Back and Lay Betting explained

Back & Lay Betting

By backing and laying bets you can get a better value for your money, better odds, and you can even do match betting to ensure profits will come your way.

There are 3 Key points here:


  • The Betting exchanges allow you to act as a bookmaker by laying a bet (betting against a certain outcome/others).
  • When backing and laying bets at betting exchanges, you’re betting against other players.
  • Learning how to back/lay bets is crucial for becoming successful on betting and trading.


What exactly are the Betting Exchanges and how do they work?


The launch of Betfair, the world’s first betting exchange sparked a sort of revolution in the world of sports betting. Instead of being stuck with only what the usual sportsbooks have to offer, players now have the option to take the role of the bookmaker.


A betting exchange is a marketplace where players can back or lay the outcome. Basically, you can bet that a certain outcome will happen (back) or that it won’t happen (lay). If you’re laying a bet, it means that you’re betting that any other outcome will happen. If you’re placing a back bet, it’s as if you were betting that the outcome in question is going to happen, the same way you would do in a regular sportsbook. Even though there are some similarities between betting exchanges and sportsbooks, the two are not the same. The main difference is that traditional sportsbooks make profits by offering less efficient odds. Even if you covered all the outcomes of an event in a sportsbook, you would not make money. The odds are set in a way that the house always wins.

With betting exchanges, on the other hand, the bettors don’t bet against the operator. Instead, they bet against one another. So, how do betting exchanges make revenue? By taking a small commission on winning bets.

Backing and Laying Explained

Sportsbooks have been around for centuries. One of the main reasons for that is that their modus operandi is pretty straightforward. Players get to wager their money on the outcome of a match or a race. If the player wins, the sportsbook loses and the other way around. To make sure the second scenario happens more often, sportsbooks offer odds that always go to their favour.

When betting at a regular sportsbook, you’re ‘backing’ an outcome, while the bookmaker is ‘laying’ the same bet. With betting exchanges, you have the option not only to back bets, but also to lay them. In simple terms, betting exchanges let you assume the role of a bookmaker.


A betting exchange acts as a middleman between a backer and a layer. That said, in order for a wager to take place, there needs to be a punter to back an outcome and a bettor to bet against it, that is, to lay the outcome.

Both the backer and the layer need to agree on the odds and stakes before the wager is accepted. If the backer wins, the layer is liable to pay out their winning. If the opposite happens, the backer’s stake (minus the commission) is added to the account of the layer.

Back Betting

What is back betting? Back betting is simple, bookmakers publish the odds for different horses, and you back one horse by betting a certain amount of money on it. For example, let us say a horse has odds of 4.0 and you place €10 on the horse to win. If the horse wins, your back bet was a success – you will receive €10 * 4.0 = €40 as reward for the bet. However, if the horse does not win (even if it ends up second) you will lose your €10 and get nothing back in return. This is simple back betting. You are ‘backing’ a horse.

Back betting is the most common type of bet with bookmakers, and if you have ever taken a bet on a horse, you have probably done back betting without even realizing it.

To set this simple – a back bet is basically staking money for your horse to win.

Lay Betting

What is lay betting?

Lay betting is more recent and a little more complicated than your traditional back bet. Lay betting rose in popularity with the advent of betting exchange platforms where punters bet against each other rather than against a common book maker.

In a way, a lay bet is the stark opposite of a back bet. While in a back bet, you essentially say “this horse will win”, in a lay bet you are betting that a particular horse will not win. Therefore, when you place a lay bet on a horse, you are staking money on it not to win.

Lay bets are not as common and have only come into the picture in recent years. However, a lot of punters prefer taking lay bets over back bets simply because it may be easier to pick one horse from a group of horses to place anywhere but first rather than to pick one horse from a group of horses to come first.

Even though lay bets are less common than back bets, they are fundamental in certain betting strategies such as matched betting.

Here is a very simple example of a back bet and lay bet to emphasize the key difference

Back bet: I bet €10 that Liverpool will win the English Premier League this season

Lay bet: I bet €10 that Liverpool will not win the English Premier League this season

Depending on the specific bet, you may get better paying odds in either of these types of bets. If you back bet on a favourite, the odds won’t be so high paying, but if you lay bet on a clear favourite, your odds might be well paying. Likewise, if you back bet on an underdog, you’ll get good paying odds and vice versa.

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