Lay Betting Term Meaning

To ‘lay’ a bet simply means you are backing something not to happen. For instance, if you lay Barcelona in the Outright Champions League 2019 Winner market, you are betting that they will not win the tournament.

The simplest method to understand this term is to think of the two sides of a bet. They are ‘back’ and ‘lay’. When using a standard betting service, the bookmaker lays all the bets. Punters can usually only ‘back’ bets. For example at bet365:

English Premier League1X2
Liverpool vs Tottenham 2.00 3.30 2.90

The punter has the following ‘back’ betting options:

  • Bet on Liverpool to win @2.00
  • Bet on the match to be a draw @3.30
  • Bet on Tottenham to win @2.90

The bookmaker has the ‘lay’ bets:

  • Liverpool not to win (e.g a draw or Tottenham win)
  • The match not to end in a draw (e.g. one side wins)
  • Tottenham not to win (e.g a draw or Liverpool win)

Sports betting exchanges such as Betfair and Matchbook are different. These are peer-to-peer betting platforms; thus the role of the traditional bookmaker is now undertaken by a punter, so both ‘laying’ and ‘backing’ is possible.

How Do I Place A Lay Bet?

Lay betting can seem daunting to new bettors because it is slightly different from the straightforward ‘back’ bet. To explain this, we will use a simple two-way market. 

Tiger Woods to win the 2019 Open Championship @ 10/1 (11.0 in decimal) 

The betting options are:

  • Yes, he will win (back)
  • No, he won’t win (lay)

On the betting exchange, punter A places a £10 ‘back’ bet on Tiger to win. This would return £110 (incl. stake) if correct.

Punter B wants to lay Tiger (bet against him winning). He is willing to match the backer’s stake of £10. This means that Punter B is accepting the liability of the wager, which in this example is £100 (the cost of Tiger winning).

  • Potential profit: £10
  • Potential loss: £100

£100 is taken from punter B’s account. £10 is taken from punter A’s account. This creates a total pot of £110 for the punter who is correct (wins).

Punter B does not have to match the backer’s stake. For instance, you can have ten punters ‘laying’ Tiger at £1. Each punter stands to win £1 profit but will have £10 liability on the wager.

Laying the favourite is a popular betting strategy as the liability is far less. Take for example the 2019 FA Cup. At the semi-final stage, the four remaining teams are Manchester City, Watford, Brighton and Wolves. 

Manchester City are favourites to win the competition with most bookmakers pricing them at 1.33 (1/3). This means punter A can back them with £100 and win £33 profit (£133 total return). Punter B wants to lay the favourite. The liability now is only £33 with a potential profit of £100 if Man City don’t win the cup.

Lay Bet FAQ

What is a lay bet?

A lay bet is placing a wager on something not to happen. For example, if you lay Arsenal in the Outright English Premier League Winner market, you are betting that they will not win the competition.