As soon as you begin to look past traditional Bookmakers and into alternative platforms — such as sports betting exchanges — you’ll be faced with the concept of a Lay bet.
A Lay bet is where you bet against a specific outcome, acting as the Bookmaker for ‘Back’ bets. Via a betting exchange, you accept the ‘liability’ (risk) of paying out winning Backer’s bets at the odds agreed. On the other hand, if the Backer’s bet loses, you keep their stake.
To many novice punters Lay bets sound complicated. But I’m going to explain precisely how Lay bets work, where you can place them, and how to use them to your advantage.
Lay Bets and “Liability” Explained
The best way to fully understand how a Lay bet works is to appreciate what happens at the Bookmaker’s end whenever a punter places a bet. What do Bookmakers stand to win or lose?
At the precise same moment a ‘Back’ bet is placed by a punter, the Bookmaker takes on risk — known as the “liability” — by accepting or “matching” the stake. They’re effectively placing a Lay bet against the punter. The liability of a Lay bet is always dependent on the stake and odds agreed with the punter.
Suppose that £10 Back stake was placed by a punter at decimal odds of 4.0 for Everton to beat Chelsea.
In accepting the bet, the Bookmaker Lays Everton at 4.0. There’s three possible outcomes of the game:
- Everton wins. The Bookmaker loses and has to pay the punter out.
- Draw. The Bookmaker wins and keeps the Backer’s £10 stake.
- Chelsea wins. The Bookmaker wins and keeps the Backer’s £10 stake.
So how much will the Bookie pay out on an Everton win? Use the simple formula below:
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 Bookmaker stands to lose £30, which is the liability, or risk, of their Lay bet.
Note that with any Lay bet the Bookmaker can:
- Win the amount Layed, and no more (which is £10 in this example).
- Lose the liability, which can be greater than the stake Layed (when the odds agreed are above 2.0).
Where to Place Lay Bets
Traditionally, Lay bets were for Bookies only. But ever since Betfair and other sports betting exchanges burst onto the scene there’s no shortage of sites enabling regular punters to “become the Bookmaker”.
Here’s where I recommend placing Lay bets:
The world’s most popular betting exchange.
A Betfair alternative offering lower commission.
A peer-to-peer betting platform, offering excellent Lay opportunities.
A Football betting exchange which treats football players as commodities which earn dividends.
A Betfair alternative offering lower commission.
How to Place Lay Bets
Placing Lay bets is easy. I’ll show you how to do it on 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). 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.
Your 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.
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 can you limit your liability?
Here’s my suggestions:
Lay at the Lowest Odds Possible
Remember that as 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 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 (if you get matched). This cuts down the amount you need to pay Backers if they win.
Lay When The Odds Are Value
The odds you Lay at should imply the outcome is much more likely to happen than it really is.
So if you believe the true odds of an outcome are 3.0 (implies 33.33% chance) and the Lay price in the market is 2.5 (implies 40% chance), then you’d want to take that Lay bet. The price is great value for the 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 low prices.
You can benefit from compiling your own odds from statistics to formulate your decisions.
Watch the Bookmakers’ Odds
Bare in mind that Bookmakers earn from Laying. This in itself suggests that their odds are underpriced (for Backers). Therefore you want to be Laying at odds close to the Bookies’ average 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).
Hopefully this post has helped you understand how Lay bets work. Remember that whatever odds you Lay at — no matter how high — there’s always a chance it’ll win and you’ll have to pay out. So limit your risk and fully test your strategy.