Laying Horses

How Do I Lay A Horse?

A common question for people not used to using Betting exchanges is how to place a Lay bet on a horse.

Laying a bet is basically betting that the horse will LOSE the race instead of backing it to win.

Why would you want to do this? Well it’s a lot easier to pick losers than winners and even an odds on favourite has a 50% chance of winning unless they are a super horse like Hurricane Fly or Sprinter Sacre.

When you are laying you are basically being the “bookie” and you are offering the “backer” a liability (or to the punter the profit they expect to get) if the horse you are laying wins the race.

Therefore if you wanted to lay a horse but only wanted to risk a maximum of £20 you would set the Backers Odds at 5.00 or 4/1 and the Backers Stake at £5.00. Why, because 4 * 5 = £20.

If you want to lay instead of backing bets then there are some statistics you might be interested in:

  • 2 out of 3 odds against favourites lose their races.
  • 50% of odds on favourites lose their races.
  • At least 2 races a day in UK and Ireland are won by horses with odds greater than 25/1.
  • Certain courses favour favourites over others and some courses have very low favourite win ratios such as York, Ascct or Stratford Upon Avon whereas some others have very high favourite win ratios such as Cartmel or Folkestone.
  • The most profitable systems on this site are those that lay multiple runners per race. Only one horse can win a race so if you can get all the other runners matched at the right price there is good money to be made.
  • Unlike winning a BACK bet on Betfair no commission is deducted if you win your LAY bet.

Some of my most profitable days have been through laying favourites at courses with low favourite win rates. For example on the last day of British Champions Day and the last day of Royal Ascot 2013 not a single favourite won a race. I laid every single favourite on both of those days and cleaned up nicely.


How to Place a Lay a bet on Betfair

Betfair is the most popular betting exchange in the UK and Europe and it is where I obtain all my prices as well as the market leaders, latest winners and other racing data for this site.

If you want to lay bet you should definitely join Betfair as it enables you to bet against other ordinary gamblers in the exchange markets. You can take the SP (or BSP – Betfair Starting Price) if you just want to place win bets but you will normally always obtain better prices on any market if you bet against other people like yourself in the exchanges.

Just remember when you go into the exchange market view you are betting against other people just like yourself. Therefore you can offer or accept any price you want and you have lots of choices to limit your risk or only place a bet if the price is above or below a certain price.


Terms to remember

Back – To bet that the horse will win in the win market or finish in the place positions in the place market.

Lay – To bet that a horse will lose in the win market or finish outside the place positions in the place market.

Liability – The amount of money you are risking when laying a bet. If you were backing the horse to win it is the same as the amount of money you would make in profit if your bet won.

Limit On Close (LOC) – Limit your lay bet so that if the price is above a certain amount when the market goes in play your bet isn’t placed. If it is below or equal to that amount it will be placed. If you are backing a horse it’s the reverse in that the bet will get placed only if the price is higher than your limit and lapse if it isn’t placed.

Market On Close (MOC) – This is where any unmatched bet is taken by Betfair at the start of the race and the price and bet amount (stake or liability) is calculated from the BSPLiability amount that you specify when you place the bet. For example you must risk £10 at the minimum for a LAY bet at BSP and the minimum stake amount is £2. So unless you can get someone to match it on the exchange at the price and liability you want you can just set your bet to MOC (Market On Close) and just specify the amount of money you are willing to lose and let Betfair calculate the rest when the market turns in-play. 

More terminology can be found in the site help pages thesaurus.


Placing a Lay Bet on the Betfair Exchange

In this example we are going to place a £5 lay bet on Brantingham Breeze at the price of 5.00 which will mean a maximum liability to us if the horse actually wins the race of £20.

That is you would win £5 if the horse lost the race and would have to pay your opposing bettor or bettors £20. In reality you are just paying Betfair so they can divvy up the winnings and deduct their margin before giving out the winnings to all the backers who are betting for the horse to win.

When you are in Betfair and have selected a market you will be met with a screen where the main part looks something like the shot below.


113.0% BackAll BSP LayAll 74.3%

Brantingham Breeze

Dominic Elsworth
» £-20.00

Just Walking Jack

A. P. McCoy
» £4.75


Danny Cook
» £4.75

On The Move

Rachael Green
» £4.75


Jeremiah McGrath
» £4.75


Jamie Moore
» £4.75

Fountains Mary

Aidan Coleman
» £4.75

Dora Canina

Andrew Glassonbury
» £4.75

Agent Fedora

Ed Cookson
» £4.75


Andrew Thornton
» £4.75


Jimmy McCarthy
» £4.75

As you can see the blue columns lie under the BACK header and the pink ones under the LAY header. Therefore if you want to lay a bet you would select the pink square horizontal to your horse that lies under the LAY column.

