Lay On: How to Lock In Profits Using a Back/Lay Strategy

Trading at Betting Exchanges

Many punters out there like to stick to what they know – match result markets, mainstream sports, the same old strategy – and with good reason. What’s the point of venturing outside of your comfort zone when there’s money at stake?

This is perhaps why many bettors steer clear of back/lay strategies at the bookies, with many eyeing the betting exchange system with confusion and trepidation. However, there isn’t really much to it. And with the application of a good strategy, players can aim to exploit the system to lock in profits or, at the very least, cover their losses.

What is back/lay betting?

This is a strategy that is only possible at betting exchanges, such as Betfair exchange or Betdaq exchange. As you can tell by those pseudo-economically themed brand titles, this type of betting has more of an affinity with trading stocks and venture capitalism than it does with simply putting a bit of money on your favourite footy team to win at the weekend.


These betting sites can be overwhelming to the unacquainted. The reality is, however, that it isn’t as complicated as it looks. Simply put, this betting system allows you to take on the role of the conventional bettor while it also gives you the chance to be the bookie.

  • Back bet: a back bet is essentially the same as any normal bet that you might place at a conventional bookmakers. You bet for something to happen and if it happens, you win.


  • You put £10 on Leicester City to beat FC Copenhagen at odds of 3.5 (5/2).
  • If Leicester win then you return a total of £25 – £15 profit.
  • Lay bet: this type of bet allows you to take on the role of the bookmaker where you sell a bet to another bettor on the exchange. Basically, you are betting against something happening and you win if that outcome doesn’t happen.


  • You sell a bet for £10 for Leicester to beat FC Copenhagen at odds of 3.6 (13/5).
  • If Leicester lose or draw then you keep the £10 stake from the other punter.
  • If Leicester win then you are liable to pay the £10 stake and £16 winnings.

Exchange betting allows both backers and layers to set their own odds. So if you don’t see the odds that you are looking for, simply set your own and hope that there is a backer or layer out there who will take them.

Find the right odds to lock in the profits

The beauty of back/lay betting is that it’s not simply about finding a bet that you think is going to go on to win. Instead, the trick is to search out the exchange for a selection that appears to have longer odds than it should have. Like trading stocks, the trick is to see the value in something before the rest of the market catches up.


For football punters, these kind of opportunities might present themselves in the outright winner markets – who will win the Premier League? who will win the FA Cup? and so on. The fact is that pre-season and early season markets fluctuate wildly with ongoing transfers sagas, managerial musical chairs and perhaps one or two bad performances in pre-season friendlies.

Let’s take Everton as an example. The Toffees had a pretty miserable end to the 2015/16 Premier League season and they sacked their manager, Roberto Martinez, as a result. At the beginning of the summer, Everton had odds of 200/1 to win the Premier League in the 2016/17 season, which were fairly long considering this is a team of consistent top-flight calibre. If you were an astute punter, you might well have recognised this and placed a £10 stake on Everton to win the Premier, with potential profits of £2,000.

Now, Everton are a well run club, and you can be sure that Kenwright and co. aren’t going to let the club slip into disarray. Over the course of the summer, the club appointed a new manager in Ronald Koeman while also making some decent signings in Yannick Bolasie and Ashley Williams. Fast forward a few months and, 10 games into the season, the blue side of Liverpool is happy to see its team sitting just 5 points off the league leaders Manchester City.

As the hype begins to build around the team, more and more people will fancy a bet on them to win the league and, as such, the odds begin to shorten. As this happens, it is your chance to lay a bet and secure some guaranteed profits. In other words, you sell a bet at a certain price with the right odds to ensure that, whatever happens, you end up with a more money than your original £10 stake.

All in all, it might look something like this:

Back bet in May

  • Buy a bet of £10 on Everton to win the Premier League at 200/1.
  • Returns profit of £2,000 if the bet wins.

Lay bet in November

  • Sell a bet of £20 on Everton to win Premier League at 109/1.
  • If Everton don’t win the league, then you keep the £15.
  • Against your back bet stake of £10 you have a profit of £5.
  • If Everton do win the league then you are liable to pay £1,635.
  • But you also win £2,000 from your back bet so you end up with a profit of £365.

As you can see, if you play it right then you can end up with a profit no matter what ultimately happens.

The key to locking in a profit from a back/lay strategy to ensure that you sell your lay bet for more than the stake on your back bet. Also, you must ensure that the liability on your lay is lower than the profits on your back bet.

Back/lay in-play

Odds don’t just fluctuate over the length of a season, they can also change in an instant. A way to use the back/lay strategy with more immediate potential profits is in the in-play markets. This simply entails the same process of backing high and laying low, except for the fact that punters should back their bets before an event and then lay them as the action is unfolding.

This can be a implemented to great effect in horse racing. If you know that a horse likes to lead the field but has a tendency to fade then you can place a £10 stake on that horse to win with odds of 10/1. That’s a tidy sum of £100 profit coming your way if the horse manages to stay at the front until the finish line.

During the race, there will be punters who aren’t as savvy to the horse’s history who might fancy taking up a bet that you lay while the horse is leading the pack. They think the horse has the legs to go all the way so they will be willing to place large stakes as the odds shorten. This gives you the perfect opportunity to lay low and lock in some profits.

Timing is everything

It goes without saying that the back to lay strategy is all about good timing. Having your finger on the pulse of which way the markets are shifting is paramount to making this betting technique work, no matter whether you are betting on season-long outrights or in-play markets.

The only way to guarantee profits is to back a bet when the odds are abnormally high and then cover yourself by selling a lay bet when the odds begin shorten.

This ability requires a bit of knowledge about the sport in which you are betting, not only when it comes to recognising when the odds are higher than they should be but also when it gets down to laying that bet at the right time to lock in the profit.