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Back and lay are two different types of bet. To back something simply means placing a bet that something will happen, such as a horse winning a race or a particular football player scoring a goal. If you lay rather than bet on your selection, however, you are effectively betting for something not to happen. In lay betting the bettor takes the position of bookmaker, and wins the bet if the outcome which they lay doesn’t happen.
Backing a team or individual to win a sports event is the simplest form of bet, although it can be placed as a single bet, an each way bet or as part of an accumulator. A single bet which backs Arsenal to beat Burnley at odds of 5/1 will generate a profit of £25 on a £5 stake.
A lay bet on Arsenal the same match will generate a double chance of winning, in that it will pay out if Arsenal lose or draw the match with Burnley. Placing a lay bet means acting as the bookmaker and facing a set liability if the bet doesn’t come off. Some bettors utilise back and lay betting within a single match in order to guarantee a profit, but this is a tactic which relies upon a thorough knowledge of both the teams involved and the betting markets.
A bet can be placed to back a draw at the start of a match and then, if the score is drawn at half time, a bet to lay the draw could be placed at fresh odds. If the match is draw then the original back bet is successful, but if the match isn’t drawn then the lay bet wins out. In either scenario the stake of one of the bets would be lost (plus a liability on the lay bet), but the winnings from the other bet should outweigh this loss. Back and lay bets of this kind are complex and only result in small, albeit potentially repeated, winnings. They should therefore only be attempted by more experienced bettors.