Laying Bets

So far talk has been about making a ‘back’ bet. In this case the odds that being offered are those that are taken as a bet is placed that an event will happen – Player A will win, Teams B and C will draw etc. However, a new option is now available through the betting exchanges, and this is the opportunity to lay a bet.

Laying a bet, in simple terms, is the opposite of placing a back bet. In this case you are offering odds for someone else to accept and make a bet. In other words, fulfilling the role of a bookmaker. Bookmakers are known for making money, so this must be a good thing yes?

Well, yes and no (as are most things in life). On the one hand there are usually more chances of an event not happening than happening which favours the layer. For example, in a football match you may choose to lay Team A. In this case you will ‘win’ if Team B win or if the game is a draw. Three result opportunities, and the layer will ‘win’ with two of them. This positive ratio increases with the number of possible results; in a horse race of 10 runners a layer will have 9 winning results with only 1 losing one.

Naturally there is a flip side, and it usually comes in the form of liability. When placing a back bet our liability has been restricted to our stake – if we bet £5 and our selection doesn’t come in then we lose that £5. But when laying the liability depends on the odds offered. If laying a selection at 3.00 (2/1) with a £5 stake then our liability is actually £10; this is what we would have to pay out if our selection did actually win, and at those odds there is a good chance that it will happen. Now if we lay at 101.00 (100/1) with the same stake probability tells us that there is little chance the selection will win (0.99%) – but if it does win then we will have to pay out £500!

The risk of a payout significantly larger than the normal stake we would use for a back bet means that laying bets is not something that is recommended for newcomers to betting. That said, laying bets has a critical role in the next topic, that of trading bets.