Guide
Gambling

What is Back and Lay in Cricket Betting

We dive head-first into back and lay in cricket betting, providing you with examples and explanations.

Ollie Ring
Ollie Ring

Last Updated: 2024-05-22

A. Tzamantanis

12 minutes read

Yogendra singh cricket
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Cricket has continued its surge in popularity, with 2023’s ICC World Cup smashing viewership records. Disney’s Hotstar revealed over 59,000,000 concurrent viewers watched the tournament’s final, in which Australia toppled host nation India by six wickets. 

The sport’s set to continue to attract new fans globally, as the sport’s most explosive short-form tournament, the T20 World Cup, heads to the West Indies and the United States of America in 2024. 

Where there’s growth in a sport’s popularity, an increase in sports betting is never far behind. One more niche type of betting on cricket is ‘back’ and ‘lay’ betting, which are markets specific to betting exchanges. 

Betting exchanges remove the ‘house’ and allow players to bet against each other, and make the markets. In this article, we’ll explain the phenomenon of ‘back’ and ‘lay’ betting in cricket which are two different types of bet, depending on what you believe the outcome to be. 

What is Back Betting?

Back betting, in a nutshell, is akin to normal online sports betting. If you believe an event will happen, you back it to happen. The difference is that you can select which odds you’ll take it at.

How does it work? 

When betting on an exchange, you’ll see a long list of decimal betting odds, effectively pricing the same outcome but at an array of prices. This is because the prices are set by other bettors who have placed a ‘lay’ bet. 

When selecting the outcome you wish to back, you simply select the market you wish to back at the price you want, and place a bet. As long as there’s enough liquidity in the market, your bet will be accepted. Sometimes, there won’t be enough people offering the market at those odds and only part of your stake will be accepted. 

Equally, if you want a better price, you can select even better odds and the exchange will automatically match you with a lay bet should someone price the market at the odds you desire.

An example would be as follows, if you’re looking to back India to beat England on an exchange: 

  • Back India to beat England at 2.10. A $10 bet is matched: $10 stake returns $21 (including stake) 
  • Back India to beat England at 2.60. A $10 bet is partially matched: $5 stake returns $13 (including stake). Generally, the $5 unmatched would be left pending until the match starts, where it would be voided and added back to your balance
  • Back India to beat England at 3.10. Unmatched: $10 stake does not get matched with any layer, and the bet is added back to your balance upon match start

Back betting in cricket

Back betting in cricket is simply finding a bet you think wins and placing a wager. Common markets that can be backed are: 

  • Match outcome (e.g. back England to win)
  • Total sixes (e.g. back Under 6.5 sixes, or back Over 6.5 sixes) 
  • Most sixes (e.g. back England to hit most sixes) 
  • Bets on specific overs
  • Super Over (e.g. back “Yes” to “Will there be a super over?”) 
  • Top team batsman (e.g. back Joe Root to be top English batsman) 

The markets are dynamic, and often very busy in-play as bettors react live to what they’re watching on television or through a stream.

A cricket ball on a pitch

What is “Lay” Betting?

In a normal betting situation, the bettor is wagering that an outcome will happen (backing), and a bookmaker is betting that an outcome won’t happen (laying). 

The trader pricing the market will calculate the implied probability, and then apply a margin, or ‘vig’ before allowing punters to place a bet. 

An exchange removes the need for a trader, instead providing the technical infrastructure for customers to both back and lay bets themselves. By laying a bet and being matched with another bettor, you can effectively become the bookmaker. 

How does it work? 

When you’re laying a bet, you select the specific outcome you don’t believe will happen. The exchange will then offer you the chance to decide the odds you’re going to offer, and the backer’s stake you’re willing to accept. 

Just like with placing a back bet, if your lay is unmatched on the exchange then it will simply become void and you won’t win or lose any money. 

A simple example of a lay would be if you do not believe India will win the T20 World Cup. If you wish to lay India at 9.0, to win the backers stake of $10, you’ll have a total liability of $80 (as you’re now the bookmaker). 

