Lay Betting Explained: How to Lay Bets

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Lay Betting Explained: How to Lay Bets

With lay betting, you bet on an outcome not to happen, like a horse not to win a race or a football team not to win a match. 

This is usually done using a betting exchange, where you go up against other punters rather than the bookie.

In this lay betting guide, we explain how and when to use lay bets to your advantage.

Lay Betting Explained

We're all used to betting on what we think will happen, but with lay betting you take on the role of the bookmaker and back against a potential outcome.

When you place a lay bet, your betting exchange will match you with another bettor who is backing the opposite outcome

So if you bet on Liverpool not to beat Manchester City in a Premier League fixture, you'll pay the other punter's profits if Liverpool win, while they'll pay you if it's a draw or if City win.

When laying an outcome, you set the odds for the event not happening. Other bettors then have the option to take those odds.

What is Liability in Lay Betting?

Liability refers to the amount of money you stand to lose if you lay a bet unsuccessfully. 

It represents the potential payout you need to make to the person who placed the back bet (betting on the event to happen) if they end up winning. 

Your liability is calculated as the stake amount of the back bet multiplied by the odds you've offered

Think of this as the same way you would work out how much you'd win with a traditional, fixed-odds bet - but this time you're in the position of the bookie.

It's important to pay very close attention to your liability, as it represents your potential risk in a lay betting scenario.

Lay Betting Strategies

To have success with lay betting, you'll need to be aware of some unique strategies that are specific to this type of wagering:


With arbitrage betting, punters look to take advantage of differences in odds at different bookmakers to guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome of an event.

You bet on something to happen, then you place a lay bet on the opposite outcome with a different bookie.

For this type of lay bet to work, you need a really keen eye to spot those rare instances where the odds provide you with profits regardless of outcome.

Arbitrage Example

You bet £100 on a football team to win at odds of 2/1 with one of your favourite football betting sites. If this bet is successful, you’ll win £200 in profit.

You then visit a betting exchange and place a lay bet of £110 at odds of 7/4 against the same football team. Your liability is £192.50. If this bet comes in, you’ll finish with a profit of £107.80.

If your back bet wins, you’ll make £200 in profit. Take away your £192.50 in liability and you come out with a profit of £7.50.

If your lay bet is successful, you make a profit of £107.80. Removing the £100 stake on the back bet leaves you with a turnover of £7.80.

Curve Betting

Another lay betting strategy that draws from stock market trading is curve betting.

In order for curve betting to work, you need to make accurate predictions about future odds movements so you can exploit favourable changes in the price. 

Profits aren't guaranteed unless you have this predictive ability, so it takes a lot of skill.


Let's use a horse race as an example to explain this one: To successfully place a curve bet, you'll need to follow horse racing odds closely well before a race starts.

If the odds on a runner begin to shorten and you expect them to shorten further, you place a back bet.

If more punters jump on the shortening odds as the race gets closer, the lay odds will increase in turn. 

Once the prices have drifted in your favour, you place a lay bet using an exchange.

Similar to arbitrage, you back both sides and make a profit no matter what - but perfect timing is essential.

Read More: Get Grand National free bets for this year's race

In-Play Lay Betting

In-play lay bets are placed using a live betting site once an event has started.

Once again, to be successful you'll have to anticipate how the odds will change as the event unfolds.


You start by placing an early back bet on a horse you've deemed is likely to build up an early lead.

As the race nears its end, you place an in-running lay bet against the same horse. If the horse is still in the lead, its odds should have shortened considerably

If the lay odds have drifted enough and you get your bet on at the right time, you can potentially profit no matter which horse wins the race.

Is Lay Betting Legal?

Yes, lay betting is completely legal. There are no gambling regulations preventing lay betting, so you're free to use it to your advantage.

However, you will need to use a betting exchange, so lay betting is only available in jurisdictions (such as the UK) that have legal betting exchanges.

What is Commission in Lay Betting?

As we've mentioned, a lay bettor essentially acts as the bookmaker by covering the alternative outcome to the back bettor. 

Because of this, the bookmakers you're using don't get the usual profits they would from a lost bet.

Exchanges instead make money by taking a percentage of winnings as commission (usually between 2-10%). 

It's important to review the T&Cs of betting exchanges to ensure you understand their commission structures. If possible, shop around for the lowest commission rates.

In Summary

In order to have success with lay betting, you'll need to:

  1. Have a really solid grasp of betting odds.
  2. Have the time to track changes in prices.
  3. Have the ability to predict potential odds movements.
  4. Become comfortable using both exchanges and fixed-odds bookmakers.
  5. Have a good understanding of liability and the risks involved if you get a lay bet wrong.

Lay betting is an advanced strategy, so ensure you've done your homework before you take it on.

This guide should be the ideal starting point, but you'll need to gain some real experience (without taking on too much risk) in order to become consistently successful with your lay bets.

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