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Lay, lay, lay

If you’re starting to become experienced on betting exchanges, you might already enjoy laying certain outcomes. But have you ever tried laying multiple runners? It’s an easier route to profits than you’d think, as Peter Webb explains

Laying a selection has always been a popular way to pick a winner on the exchanges. In a 10-horse race only one can win, so finding a loser has to be a much easier proposition. If finding one loser is a good proposition then what about two, three or four?

Using techniques such as dutching, backing or laying part of the field is a popular method. One problem with these techniques though, is that they carry additional risk due to the way these bets are constructed. When backing or laying part of the field on multiple selections, your profit always comes from offering quotes to the market under a total of 100% of book value. In essence you profit from the difference between your percentage offered and that in the book and the chance of it occurring.

For example, if you lay two runners at 6.00 you are effectively laying 33% of the field for a profit. You can calculate this by dividing 1 by 6 which equals 0.1667, multiplied by two runners = 33% of the field. The significance of this is that you will profit on these two by dutching, but you have a net exposure of two thirds of the remaining book in potential losses. That’s not to say you can’t profit, it’s certainly possible to profit in the long term, but only if your two selections win more than 33% of the time. Therefore you are effectively placing a value bet.

There is a variation on a theme however that offers frequent reward, slightly lower profits but significantly lower risk. To fully understand this method we have to do a little maths to show you how you will profit. What we are going to try and do is offer 100% probability to the exchange market for more than 100%. In any sports event, the entire market is always priced around 100%. Something either happens or it doesn’t. If you can ‘sell’ 100% for more than 100% you will definitely profit.

When you look at odds on an exchange each set of odds represents the implied probability of your selection winning. So something priced at digital odds of 2.00 means that it has a 50% chance of winning. This is because 1/2=0.50% or 50%. In this case we need to lay or back two selections at digital odds of 2.00 to ensure we break even by offering a 100% book to the market. There are very few markets that will be priced in such a manner, so we have to be creative as to how we achieve things. There are two ways to achieve a profit. We could change the odds or increase the number of selections. If we want to make money, rather than break even, we could change the odds to 1.98 for two selections. At odds of 1.98 both selections add up to 101% so this means that we need to lay both orders to the market to make money. One per cent isn’t a great deal of margin so we may want to lower our odds to make more. Therefore, if we lay two selections at 1.50, we would make a 33% return on our stake, a much better return for our efforts.

So where can you find two selections to lay at 1.50? You are unlikely to find them before an event starts. If you could find somebody to lay selections at 1.50, you would be guaranteed an enormous profit instantly and that’s unlikely. To find our two selections we have to use a bit of imagination and we also need to use the in-play markets. Usually in-play betting is considered quite risky, but using this method we can have a good play around at little risk. As discussed, we can also increase our selections to achieve our aim. The basis of this activity is simple, if we choose three selections we will need to lay at odds of 3.00 to break even, or odds of slightly less to profit. If we pick four selections, we need to lay of odds of 4.00 and soon on. It’s quite a simple process to understand. Basically you are looking for markets and situations where the odds on at least 2, 3, 4 or more selections shorten in price to at least odds of 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0 etc.

Horse racing in-running is perfect for these types of scenarios. Targeting a price of 3.0 in-running is effectively saying that the horse has to have a 33% chance of winning at some point in the race. You could envisage a number of ways in which a horse could trade at 3.0. If you had a short, flat race the favourite could get off to a slow start and drift slightly before recovering late in the race. Because of this drift, the second favourite will most likely shorten in price and this would give both a good chance of both trading at 3.0. In a competitive handicap over the jumps anything could happen and you would hazard a guess that more than two could trade at or under 3.0. Look at a short-price favourite or a small field over the minimum trip however, and you could be looking at a different scenario. If the favourite is already below your target price, you would get matched immediately on that favourite and have to rely upon the favourite not being in contention at some point in order for it to drift and for you to get matched on another horse that is headed into 3.0. When you put a little logic into your thought process you can suddenly see a number of scenarios where three or more could trade at 3.0 or less and some scenarios where it is much less likely.

In Figure 1 you can see we have traded a competitive handicap at Ayr. Despite being just an eight runner, the odds start near fives, so in this race we feel quite a few horses could get into contention. We used the ‘Lay All’ function in Bet Angel to lay the entire field with £10 at 2.90 and then hit the ‘Keep All’ button to hold over our positions from the pre-race market to in-play. As the race got under way Benny Be Good hit 2.90 first, followed by Race The Brave. We just needed one more horse to hit 3.0 to make a profit. Two mid-division fallers and a late surge by Tillietudlem ensured our profit. You can see that McMurrough also almost reached 3.0 and this would have given us extra profit. Currently we have a £1 profit on our three matched bets and £30 on all other runners. Four matched at 2.90 would deliver £11 profit on our four selections that reached 2.90 and we would still have a potential profit of £40 on any of the remaining runners. Whether you cancel or leave the remaining bets in is your choice and is often a snap judgement on how the race is turning out in-play.

Of course, you will get races that fail, but you will also get races that succeed unexpectedly. Going for four runners to be priced at odds of 4.00 or lower only offers limited scenarios, as you need at least four runners to hit the mark. So you should aim to vary the number of runners you are trying to catch per race. Going for lower odds means you have potentially much more profit than going for lots of runners at bigger prices. Trying to catch two runners at odds of 2.00 or lower means that there are several profitable scenarios including the occasional huge payoff when there is a shock in the last furlong. Don’t ignore other sports either, wherever uncertainty occurs, this tactic works very well.

So next time you have a bet on the exchange, rather than just laying one runner, lay at least a couple and put yourself in with a good chance of profiting.
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