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Think you know betting? Try playing God.

Every year the Melbourne Cup brings 24 of the world’s greatest stayers together to compete in the Race That Stops a Nation. With that brings 24 incredible stories to tell. From the wondrous internationals to the comeback kings and true rags-to-riches tales.

We know there can only be one winner. But at Betfair, there are punters winning on every horse that passes Flemington’s winning post. Even the stragglers at the tail end of the field. How is that possible?

Welcome to lay betting. The new frontier of the wagering universe that could change the way you think of betting forever. It brings every result into play – winning and losing. It gives you the chance to succeed, even when events don’t go as planned.

Simply put …

When you place a lay bet, you are betting on something not to happen.

Let’s think about the Melbourne Cup again. Remember: there can only be one winner. But what about the others trailing behind them? If you place a lay bet in a “Win” market, you can celebrate if the runner tails off at the back of the field.

There are more examples, like

  • What if you think the Sydney Swans won’t win the AFL Premiership?
  • Or neither of Manchester United nor Liverpool will beat each other.
  • Perhaps Australia and England will avoid a draw in the Boxing Day Test?

In each case, you can choose to lay the result you think won’t happen and get paid out if you are proven right.

This is how lay odds look like on the Betfair Exchange

Take our AFL head-to-head market as the example. If Collingwood’s lay odds were $1.50 against Richmond, that means the Magpies are a $1.50 chance to lose the game.

Let’s lay bet: a step-by-step process.

Before we dive into a market, let’s walk you through the steps for placing a lay bet.

  1. Choose your market selection: just like if you’re back betting – but this time, pick the market selection box in pink. The odds here are the smallest price currently available to lay in the market.
  2. Take the odds available – or set your own: again, you can adjust the odds box to an even shorter price. But remember: those odds will only be in locked in if another punter (the ‘backer’) matches them.
  3. Enter your stake: unlike a back bet, your stake is the money you want to profit from the predicted result (before commission plus any additional fees and charges). It’s also called the ‘backer’s stake’ because you essentially want to keep the money of someone who’s wagering that the same result will happen. (This is the basic idea of bookmaking.) It is not, however, the full amount that will be deducted from your account when you place your lay bet. That number is your ‘liability’.
  4. Liability explained: this is the amount you could lose if the result does not fall your way. It is calculated as follows:

Liability = [lay odds x backer’s stake] – backer’s stake 

If you wanted to lay the Sydney Swans in the AFL Premiership market at the odds of $8.00 and entered a $10.00 stake, that means there is someone else putting $10.00 on (backing) for the same result to happen at the same odds.

For the backer it’s $10.00 x $8.00 = $80.00 payout – a $70.00 profit. And that backer’s profit becomes your liability.

  1. Place your bet: now you know what liability means, hit that ‘place bet/s’ button and start the lay bet experience.

Why is lay betting a lucrative venture?

Let’s return our Melbourne Cup scenario to the stage.

You’ve got 24 horses in the race. There’s only one winner. Finding that winner can be extremely hard when you’re pouring over different form lines from different states, regions and hemispheres. How do you land on one good back bet?

Turn to a lay bet and you’re essentially backing the other horses in the race to beat the one you’re laying. On sheer head count alone (23 against one), the odds are stacked in your favour.

Similar logic works for sport. Let’s say the odds for Jordan Spieth to win the Masters Tournament are too short, but you don’t know who else to back. Place a lay bet on Spieth and you are backing any of his opponents to win instead. Sounds easier, right?

Just remember though: the bigger the odds for laying, the greater the liability you face. Know your odds and how to minimise risk. Bet wisely and bet with care.

Lay betting = trading the odds.

The chance to lay opens the door to betting opportunities you won’t find with a traditional bookmaker. We will explore these in more detail later, but here’s a quick snapshot

  1. Trading on racing and sport: lay something not to happen at lower odds, then back it at a higher price to secure a profit. You’re playing the betting game here and the result of the event becomes meaningless.
  2. Lay betting on racing in-play: consider yourself a form student? Find an edge through video form and more by laying lead horses you know have a weakness at the finish.
  3. Arbitrage betting: or ‘arbing’ for short, where you back a selection with a traditional bookmaker, then lay the same selection on the exchange at odds which can secure a profit. Like trading, you’re now letting the result just play out.

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