Deciding Whether To Back Or Lay In Horse Racing

When you first begin to take your horse racing betting seriously there are a few questions that you need to be able to answer. The first few are questions that you may have heard a lot such as:

  • What sport am I going to bet on
  • How much money am I going to use in my betting bank
  • What size stake should I use

A question that isn’t always asked is whether you should place back or lay bets! A lot of people automatically gravitate towards laying. I think that a few of the reasons for this are:

  • There is a perception that it is easier to profit from laying
  • The strike rate is high
  • No long losing runs

What is the truth, is it better to start with backing or laying? Personally I believe that it is still easier to make a profit from backing and that is where most new punters who wish to take their betting seriously should start. Let me explain why.

Backing should be understood easily by anybody who has ever made a bet, even if it is for fun with friends and no money is involved. It is very simple in concept, you may say to a friend ‘I bet you a fiver that …….’ and if you are right then you get five pounds and if you are wrong then you give your friend five pounds. Betting at the bookies only takes this concept one step further by giving you odds, so that if you win then you can get back more than you risked. That is all you need to understand a back bet. Understanding how a lay bet works is much more complicated.

When you first start by placing back bets then it is very simple to understand how much risk you have, you can simply divide your betting bank by 100 and start placing bets of that size until it doubles. You can do the same with laying but the bet sizes are going to be a lot smaller which leads to impatience for a number of people. Understanding the risk involved in a lay bet is also more complicated and can lead to confusion on how to divide the betting bank up.

When placing back bets you are likely to have a strike rate of somewhere between 20% and 30%, this means that you will have losing runs, probably losing months. This helps to build discipline and faith in the method you are using. After you come out of the first losing period the next one won’t bother you quite so much because you know you recovered before, the longer you keep betting and coming out of losing runs then the more confident you feel in your method and the way professional betting works. With such a high strike rate when laying it is very easy for new bettors to have a losing run and begin to panic because they aren’t expecting it. ‘Why should I have a losing run when I am winning so many of my bets?’ they will and do happen even when laying but the expectation isn’t there which makes it harder for a new bettor to cope with.

Most importantly the reason that it is harder to make a profit for laying is that betting exchanges are geared towards back bettors. You can see this very quickly by looking at Betfair’s claim that their odds are 20% higher than the odds in bookmakers. If the odds are 20% higher than bookmakers then that is not good for lay bettors as it is going to make the value harder to find, especially with commission on top. Because the winning streaks are so much higher due to the strike rates then when a prolonged losing run appears a new punter is more likely to change their method and end up losing their bank.

All in all I would suggest that for anybody new to betting or looking to take it seriously for the first time begin by finding a backing method that works and build up your bank, confidence and understanding using it before venturing into laying.

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Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help punters improve their betting profits and think outside the box with their betting strategies. To date he has written over 450 articles on the site and recently started UK Racing News which has become a leading news site for horse racing in the UK and IRE. Check out my personal blog or my Google+

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