More and more punters are into ‘lay’ betting these days since the inception of betting exchanges.
To lay a bet means backing something not to happen. This is why bookmakers were always colloquially known as ‘layers’. You back a horse to win, but they want it to be beaten.
For instance, to lay Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is essentially to back the horse not to win. If you laid the horse, you would win your bet as long as the horse doesn’t come home first.
There has been a lot of controversy about lay betting in horse racing, more so than in other sports. Doping has been known to happen on rare occasions, but this really isn’t the point of introducing lay bets into horse racing betting.
Lay betting is simply a chance for punters to become the bookmaker. If you see a horse everyone wants to back and you think it has no chance, you can lay the horse, sit back and collect your money so long as it doesn’t get home first.
Betting exchanges have revolutionised horse racing betting in the UK, especially where lay betting is concerned.
Essentially, betting exchanges are marketplaces and platforms on which bettors can wager on the outcome of various sporting events.
Exchanges offer similar opportunities to bookmakers, though the main differences are that as well as ‘backing’ selections they can also ‘lay’ them.
Better odds are usually on offer in what is ostensibly a customer v customer platform, with the exchange making its money via small commissions charged on winning bets.
The craze was started by Betfair, Matchbook and a now defunct site called flutter, with the first-named brand becoming the biggest in the business, changing the way we bet forever after its inception in 2000.
Betfair went on to acquire flutter in 2002, and later merged with Paddy Power to create one of the biggest gambling groups in the world. The name of this group is a hark back to their origins, as they are now called Flutter Entertainment. Betdaq, often trading as the Ladbrokes Exchange, is another major name on the market.
In matched betting, liquidity is essentially the maximum amount of money a punter can stake on a lay bet using an exchange. The exchange will display this underneath the lay odds, though the amount may change constantly.
Whenever you use exchanges, it’s always important to keep the amount of liquidity under consideration on your platform of choice.
This is important as many first-timers worry that if they lay a horse, they may end up owing thousands to punters if it wins, much as a bookie would. This is not true. Limits can be put in place so that you ‘lose’ a maximum amount if you are incorrect about your lay bet.
Another way to think about liquidity is how much punters are using the site or betting the market you are interested in. If no one is interested there will be low liquidity, which means you might not get your bet matched.
How Lay Betting Works
On a betting exchange you can lay a selection and also choose the price you wish to take along with how much money you are prepared to risk.
The shorter the odds you want to lay, the less cash you risk compared to your potential rewards.
- In a horse race such as the Champion Hurdle, Honeysuckle at 1.9 / 1.91 is a strong favourite and seemingly likely to win. But, to win £10 by laying the horse, you only need risk £9.10.
Punters have different reasons for choosing the lay market. Some simply find it easier to select a horse that they believe won’t win the race, rather than pin their hopes on one to win.
Some choose to lay horses simply because they think the advertised odds are too short and said horse doesn’t really have that strong a chance.
Yet another reason to use the market is to lay a horse first, then look around at the odds when the race is off and potentially back the horse to win to lock in a guaranteed profit. This is known as Trading.
Laying horses doesn’t have to be too risky. When you place a £20 win bet, you know that the worst thing that can happen is that you lose £20.
Equally in lay betting, you choose how much you are willing to risk. You may end up betting against a single punter for that amount, or against several punters at the same time.
How to Lay Horses
On your exchange of choice, choose the horse you want to lay and click on the lay odds.
In our example, we are laying Camembert Electric at Wetherby at odds of 4.9.
The backer is staking £100.
- Potential profit: £100
- Potential loss: £390
Our liability here is £390, which we lose in its entirety if Camembert Electric wins the race.
The payout would be £490 including the stake from the backer.
If we match this bet, there is a pot of £490 on the line – the backer’s £100 stake and our £390 liability.
If Camembert Electric wins the race, we have to pay the full £390 to the winning punter or punters.
If any other horse should win, we get our £100 minus a small commission.
Where to Place Lay Bets
Many betting exchanges now exist around the world. In Britain, it’s most definitely best to stick to the three biggest names in the game:
Betfair is a great option as it offers players both a sportsbook and an exchange. If you want fixed odds in a more traditional format, it’s there, while the exchange is also available to you.
As part of Flutter Entertainment, Betfair is in the same betting stable as Paddy Power, FanDuel, Full Tilt Poker, Sky Bet, Timeform and TVG among others.
Betdaq has been around since 2000 but is these days owned by Ladbrokes (or their parent company, Entain), while Matchbook is developing a very good reputation within the betting industry and is another solid option.