A Quick Guide to Horse Laying

Horse racing and horse betting

Horse racing is a very popular sport followed by millions, many of who engage in horse betting, or in other words, betting money on those horses they believe will win the race they are running in. These punters can range from wealthy professional gamblers who make a living from horse prediction activities, to the old guy in the end of the road bookmakers who bets 20p a couple of times a day. Invariably, these punters place their money as back bets, meaning they are backing the horse to win, or in the case of an each way bet to win, or to place second or third. In its simplest form, the punter choses the horse they want to bet on, £10 on “Sharp Operator” at 10 -1 let us say. If the punters horse predictions are accurate and the horse wins, the bookmaker would return their stake and pay them £100; if it loses, the bookmaker keeps the £10. Odds fluctuate because bookmakers adjust them to make sure that income from losing horses always exceeds the pay-out on winners.

Lay betting

Horse laying, or lay betting, is a different way of betting where the punter, bets on a horse, usually the favourite or another well-tipped horse, to lose. At first glance this might seem an attractive proposition, particularly when one considers:

  • An odds-on favourite only has a 50% chance of winning; consequently 50% lose; and
  • In 2 out of 3 races, the odds-against favourite also loses.

However, when a horse bet on to lose does lose, only the value of the original stake is payable on a 1-2 basis (the original stake x2). If the horse wins, the punter stands to lose not only their stake, but also money equal to the odds on the horse. Suppose horse laying takes place and £10 is bet on a horse to lose at odds of 10-1 and it wins. In this scenario, the punter would have to pay out £100 and return the original stake. In order to recoup this loss the punter would need to take a huge risk on one or two races in the hope that their horse predictions will spot losers, or win many smaller bets placed on horses to lose.

The popularity of lay betting

One of the main reasons that lay betting is gaining in popularity over more traditional forms of betting, among those people who bet on the sport of kings, is its flexibility. Generally speaking, it is easier to predict a losing horse than a winning one. Bookmakers make their money this way, which is a good reason for them not looking very favourable on those who want to lay bets. Alternatively, Internet betting exchange sites are happy to accommodate punters wishing to place lay bets. Today most of these sites are accessible from a range of electronic gadgets able to connect to the Internet. Furthermore, the odds offered on the first favourite to lose are likely to be higher than those for it to win. For example, £10 bet on a 1.80 favourite means you would net £10 on a lay bet should it lose; but only have to pay out £8 if it won! It is important to remember that your profit isn’t going to be huge unless you bet fairly sizeable stakes, and that you may lose as often as you win. For the gambler who can make accurate horse predictions lay betting can be lucrative and a glance at tipster sites often shows that lay tipsters are generally doing better than their counterparts who bet traditionally.

Is lay betting complicated?

No, not really. However, people gamble in the hope of winning. Winning is hard enough and in order to have the best possible chance it is important the punter understands what they are doing. They will want to:

  • Take a look at the different on-line exchanges to find one that best suits their needs;
  • Make sure they understand the ins and outs of lay betting, particularly what they stand to lose if a horse they have backed to lose actually wins; and
  • Look at lay betting systems, also available via the Internet. These are designed by racing pundits specialising in lay betting and offering tips, guidance and “sure-fire” methods of getting good returns. As a subscription of some kind is usually required, the punter should tread cautiously and perhaps do some independent research on the site they have chosen. Nevertheless, valuable information may be gleaned that prevents costly mistakes further down the line.

In terms of which betting exchange to use, Betfair is hugely popular and:

  • Is the World’s largest on-line exchange;
  • Lay bets are welcome
  • Placing a bet is straightforward;
  • Odds are usually the most competitive available anywhere. Although this means that the higher the odds the less chance you have of making a profit by lay betting; and
  • You are placing a lay bet for someone who is placing a bet the traditional way to take up; you are offering a liability should the horse win the race. It is in that way that your activity resembles that of a bookmaker. Betfair minimum stake is £2 and they charge a 5% commission fee on net winnings (except on Betfair lay bet multiples which don’t attract a commission change).

Other considerations

As with standard horse racing betting, there are all types of systems on the market which claim you do not need any knowledge of horse racing or betting to win, providing you follow the instructions. However, the more you know, the better your chance of picking winners, or losers. This is why you should look at how the tipping is going; follow form; study as much as you can about popular favourites, such as in what circumstances they run well and when they don’t. Consider ways in which you can get some of your money back should your horse lose by using insurance betting or trading for a free bet. Most importantly trial your lay betting on paper only for a week just to see what might have happened had you used real money. And finally, never bet more than you can afford to lose.