The Fundamentals of Sports Betting No 1 – Backing and Laying

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When placing a sports bet on professional team based sports – such as football (soccer, NFL, AFL etc), Baseball, Hockey, Basketball and so on, a sports bettor has two wagering options at his/her disposal when viewing each particular market. Sports investment cannot occur without both of these options existing and having a party on either side to complete the wager.

These are “backing” and “laying” and they represent the two sides of any open sports market. A sports market can be anything from which team will win the contest, to the line handicap bet, to any form of “prop bets” that may be offered on the contest.

“Backing” describes supporting your favoured team with a financial investment in favour of that team.

As an example, let’s say you like Swansea City’s chances in their next match against Liverpool and you decide to check the handicap market.

You log into your online account and discover the following price on offer:

Swansea City | +0.5 | 1.826

Liverpool | -0.5 | 2.120

Liking Swansea City’s chances in this encounter, you place a wager of $100 on Swansea City +0.5 goals. If Swansea City win outright or even manage to draw with Liverpool, you will win your wager and profit $82.60.

In sports betting parlance, we say that you have just “backed” Swansea City.

On the other side of the market is “laying”. Laying describes a situation in which you do not like a teams chances and are willing to risk them financially.

In the above example where we placed a “back” wager on Swansea City, in taking that bet from us the bookmaker “laid” Swansea City to us. Bookmakers are laying prices in markets as a profession and are confident that by managing incoming bets on both sides of an event, and building in a small margin for doing so, that they can profit. Punters are hoping to overcome that margin, and through superior selections also turn a profit.

Bettors can also actively function as a bookmaker and “lay” a selection through betting exchanges such as Betfair. In such a situation, we are predicting that our selection will not win and are willing to bear the risk in this market. Unlike a bookmaker, who is usually required to lay both sides to gamblers, at a betting exchange we need to only lay, and not back it.

Laying has an important function. Not only does it allow markets to operate by taking the opposing side of every gambler that is backing a selection, but also as a means of supporting your belief and confidence that a result will not occur. This is a popular approach in horse racing.

For example, say we have the following horse racing market. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use a small field.

Horse 1: 1.90

Horse 2: 2.10

Horse 3: 3.10

Horse 4: 5.50

Let’s imagine that the fictional “horse 1”, paying 1.90, has a jockey on board that we think is performing below his best. We do not have an opinion on which horse will be victorious, however we would like to risk horse 1 and profit from this opinion. This is where one can lay an outcome for profit.

If you were to lay horse 1, you do so by accepting the “backing” side of the wager, and as a result suffer a loss if the horse wins and the backer (our counterparty) gets paid.

In this example, say a backer on a betting exchange wants to wager $100 on horse 1, your risk in this case will be $90 – the potential payout required from us to the backer, should the horse win. Your profit if the horse does not win, is the backer’s wager of $100.

Dr. Sport. – aka – Sam J. Perry.

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