Welcome to our ultimate guide to lay betting. In this guide, we’ll look at what a lay bet is, how they work, the importance of understanding liability and provide you with our tips for placing lay bets:
What Is Lay Betting?
Lay Betting allows you to take on the role of a bookmaker and offer your fellow punters odds to ‘sell’ them a bet. Basically, if you’ve ever said “I bet you that won’t happen…” you have already placed a lay bet.
Every time you place a lay bet you are backing one outcome but, most importantly, you are putting yourself against another. In other words, you are betting on a particular outcome to lose or not happen.
This can be used to your advantage; it’s often difficult to figure out who will win in a race, match, or tournament but it’s easy to point out an individual who will most likely not win. Lay Betting allows you to follow through and place a stake against something that you think will not happen.
For example, by using a lay bet, you can wager against a particular darts player not making it to the final, a single horse not winning a race or a rugby team not winning their game.
While this is one of the most outwardly complex types of stake available there is only one key consideration you need to be aware of – if your chosen stake manages to win, you will be required to pay each backer their winnings and that can be much more than the initial wager you put down.
However the more you understand about how it works, the more lay betting can be made to work for you.
How Lay Betting Works
If you choose to ‘lay’ against an event, you’re choosing to take money from other punters.
For example, you’re watching the Six Nations and France are up against Italy and you decide to lay Italy for £20 at odds of 5.00 (4/1). A punter quickly takes you up on the bet.
As the game starts you know that you’ve covered their £20 bet against the team. If Italy does lose you’ll keep the stake of the individual who has taken your proposed lay of £20 (minus any commission from the betting exchange you use – 5% on Betfair for example).
However, if Italy won you will end up paying the other individual back their £20 along with £80 of your own money, folding the stake into the eventual payout.
How to Calculate Liability
The liability is the risk you have if the lay bet you have placed does go onto win (and therefore your bet loses). Calculating liability isn’t as difficult as it seems and all you need to do is plug in your numbers into the following formula.
If you are using fractional odds then simply divide the top number by the bottom number and add 1 to change it to decimal odds (4/1 would be 5.00, 7/2 would be 4.5 and so on).
Using our Six Nations example of laying Italy at 4/1 we would have the following liability:
If the lay bet wins, we receive £20 (minus any commission). If the lay bet loses then you’re responsible for paying our £80.
The good news is that when you place a bet on most exchanges they will instantly show you what your liability will be were you to complete the lay bet. You can see this in this example from Betfair:
As you can see, we’ve chosen to lay Chelsea against Liverpool with a £20 stake. If Chelsea does indeed lose then we’ll win £20 minus any commission. If Chelsea does win, however, we will lose £33.20.
Our Tips For Lay Betting
Below are our tips and rules to follow when it comes to placing lay bets. We recommend sticking to these to lower your risk of hitting a losing lay bet:
1. Know your Liability
When you consider liability, this refers to the potential amount that you stand to lose in the worst-case scenario when your lay bet simply does not play out in your favour.
It’s worth remembering that when you’re placing a conventional bet as a punter, you know that the worst that can happen is you don’t get your stake back. With lay betting, you can lose a whole lot more from just one losing bet.
Laying the 50/1 underdog in a 24-runner race might seem like easy money but on the of chance it does win the race, you would be liable for £500 from a £10 lay. Is the risk really worth it in this case?
2. Build your Strategy
Along with knowing how much you stand to lose as well as win, putting in place a long-term strategy will allow you to make meaningful returns from your lays and mitigate any losses that may take place along the way.
For example, you may decide to place numerous lay bets on one football match, to offset any potential losses that might incur from the original lay. Perhaps you want to bet that a certain team will lose, as well as offering odds on the final score, number of yellow or red cards, and any penalties.
So, what are some potential tips to help you put together a worthy strategy:
a) (Don’t) Follow the Hype
In every walk of life, there are those that attract hype and those that live up to it.
Always look for teams, runners or individuals that are placed at shorter odds due to their name recognition over proven ability. As you’re taking on the man on the street, individuals will often be attracted to place a bet that they ‘know’ no matter the odds.
Joe Fanning might be a recognised, experienced name in horse racing but he still loses 3 out of 4 races. Sam Twiston-Davies, pictured, is another name most people have heard of but with a win rate around 21%, he shouldn’t be discounted for a short odds lay.
b) Crunch your Numbers
We are now living in a world of big data and have more information to hand than ever before. This means there is no excuse to not start collecting the data you need in order to correctly set your odds. As you acquire more information over time this can help you set your lays more effectively. Some recommended values include field size, time of day, standard prices offered by established bookies and win/lose stats over time.
c) Mix, Match and Learn
When you start laying the field new punters often find it tempting to settle on a fixed pricing structure that ‘works’ and start repeating it. Every race, match or event is a different beast and – statistically – standardised laying will not allow you to make a profit in the long term. Use the variables from your research to start factoring into your decisions alongside your gut-feeling. In short, make notes, take notice, and learn from your losses as well as your wins.
It’s no good deciding that you can lay every winner last time out. Of course, use this as a building block to your strategy but make sure you add additional filters to further improve your chances of picking a lay bet.
3. Know Your Field And Know Your Lays
Lay betting has risen in popularity due to the flexibility it offers the punter and layer. Along with making hard and fast statistical choices, placing a solid lay relies on context. Often, a quick checklist can help make that you’re making the right decision when juggling a lot of variables.
For example, to take the example of horse racing, it’s often worth building a cheat-sheet that can be checked and completed before setting your lay.
Some factors worth considering may include: Has the Jockey recently changed and if so, how is his record? Has the horse recently gone up or down in class or weight? Is another horse running with equivalent or similar tips or background? And, how many days has it been since the last run?
Considering the above, it’s easy to see that lay betting’s apparent complexity can be managed and work toward bringing you regular low-risk returns. When you know your sector and when best to lay, you can make your fellow punters work for you.
Hopefully, this lay betting guide has fully explained the ins and outs of lay bets and how you can use them. If you’re still struggling then don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and we’ll help out as much as possible. If you’re looking for more guides like this then check out our dutch betting guide.