What Is a Lay Bet? A Complete Guide to Lay Betting

Written By:  Pam Barnes
Last Updated:  Jul 13, 2023

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Although sports betting can get complicated, the basic idea is simple. You wager money on a specific outcome, like Arsenal scoring two goals in a game, and win once it’s achieved. What many beginning bettors don’t know is that you can also bet on something not happening. In sports betting, this situation is referred to as lay betting.

You might’ve heard of it as it’s gained quite a popularity among UK bettors in recent years. But if you don’t fully understand how it works and whether it’s worth giving a try, this guide has all the answers. Below, you’ll find everything an aspiring sports punter should know about lay betting.

Explaining Lay Betting

As briefly mentioned, to lay a bet is to back something not to happen. It’s the opposite of back betting, where you place a bet on a specific event to occur. The easiest way to explain this is via a simple example.

Suppose Manchester City is playing Liverpool in the Premier League. If you lay City to win the game, it means you actually expect them to not win it, meaning that if they draw or lose, you win. Back betting would mean the opposite. In other words, lay betting lets you step into the shoes of a bookie, playing against the outcome rather than backing it.

Now, lay betting is a relatively new concept, but it has quickly gained popularity among UK bettors. Today, practically every reputable bookie allows punters to lay their bets, with more and more of them taking advantage of this feature. A good example is the 888 guide to lay betting
Why? Well, there’s one good reason for that. Laying a bet is less risky than placing a traditional wager. Think about it, when betting on horse racing, it’s much easier to choose a losing horse rather than a winning one. The same goes for bets referring to teams winning specific competitions.

Of course, that’s not always the case. For instance, betting against a clear favourite is risky. On the other hand, laying a bet on an underdog is more likely to payout. In a nutshell, as with any other type of wagering, it all depends on many variables you should consider before you lay a bet.

Placing a Lay Bet

In general, laying a bet doesn’t differ that much from placing a back bet. First, of course, you need to find a sportsbook that offers a lay betting feature. For this purpose, you can go through our guide to the best sports betting apps.

Okay, but suppose you already have your favourite bookie. In that case, to lay a bet, you need to select your preferred betting market, choose the selection you want to lay your bet on, and place the wager.

Before you do so, though, it’s essential to understand that placing a lay bet comes with liability; more on that in a second.

Liability In Lay Betting

When backing a team to win, the money you might lose is your stake. Basically, losing a £25 bet means you lose £25 if it draws or loses. This works slightly differently in lay betting.

Keep in mind that you’re like a bookmaker here. If you lose a back bet, a bookie keeps the stake. If you win, they have to pay you out your winnings. Which, in most cases, is a much higher amount than your original stake (that’s the point, right?).

Well, since you lay your bet, this means that if your guess is wrong and the team wins, you’ll need to pay out the winnings according to the odds. That is your liability – the amount of money you have to pay out if you lose your wager.

It might sound a bit confusing, so let us make it more clear using a horse racing example.

Let’s say you lay a horse at 5.00 (backer’s odds) at a stake of £10 (backer’s stake). In that case, your liability would be £40, which is the amount of a winning backing bet. If you win, you get £10. However, if you lose, you’ll have to pay £40. The original £10 stake will return to the backer.

In short, when laying a bet, you can only win another punter’s stake.

Laying Off a Bet

Laying off a bet refers to a situation in which you bet against something you’ve already backed. For instance, suppose you back an unknown tennis player to win against Novak Djokovic at odds of 10.00 before the match. After two sets, the player you backed is winning 2:0, meaning the odds for him to win the entire game decrease.

In this scenario, you can lay off your original bet. However, it doesn’t mean you cancel it. By laying the same wager you backed, you’re betting on it to happen and not happen simultaneously. This works similarly to an early cash-out, where you can take a reduced but guaranteed payout.

Final Words on Lay Betting

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a bookmaker, lay betting is definitely worth giving a go at. By placing a lay bet, you wager against something to happen, which is the opposite of a traditional back bet. When the selection you betted against loses, you win. If it wins, you lose. It’s as simple as that.

Well, as you know from this guide, this comes with advantages and disadvantages. First of all, lay bets are usually less risky, as it’s easier to bet on a horse not to win than backing one to finish first. Of course, it all depends on the variables, but in general, your chances of winning a lay bet are higher than winning a backed one.

On the other hand, you can lose more money. As explained, by placing a lay bet, you act as a bookie. Therefore, in case of your loss, you’ll have to pay out a potential win, which is a stake multiplied by odds, which is your liability.


Is lay betting legal in the UK?

It is. You can place matched bets in the United Kingdom, with all reputable UK sportsbooks offering punters such a feature. However, make sure you only bet at sports betting sites licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

All sites we recommend at Betting Apps are licensed, so you can use our guides to find the best bookie possible.

What is matched betting?

Generally speaking, lay betting makes matched betting possible. That’s because a matched wager requires a punter to place at least two bets on opposite outcomes, where one half of the bet is a lay wager. Deciding on each halves’ stakes can be tricky, though, and you should consider several variables before making your final decision.

Is lay betting profitable?

As with any other bet type, it depends. On the one hand, placing a lay bet can help lower the risk, as it’s generally easier to predict a loss (or draw) rather than win. On the other hand, when placing a lay bet, you’re dealing with a liability, which is the amount of money you’ll need to pay out if you lose the bet.

Liability can significantly exceed the backer’s stake, meaning you can lose more than you can win. The best idea is to use lay bets when placing a matched wager to diversify your risk and guarantee yourself a payout. Decreased, but still payout.