Once the bet is matched, there will be a total betting pool of $90, comprised of the backer’s $10 stake and your $80 liability. Upon settlement of the bet, either you’ll win $10, or you’ll lose, and the bettor will win $80. 

Differences Between "Back" and "Lay" Betting

The fundamental difference between a back and a lay bet is simple: a back bet is betting on an outcome to happen, and a lay bet is betting on an outcome not to happen.

Within the remits of normal sports bettor staking, back betting typically offers the chance at higher returns. Backing a 9.0 wager will provide you with $80 profit from a $10 bet. To make $80 profit when laying a 9.0 bet, your effective liability would have to be $640. 

Lay betting provides the opportunity for more consistent, yet smaller profits given you’re effectively backing multiple outcomes with each lay bet. This is reflected in the size of the profits based on the overall liability. 

The key difference in risk profile is that should you lose a back bet, you risk losing your entire stake. When you lose a lay bet, you have a higher liability so risk losing more than the matched bettor’s stake. 

When to Use "Back" Betting in Cricket

It may sound obvious but use back betting in cricket when you strongly believe a certain outcome will happen and the price is worth it. 

If you’ve done all of your research before the tournament and have settled on India to win the World Cup, then you may decide to start looking for the best value across multiple operators. Often the exchange will be best priced given there’s no bookmaker involved.

A cricket pitch

In-play back betting opportunities

Where the exchange, and back betting really comes into its own is when there’s dramatic swings in-play. 

To use an illustrative example, let’s say you’re watching England versus Sri Lanka and before the match you heavily fancied England. By your calculations, there was not enough value to place a wager, so instead you decided not to have a bet.

England are chasing a medium sized total, but lose two wickets in the first two overs. Whilst you think England have enough to get through, there may also be bettors who now think Sri Lanka will win. As such, the odds will fluctuate and you’ll find significantly better odds popping up on the match outcome market. 

Another good time to place an in-play back bet would be on the Over market with total sixes after a slow start, if you know there’s strong power-hitting later on in the batting order and think the pitch will flatten out and become more batsman-friendly. 
Ultimately, the key is to spot when you still have confidence in the back outcome, but the market is losing confidence. This will automatically throw up the best possible back odds and opportunities. 

When to Use "Lay" Betting in Cricket

The fundamental idea behind lay betting is to bet on when you’re confident that a specific outcome will not happen. 

Broadly speaking, there are two main ways that you may look to utilize lay betting in cricket. These are as part of a high volume bet strategy, or as hedges against other back bets you’ve made. 

High Volume Strategy

Given lay betting is often covering a plethora of bets under one umbrella, it provides bettors with an opportunity for small increments on a regular basis. 

For example, when laying Rohit Sharma to be the highest run scorer, you’re effectively betting on any other player to do it instead. For a risk of $10, the returns will likely be considerably smaller – but the implied odds are markedly higher. 

The risk with this strategy is that you’re theoretically risking a lot to make a little; one loss can see you lose the profit made on ten prior bets. 

Hedging

Hedging is a strategy in which you place a second wager, against the original bet you’ve placed. This can be to guarantee profit from either outcome once the event has started, or to minimize a potential loss-making position.

If you’ve backed India to win the T20 World Cup at odds of 9.00 with a wager of $10, then you’ll be set to make a profit of $80 should they win the tournament. If they’ve made it to the final, where they’re odds of 1.50, then by laying them to win the final at odds of 1.44 with $45 would guarantee would provide potential payout of $64.80 should they lose. 

Your position has therefore changed to make $35 profit ($80 minus $45) should they win, and $9.80 profit should they lose. By placing a hedge, you’ve guaranteed profit no matter the outcome. 

Risks and Considerations

As with every type of online sports betting, there’s risk involved in back and lay betting and you should always take great care when gambling. We’ve outlined key risks and considerations to take into account when you’re back and lay betting in cricket.

Losing money and unlimited liability

You should pre-define your budget for gambling, and ensure you only bet what you can afford to lose. With back betting, the risk of picking the wrong outcome and losing your entire stake remains the same as if you were betting with a traditional sportsbook operator.

