Best Lay Betting Sites in the UK: What is Lay Betting?

A lay bet is simply a bet on something not happening, the opposite of a "back bet." These types of bets are part of lay betting sites, where participants place bets not against the bookmaker, but against each other. On this page, Match.Center experts will tell you everything you need to know about the lay betting system: where you can place such bets, what the features of lay betting sites are, the commission size and how to place this type of bets. After reading this text you will get lay betting explained.

Last updated: 09.6.2023

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Lay Betting Explained

The main difference of placing bets on betting exchanges from betting with traditional bookmakers lies in the fact that you are not playing against the bookmaker, but against another bettor. That is, you can act as a bookmaker by setting your own odds for a bet or as a punter by accepting other customers’ odds. If you respond to other punters’ bet, in which they have specified the stake amount and odds, you have placed a lay bet.

Betting exchanges make money on a commission, not a margin, compared to traditional sportsbooks. This means that lay odds offered by bettors on the betting exchange are often higher than odds on traditional sports betting sites. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes it is more advantageous to place a bet with a traditional bookmaker and not on such a betting exchange. Let's illustrate this with an example.

A back bet is a classic bet, just like at any traditional sportsbook: you select a sporting event and a market, place a bet on it, and, if such a bet wins, you get your winnings. For example, on Betfair, which is one of the most popular and well-known betting exchanges, you can bet on the victory of the Italian national team at odds of 3.05. This is the most popular betting market, it is highlighted in color in the selection of betting events, and there are options with lower odds to the right of it. So, if you place a £10 bet on the victory of the Italian team in this match on Betfair, you will receive net winnings of £20.50. These odds are higher than those of other bookmakers, for example, a bet on the victory of the Italians at VBet goes for 2.90, and at 32Red - 2.80. But do not forget about the commission charged by the betting exchange. It is charged when such a bet wins and usually amounts to around 2-3%.

Betfair back bet on the Italians to win the match

Betfair back bet on the Italians to win the match

A lay bet is a bet against any outcome. In the selection of betting events, lay odds are also highlighted in color and located to the right of back bets. By placing a lay bet, we act as a bookmaker and accept a bet from other punters who have made a back bet. Therefore, lay betting odds initially include the amount we risk losing and giving to those who made the opposite bet. This amount is called liability.

Let's consider the same match as an example: we place a lay bet on the Italian team not to lose the match.

The initial odds in the selection of betting events are 2.64. Where we normally indicate the stake amount, we enter the desired amount of winnings, let's say it is £10. We get payout (£26.40) and liability (£16.40) indicators.

Is it profitable to place a lay bet on a betting exchange? As an alternative to a lay betting calculator, there is a special formula that you can use to determine lay betting odds based on liability: the desired amount of winnings (£10) on your lay bet should be divided by the total stake amount, including liability (£26.4), plus one. In our case, this is: 10 / 26.4 + 1 = 1.38. In other words, we place a lay bet of £26.4 at odds of 1.38 on the Italian team not to lose the match.

And this is precisely the case when the exchange is not profitable: on most traditional betting sites, the odds for this market are higher and are around 1.50. It is evident that the bettor, who placed the back bet on the victory of Italy offered odds that were clearly unfavorable for lay betting. And you can do the same, hoping to find inattentive opponents on lay betting sites, who will not check lay betting odds.

What is Liability in Lay Betting?

Liability is the amount of money that you risk when placing lay bets. Essentially, it is your stake amount for betting. If the bet loses, the lost money will not go to the bookmaker or the betting exchange's pocket, but to the account of the bettor who placed a back bet.

To place a lay bet, you need to find an opponent, i.e., a punter, who has already placed a back bet on the opposite final outcome.

What is the Meaning of Laying Off a Bet?

Laying off a bet is when you place a second bet to offset the potential losses of the original bet. This is a lay bet, but only against your previous bet: your previous forecast no longer holds true and you decide to place a new lay bet to cover your losses.

For example, if you lay a bet against a particular football team and the team wins, they may lay off the bet by placing a second lay bet that covers the potential losses from the first bet. To lay off your bet is akin to cashing out your bet in advance, as it enables you to secure winnings that are lower in value, but guaranteed.

Back bet

Corresponding lay bet

Over 2.5 Goals

Under 2.5 Goals

BTTS - Yes


Home team to win (1)

Away team to win or a draw (2X)

Is Lay Betting Legal?

If you place lay bets at online licenced bookmkers, your money and data are safe. Lay betting is legal in the UK by law. And from the table above, it can be seen that for the bookmaker, this is often just another type of bet. You know it is a lay bet because it is opposite to one of your previous ones.

