Lay Strategies

If we can match bets to guarantee profits by placing back bets and lay bets against the same outcome, how can there be different strategies to laying bets?

Well, think of laying bets as the overall strategy, with the various different kinds of lay bets as the tactics to achieve the right result from each match. We place lay bets to match our back bets to cover all outcomes of a horse race or a football match. That’s the strategy and we can’t lose. But by picking the right tactics we could win even more.

Standard Laying

For example, Newcastle are playing Sunderland at St. James’ Park. (I stand with many a Newcastle fan and refuse to call it the Sports Direct Arena.) It’s a big game in the North East. It could go either way.

A well-known bookmaker is offering us a £10 free bet if we place a bet on one of a number of certain markets in the game. Having selected this reload from our dashboard, Yesbets uses unique odds matching software to trawl the bookie’s odds and the odds at the betting exchanges to find our best matches.

Let’s say, in this example, that Yesbets finds the best market for this particular reload to be the half-time, full-time market. Standard backing and laying these outcomes means that we might make a small loss in this qualifying bet, whichever way it goes. Let’s say 50p. But because we’ll scoop the free bet from the bookie as our incentive to bet, we will then place that free bet on a different game on a different day and make an overall profit of around £8 from this offer.

William Hill Qualifying Bet

William Hill Free Bet

This is standard laying and, for a game like Newcastle v Sunderland - it’s probably our wisest option. These derby games could go either way, even if one or the other of the teams are favourites and bang in form. The away side or so-called “lesser” side can raise their game and pull off the shock of shocks.

But there may be games, races or matches where we think that we know which way it’s going to go. And, if we think our back bet has a better chance of coming in than our lay bet or if a certain sign-up offer favours the back bet to win, we might choose to underlay to maximise any potential profit from our back outcome.


Underlay is not what Mexican carpet fitters shout to spur them on to quicker work. Aha. Underlaying simply means that we are going to under lay - we are going to place our lay bet lower than we normally would.

Now, whether or not we want to underlay depends very much on the game, match or race, the odds of each outcome and the kind of free bet offer that we are set to bag when we have completed our qualifying bets.

For example, the Yesbets Matched Betting Guide advises that we should place mug bets in order to stay under the bookies’ radars. We should be looking to place one or two mug bets - bets that any mug would make - for every bonus bet we make.

Betway Underlay Example

So, a good “mug” bet would be Chelsea to win at home. Surely that’s a banker? The only problem with betting on Chelsea to win at home is unattractiveness of the odds. We might be looking at odds of 1.45. So if we place £50 on Chelsea to win at home at odds of 1.4 we’ll be looking for returns of £72.50 - a £22.50 profit from one heck of an outlay.

Because Chelsea at home is a bit of a banker - no cockney rhyming slang intended - the odds against that outcome at a betting exchange would typically be around 1.5.

Entering these odds into the OddsMatcher reveals that, with this difference between back and lay odds, standard backing and laying a £50 bet would leave us down £2.50 whatever the outcome.

But if we select Underlay from the Lay Type box, we can see that if Chelsea win from this mug bet we will make a loss of £0. However, if Chelsea don’t win - if our lay bet comes in - then we will lose £7.25.

This is one heck of a risk. Though Chelsea should win, for many matched bettors this would be too much like actual gambling. In this instance, we’d be better to look for a different game or market with closer odds to complete our mug bets and leave underlaying for maximising free bet offers.

So if, say, a bookie offers us an enhanced-odds sign-up bonus it might well be worth underlaying. For example, a bookie is offering a free bet if we bet on Liverpool to beat Swansea with enhanced odds of 10, and exchange odds of 2. This creates a massive arb bet opportunity. If we want to bet that Liverpool will win, we can underlay to potentially see our profit double from £40 either way to £80 if Liverpool win.

Enhanced Sign Up Offer Underlay

Similarly, bookmaker offers with high wagering requirements might suit an underlaying strategy. If our back bet loses, we bag the bonus on offer from the bookie.

The Bet365 sign-up bonus is a superb example of this. This is a tasty sign-up offer that could see us bag up to £200 straight off. We deposit £200 and Bet365 gives us £200 to match. So we have a balance of £400. We place the entirety of this £400 on a single bet. Qualifying odds at the time of writing are 1.5 or greater, so because this is quite a large sum we want to stick as close to these qualifying odds as we can.

So, maybe Manchester United to beat Leicester at Old Trafford. Let’s say back odds are 1.5, lay odds are 1.52. The bookies and the exchanges think United will win.

Bet365 Welcome Offer Underlay

Now, as with most offers, we actually want the lay outcome to come in. And it might. Leicester might take a point from Old Trafford, or better.

So if we underlay - we lay less than we normally would. If the lay bet wins we take a bigger hit, but all our profit zooms straight into the exchange and we don’t need to wager any more. If United win - as most of us expect they will - we will have moved some of our funds from the exchange to the bookie, but we won’t have lost any of the value from the bonus and can try to complete wagering or lose to the exchange with our next bets.

Because we’re talking about pretty large sums here, we want to make sure we’ve got at least £1,000 in our exchange accounts before attempting to complete this offer because if the back bet wins we will need to wager out the bonus and deposit total x3 before we can withdraw anything. Or we can try and get it all shipped off into our exchange account at the earliest possible opportunity.


So if underlaying means laying less than we normally would, overlaying means laying more than we normally would. Makes sense, right? A quick flick from underlaying to overlaying on the Yesbets Matched Betting Calculator shows us just what this will mean for our profits.

In terms of sign-up or reload offers, overlaying is useful for landing bonuses that require the back bet to win in order for us to bag the bonus. For example, imagine a bookie is offering us a free bet if we bet on West Brom to beat Manchester City and our bet comes in.

We actually think City have got what it takes to beat the Baggies away from home. So we overlay this bet and, if City win as most would expect them to, we haven’t won the free bet but we haven’t lost anything either. We have minimised our losses from this game. If West Brom actually do the business, we’ll make a bigger loss from our overlay but we’ll receive the free bet the bookie promised us for betting on this market. We can then back and lay the free bet to cover our losses and make a chunk of profit on top.

Bet365 Overlay Reload

Of course, underlaying and overlaying are slightly more advanced techniques than standard backing and laying. I would advise anyone new to matched betting to stick to standard backing and laying to begin with. Then, as you become more confident in placing back and lay bets, you can adopt the right strategy for the right game like you’re Claudio Ranieri circa 2002.

Scroll to top