Lay bets are a key component in the matched betting process. We place lay bets on betting exchanges, like Betfair or Smarkets. (Other betting exchanges are available). The world’s largest betting exchange, Betfair, explains lay betting as making a bet that something won’t happen.

This is actually an excellent way to describe it. And if you think about living your daily life, how many instances can you bring to mind of times when you have bet against an outcome?

“I bet that he won’t be in work tomorrow”; “I bet you can’t get this further than me”; “She’ll never move to Italy like she’s always talking about”.

Here, we are betting against outcomes. Placing lay bets at betting exchanges is exactly the same principle, but applied to sports bets.

Lay Betting on Sporting Outcomes

Lay Bet

 Now translate this to the world of sports bets.

Lucy is a football fan. She supports Bournemouth.

The Cherries have been playing well, defying expectations and earning plaudits. But suddenly they’ve suffered a host of injuries. Callum Wilson, Josh King and Jack Wilshere are all out.

And their next match is away at Chelsea.

Even the most die-hard Bournemouth supporter would agree it’s a daunting task and might not fancy their team’s chances much.

But Lucy is semi-optimistic. She thinks that her team might come away with a draw. So Lucy decides to Lay a bet against Bournemouth to win.

She is, in effect, going to bet that her team will either lose or draw. She is covering both eventualities. So she logs on to her prefered betting exchange to place her bet.

Now, Betfair operates a colour coding system in its betting exchange. Back bets - betting for an outcome - are highlighted blue. Lay bets - betting against an outcome - are highlighted pink.

Lucy just has to, in Betfair’s words, click pink in order to place her lay bet.

Each of the betting exchanges operates a colour coded system for placing back and lay bets, making the system super-easy to pick up and operate.

What's in It for Betting Exchanges?

Betfair Commission

The important bit to understand about betting exchanges is that we are not placing bets with bookmakers. We are placing bets with other people across the world. The betting exchange takes a small cut of the winner’s profits as commission for setting up the bet.

Lucy thinks that Bournemouth won’t win, so she clicks pink. Mike is much more optimistic and believes they can beat Chelsea on their own turf. He has clicked blue.

It’s like Mike and Lucy are placing a £10 bet with each other when they are about to watch the game in the pub. They give their bets to the barman, who holds the money until the outcome is decided.

The barman takes 5% of the winnings for his role in keeping the money until the game is over and the bet is decided. In reality, if the barman were to ask for 5% of winnings we’d probably just keep it between ourselves.

But this isn’t a pub. This is a betting exchange. And a commercial enterprise, so betting exchanges need to make a profit too.

Exchanges like Betfair make money from their customers betting against each other, but you’ll find fairer odds than the bookmakers offer.

Betfair, in particular, has been the focus of positive reports on betting exchanges from major news outlets such as the Guardian newspaper. When Betfair launched in 2000 it took power away from bookies and gave it back to sports fans wanting to make money from bet matching.

What Is Matched Betting? 

So, what is matched betting?

In our example, Lucy didn’t think Bournemouth could overcome Chelsea, so she laid a bet on Bournemouth to win. So if, beyond her expectations, Bournemouth do manage to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with a depleted team, she will have lost her bet.

But let’s say Lucy bets on both outcomes. As well as her lay bet, she places a back bet on Bournemouth to win.

It doesn’t have to be because she harbours lingering hopes about her team pulling off the seemingly impossible. As we know, amazing comebacks happen in sport.

Ask the Manchester United team in 1999, the Liverpool team in 2005 or the Barcelona team who made history by coming back from 4-0 down in the Champions League last 16 game against PSG in 2017.

It might be that Lucy just wants to make a profit so she can go to town after the pub.

Matched Bet Example 

So Lucy places her back bet with A. N. Other Bookmaker Plc and her lay bet with a betting exchange, like Betfair. Regardless of the outcome of the match, one of these two bets will win. That’s matched betting in a nutshell and, depending on the odds, Lucy can extract small profits from placing bets like these.

But we can do so much more.

We want to make big profits. Big profits come when we place matched bets with free bet offers from bookmakers.

Read our detailed yet snackable What Is Matched Betting? page for the ultimate low-down and matched betting tips on how to place matched bets and beat the bookies.

But, you’re thinking, this doesn’t sound right. Where’s the catch?

Surely it must be illegal to make profits from matched betting?

Aren’t sportspeople banned from betting for just that very thing?

In one word, no.

If matched betting wasn’t legal, Betfair and other Betting Exchanges wouldn’t be in business.

Paddy Power, a well-known bookmaker, and Betfair merged in 2016. Ladbrokes owns Betdaq, another betting exchange you can use to lay bets at Yesbets.

The bookies have cast envious eyes over betting exchanges, knowing that they no longer have a license to print money. It is a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

To make money from bookies in the past we would have to follow horses, or teams, intently. We would need to study form, conditions, math. Among plenty of other things.

Matched betting is perfectly legal and allows us to make money from bookies with the click of a few buttons.

And everybody’s doing it.

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