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Lay betting guide

Welcome to this lay betting guide. Discover all about lay betting on a betting exchange.

Lay betting allows betting exchange customers to act like a bookmaker. Let’s imagine you’ve placed a back bet with a bookmaker (“bought a bet”). You may want to cover your position in the betting market and guarantee a profit (“sell your bet”).  This is laying a bet. 

Customers can lay various outcomes on an exchange like “Enable not to win the l’Arc”. This is betting against an outcome to happen.

Lay betting example

As opposed to betting for (backing) Enable to win l’Arc, you lay Enable. So, you would win your lay bet if Enable does not win the race.

The lay bet on Enable is betting against another exchange user on the back side of the bet. The other bettor thinks Enable will win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Lay betting - Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Betfair Exchange

This is the Arc de Triomphe market at Betfair. A £100 lay stake on Enable at odds of 1.83 has a liability of £83.

Lay betting Enable in Prix de l'Arc at Betfair Exchange

Use the Trickybet calculator to work out your matched betting lay stakes.

Liability and liquidity

When backing £10 at 4/1 (5.0) the potential profit is £40. When laying the role gets reversed, to make £10 profit the layer needs to risk a £40 liability.

The calculation for liability is:

  • (Backers Stake x Decimal odds) – Backers Stake = Liability

Imagine you place a £10 back bet at odds of 5.0 with the bookie. You also place a £10 lay bet at 5.00 on the exchange.

The lay liability is £40 using the calculation (£10 x 5.0) – £10 = £40.

So, you need £40 in your exchange account to cover the liability.

If the back bet wins: Back bet at the bookie returns  = plus £50, lay bet at the exchange returns = minus £40. The net position is no-loss. £50 winnings minus £40 liability, minus £10 stake equals £0.

If the back bet loses: Back bet at the bookmaker returns = minus £10. Lay bet at the exchange returns = plus £10. Your net position is no-loss. The losing back bet cancels out your winning lay bet.

Liquidity is a term used to describe the amount of money available to back and lay in an exchange market. High profile events have lots of liquidity. But, less popular sports have less liquidity in their markets.

Check there is enough lay liquidity in the exchange market to get your lay bet matched.

Laying to guarantee a profit

A bookmaker uses laying to reduce risk and balance their liabilities in a betting market.

As a matched bettor, you place lay bets to cover back bets and guarantee a profit from free bets and bonus offers.

Decimal odds

Lay odds are typically shown as decimals on betting exchanges.

The backer’s stake is included in decimal odds. To convert fractional odds to decimal odds, take the first figure and divide by the second figure then add 1. For example, 7/2 is 7 divided by 2, which is 3.5, plus 1, equals 4.5.


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