Updated Updated: 2024

Understanding Lay Betting

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Lay betting is a special type of betting that you will usually find at a betting exchange such as Betfair or Bwin. The term “Lay” in lay betting essentially means betting against a certain outcome, whereas traditional betting usually pivots around betting for certain outcomes. This might sound a little convoluted as all bets are essentially betting against certain outcomes as well but the concept will soon be clear.

One thing that is abundantly clear from the above definition, lay betting is not a regular type of betting one would be able to place at a bookmaker. This is where betting exchanges come into the picture. A betting exchange facility is a platform facilitating peer to peer betting. At these platforms, bettors bet against each other. As the bettor plays the bookmaker in these scenarios, the exchange usually does not have much to do except provide the infrastructure and collect a small commission from each bet placed.

UK sites offering lay betting

How Peer to Peer Betting Works

Peer to peer betting is much like traditional betting, except the fact that a player acts as a bookmaker in this scenario. Based on their understanding, knowledge and purview of the event, the player might set certain odds. Other bettors will scan the exchange for all odds set for their favourite event and if they find one they like, they might place a bet on those odds. This is called a “Match”. You may have heard liquidity in terms of a betting exchange and this exactly why liquidity is important to match bets. Liquidity means the maximum amount of money waiting to be matched in a market and that is the maximum you can bet on either Lay or Back. In exchanges with very low liquidity, you might find that not enough funds have entered that can match your bet or, worse still, your bet gets matched partially. This is unfavourable as odds might significantly change by the time your whole bet is matched.

What is a Lay Bet?

What is a Lay Bet

In the above section, we have mentioned “Back” and “Lay” betting. Back betting is exactly what regular betting is. Say for example, there is a football match going on between Chelsea and Liverpool. The bookie or another player is presenting odds of Liverpool to win with odds of 3.8. If you bet on these odds on Liverpool, you are essentially “Backing” Liverpool and their chances of winning. If Liverpool indeed ends up being winners, you make a profit. If the match ends up in a draw or a loss for Liverpool, you lose your stake.

If you “Lay” Liverpool, on the other hand, you are essentially betting on Liverpool not winning. In such a case, if the match ends in a draw or Chelsea ends up winning, you will be in profit. There is a slight difference between Back and Lay because in lay betting, you are betting on something not happening instead of something happening.

How does Lay Betting Work?

The first question that pops to one’s mind is that why use lay betting at all? What is the usefulness of this option? For example, if we go back to the above scenario, why not bet on Chelsea being the winner instead of Liverpool being the loser? Does that make a difference?

Well, it kind of does. Let’s look at the outcomes first. We shall examine 4 scenarios to understand why lay betting is a good option at certain times and to make the math work better, we shall add some numbers to this example.

liverpool vs chelsea
  • Scenario 1: Betting on Chelsea being the winner with a stake of 10 GBP at odds of 3.0. Simply put, if Chelsea ends up winners, you get back your 10 GBP stake plus 20 GBP in profits. But you lose your stake if the match is a draw or Liverpool wins.
  • Scenario 2: Betting on the match being a draw with a stake of 10 GBP and odds of 4.0. If the match ends in a tie, you get back 40 GBP including your stake. But if either Chelsea or Liverpool win, you forfeit your stake amount.
  • Scenario 3: Betting on Liverpool to win with a stake of 10 GBP and odds of 6.5. Similar to the first scenario, if Liverpool wins, you get back 65 GBP which includes the stake amount but any other outcome renders you a loser.
  • Scenario 4: “LAY Liverpool”. In this scenario, if you are laying Liverpool, let’s say at odds of 3.0 in favour of Chelsea, you win the bet if either Chelsea wins the match or if it ends in a draw. As long as Liverpool does not win, your bet prevails. It is evident that in a game like football, laying a particular team immediately increased your chances of getting a favorable outcome from 33% to 67%. This is why lay bets are often used in accumulator bets.

Lay Liability

lay liability

Since laying a team or a player seems to be an instantaneous way to increase your chances of getting a favourable outcome or ensure profit, you may learn how to place a lay bet and rush to place one helter skelter. But before you do so, you must learn the concept of “Liability”.

Yes, with lay betting, comes liability. In case of traditional back bets, if you lose the bet all you are set to lose is your initial stake. Hence in the first 3 scenarios of our example, if you had lost your bets, the most you would have forfeited would have been the 10 GBP stake. But when it comes to lay bets, you shoulder the liability of backer’ stake as well. In other words, in a matched bet, there is a backer and a layer. The layer is not only responsible for his stake but also the backer’s winnings. In scenario 4, if your lay loses and the backer’s stake is 10 GBP, you have to pay up 30 GBP in liability. If your lay prevails, you win 10 GBP of his stake.

