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Beginner Guide To Lay Betting

Lay betting is the opposite to ‘traditional’ betting. With lay betting, you bet on a team not to win instead of backing them to win. Lay bets can only be placed at an online betting exchange, like Betfair. This guide will show you how important lay betting is to the matched betting process and how it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

What is a lay bet?

Lay betting is an option on exchanges like Betfair or Smarkets, where bettors can play the bookmaker, offering 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 winning. It is a type of bet that is placed when you are selling a bet, rather than buying a bet. It is generally placed by punters who play the role of bookmaker, hence "lay betting". It also goes by the terms of matched betting, arbitration or arb betting.

Lay betting explained

You’ll often see people asking what lay betting is. On first impressions, it can look complex – but it really isn’t. A simplistic way to think about it, is that when you place a lay bet on a selection, you are betting on it not to win.

This is a particularly relevant bet to make in a market that has 3 or more selections. Take a horse race as an example.

You spot an opportunity to make some money. In the old days, this would be a very difficult process that involves backing all of the other horses in the market for varying amounts.

Thanks to lay betting though, you can take someone else’s bet on that horse. Just as long as that horse fails to win, you win. This can be seen in the below image, with the red number showing your potential loss if that selection wins, and the green numbers your potential win if those selections win the race. The horse with the £255 liability is the horse with the lay bet.

How to place a lay bet with Betfair

Now you know what a lay bet is, it’s time to learn how to place one. We are going to show you step-by-step how to place a lay bet so you can take advantage of these benefits.

1 Go to Betfair and find your chosen market

We’re using Betfair for our example, but the on screen layout at all betting exchanges is similar. What you will notice are two different boxes. The blue box is your traditional back bet, and the pink one a lay bet.

2 Click on the lay box for your chosen selection

For the purpose of this example, we are going to show you how to place a lay bet on Dortmund Remember, this the same as backing Dortmund not to win.

Once you click the pink box, the selection will show on the bet slip on the right hand side of the screen.

3 Input your stake

Once you add the selection to your bet slip, you can add the stake. This differs from a traditional bet, because you’re inputting the amount you wish to make available for punters to bet on. For example, just imagine you’re the bookmaker, this is the amount that the customer is going to hand you to place the bet.

The number circled below is your liability, and potential payout if the person taking your bet wins.

The formula to calculate this liability yourself is

Stake x (Lay odds - 1) = Liability

So for the below example, that is:

1.56 – 1 = 0.56
£100 (stake) x 0.56 = £56.00

4 Place bet

When you click on the ‘place bets’ button, the money will go into the market and is available for people to match. If there is someone who already has cash in the system at the same price, the exchange will match your bets immediately. Otherwise, you must wait for someone to take the price which you have offered.

If your lay bet wins, you’ll receive the £100, minus a commission of 5%. This is how our betting exchange of choice for this example, Betfair, make their money.

If your lay bet loses, you’ll be down your £8 liability.