The two grey columns either side are the most recent prices of bets of  that type that have been placed in the market. Therefore before the price turned to 4.9 for Brantingham Breeze it was 5.00 and before that 5.5.

One thing you will usually notice is that the LAY prices are always a few ticks higher than the BACK prices. This is usually the same on all markets right up until the race starts. With short priced favourites the difference is usually just a point or two but with longer priced horses you could easily find that the back price is 21.00 (20/1) but the lay price is 200.00 (199/1).

This is because people are trying to entice you to take their bet. You should also remember that the markets fluctuate a lot and you could put a price a few ticks lower down than the current average and still get your bet matched which offers good opportunities for trading your bets.

Personally I use some maths which calculates “crossovers” where the lay price has dropped below the average back price (using standard deviation) and then risen up above it again. The more crossovers, the more volatile the market is and the more chance you have of placing a high back bet and a low lay bet and getting a successful trade bet!

So to place a lay bet you have two choices

1. Place the lay bet on the exchange and hope it gets matched either before the race or if not keep it alive during the race (inplay) or convert it to an SP bet at race off time.

If you convert your lay bet to SP you should remember that only lay bets with a liability of £10 or more will get converted and that the price and therefore amount you win will be adjusted according to the BSP. Therefore your liability stays the same but if  the price has risen then your winnings if the horse loses will be less.

2. Place the lay bet as an SP bet straight away, either as a Market On Close (MOC) or Limit On Close (LOC) bet.

To do this you hit the pink column next to your horse under the “BSP” column that says “SP” on it. When you chose this option you have the ability to set your maximum liability (MOC – Market On Close) and the amount you risk is set in stone as the amount you put in the liability box.

Also the amount you win is decided purely upon the BSP price of the market when the race starts as it divides your liability by the price. So if you have set a liability of £10 and the final price is 5.00 then the liability is divided by that price to get your winnings.

You also have an opportunity to set the maximum odds you are willing to take by choosing the “Odds Limit” option. So if you didn’t want to take any bets over the price of 5.00 you would set this to that figure and if at race time the price is below 5.00 your (Limit On Close LOC) bet is placed otherwise it isn’t. Remember the amount you could win will be calculated from the liability you want to risk and the final price of the horse.

Setting your liability and price

Once you have chosen your horse and selected the relevant pink square a box on the right hand side of the screen will pop up.

Placing an Exchange based Lay Bet

laying a bet on betfairThe image to the right is what you would see when placing an exchange LAY bet.

Once you are happy with your settings then you click the “Place Bets” button.

If you are on the Exchange Betfair will tell you whether the bet has been matched exactly like a BACK bet and give you the option of keeping it inplay (during the race) or converting it to SP when the race starts or cancelling it.

Remember if you chose to convert it to SP you must have a liability of at least £10 therefore if you are aiming to place bets with liabilities less than £10 you must use the Exchange.

For example a LAY bet on a 1/10 odds on favourite (1.10) at a Betfair minimum stake of £2.00 would give you a liability of only 20p but you would need to place your bet on the exchange as early as possible for it to have enough time to get matched and if you do this I have found that most of the time it will do.


Placing an SP based Lay Bet

laying a bet on betfairThe image on the left is what you would see when placing an SP bet on Betfair in the right hand corner of the screen.

You place the liability you are willing to lose in the “Your Liability” box. So in this example we are putting £20.00 in the box.

You can also choose to limit the odds your would accept once the SP is calculated by hitting the blue “Odds Limit” link and entering the maximum odds you would be willing to accept.

Once you have done this the system will calculate the maximum amount of money you could win if the horse loses by dividing the liability amount by the Backers Odds and you can see the amount in the “Backers Stake”  which is set to £5.00.



Mitigating your losses

Laying can be a profitable way of making money on Betfair but a lot of people are put off with the risk of laying a 200/1 outsider that wins. Therefore there are many ways you can get round this sting in your bank including:

  • Limiting the maximum odds you place lay bets at.
  • Limiting the liability of the bet and letting Betfair calculate the price and your potential winnings.
  • Trading your bets so that you make money by placing a BACK bet at a higher price than the LAY bet and just winning the difference.
  • Mitigating your bets by waiting until the last-minute and if you cannot place a trade bet at a higher price then it might be safer to take a small loss by placing an SP bet at the current price.
  • Laying multiple runners in a race so that the amount you win from all the losers outweighs the amount you have paid in liability to the winning horse.
  • Following one of my LAY systems with a high ROI to the letter. One day out ten you might get a stinger but if you stop following a system after one days loss you will end up losing out in the long run. The systems are profitable over both 30 and 100 days therefore picking and choosing your bets is a sure way to not making a profit.

You can view articles about all these ways of mitigating your lays through trading and laying multiple runners on this site under the Betting Systems menu item.

Happy laying!


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