When it comes to lay betting, you should ensure you fully understand how it functions and read the terms and conditions of whichever exchange you’ve decided to bet with. Often exchanges will limit your liability to the amount you have in your account, but if you’ve budgeted $1000 for a month, it’s unlikely you want to lose it all on a 81.0 odds lay bet gone wrong.

If you’re looking to lay at 4.2, triple check that you type 4.2. Inputting 42 instead could be a very costly error. 

Lack of exchange liquidity

Without liquidity, an exchange simply does not function. For a bet to be made on the exchange, a back bet must be met with a lay bet providing those odds.

If there’s only two people using the exchange, and only $10 in liquidity, then all of the potential benefits of an exchange very quickly disappear. If you can’t get your bet matched at the price you want, then you will quickly find yourself frustrated as it simply won’t be possible to bet. 

Tips for Successful Back and Lay Betting

If you’re exploring back and lay betting and using an exchange to its full potential, then it’s safe to say you’re on the ascent from novice sports bettor to experienced. 

We’ve provided some of our best tips and tricks for maximizing your success.

In-depth research

It is imperative that you use every resource you can to best educate your betting decisions. There are ample statistics on player and team form, batting averages and performances against certain types of bowlers and even as granular as on specific grounds. 

Once you’ve identified betting opportunities compared to market prices, decide if there’s a back or lay position you wish to take, consider your bankroll and place your wager. 

Manage your bankroll effectively

It is absolutely imperative that you manage your bankroll effectively in order to become a better online sports bettor. You should allocate an amount for betting that you can afford to lose, and never deviate from it.

Make sure that you detach emotion and adrenaline from your sports betting decisions. We have all been on hot streaks, and periods where we can’t win a bet to save our lives. Continue to follow your pre-determined strategy, and only bet on well-researched and thought-out bets. 

Conclusion

Back and lay betting is one of the most exciting and different ways of wagering on sports. The market opportunities and different positions you can take as a bettor are countless, and given it allows you to become a bookmaker it provides you the chance to dictate the prices you want. 

Becoming a successful back and lay sports bettor requires dedicated research and analysis, and an understanding of when to place the bets. This method of betting can be unforgiving should you not understand it, so make sure you take your time in understanding the key terminology and how lay betting works.

As we all know, one delivery can completely change the course of a cricket match. Watching and reacting in-play to a T20, or even a Test Match can throw up hundreds of betting opportunities and markets change and adjust to the latest hit for six. 

Knowing the ins-and-outs of how markets work, plus being able to notice momentum shifts in the game of cricket will help you master the art of back and lay betting.   

FAQ

What is a back bet?

Placing a back bet is simply putting your money on an outcome to happen.

What is a lay bet? 

Placing a lay bet is doing the opposite; putting your money on an outcome not to happen.

Are losses unlimited with a lay bet? 

Theoretically your losses can be unlimited with a lay bet, as you become the bookmaker. The vast majority of betting exchanges will only let you have a liability as big as your account balance, so it’s unlikely you’ll actually be liable for more than your balance.

Is back and lay betting legal?

Back and lay betting is completely legal as long as you’re wagering with a regulated sports betting exchange. Make sure you check each individual site to ensure that it’s legal to wager with them in your territory, and you’ll receive the consumer protections you desire.

Do all bookmakers let me place a lay bet? 

No, most online sports betting operators will not allow you to place a lay bet on their platform. There are some markets like “Double Chance” that will allow you to place a back bet on multiple outcomes but they’re fairly rare. 

Sports betting exchanges, which are a more uncommon product, are where you’ll commonly be able to place back and lay bets against other players. 

Ollie Ring
Ollie Ring Sports Betting Writer

Ollie Ring is an experienced sports-writer, having produced gambling and sports content for well over 5 years. An avid Watford fan, Ollie has been to over 55 of the football grounds in England and has also held a season ticket at the home of Surrey Cricket Club, The Kia Oval.