Laying a bet

Laying Horses

Laying is the process of picking a horse (or horses) in a race which you think is going to lose, and then offering odds on a betting exchange to other punters who wish to back it.

On the one hand this sounds very easy to do – you pick one horse and the rest of the field are running for you. However in reality laying is a lot harder than it sounds.

The returns from laying can be small in relation to the amount you are risking. For example if you laid a horse for £10 at 10-1 you are effectively risking £100 to win £10 (odds of 1/10). Likewise if you laid a horse for £10 at 2/1 you would be risking £20 to win £10 – (odds of 1/2).

In order or make a long term profit at such small returns, you need to ensure you have a very low strike rate, or at least one that keeps your betting bank in the black.

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When looking for laying selections, you need to try and find one of two types of horse –

  • A horse where their chances of winning is very small
  • A horse where there is some value in its price. I.E. its price is unevenly matched with its chance of winning.

Once you have found the horse you think will lose the race, find the horse or horses that you think will win it.  your weak horse will still win races if ALL the horses in the race are weak and there isn’t a better one that can beat it. You are not only looking for the weak horse, you must find something that is capable of beating it.

Take notice of the live market in Betfair – if your horse is weak, a lot of the time they will drift in price, if for any reason they start to come in before the race, and by this I mean with volume – a proportionately large amount of money being bet, rather than a few hundred pounds chasing a price in, at a small meeting,  it could potentially mean that there is information out there that you are not aware of, that indicates that the horse has a better chance of winning than it would originally seem on paper. In those cases, it may be wiser to back out of the lay by placing an equivalent backing bet, even if it means taking a small loss. Better to take a small loss and bet on the next race, than ignore the signs and take a big hit. 

Laying Services

There are a number of laying services available on the internet that you can subscribe to, that will list horses they think will lose. These services can be very good, as they have done all the research for you already, however If you choose to use one of these services, be sure to check their historic results and avoid any that do not publish them.

Also remember that they are likely to publish their results to “Starting Price”, in reality when you are laying you will be laying at a higher price than SP, so when winners come along you wont be paying 2-1 you will be paying out 2.2 or 2.3 to 1. In addition you will be paying commission on your winning bets, so be sure to factor that in when calculating what profits you could have made from their selections.

Ideally, the best laying services will have just a few bets a day and have a very low strike rate of winning horses (losing bets). In that way, the amount you lose in price premium, is relatively smaller than a service that provides a lot of bets and subsequently more winners.


The most common mistake for new punters is to start a new system but then stop betting it when there is a long run of losing bets. As soon as you stop your losses are consolidated and you may then miss out on a long run of winning bets. Of course this has to be balanced with common sense, but you need to give a system a fair chance to show its true colours.

If you are using a laying system or a laying service, your bank needs to be able to withstand a long run of winning horses (losing bets), without impacting your decision to bet them. In order to do this you must set your stakes at a low level that wont affect your judgement should be there a losing run.

  • If your system is successful, you can raise your stakes later and by then you will have a higher betting bank and a cushion should the system then hit a losing patch.
  • If it is unsuccessful, you will be pleased that you kept your stakes at a low level.

There are many types of staking plans as mentioned in the Betting Overview section. Everyone has their own preference and different plans are right for different people, but staking for layers will vary to backers, as your exposure is greater and the returns lower.

Some people prefer to maintain a maximum exposure amount by varying the stakes depending on the odds, in this way your exposure is limited regardless of the price of the horse – this method is popular for those that bet horses with higher prices.

Other people, will maintain a fixed stake looking for a set amount of points each month. They need to maintain a low stake as mentioned previously in order to ride out any losing streaks.