Trading steamers and drifters on Betfair

This guide investigates how to trade drifters and steamers using the Betfair betting exchange. To learn how a betting exchange works use the navigation to find the betting exchanges page. In short the betting exchange makes betting on drifters and steamers profitable because you can back and lay a horse. Essentially backing the horse to win or not to win.
The guide will define drifters and steamers and how to bet on drifters and steamers using the Betfair betting exchange for profit. In order to profit from drifters and steamers you have to identify them first. This guide finishes by describing methods of selecting steamers and drifters. A good staking plan should be used when betting on steamers and drifters. It is beyond the scope of the guide to discuss a staking plan.

What are drifters and steamers?

These are terms used by people in the horse race betting industry. A horse that has a trend of shortening odds is called a steamer. The odds shorten because predicted likelihood of that horse winning increases. This can be for a number of reasons.
A drifter is a horse who’s odds show an increasing trend. The liklihood that it will win decreases.
The betting odds of all horses increase and decrease all the time. This is could be described as background noise or just a normal occurrence of the betting market. With an online betting market such as Betfair it is normal for the odds to increase and decrease. This ensures that there are members willing to back and lay the outcome.
Pre race this is normal. When a balance has been set between members willing to back and lay the odds settles down. The odds of steamers and drifters move by a greater amount in one direction. Shorten for steamers and lengthen for drifters.

The exact definition of a steamer of a drifter varies.  A good horse race betting system for steamers and drifters will define horses that are said to be steaming or drifting.  Making it easier to identify potential bets.
Betfair actually defined drifters and steamers. A study carried out by Betfair identified steamers and drifters to be horses who’s percentage probability of winning increases or decreases by more than 5%.

How else can you define steamers and drifters?

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  • If the betting odds decrease or increase by 50% or more in the hour before the race starts. Take a horse with decimal odds of 2.0. If they decrease to 1.0 it is a steamer or increase to 3 they are a drifter.
  • Use the opening odds as a benchmark. A common definition is a move of 40% or more from the opening odds in either direction.
  • Other definitions include a movement in ‘betting points’ in the last 10 minutes of the race. Say by 3 ‘betting points’ or more. For example, the odds increase from 2/1 to 5/2, to 3/1 and finally to 100/30 or more.


In the last 10 minutes before a race it is common for the odds to move substantially as this is when most money enters the market.  Our advice is to use which ever method works best to identifying steamers and drifters. Learn how to trade steaming and drifting odds on Betfair (link goes to the next page of this guide).