Let’s look at below table to understand what a lay bet in horse racing is and how liability grows:

Horse Racing Odds Backer’s Stake
Lay Mystic Magic 3.0 20 GBP
Lay Mystic Magic 5.0 20 GBP
Lay Mystic Magic 7.0 20 GBP

In a fictional horse racing event, out of many, we are convinced that the horse Mystic Magic is incapable of winning the derby no matter what. Hence we are laying the dark horse Mystic Magic thrice at 3 different odds. In the first case, the backer has put odds of 3.0 on its winning with a stake of 20 GBP. Mystic Magic wins and we get a liability of 40 GBP flat. In the second case, all factors remaining the same, liability jumps to 80 GBP since the odds have changed. And in the final cases, we end up paying as much as 120 GBP if the backer prevails. Hence you can see how liability jumps from a modest to a huge amount depending on the odds and the backer’s stake. In all three cases, the maximum amount you can win is 20 GBP, which is the backer’s stake. Hence the question that needs to be answered is, are you willing to risk paying 120 GBP in order to win 20.

How to Lay Off a Bet?

While they might sound similar, a lay bet and a laying off a bet are two different beasts altogether. During the course of your gambling career, certain scenarios might present themselves where you can play both sides of the game and guarantee a profit. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say, again, Chelsea are playing Liverpool and you back Chelsea to win at odds of 4.5. Your stake amount is 100 GBP.

Chelsea Vs. Liverpool Odds Profit/Liability
Back Chelsea 4.5 450 – 100 = 350 GBP
Lay Chelsea 4 110 GBP /330 GBP

Here in this case, the odds of Chelsea winning this exciting Premier League game has been set as 4.5 and you are backing Chelsea with 100 GBP of your hard earned cash. In case Chelsea wins, you come up trumps with a net winning of 350 GBP.

But during the first half, Liverpool takes an unexpected 2-0 lead with scintillating strikes. The odds are made shorter at 4.0 as Chelsea look vulnerable. This presents an opportunity for you to “Lay off” Chelsea at the odds of 4 for a profit of 110 GBP. Since the bet is downgraded to odds of 4, your liability on this lay is calculated at 330 GBP. Now essentially you are playing both sides of the bet. You are backing Chelsea and at the same time prepared if they are to lose.

If Chelsea was to win, you will collect your 350 GBP in profit but also payout the liability calculated at 330 GBP giving you a winning of 20 GBP. If Chelsea were to lose, you make 110 GBP from the lay-off bet. Subtracting your stake amount you gain 10 GBP in profit. These are not huge sums but with that lay off bet you ensured a positive outcome no matter what. If you had stuck to your back option and Chelsea ended up losing or the match had been a draw, you would have lost the stake of 100 GBP. And the beauty of the layoff bet means that even if the match ended in a draw, your lay bet would have prevailed and the 10 GBP profit would have been paid out. If you are thinking how bookies lay off bets, this is one of the primary techniques.

Lay Betting Strategies

lay betting strategy

This brings us to the key question, do lay betting strategies work? There is no dearth of betting systems, books and tips online that claim to have cracked the puzzle of how to make money online from gambling. But in a nutshell, gambling is a game of chance, and there is never a surefire strategy that can make you win money most of the time. These strategies and books can make you money if you are the one writing them. Studies show that most of these strategies are too convoluted to be regularly used in a practical sense and in most cases are just the same shenanigans packaged in different ways. Your best bet is to understand the basics of lay betting, how and when it is useful, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and take advantage of favourable scenarios to make some profit.

How to Calculate Lay Bet?

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The crux of lay betting lies on understanding, how liability works and what your current liability is for any lay bet that you have placed or are going to place. Most modern betting exchanges usually have real-time liability calculators but you can use separate ones as well. Here is a formula that is generally followed:

Liability = (Stake amount * (Lay odds – 1))

Let’s use the earlier example into this formula. For your lay off bet your goal was a winning of 110 GBP which becomes the backer’s stake. The odds were set at 4 hence your liability becomes:

(110 * (4 – 1)) = 330

This is how we arrived at that calculation. But please note that in real life scenarios, the odds, stakes and other variables will often be huge numbers with decimals and calculation of profit and liability will not be so easy. Hence it is better to always take advantage of a liability calculator that is already present on the exchange.

Lay betting is a wonderful tool that can add another dimension to your betting game. But like other betting options, this also has its own pitfalls such as the high liability. Do your research properly before embarking on a lay betting frenzy.


Lay betting is a feature of betting exchanges and peer to peer betting. You will not be able to do so against a bookie.

There is no surefire way to guarantee profit while gambling. Laying off a bet can sometimes guarantee a profit on a particular bet but lay betting does not guarantee profit all the time.

Yes, leading betting exchanges will have real-time liability calculators that one can use at the time of placing a bet.