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Lay for a Place

The Lay for a Place tactic is most commonly used in the last leg of a multi-leg bet to ensure a profit.

If we’re still rolling on the final leg, and we’ve played a banker / single here, we have options. By calculating the likely dividend, assuming our banker wins (and/or is placed, along with the next two best supported horses, plus the unnamed favourite, if in the placepot), we can establish what we stand to win, and lay our sole pick for a place, thus locking in a profit.

Once we know that figure, we can insure our position by ‘laying’ – or ‘place laying’ if it’s the last leg of a placepot – our selection. Laying involves playing bookmaker on an exchange site like Betfair, and accepting a bet from someone on the horse we have singled.

This way, we can either cover our initial stake, with a free bet to win the difference between the insurance and the dividend; or we can lock in profit irrespective of whether our banker wins (or is placed) or not.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Example 1 – Pick 4

We’ve calculated that the Pick 4 dividend will be $764 if our horse wins the race. Our stake was $120, so we stand to win $644 if our horse wins, or lose $120 if it doesn’t win.

Our horse is showing as favourite, at 1.8, on Betfair. 1.8 decimal odds is the same as 4.5 fractional, and -125 in US odds. We can lay our horse to win $120 if the horse loses – in other words, to cover our stake; or we can lay it to guarantee a profit irrespective of what happens.

To lay it to cover our stake, we would risk $96. If our horse wins the race, we lose our $96 on Betfair but win the Pick 4 dividend of $764, amounts to a risk-free profit of $548 after we account for our initial stake ($120) and our insurance lay ($96).

Alternatively, we can lay it to lock in an equal profit whether the horse wins or loses. To do this, we could lay our horse to lose $320 on Betfair.

If the horse did lose, we’d lose our initial $120 Pick 4 stake, but we’d win $400 for the successful lay, meaning an overall profit of $280.

If the horse won, we’d lose our lay bet stake of $320, but return $764 on the Pick 4. $764, less $320 and less the $120 Pick 4 stake, would leave an overall profit of $324.

 Example 2 – Placepot

We’ve reached leg six – the final leg – of the placepot. We have banked on Bellorophon, the favourite in an open looking race, and we have two units running on to it, from a total bet stake of £80. Checking one of our ‘will pay’ websites,, we see the following – click the image for a full size version:

Remaining distribution of placepot funds
Remaining distribution of placepot funds

We can see that the maximum number of tickets that can claim a share of the placepot dividend are the combined volume of those on the three most supported horses (#10, #9, #4), plus ‘unnamed favourite’. That equates to a maximum of 205.7 units.

The gross pool is £70,696 and the net pool is 73% of that, which is £51,608.08.

So, the minimum dividend is the net pool divided by the maximum number of possible winning tickets. In the above example, that’s £51,608 / 205.7, which equals £250.89.

If our horse, Bellorophon, is placed, we’ll have 2x the dividend, which we know to be worth at least £501.78 from our initial outlay of £80, meaning a profit of £421.78.

Now, because we only need our horse to place here, we need only lay it on Betfair for a place. The win odds on Bellorophon are around 5/1 (6.0 in decimal, +500 US), but the place odds are evens (2.0 decimal, +100 US).

So our two choices are to lay Bellorophon at 2.0 for £80 in order to retrieve our stake money, with a now risk-free chance to win £341.78 (£501.78 – £80 initial stake – £80 losing lay bet)…

…or to guarantee a profit either way by laying Bellorophon in the place market for a larger stake. If we lay him for £250 at 2.0, and he places we will win £501.78 placepot dividend – £80 initial stake – £250 losing lay = £171.78. And if he fails to place, we will win £250 winning lay – £80 placepot bet = £170

Hopefully this makes at least broad sense. Once you’ve been through the process a couple of times, you’ll be perfectly clear.

We have a dividend calculator here to help you do the maths.

Important note

One thing to keep in mind when place laying as insurance for a placepot/quadpot is the non-runner count. Betfair place market rules specify the number of places at the creation of the market. They do NOT amend the number of places when non-runners are declared. Here’s why this is important.

Say we’ve banked on the favourite in an eight horse race, and an hour before the race one of the horses in the race is scratched, making it a seven horse race.

Now, for placepot purposes, there will be two places: those are the place terms for seven horse races. But on Betfair, there are still three places. This raises the ugly spectre of the banker finishing third, a scenario that would see the placepot sunk AND the place lay paid out. Nasty business indeed.

If the place terms change after your bet is underway, there’s little you can do except sit and suffer, I’m afraid.