What is lay and back in betting

If you’re new to sports betting exchanges like Betfair, you’ve probably come across the terms “lay” and “back”. Understanding the difference between laying and backing is key to unlocking the full potential of exchange betting.

What Does It Mean to Back a Bet?

When you place a bet at fixed odds with a traditional bookmaker, you are backing a selection. For example, if you bet $10 on Nigeria to win their World Cup match at 2.5 odds, you will get back $25 (your $10 stake plus $15 profit) if they win.

This is called backing – you bet on an outcome to happen. Your risk is limited to the stake you wager.

What is Lay Betting?

Laying a bet is unique to exchange betting. When you lay a selection, you act as the bookmaker and offer odds accepting bets against that selection. You win the lay bets if your selection loses or draws.

Using the Nigeria example, laying Nigeria at 2.5 odds means you will have to payout $25 if Nigeria wins. But if they lose or draw, you win the $10 stake placed by the backer.

You take on more risk when laying at shorter odds, but get to keep 100% of the losing punter’s stake.

Backing and Laying in Action

Let’s say you back Nigeria to win at $10 to win $25. You see Nigeria’s odds are 2.6 to lay. If you also place a $20 lay bet at odds of 2.6, your possible outcomes are:

  • Nigeria wins: You win your $10 back bet (collect $25), but lose your $20 lay bet (payout is $52)
  • Nigeria loses: You lose your $10 back stake, but win the $20 lay stake

So laying and backing offsets the risk on the same event. This trade is known as arbitrage.

Why Lay Bets?

Lay betting increases your chances of winning from knowing outcomes other punters think will happen. Even if your initial back bet loses, a winning lay means you still profit. Lay bets also allow betting markets on obscure sports or outcomes traditional bookies do not offer odds for.

Getting Started on Betting Exchanges

To begin lay betting along with traditional backing, open accounts with Betfair, Smarkets or other exchange platforms. Ensure you fully understand lay betting requirements and liabilities before placing offers.

Used shrewdly, lay bets give punters an extra edge and hedging option to profit from a wide range of match, league and novelty betting markets.

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