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Peter Addison
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The majority of the time at UK sportsbooks, punters place bets backing teams and competitors to win. But have you heard of lay betting? Lay betting is where you back a team or competitor not to win.

This article will explain what is lay and back in betting, what is liability in lay betting, examine a few lay betting sites and give you some lay betting tips. By the time you’ve finished reading you will be left with no uncertain terms when it comes to lay betting strategy, and will have a full understanding of what is lay betting, and how you can use lay betting tips and sites to your advantage.

Lay Betting Explained – What is Lay Betting?

Lay betting doesn’t really need too extensive of an explanation. Say you are thinking of betting on Manchester United to win against Liverpool in a football match. You may find you get better odds if you back Liverpool not to win, instead.

This principle can be applied to most events. For example if a horse race has a hot favourite, you may find you get better odds (in fact, you probably will) if you back the horse not to win. If it happens to be a false favourite, then you could turn this to your advantage. In this case, you will be placing a lay bet on the mount.

Lay betting is only usually available at betting exchanges, such as Betfair. At a betting exchange you are not betting against the bookmaker, but against your fellow bettors. If you place a win bet (known as a back bet) then it will be matched by one or any number of lay bets that other punters have made, and vice versa. If you win your bet, then you are paid by the people who lost theirs and again, vice versa. Betting exchanges make their money by charging a small commission on all winning bets.

How to Place a Lay Bet

Placing a lay bet is a straightforward process that can be easily grasped with a little guidance. To help you understand this type of bet better, let’s walk through an example with a horse race at Betfair.

We’re going to choose the 14:00 at Brighton, and we are going to be laying the current favourite Rivas Rob Roy. As a lay bettor, you’re betting against Rivas Rob Roy winning the race. You go to a betting exchange platform, such as the one shown in the screen grab below, and find Rivas Rob Roy listed as an option to lay.

lay betting

You decide to lay a £10 bet against Rivas Rob Roy. This means you’re betting that Rivas Rob Roy will not win the race. If Rivas Rob Roy loses or finishes anywhere below first place, you win the bet. However, if Rivas Rob Roy does win the race, you’re responsible for paying out the winnings to the person or person who placed the back bet.

To place your bet click on the lay odds (in red) that you desire. The most popular current odds offered by back bettors will always be in the column that is coloured red. Other odds are available, to the right of the most popular odds column. Just click on the odds you prefer.

The monetary value under the price is the amount of money available placed by back bettors currently and not covered, which in our example is £42. This means that if you were to place a lay bet of £50, only £42 of it would be currently covered (so, if the situation doesn’t change, your bet will be set at £42, as opposed to £50). However, as the start of the race nears, more people are probably going to back at that price, meaning that the full £50 of your bet will be covered.

lay betting 2

Now, here is where things do get a little complicated, especially if you are used to fixed odds betting. When you set your stake when lay betting, you set the amount of the backers stake that you want to cover. Here, we have set that to £5.70, so that our overall liability is close to £10. Imagine with fixed odds back betting that your liability is your stake, i.e. the amount you stand to lose. Lay betting at a betting exchange works in the same way, except that you have to set the amount of the backer’s stake you want to cover to create your liability.

It is not as complex as it sounds. If you win the bet, the backer will pay you £5.70, plus you will get your stake back of £10.03, resulting in a payout of £15.73 (minus commission when and if applied). If you lose, then you will be liable for £10.03.

Backing vs. Laying: The Difference in Betting Approaches

To fully grasp lay betting, it’s essential to understand the difference between backing and laying. Traditional betting, known as backing, involves betting on a specific outcome to occur. For example, you might back a team to win a football match or a horse to finish first in a race.

Lay betting, on the other hand, flips the traditional approach on its head. Instead of betting on an outcome to happen, you’re betting against it. It’s like playing the role of the bookmaker, offering odds to other bettors. In simple terms, when you lay a bet, you’re essentially saying ‘I don’t think this will happen.’

This unique approach opens up a world of possibilities, giving you more flexibility and control over your bets. With lay betting, you can potentially profit not only from winning selections but also from losing ones.

Lay Betting Strategies: Tips for Successful Wagering on Betting Exchanges

Now that you understand the basics of what is lay betting, let’s delve into some lay betting strategies that can enhance your chances of success. Remember, a well-thought-out strategy is usually the key to profitable betting.

Tip 1: The ‘Underdog Focus’ Strategy

This strategy involves identifying situations where the odds favour the favourite and you believe they are overvalued. By focusing on underdogs, you can lay bets at higher odds and increase your potential profits.