4 Best Lay Betting Sites

  • Betfair is perhaps the most well-known betting exchange. Thanks to this, the lay betting platform has more clients, and therefore more lay betting options. The Betfair lay betting site has an excellent bet slip. Such a bet slip makes it easier even for beginners to understand how lay betting works. Additionally, it has a decent range of sports markets to bet on with the opportunity to place bets on statistics such as corner kicks and shots on goal.
  • Smarkets is a betting exchange that is known for its large selection of markets to bet on, detailed section with information on lay betting and convenient navigation. We should also mention the lay betting site's chart that displays the amount of bets placed recently, as well as the percentage distribution of bets placed on teams.

    Smarkets betting exchange chart

    Smarkets betting exchange chart

  • The Betdaq lay betting company offers a decent statistics section, but its selection of betting markets cannot be classified as its strong side, as it is quite poor, compared to most betting exchanges. However, Betdaq offers zero commission on lay bets for 100 days after registration. The online bookmaker also provides a useful section with predictions and expert analysis of sporting events.

  • Matchbook specialises in casino games, virtual sports and betting exchange, and there is no classic sportsbook in the lay betting company. The lay betting platform records its own podcasts, where you can find discussions on the latest sporting news, actively promotes itself on social networks, and records videos instructions for new bettors on how to use the lay betting platform.

Is There a Commission on Lay Betting?

Yes, there is usually a commission charged on lay bets. This is how the betting exchange makes its money. The commission on a lay bet is always a percentage of the winnings.




5% by default (it is calculated using a special formula, where a lot depends on the Betfair points that can be earned by betting in the exchange section)





2% net win and 5% net win on Enhanced Specials


Football is one of those sports where even without betting exchanges there have always been plenty of lay betting markets. Bet types like double chance, both teams to score and even goals O/U are actually pairs of back and lay bets. These options have been seriously expanded by betting exchanges, and on the best betting sites, you can place a lay bet on shots, corners, statistical player and team performance.

Horse Racing

It is quite difficult to choose a horse that will win a horse race. It is much easier to choose the one that will not come first. This is where horse racing lay betting is used. If you place a lay bet on a horse, you will be a winning bettor, if the chosen horse fails to finish first. Keep in mind that liabilities can be astronomical.

Horse racing lay betting at Betdaq

Horse racing lay betting at Betdaq


Cricket attracts many lay betting fans in the UK. In addition to the obvious betting options against the winner of the match or tournament, on the best lay betting sites, you can place prop bets, such as innings line, innings runs/overs and even to win the toss ones.

Lay Betting Tips & Strategies

In this section, Match.Center experts will provide some tips and a lay betting strategy that can be used when placing lay bets on betting sites.

  • Think carefully about your bet. Based on your personal opinion, determine the probability of a particular outcome and only then go to the betting site and look at the odds. If they are higher than you expected, you can think about placing a bet.
  • Betting exchanges are much more open betting platforms. Here, no one monitors who places bets and what kind of bets they are, and no one can reduce the maximum stake amount. That is why, many people use a lay betting strategy called Lay Off Bets. This is a bet hedge so that you can get some profit in any case. Keep in mind that, when using this betting strategy, it is very important to choose the right odds, which is not so easy.
  • Do not focus solely on popular markets, study less popular ones. By choosing selections of betting events, where fewer people have expert knowledge, you can get higher odds for your bets. But keep in mind that, in terms of small markets, it will be difficult for you to find matching bets from other players.
  • Keep an eye on the liability indicator. Make sure that this amount is within your betting budget and that you can afford to lose it.
  • Study the bookmaker before placing a lay bet. Even experienced punters can get confused on a new lay betting site, so before starting to bet on a new lay betting site, take the time to explore this betting site, its functionality and interface.

How To Place a Lay Bet?

Let’s take a look at the process of placing a lay bet on the example of the Smarkets bookmaker and betting on the France vs the Netherlands match. Here is the instruction:

  • First of all, go to the betting site and log in to your betting account or register.
  • Then choose a sport, tournament and match you are interested in. In our case, it is football, the European Championship Qualification, the France vs the Netherlands match.

  • Study the bookmaker’s selection of betting events and decide on your real money sports bet. 

  • In our example, we place a lay bet against a draw outcome in this match, meaning that we will be satisfied with the victory of either football team.

  • Click on the odds and add the market into your bet slip.

  • Enter the desired winnings amount, and then check the liability and possible return.

  • If these numbers suit you, place the lay bet.

Lay betting explained with Smarkets

Lay betting explained with Smarkets


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