Betting Explanations

How Does Lay Betting Work? A Full Guide for Beginners

lay betting explained

Lay betting is a modern way to take on other players. At first glance, it can be extremely confusing.

But like most things, it’s incredibly simple when you know how…

So follow our lay betting explanation below, step-by-step. It’ll take the newest of beginners to full understanding in around 5 minutes.

What is Lay Betting?

In simplistic terms to lay a bet means to take somebody else’s bet. It’s the opposing side of a traditional bet. So if we were to say “bookmakers lay bets” this would make sense.

It’s not just bookmakers though, in the modern world betting exchanges enable people to bet against one another, which is probably why you’re here. For every bet that is matched on a betting exchange, there is one person backing and one person laying. They’re just betting against each other, with the exchange platform as referee. 

It’s an extremely simple concept that appears confusing when you first see the exchange interface. Let’s take things one step further…

How Does Lay Betting Work?

The simplest way to explain is through a few images and a brief example. Let’s talk about the image below.

For this example, we have used Betfair Exchange. The functions are the same on Smarkets, Matchbook and Betdaq although colour scheme’s and commissions may vary.

Click the image to enlarge.

Here we have a match between Brentford and Arsenal. In the centre, we have two coloured columns. The best prices that are available to back are highlighted in blue, and the best prices available to lay are highlighted in pink. Each box includes a betting price (decimal format) and a monetary value below. The money figure shows the value of bets that are available to be matched.

So for example, the box that is highlighted in red shows us that there is £4,355 available to lay at a price of 4.3. This means the total back bets from other exchange users at is £4,355. If we should want to lay Brentford for more than this figure, the price would move to 4.4.

To the right, you will see a bet slip showing a potential lay bet on Brentford. At a price of 4.3 for £10, this means our liability would be £33. This is because 4.3£10 minus our original stake of £10 equals £33. Meaning, if we should place this bet and Brentford go on to win, we lose £33. However, if they should not win, we will gain £10.

If we were to think about the other side of the bet for a second, there would be somebody on the betting exchange that is willing to bet £10 at 4.3 to win £33 from us. It’s a straight swap, which is how lay betting works. The exchange makes a profit by taking a small commission from the winner (2% on Betfair at the time of writing).

Important reminder: lay betting does not mean you are betting a selection will to lose. It means you are betting that the given selection will not win. If we look at the Brentford example above, there are three potential outcomes. Win, lose or draw. By laying Brentford you are saying they will not win, which could mean they lose or draw.

For clarification watch this screen sharing explanation with Caan, a professional Betfair trader.

Hopefully, it’s quite clear to you now how lay betting works!

Related: Get a Free 20 Bet When You Sign-Up With Betfair’s Exchange Here

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