Tip 2: The ‘Trading’ Strategy

Trading involves taking advantage of fluctuations in odds before an event begins or during its progress. By laying a bet at higher odds and backing it later at lower odds, you can guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome. This strategy requires careful monitoring and quick decision-making, but it can be highly rewarding.

Tip 3: The ‘Stake Management’ Strategy

Managing your stakes is crucial in any form of betting. With lay betting, it’s essential to consider your potential liabilities, as you’re responsible for paying out winnings to the backers if your lay bet loses. By setting sensible stakes and calculating your liabilities, you can ensure that you don’t find yourself in a undesirable financial situation.

What is Lay Betting in Different Sports?

Lay betting isn’t limited to a particular sport or event. Its versatility allows you to apply the strategy to a wide range of sports, from football and horse racing to tennis and cricket and most markets in between. Here are some practical tips to consider when applying lay betting to different sports:

  • Research the sport: Gain a deep understanding of the sport you’re betting on, including its rules, players/teams, and recent form. This knowledge will enable you to make more informed lay betting decisions.
  • Analyse the market: Pay attention to the odds and liquidity available on the betting exchange. Higher liquidity ensures you can easily match your lay bets and potentially get better odds.
  • Look for value: Identify instances where the odds on a selection are overpriced compared to the perceived chances of it happening. This is where you can find value in betting.

Calculating Lay Betting Liabilities

Understanding your potential liabilities is vital to effective lay betting. When you lay a bet, you become responsible for paying out the winnings if your lay bet loses. To calculate your liability, you can use the following formula:

Liability = (Lay Odds – 1) x Stake

For example, if you lay a bet with odds of 3.0 and a stake of £50:

Liability = (3.0 – 1) x £50 = £100

This means your maximum liability is £100. It’s essential to consider this when deciding your stake, as it will affect your overall risk exposure.

Why is There Commission on Lay Betting?

You might have noticed that betting exchanges charge a commission on lay bets. This commission is how the exchange makes money and is typically a small percentage deducted from your net winnings.

While commission may seem like a disadvantage, it’s important to consider the overall benefits of using a betting exchange. Betting exchanges offer better odds, more flexibility, and the ability to both back and lay bets. The commission is a small price to pay for these advantages.

Why You Want to Try Lay Betting: Advantages of Lay Betting

Lay betting comes with several advantages that make it an appealing option for punters:

  1. Increased Betting Opportunities

    With lay betting, you’re not limited to just backing winners. You can profit from selections that lose or finish below a certain position. This broadens your betting landscape and increases your chances of finding value bets.
  2. Control and Flexibility

    Lay betting gives you more control over your bets. You can select your own odds and decide how much you’re willing to risk. Additionally, you have the flexibility to trade your bets in real-time, allowing you to lock in profits or minimise losses.
  3. Playing the Bookmaker

    Lay betting allows you to step into the shoes of a bookmaker, offering odds and potentially profiting from other bettors’ selections. This unique role reversal adds a layer of excitement and strategy to your betting experience.

Common Mistakes in Lay Betting to Avoid

As with any form of betting, lay betting has its pitfalls. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid.

Poor Research and Analysis

Failing to research and analyse the selections properly can lead to poor lay betting decisions. Take the time to gather relevant information and make informed choices.

Poor Stake Management

It’s crucial to manage your stakes effectively and avoid overexposing yourself to large liabilities. Carefully calculate your potential liabilities before placing lay bets.

Chasing Losses

Don’t fall into the trap of chasing losses by increasing your stakes or making impulsive bets. Stick to your strategy and remain disciplined. If you are finding trouble in doing this, contact an organisation that can help, such as GAMSTOP.

Where Can I Place Lay Bets?

When it comes to lay betting, there are several reputable betting exchanges available, particularly in the UK. These exchanges provide a platform where you can lay bets and interact with other bettors. Betfair is our number one pick for lay betting sites in the UK, but other lay betting sites are available such as Smarkets, BetDaq and Matchbook.

Wrapping Up

You’ve now gained a comprehensive understanding of lay betting, its mechanics, strategies and advantages. By considering this alternative approach to betting, you can expand your wagering horizons and potentially enhance your profits. Remember though to approach lay betting with careful research, effective stake management and a reminder that betting should always be seen as a source of entertainment, and not a means of securing a regular stream of income.


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Peter Addison

Peter joined the BettingSites.co.uk team in 2023, having previously worked for many high-profile gambling-related sites such as RightCasino, JustSlots, WhichBingo and Gambling.com. An experienced head when it comes to all aspects of iGaming, Peter is a fanatic fan of sport, including football and US sports such as baseball and American football. He is also a multi-published fiction writer, although sadly, not a wealthy one.