaker would adhere to it.
Of course, whilst some palpable errors are very clear – by their nature they should be – it is possible that there may be a grey area where you are not sure if a bet is a palpable error or not. However, this is not something you need to be overly concerned about simply because the palpable error clause is genuinely not one that bookies try and use to get out of paying bets. The chances are that you may go through an entire lifetime of betting and never even see a palpable error, let alone make a wager on one or have a bookmaker claim your bet was a palp.
If the odds have moved for good reason and one bookie is slow to change their prices, this is not a palp. On the other hand, if one bookie has left odds up for an event after a market has closed, this would be. If most betting sites have a selection priced at 4/1 but you see another bookie offering 6/1, or maybe even 8/1 or 10/1, things are a little more complex.
If they are generally offering shorter odds on the other participants and the market as a whole seems about right, then it may just be that they are taking a position about a selection but this could certainly be something of a grey area. On the other hand, if their odds for all the other runners, players or teams are broadly similar to what other bookmakers are offering and the high odds for the pick in question mean that overall their market is too generous, then the chances are that it is indeed a palpable error. Perhaps, for example, someone simply entered the wrong odds manually.
Should You Back Bets You Think Are Palpable Errors?
Whilst many punters may never see what they think could be a palpable error, the question remains, what should you do if you do see one. There are a few options but in general, we would not advise backing them, especially if it is with a bookie that you like and enjoy betting with.
People are tempted because they believe that there is the potential upside to winning a bet at huge odds with no real downside but that is not the case. Yes, there is a very slim chance that your bet wins and you get paid at a price that is far bigger than it should have been. The bookie may not realise or they may simply decide to pay it as a gesture of goodwill rather than not bother.
Bet Usually Just Voided
However, the reality is that this rarely happens and the more likely scenario is that the bet is simply voided. If you are lucky that will be the end of that but if you are unlucky, there is a chance that the site may decide to ban you or restrict your account in some other way. They are well within their rights to do this for any reason they choose, and do not need to explain why. From their point of view they may feel that a customer who has tried to take advantage of an error they have made is not someone they want to take bets from.
There are lots of sites out there but if the palpable error is with your favourite bookie you may feel the risk, for a slim chance of a gain, is not worth it. On the other hand, if it is with a bookie you rarely use, and the potential payout is big enough, you may instead feel it is a risk worth taking.
Another way this could play out is that the bookie accepts your bet and if the selection wins, they state that it was a palpable error. They can then either void the bet or, or, as IBAS requests that they do, pay it at the price it should have been. However, if the wager loses, they may simply do nothing and keep your stake.
This is not something they should be doing but of course there is no way of knowing, nor proving whether they intended to void the bet if you had won. This means that you might be placing a bet believing the upside is a huge payout and the worst case scenario is a void and your stake back when the reality is that the worst outcome is you losing your money and the best is simply getting paid at what the odds should have been anyway.
If you would be happy to place the wager at the standard prices then, once again, you may feel this is a gamble worth taking. On the other hand, if your only real reason for making the wager is the incorrectly inflated odds, it probably isn’t.
Point Out Their Error?
You could simply ignore the error, or you could try and cash in but the third option – the one we feel is often the best course of action – is to point out the error. If you contact the site’s customer support staff and explain the situation they may reward you with a free bet. They may not, but if you ask nicely then who knows, because your action could potentially save them money or at the very least avoid hassle with other customers who may have backed the selection.
On the other hand, they may check with their oddsmakers and trading staff and inform you that the price is actually correct. You will then have that in writing (if on live chat) and be able to place the bet safely in the knowledge that you will get paid in full if it wins. That said, if the odds are right, and yet you still believe they are much bigger than expected, it may be worth checking you have the right game and market and understand it correctly, because perhaps the error is yours.
Examples of Palpable Errors
The sorts of examples of palpable errors we have talked about thus far are pricing mistakes and these do not tend to make the news. This is generally because the amounts involved are not especially newsworthy, or the bookie simply pays up. However, there are some huge wins that have, and have not, been paid that, whilst slightly different from what we have generally talked about, certainly fall under the umbrella of palpable errors.
White Christmas But No Presents
One punter thought he had won a massive £7m betting on it being a white Christmas at various locations around the UK. Cliff Bryant made a bet with Ladbrokes that there would be snow on the 25th December 2009 at 24 locations around the UK and placed two accas.
The bet was accepted but it should not have been, at least not as an accumulator, because the various selections were clearly related. You cannot, for example, back it to snow in Manchester at 7/1 and Liverpool at 7/1 and combine these as an acca, expecting a payout of £64 for a £1 bet. If it snows in one of these cities in the North West of England there is a fair chance it will also snow in the other so they are what bookmakers call related contingencies.
If you wanted to place such a bet it would be a single with odds calculated separately and probably more like 8/1 or 9/1. The bet was accepted in a high street shop in error and was not paid – certainly, at least, not in full.
One punter experienced the same feeling of disappointment when they backed brilliant Brit Emma Radacanu to win the US Open and thought they would get almost £1,000 but instead received just £264. He placed what he thought was a double on Radacanu to win her match against Belinda Bencic at 6/5 and also to win the tournament outright at 15/2.
Once again this bet was accepted, incorrectly, as an acca, a double. The 15/2 for her to win the tournament essentially “included” the 6/5 because, of course, it would be impossible for Radacanu to win the US Open if she didn’t also win her match against Bencic. Initially, the bookie settled the bet as two winning ingles but this one has a happy ending as they stumped up the full amount in the end. The punter, Carl Wright, had contacted IBAS but, in the end, the bookmaker settled it as a gesture of goodwill.
This can be a tricky situation for a bookmaker because they can never be sure if the punter placed the bet in good faith. Whilst their staff should not have made the mistake of accepting the wager, most relatively savvy gamblers would have been fully aware such a bet was not a valid double. Sadly, some punters deliberately try and place such wagers in the hope the bookie will be forced to pay out but, at the same time, there are plenty of newbie gamblers who can make genuine mistakes too.
Another Win for the Punter
In 2018, we saw a more standard palpable error, blamed on a technology glitch, something IBAS lists as a typical palp issue. This occurred in the US and after the bookie initially refused to pay up, they changed their mind and decided that the positive PR of taking the hit was worth it.
Anthony Prince, a Newark native, bet $110 at the massive odds of 750/1 when it is thought the true price was more like 1/6. It occurred during an NFL game and the bookmaker said that a technological glitch meant there was “an erroneous price over an 18-second period.” Prince was eventually paid a very cool $82,000 when the bookie really didn’t have to and stories like that will certainly encourage some to back a palp in the hope that maybe, just maybe, the bookmaker will be kind. Don’t bank on it though!