Lay Betting Explained

Laying A Bet Explained

Lay betting is an option on exchanges like Betfair where bettors can play the role of the bookmaker and back something not to happen. Punters offer odds to sell a bet instead of to back a bet. It is one component of matched betting, where punters both back and sell bets on the same game to guarantee a win.

  • When you lay a bet, you are betting on something to not happen
  • Lay bets are made on exchanges such as Betfair
  • Our comprehensive guide takes you step-by-step 

Lay betting allows you to ‘be the bookie’. Rather than backing a selection to win, lay betting enables you to bet on something to not happen.

For instance, you may not know which side will win the Premier League title but you think you have a good idea which side won’t win it. In this instance, a lay bet might be right for you.

Lay betting would allow you to bet on that team to not win the league. If anyone else wins the Premier League, then you win your bet. If they do win the league, then, of course, you would lose.

What Does Liability in Lay Betting Mean?

Liability is an important concept to understand when learning about lay betting. When you conventionally back a horse to win, the amount of money you can lose is your stake. I.e. if you bet £10 on a horse to win and it comes 3rd, it is only £10 you can lose.

This is different in lay betting.

Think of yourself as the bookmaker. If you lose your bet, the bookmaker keeps your stake. If you win, then the bookmaker has to pay out your winnings. It can be a lot more than your original stake.

This is same as laying a bet. If the selection does win, you have to pay out the winnings. That potential payout is known as your liability. It how much you need to pay out if you lose your bet.

Example 1) You lay a horse at 3.00

Lay Bet Example 1

    • You lay a horse at 3.00
    • The backer’s stake is £10
    • Your liability is £20

In this example, if any other horse wins, then you win the losing stake of £10. The horse is priced at 3.00. If the horse wins the race, then your liability is equal to the winnings for the backer. This is £20. It is only the winnings you pay, as the backer’s original stake is returned to them.

Example 2) You lay a horse at 5.00

Lay Bet Example 2

  • You lay a horse at 5.00
  • The backer’s stake is £20
  • Your liability is £80

In this example, if any other horse wins, then you win the losing stake of £20. The horse is priced at 5.00. If the horse wins the race, then your liability is equal to the winnings for the backer. This is £80. It is only the winnings you pay, as the backer’s original stake is returned to them.

Example 3) You lay a horse at 27.00

Lay Bet Example 3

  • You lay a horse at 27.00
  • The backer’s stake is £10
  • Your liability is £260

We wanted to put in this example since it shows how liability can quickly grow. In this case, laying this bet would generate a potential return of £10. At odds of 27.00, probability dictates that this horse is unlikely to win, but if it does, the liability is £260. When laying bets at high prices, one has to consider whether the chance of gaining £10 is worth the risk of losing £260.

What Does Laying Off a Bet Mean?

This is different. Laying off a bet refers to betting against something you have already backed.

For example, say you back Newcastle at 8.00 to beat Chelsea before the match starts. During the game, they take a surprise 2-0 lead. The odds for Newcastle to win this game shorten.

You can choose to now ‘lay off’ this bet. By laying the same bet as you back, you are betting both on it to happen, and for it not happen.  Because the odds have got shorter, you are heading to a profit. This is similar to cashing out your bet earlier. Laying off your bet allows you to take reduced, but guaranteed winnings.

Matched betting is legal in the United Kingdom. Just be sure to only use sites that are certified with the UK Gambling Commission. All of the sites we recommend follow the criteria.

Summary

When you lay a bet, you are betting on something to not happen. If the selection loses then you win the backer’s stake. However, if it wins then you pay the winnings. This is known as the liability, i.e. how much you will potentially have to pay out.

More reading