How To Lay Bet Without Becoming A Nervous Wreck

Last week on the Race Advisor we did a poll to see what the most popular types of bets are.

You can see the results below:

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It’s not surprising that Back bets are the most popular type. Based on all the comments, thanks to everyone who sent in a comment it was great to read them all, Exotic bets may have had a bigger percentage if I’d broken down the actual bets included such as Lucky 15’s etc…

Anyway… I was surprised to see that Lay betting was the second least popular form of bet.

But then I realised it was because most people seem to be nervous about placing lay bets.

When lay betting first became available it was considered the golden goose. You could now bet horses to lose!

I means, who the hell would offer that?

And then reality set in. It’s actually pretty hard to make it pay off long term and… if the horse loses you’re paying out more than you thought you would.

But in the right situation it can be a very powerful bet.

Imagine that based on your analysis you know that the short priced favourite is unlikely to win the race. But there are too many other strong runners to be happy betting just one of them.

You could dutch the race, but the return may not be so good because you have too many runners in the dutch bet.

What do you do?

You take the one piece of information that you know to be true…

The short-priced favourite is very unlikely to win this race

And you find the best bet to maximise your profits based on that knowledge.

The best bet to make based on this knowledge is a lay bet.

In order to place lay bets without becoming a nervous wreck there are two things that we need to do:

1. Fully understand how lay betting works
2. Set a maximum odds limit we’ll lay at which is within our comfort zone

First of all I want to go through how to know exactly what you’re risking when you place a lay bet.

If you’ve found it complicated in the past then forget everything you’ve ever been told.

I can promise you it’s not complicated. But if you continue reading with the preconception that it is then you’ll struggle to get your head around it.

Lay betting is placing a bet on a horse to lose.

Now let’s look at the odds and your risk.

If a horse is available to lay at odds of 5.00 then to work out what your risking by placing the bet all you need to do is subtract 1 from the decimal odds. So…

5.00 – 1.00 = 4.00

That means for every 1 unit you lay bet on a horse at odds of 5.00, you are risking losing 4 units if it wins the race and your bet loses.

That’s it. I told you it was simple.

If you want to lay bet £10 at odds of 5.00 then if the horse wins the race you will lose:

£10 x 4.00 = £40

If the horse loses the race and your bet wins, then you’ll win whatever you staked, in this case £10.

It really is that simple.

I know there’s some websites that make it look incredibly complex, but it isn’t. Bookmark this page and refer to it if you’re ever unsure about how much you’re going to risk.

So now you know exactly how much you’re going to be risking on a bet, it’s time to work out how what your maximum odds for lay betting will be.

This is going to be different for everybody so go through these calculations yourself to determine what maximum odds you’re going to be comfortable laying up to.

1. Start with the maximum stake you use with back betting

If you bet 1 unit from bankroll of 100 units on back bets, then you’re maximum stake is 1% of your bankroll.

That means that you are happy to risk 1% of your bankroll on a bet.

Work out what percentage of your bankroll you are happy to risk on a single bet.

2. Work out what that percentage is in real money

Now you know what percentage of your bankroll you’re prepared to risk, it’s time to determine what that is in actual money.

Using the above example of 1% I am going to take my bankroll, let’s say it’s £500, and work out that the maximum real money stake I’m prepared to risk on a single bet is £5.

Work this out for whatever your bankroll is.

3. Determine what you can bet at different lay odds

The final stage is to now work out what your maximum odds are going to be on Betfair.

To do this we start with Betfair’s minimum stake of £2. Take the amount you’re prepared to risk and divide it by Betfair’s minimum stake:

£5 / £2 = 2.5

Add a 1 to the result of this:

2.5 + 1 = 3.5

And that gives you the maximum odds, of 3.50, you can bet at IF you’re using Betfair’s minimum stake of £2.

Make a note of this, because you cannot bet higher than this whatever happens and you should only bet this if you’re betting no more than £2.

But you saw how simple it was to work that out?

Of course, you may decide the bet isn’t worth it to you if you can only bet £2. But the key is that we can use this exact same process to work out what our maximum odds should be.

If we want to lay bet £3 on a horse to lose then we would do:

£5 / £3 = 1.67

1.67 + 1 = 2.67

The maximum odds that we can take on this horse for a £3 bet is 2.67.

By following this process you will always know exactly how much you are prepared to risk and what the maximum odds you can place a bet at are.

You need never be worried about not understanding how much you’re risking by placing a lay bet again.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. Yes ..Brilliant insiight conveyed in easily assimiable terms . I loved reading it, but I still haven’t the time to add yet another string to my betting bow. However will bookmark it as you suggest. Thanks for the info.

  2. Thanks Michael. Very well explained but I’m afraid I shall continue to use my tried and trusted back betting. With this method I know that if I stake 1 unit and it loses, I lose 1 unit. That suits me fine. However I shall bookmark the article.l

  3. What we should all be focus is long term profit. It is not important what sport we like or team. Of course masses will always prefer BACK bets. To make profit from betting is easy like breathing. Fact is that bookmakers limit successful players,and this is the difficult part(professionals are toking how to avoid limits, and betfair is not solution for this-LOW BETTING LIMITS IN THE MORNING, NO BOG….). Rule one should be never listen to masses when you bet. I know that horse with odd 1/10 is probably going to win,but normally this horse never have value because masses are betting on him

  4. There is only one way to lay bet and that is to lay odds-on favourites. Today there were eight odds-on favourites. Five lost. Yesterday four of which two lost.

    Odds-on favourites only win 60% of their races. If you lose your stake regard it as a losing win bet!


      1. Must disagree about studying form Michael. Over the last 5 days there have been 36 odds-on races (just goes to show the poor quality of the races). If you had layed every odds-on (or evens) horse you would have made a profit of 8.45 points net BSP.

        How many successful bets would you have missed if you took account of form? Surely the price reflects this?


        1. Thanks for the reply Alan. I thought I would do a quick pull out from the database on this and you’re right, they have made a flat bet profit.

          I always like to add in some extra form reading though as I’ve always found this makes me more profits.

          However the figures for this years odds-on runners are:

          2072 runners
          899 lost
          76.91 units profit after Betfair commission

          1. Thank you for your statistics Michael

            I keep statistics on favourites and currently have 76048 records. Overall odds-on (and evens) favourites have won 57% of races from these figures. Handicap races they won 54% and non-Handicap 57%. Breaking down these figures into field sizes ,age range of race, etc doesn’t produce any significant change in percentages.

            What is interesting are the statistics for individual courses. For instance at Bangor the percentage of winners for handicap races is only 40% and there are 3 handicap races today.

            I even have a program that looks at the prices and that produces some amazing statistics.

            One of my favourite hates is the use of the words won or lost when discussing laying bets. The expressions are so full of ambiguities. I say that a lay is successful or unsuccessful – no ambiguity there!


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