A lay bet enables a bettor to acts as the bookmaker by betting against a particular outcome happening
What Is A Lay Bet?
A lay bet is a type of bet where the bettor acts as the bookmaker and bets against a particular outcome. In other words, instead of betting on a specific team, player, or horse to win, the bettor is betting that the outcome will not happen.
For example, in a football match between Manchester United and Liverpool, a traditional bettor might bet on Manchester United to win the match. A lay bettor, on the other hand, could bet against Manchester United winning the match, effectively betting on Liverpool or a draw.
When you place a lay bet, you are essentially taking on the role of a bookmaker. This means that if the outcome you bet against happens, you will have to pay out the winnings to the person who bet on it. This potential payout is known as as the liability of a lay bet.
On the other hand, if the outcome you bet against does not happen, you get to keep the stake that was placed by the other person, minus any commission that may be charged by the platform or betting exchange you used to place the bet.
It’s important to note that lay betting is done through a betting exchange rather than a traditional bookmaker.
The Appeal of Lay Betting
The main advantages of lay betting are:
- Increased Flexibility: Lay betting allows you to bet on the outcome of an event without having to back a particular selection.
- Better Odds: Laying a bet can often provide better odds than backing a selection. This is because you are effectively acting as the bookmaker and setting your own odds.
- Hedging Opportunities: Lay betting offers opportunities for hedging your bets. This means you can place a lay bet to cover your initial bet, reducing your risk and ensuring you don’t lose money if the outcome goes against you.
- No Liability Limitations: With lay betting, there are no limitations on the amount you can win. This is because you are not limited by the maximum payout offered by traditional bookmakers.
Where to Place Lay Bets
The Basics of Lay Betting
To many novice punters Lay bets sound complicated. But placing them and working out the potential payout is easy. I’ll show you how to do it using Betfair — the leading betting exchange.
In this example I’m about to place a £10 Lay stake on Huddersfield in an upcoming fixture against Manchester United.
Lay prices are always in pink on Betfair (and most exchanges, actually). They’re always higher than the (blue) Back odds. The best (lowest) Lay odds for Huddersfield are currently 11.0. There’s up to £392 available that at price.
By clicking the pink Lay odds you’re prompted to enter your stake as follows.
You’ll note the liability is £100 for this £10 Lay bet. This follows the formula of £10 x (11.0 -1) = £100. The betting account requires enough funds to cover the £100 liability in the event Huddersfield win the match.
The stake is matched with other Betfair users who want to Back Huddersfield at that price, on a first come first serve basis. The exact same principle applies to other peer-to-peer betting sites and apps.
Placing Lay bets is essential if you want to earn risk-free profits from Matched Betting.
When you place the Lay bet, your stake is matched to other traders on the exchange that wish to ‘Back’ the outcome to win. Therefore you take on a risk — known as the “liability” — which is the amount you could end up paying a ‘Backers’ that matched against your stake. The liability of a Lay bet is always dependent on the stake and odds agreed with the punter.
Suppose that a trader places £10 Back stake at decimal odds of 4.0 for Everton to beat Chelsea in a Premier League match.
For simplicity lets assume that the ‘Backer’s’ entire £10 stake is matched with one trader betting against Everton, who I’ll refer to as the ‘Layer’.
There’s three possible outcomes of the game:
- Everton wins. The Layer loses and has to pay the Backer out.
- Draw. The Layer wins and keeps the Backer’s £10 stake.
- Chelsea wins. The Layer wins and keeps the Backer’s £10 stake.
So in 2/3 of the outcomes the Layer wins the £10 stake. But how much will the Layer pay out on an Everton win? How much is the liability?
To work this out, you simply use the formula below:
Stake x (DecimalOdds - 1)
You always subtract the 1 from the odds because you only have to pay winning punters their profits — not their stake as well.
In this example it’s: £10 x (4.0 -1) = £30. So the Layer stands to lose £30 in this exchange, which is known as the liability, or risk, of their Lay bet.
Rather than calculating your Lay bets manually, I recommend using an online Lay calculator.
What To Look For In A Lay Bet
The single most important thing to consider about a Lay bet is your liability (risk). So how do you limit your liability? Here’s my suggestions:
Seek Low Value Odds
Remember that when you’re the Backer you must always try to bet at the highest possible odds to maximise your value — thereby reducing the Bookies’ edge. So on the flip side, where you’re acting as the Layer (or the Bookie), you want the lowest odds possible on your Lay bets.
Always shop around at different betting exchanges for the best (lowest) Lay odds. Also request (queue) lower prices on the betting exchange in order to reduce your liability — although you won’t always get matched if your odds are too low. But overall requesting prices helps to cuts down the amount you need to pay Backers if they win.
Lay When The Odds Are Value
Whenever you place a Lay bet, look for Lay odds that imply the outcome is much more likely to happen than it really is. In other words, when the odds are lower than they should be.
So if for example you believe the true odds of an outcome are 3.0 (which implies a 33.33% chance of happening) and the Lay price in the market is 2.5 (which implies 40% chance), then you’d want to take that Lay bet. This is because the 2.5 price is great value for Layers, and poor value for the Backers.
This type of ‘value Lay bet’ situation occurs when an outcome of a sport event is over-hyped. For example there might be a bias or favouritism surrounding a football team, creating lower prices.
You can benefit from compiling your own odds from statistics to formulate your decisions.
Watch The Bookies' Odds
Bare in mind that Bookmakers earn from Laying. This in itself implies that their odds are underpriced (for Backers). Therefore you want to be Laying at odds close to the Bookies’ odds.
That said, always use as much of your own analyses and expertise on a sport to determine your own target Lay prices. Contrary to popular belief, Bookmakers aren’t always right (see sports betting myths).
Lay Bet Summary
Remember that any Lay bet the Layer can:
- Win the amount Layed, and no more (which is £10 in the above example).
- Lose the liability, which can be greater than the stake Layed (when the odds agreed are above 2.0).
The process of Laying is identical to Bookmakers who sell odds to the public.
Also note that whatever odds you Lay at — no matter how high — there’s always a chance the outcome will win and you’ll have to pay out. So limit your risk and fully test your strategy before placing high risk bets.
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