No doubt you are familiar with how online sports bookmakers work. The bookie sets the odds, you place a bet and you either win, lose or sometimes tie. Betfair is one of Australia’s best online sports betting websites because they often have the best odds. Why is this? It’s because unlike other online sports betting websites, Betfair is an ‘exchange’ as opposed to a ‘bookmaker’. This basically means punters are betting against each other and Betfair just takes a small commission.
This unique exchange style of betting offers punters two types of options - back and lay. Think of it as either being the bookmaker yourself, or betting against a bookmaker, except in this case, the bookmaker is just another regular Betfair customer like you!
So, before you sign-up to Betfair, be sure to read on and find out all about how to back and lay bets on Betfair.
Back and Lay Bets Explained
BACK bets are just the same as you’ll find on other sports betting websites. You are backing that an outcome will indeed happen. For example, Roger Federer will win Wimbledon or Hawthorn will beat Sydney in the AFL. The great thing about placing your back bets on the Betfair exchange is that, in most cases, you’ll be getting a better price for your bets than you would on the bookies. Even with the Betfair commission factored in. This makes betting on Betfair a really attractive option.
However Betfair gives you a second option, and that is to LAY. Basically it’s the opposite of a back bet. You’re betting that an outcome will NOT happen. So if you lay Roger Federer to win Wimbledon, you’re betting against him winning. Your bet will be paid if he loses.
For new punters, the idea of backing and laying bets sounds a little daunting, but it shouldn’t be. It’s actually very easy to do, and using Betfair is the preferred way to bet by many professional punters.
Let’s take a step-by-step walkthrough of how to place back and lay bets.
Finding your market
Betfair have recently redesigned their website, so it is a little tricker to navigate to your market of choice (how nice of them!). The main thing to remember is that lay bets must be placed on the Exchange tab (as opposed to the Bookmaker tab). The Exchange is where the market is set by other punters – it’s where you’ll get the best prices on your back bets and the only place you can lay bets.
Once you’ve found your chosen sport, click the “View Full Market” link and you should see a screen similar to the following:
The market screen
So this is our Wimbledon Men’s Singles Outright Winner market. As you can see, Novak Djokovic is the favourite ahead of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, while Roger Federer is on the fourth line of betting.
In the screenshot above, you’ll see six columns. The numbers probably look overwhelming, but it’s simpler that it appears.
* The three columns on the left are the Back bets, while the three on the right are for Lay bets.
* For now, the only columns we need to worry about are the two in the middle.
* The large number in each box is the price, and the small currency number below it is the amount of money available in the market at that price.
The column highlighted in blue is the current price that you can back to get your bet matched straight away. So at the moment, it looks like someone is prepared to accept a bet on Federer at $8.20 for up to an amount of $61.
If Joe Punter wants to bet $100 on that price, then all he has to do is click on that blue box and enter the $100 he’d like to bet. He will get the first $61 matched immediately, while the remaining $39 will sit in the market at that price until someone is prepared to take that bet. He can leave the $39 bet in the market and wait, or cancel it at anytime.
Placing a Lay Bet
So how does that extra $39 get matched? Well, that’s where we look at the other side of the coin.
Federer is certainly past his prime, and say that we think that he can’t win the championship. We’re prepared to “take him on” and bet against him winning. To do that, we could back all the other players in the field, or more simply, we can lay Federer.
The column highlighted in pink on the market screen is the current price that we can lay that will be matched instantly.
So when Joe Punter put his $100 on Federer in the previous example, the numbers in the market would change as follows:
So we look at the market and decide that Federer’s true odds should be a lot higher, so if people want to back him at $8.20 then we’re prepared to take that bet.
All we have to do is click on the pink 8.2 box and enter the amount we’re willing to lay. So for this example, let’s just lay for the $39.
This is the part where new punters get confused.
When we place this lay bet, we’re not risking $39. That amount represents how much we are going to win (we win Joe Punter’s bet). The amount we are risking is actually (8.20-1) x 39 = $280.80.
That’s right. We’re actually risking $280.80 to potentially win $39. Before you confirm your bet with the “Place bets” button, the market on the left of the screen will show an indicator of the outcomes if you go ahead and place the bet.
* If Roger Federer wins the tournament, we lose $280.80.
* If Roger Federer loses, then we win $39 regardless of who wins the tournament.
That sounds crazy! Why should we ever risk so much to win so little?
There are certainly risks with laying, like there are with any sports betting. The reasons why we would lay include:
* that is the true outcome of the event is a lot higher than people think. It’s the reverse concept of taking “overs”. If the price is too short, then the right play might be to lay the outcome and take the value that way.
* Lay to back strategy – sometimes people will lay an event that will drift to even larger odds with the intention of then backing at the higher price to build equity or hedge to lock in a profit.
* Lay multiple outcomes – punters may lay more than one outcome, which offsets the risk, as part of a larger strategy.
* The shorter the price, the better the risk-reward ratio (see below)
Laying short-priced favourites
Not all lay bets have to be high risk. Let’s look at an even money ($2.00) example such as the flip of a coin. If I back tails or lay heads, it’s exactly the same outcome. It doesn’t matter which way I bet, I’m risking $1 to win $1.
Now if we look at a really short-priced favourite, say Novak Djokovic to win his Wimbledon Round 1 match, he might be as short as $1.01.
If we lay him at $1.01, then we are risking just $1 to potentially win $100! If Djokovic pulls a hamstring then you might be a good chance to win! There have been many, many, many $1.01 favourites who have lost across a range of sports, and in fact, laying $1.01 favourites is a common laying betting strategy that we’ll go into more detail in another article.
The market is fluid
Remember that the Betfair sports exchange is fluid. The market is always moving, just like a stock market. There are ebbs and flows depending on a huge range of factors. In stocks you want to buy low and sell high, and it’s the same concept with trading on a sports exchange. Keep a close watch for movements and look for trends to try and get the best possible price.
Liquidity is also a very important concept. As we saw in the example above, there was only $61 available at the price that Joe Punter wanted to back Federer. If he wanted to bet $1,000 then he would probably have a hard time getting matched at the price he wanted. Some sports have more liquidity than others, so it’s an important factor to consider when trying to get your bets matched. The more obscure the sport, the more unlikely that you’ll get your bets matched.
Don’t be afraid to give it a try
We’ve only just scratched the surface of the Betfair sports exchange and the power that it holds. It’s very easy to get started with small bets just to test the waters and get comfortable with the software and go from there. Throw a few lay bets on at $1.01 to try and land an upset or two!
The beauty of Betfair is that it can be used by new punters looking to get the best price for their bets, all the way through to professional sports traders who adopt advanced betting strategies and using sophisticated software to trade these markets. We’ll do our best to bridge the gap between the two and bring you plenty more sports trading articles in future.