When you lay a bet, you are in essence acting like a bookmaker.
Example: You think that the horse Bonny will not win the race. Therefore, you accept wagers from gamblers that want to bet on Bonny as a race winner.
Today, this is usually done on betting exchanges online (e.g. Betfair), where punters can chose if the want to bet in the more traditional sense or if the want to lay a bet instead.
If you are a novice horse race bettor, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from laying bets. Start out with learning the ins and outs of traditional horse race betting first, and then make the transition in to laying bets when you are ready. As a novice, it can be difficult to properly calculate and realize the risk of laying a bet in relation to the possible profit.
Example: You are laying the horse Bonny for €10 at 10-1. This means that you are risking €100 of your money hoping to win €10.
A very low strike rate will be required to make a long-term profit.
Selecting a horse to lay
Successful punters usually look for two types of horses to lay:
- A horse that, according to them, has a very low chance of not losing
- A horse where the price is unevenly matched with its chance of not losing
A common beginner mistake is to simply look at one horse in the race and decide it’s weak, and they be very eager to lay a bet on it. The thing is, you must take the other horses into account as well. Even a weak horse can end up winning a race if all the other horses are even weaker, are being disqualified, etc. So, instead of just finding a weak horse, you must find a horse that is weak in relation to other horses in the race.
Backing out by using a counterweight bet
It is a good idea to keep an eye on live markets, such as Betfair’s live market, because movements on these markets can be the canary that you need in the coal mine of laying bets. If a horse that has been considered weak suddenly attracts large volumes of bets before the race, this may indicate that there is information out there that makes bettors believe the horse has a stronger chance of winning than what you would assume looking at just the basic performance history of the horse and its opponents. In such a situation, I usually hedge myself to prevent a big loss. I place a backing bet that counterweights me laying the horse. I won’t win anything from this race (heck, I might even end up losing a bit) but this is still better than taking a huge risk with a lot of money.
Laying services online
Several laying service are available online. You subscribe, and they give you lists of horses that they think will lose. The quality of these services vary greatly, chiefly based on how much research that actually goes into putting the lists together. Generally speaking, a serious laying will publish its historic results so that you can see for yourself how they have performed in the past. Look for the strike rate rather than being overly caught up in the positive side of things. High strike rate? Probably not a good laying service.
An important thing to keep in mind is that many laying services will publish their results to “Starting price”. In reality, you will probably be laying at a considerably higher price than Starting price, so this must be taken into account. Instead of paying 2-1 when the horse wins, you will be paying 2.2 – 1, 2.3 -1 or similar. It is also important to realize that on pretty much all sites, you will be paying commission on winning bets.
In the field of horse race betting, trading is when you trade on both sides of a bet as the price changes, in order to obtain a profit. By both sides of a bet, we mean betting and laying.
You lay the horse Bonnie as a winner for €100 at the odds 2-1. Your liability is thus €200. Over time, the market drifts and Bonnie eventually go out to 3-1. You bet €75 back. You are now in a position where you can’t lose.
- If Bonnie wins, you have to pay out €200. But you will also win €75 x 3 = €225. In the end, your profit is €25.
- If Bonnie doesn’t win, you collect €100 since you get to keep the bettors stake on Bonnie as a winner. You lose your own €75 bet on Bonnie as a winner. In the end, you make a €25 profit.
This might look simple, but being a successful trader requires skill since you must be able to correctly predict future movements of the market.