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Betting.co.uk Basics: Back and Lay Betting

Publish Date: 22/09/2020
Fact checked by: Mike McKean

Betting.co.uk Basics is an introduction to the world of betting, its terminology, its options, and everything else you could possibly need to know. Our goal is to help you Be A Better Bettor, while also fostering a love for repetitive B-word alliteration.

In today’s post, we’ll be focusing on back and lay bets.

What is a back bet?

For most people, back betting is the default. A “back” bet is placing a bet to say an event will take place - so, for example, if you place a back bet on a team or a player, you’re saying that team or player will win. Simply put, you’re backing that team or player to win.

Back bets are usually placed at conventional bookmakers.

What is a lay bet? 

A lay bet is, essentially, the exact opposite of a back bet.

If a back bet is to bet for an outcome, then a lay bet is to bet against that outcome. So, let’s say you’re betting on Liverpool to win a match:

  • If you place a back bet on Liverpool, you’re effectively saying: “I think Liverpool will win this match”
  • If you place a lay bet on Liverpool, you’re saying: “I think Liverpool will not win this match”.

Lay betting usually involves signing up to bet on an exchange. Exchanges offer both back and lay bets, which are usually differentiated by different colours.

  • On Betfair, back bets are in blue and lay bets are in pink.
  • On Smarkets, back bets are in green and lay bets are in blue.
  • On Betdaq, back bets are in orange and lay bets are in green.

Alternatively, you can go by positioning rather than colours: on all three of the above exchanges, back bets are on the left, while the lay is on the right.

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How do draws figure into laying? 

Laying bets is very specific: a lay bet states that an outcome will not happen - so if anything else happens, then the lay bet will be lost. So if you lay Liverpool, and Liverpool draw, then your bet would lose.

Can you place lay bets at sportsbooks?

While some Specials markets may often offer bets that appear to be lays, they’re actually still back bets.

For example, you could see a Specials market for “Liverpool won’t win the Premier League title in 20/21”. On first inspection, that looks like a lay bet - you’re saying something won’t happen. However, it’s not a lay, because you’re backing the statement that Liverpool won’t win - you’re agreeing, rather than saying it won’t happen, as you would be for a true lay.

The reason this differentiation matters is because of how back and lay bets are calculated. With both types of bets, your stake governs how much you will win should your bet succeed - but the methodology behind how this is achieved is different.

  • With a back bet, your stake can be seen as a multiplier that governs a winning payout. So if you bet £10 at odds of 4/1 (5.00 in decimal), your payout will be £50 - £40 in winnings, plus your stake is returned.
  • However, if you stake £10 on a lay bet, then your winnings will be… £10. There’s no multiplication: you only stand to win what you stake.

This means you’re not actually betting your stake when laying - you’re betting much more. Our next question will shed some light on this.

What is liability in lay bets?

When you place a lay bet, you’re actually risking far more than your stake - you’re risking your liability. Your liability will be lost if a lay bet loses.

Let’s look at an example:

  • You want to lay a football team at odds of 7.2.
  • You decide that if that team does look as you predict, you want to win £10.
  • This means you need to stake £10.
  • When you do so, a total of £61.99 will become your liability in your exchange account.
  • If your bet loses (so the team you layed wins or draws), then you will lose all of your liability.
  • If your bet wins, then your liability is returned, along with a profit of £10; the amount you staked.

This means that really, your stake isn’t what you’re betting when you lay; your liability is.

It’s important to note that your liability is determined by the odds. The higher the odds of your selection, the more liability you stand to lose. Returning to our example, if you were to lay at odds of 2.00 rather than 7.2, the liability would only be £20 rather than £61.99. The good news is that you don't need to run the calculation yourself; most exchanges will do it for you, so you'll know exactly what is involved with every bet you place.

Why would anyone want to play lay bets?

With so much to lose in liability, lay bets can seem like an expensive folly - but it’s a numbers game and actually one of the best horse betting strategies used by serious and knowledgeable punters.

Let’s say there’s a horse race with 10 entrants. Only one of those horses can win, which means a back bet on one of the other nine non-winners will be lost. However, laying flips this maths entirely: there’s nine horses that can lose, which means more lay bets will succeed than back bets when the race is taken into full consideration.

Lay betting does prevent some difficulties - and it can be expensive if a bettor happens to lay the one horse in 10 that does succeed - but it isn’t quite as outlandish an idea as it might originally seem.

Should I place back or lay bets?

Ultimately, it’s all about your personal betting strategy, and the decision is perhaps best judged on a case-by-case basis. Both have their pros and cons, so considering both backing and laying as tools in your betting box is absolutely worth doing, even when you're contemplating some US president election betting.

FAQs

❓What does 'back all' mean on Betfair?

In order to help people get to grips with Betfair, and particularly the brand's large betting exchange offering, Betting.co.uk has assembled a full Betfair review which goes into great detail about the brand and the service it offers. Information is provided both for the sportsbook and for the exchange, the latter of which displays the "back all" option.

🤔 How do you place a lay bet?

Lay bets are an unusual form of bet, usually available at betting exchanges rather than standard sportsbooks. To find out how to place a lay bet, it is therefore advisable to read reviews of the most popular operators; to that end, the Betting.co.uk Betdaq review is a great place to start.

💥What is the best lay betting strategy?

Betting with a strategy is always advisable, and the same is true of lay betting. As with any strategy, research and formulating a reliable plan is crucial, and Betting.co.uk has produced numerous betting strategy guides that can assist bettors in devising their own strategy in the future.

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