Carlo Ancelotti got his first win with Madrid thanks to new signing Isco's winner.
The home side was stunned, however, when Jorge Molina gave the Betis the lead after excellent work by Cedric Mabwati, before Karim Benzema found an equalizer for los Blancos.
Marcello, who had been a constant threat down the left for Madrid, who then delivered a ball across for debutant Isco to head home to give Ancelotti a winning start at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Both sides enjoyed a number of chances as Cristiano Ronaldo and Nosa Igiebor both struck the woodwork, but in the end it was Madrid which sealed all three points as Isco headed Marcelo's whipped delivery into the goal in the 87th minute.
There were few surprises in Ancelotti's team selection as new signings Daniel Carvajal and Isco slotted straight into the lineup, although Diego Lopez was given the nod in goal ahead of Iker Casillas.
Betis, which signed a total of 13 players during the close season, had four new faces in the first 11 as Stephan Andersen, Joan Verdu, Cedric and Juanfran all made their debuts.
Madrid started impressively and had a goal disallowed two minutes in. Betis replied instantly with a chance of its own as Jorge Molina met Nacho's left-wing cross with a well-timed header, but Lopez was up to the challenge and parried it away.
The forward came out on top the next time the duo came head to head, however.
Cedric burst through the center and past Sergio Ramos before squaring a pass into the danger area for Molina to prod into the goal as Betis took a shock lead.
Ancelotti's side had another goal ruled out for offside just after the 20th minute, but did eventually draw level midway through the first half as Benzema tapped in a low cross from the left.
Pepe Mel's Betis could have added a second 10 minutes from halftime as Nosa Igiebor headed Verdu's corner on to the crossbar, while Carvajal was lucky not to concede a penalty a few moments later as he knocked Cedric to the ground and the score remained 1-1 at the break.
The second half began in a similar manner to the first as Madrid attacked from the off and Ronaldo rattled the crossbar with a side-footed effort after pouncing on a loose ball just inside Betis' area.
Madrid's ferocious start to the second period continued and Benzema was the next to go close. Marcelo fizzed a low delivery in towards the goal area but the France striker could not hit the target from an acute angle.
Madrid was denied a penalty when Ronaldo's cross appeared to strike the arm of Nacho, while the Portuguese star's shot five minutes later was well saved by Andersen after Mesut Ozil's through ball.
Ancelotti introduced Alvaro Morata from the bench in an attempt to change things in attack, but it was Isco who found the winner as he headed into the net from the center of the area with four minutes left.