Lay Bet

An important part of Sports Arbitrage betting is understanding how lay bets work. The difference of a regular bet (also known as a back bet) and a lay bet, is that on a back bet you bet on a team/player to win. If you were to place a lay bet on the same team/player, you bet on that team/player NOT to win. You can place a lay bet on exchanges such as Betfair, Betdaq, Matchbook and Smarkets.

Lay bet example

Let’s take a football match as an example, and lets say Manchester United is playing Liverpool.

  • If you were to place a regular back bet at Pinnacle on Liverpool, you will win your bet on Pinnacle if Liverpool wins the match.
  • If you place a lay bet at Betfair on Liverpool, you will win your bet on Betfair if Liverpool does NOT win the match. If Manchester United wins or the match ends in a draw, you have won your lay bet.

In other words, laying Liverpool is the same thing as backing both Manchester United to win or draw.

Using lay betting when sure betting

By combining a lay bet at an exchange with a regular bet on another bookie, you have effectively made a 3-way game to a 2-way game. Even though there are three outcomes of the game itself, you have bet so there only are two outcomes of your bet. If the lay bet odds is smaller than the back odds, you have yourself an arbitrage!

Lay betting terms

The terms associated with a lay bet can be quite confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty straight forward.

Backer’s stake: This is the amount you want to win. Let’s say that your backer’s stake in the lay bet example above was €100. Because you layed Liverpool, you will win €100 (minus commission, explained below) if Manchester wins or the match ends in a draw.

Commission: Exchanges such as Betfair and Betdaq charges a percentage of your winnings. This percentage is by default 5% at Betfair, but the more you turn over at Betfair, the more discount on the commission you receive.

Backer’s odds: This is the odds of your lay bet. The higher the backer’s odds is, the higher the risk (liability) will be.

Liability: The liability of a lay bet is correlated with the stake and odds. A selection where the backer’s odds is 7 means that if you lose your bet you will lose 6 (7-1) times your stake.

  • Example 1, backer’s odds is high
    You lay €100 at the odds of 7, and your current commission rate is 5%
    If you win your bet, you win €100*0.95 = €95
    If you lose your bet, you lose €100*(7-1) = €600

Lay bet explained - 2

  • Example 2, backer’s odds is low
    You lay €100 at the odds of 1.5, and your current commission rate is 5%
    If you win your bet, you win €100*0.95 = €95
    If you lose your bet, you lose €100*(1.5-1) = €50

Lay bet explained - 3


Matched/Unmatched: As with any exchange, you place your bets at Betfair/Betdaq against other Betfair/Betdaq customers, not against Betfair or Betdaq itself. Therefore, there must always be a backer and a layer for any bets made. If there is a backer for your lay bet, your bet will be matched. Once a bet is matched it cannot be cancelled, other than by Betfair. If your bet has not been matched, or only partially matched, you can either cancel your unmatched bet, leave your bet unmatched (not recommended when Sports Arbitrage betting) or accept the remaining unmatched bet at a worse odds.


Further lay bet info

Betfair has a good help section on placing bets at Betfair.