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Even if someone doesn’t consider themselves a gambler the chances are they understand what a bet is – or at least what a traditional bet is. What they, and a lot of more experienced bettors, don’t know about though is what a lay bet is. Here we guide you through it all.
What is a Lay Bet?
If you’re after a quick answer then, essentially, a lay bet is betting that something doesn’t happen.
Let’s take the upcoming Premier League fixture between Manchester City and Burnley as an example.
If you were to place a wager on this match, you’d most likely be ‘backing’ Manchester City i.e. “I bet Manchester City will beat Burnley”, however, with a lay bet what you actually say is “I bet Burnley will not beat Manchester City”. The initial perception is very similar but you now have the outcome of a draw covered in your favour also.
There is more to lay betting than the paragraph above though.
How Do I Place a Lay Bet?
In order to place a lay bet, you need to use a betting exchange. These are platforms that facilitate customers to bet against one another. Before we move onto that though let’s first recap the experience of a traditional bet. You visit a bookmakers – either in person or online – and bet on the team you expect to win. The odds are set by the bookie whilst you determine a stake to wager. Your returns are calculated off both of these factors.
Sticking to our example of Manchester City versus Burnley your bet in the traditional sense might look like this (odds are as per STSBet at the time of writing):
“I bet Manchester City will beat Burnley” with a £10 stake at 2/11 will give you an £11.80 return or £1.80 profit if Manchester City win.
In lay betting you are effectively acting as the bookmaker. You can flex the odds, which will always be in decimal form to allow for smaller moves, and you decide how much risk you’re willing to accept – the only caveat is that the more realistic your odds are, the more likely you are to find someone to bet against; after all, you’re the bookmaker in a lay bet scenario and a bookie doesn’t make money without a punter taking their bet.
Placing the Lay Bet – An example
Now, again with the same example, with a betting exchange your bet becomes “I bet Burnley will not beat Manchester City”. There is some key terminology to understand here though.
When you ‘lay’ against a team you are betting on them not to win so it is imperative that in this scenario you select ‘Burnley’. Once that’s done, the betting exchange will default to recommended odds but you can tweak them as you wish.
Your stake in a lay bet is what actually becomes your winnings. It should not be confused with the amount you are risking. Then, finally, there is the liability. Liability is the amount of money you are risking so, in this example, if Burnley were to win game you’d have to pay this to the person – or persons – who have taken your bet.
That’s the jargon taken care of. Let’s look at the maths.
In our STS Bet example of ‘backing’ Man City we’ve made £1.80. As the stake in a betting exchange becomes our winnings, we can instantly key that number in and move the other parts around to suit our needs:
If you ‘lay’ against Burnley with a £1.80 stake (targeted winnings) with odds of 22.00 (these are the recommended odds in the Betfair Exchange as we write) you’d have a liability of £37.80.
The good thing with the exchange though is that you can change your odds to suit. Burnley to win with STS is 14/1 or 15.00; you could potentially shorten your odds to, say, 18.00. You’ll reduce your liability to £30.60 and still appeal to punters backing through the exchange because odds are better than what are on offer through traditional bookies.
Is Lay Betting Worth the Risk?
When you see the liabilities mentioned above it’s natural to ask if lay betting is worth the risk. After all, risking near on £38 for a sub £2 profit sounds a tad crazy. Don’t dismiss it though. There are two things at play here that need to be considered.
Firstly, in the example we’ve used, Man City are huge favourites to beat Burnley – or certainly avoid defeat. These bets always come with big odds because the people you’re betting against are ‘backing’ Burnley to win. Even in a traditional bookmaker, they’d expect good odds; it doesn’t mean they’ll be cashing that bet slip in though.
The final point is perhaps the most important. A lay bet gives you extra security compared to a standard ‘back’ bet. Why? The draw is now covered too. If Man City only manage a draw you still win and, yes, we hear you screaming ‘double chance bet’ at your screen but take a look how that scenario washes through.
Lay Betting vs Double Chance – An example
Before we dive straight in, for those of you that don’t know, a double chance bet is where you can bet on two outcomes. In our scenario, your bet is now “I bet Man City will beat Burnley or draw the game”.
Again, using STS odds:
“I bet Man City will beat Burnley or draw the game” with a £10 stake at 1/25 will give you a £10.40 return or 40p profit.
If, however, you revert back to the betting exchange and lay Burnley at the more generous odds of 22.00 for a ‘stake’ (aka profit) of 40p you’ll only be risking £8.40. Drop those odds to 18.00 again as we did previously and that liability reduces further to £6.80, which is £3.20 less than your equivalent bet with STS.
The lay bet is certainly one that is worth experimenting with as the betting exchanges offer you greater flexibility and greater potential winnings. A word of caution though is that we recommend you familiarise yourself with the process before walking into bigger liabilities. It’s just good practice.
Good luck and bet safe.