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Lay Odds

What is ‘Lay Odds’?

To lay odds refers to an instance of placing a bet in which the individual proposing the bet stands to lose significantly more than their opponent. This is a high risk, low reward strategy as the proposer must put more at risk than is possible for them to win. As such, this tactic is reserved for occasions in which the individual proposing the bet has a great deal of certainty in the outcome.

‘Lay Odds’ Explained

Laying odds is sometimes referred to as giving odds. This type of bet can be employed in a range of circumstances, from sports games to the outcome of an election. The defining element of laying the odds is that the input is inversely proportional to the output. For example, one could lay the odds at 5-1 that a given event will occur. By betting £5, one only stands to gain £1 but is at risk of losing £5. The American idiom ‘dollars to doughnuts’ is an example of this technique and has come to be a synonym for certainty, an essential element in laying the odds successfully.

Based on the assumption of fixed odds, when laying the odds one knows exactly what stands to be gained or lost. A bold strategy, its appeal lies more in the acumen it bestows on the proposer than on any financial gains; many people simply enjoy the sensation of making such a confident statement. By successfully laying the odds one might put one’s opponent on the back foot, giving any future bets a facade of surety. This type of bet is most often waged separately from any other bets, such as a proposition bet in a game of poker or a ‘don’t pass’ bet in craps.

Using this same principle, laying the odds is also sometimes employed to place a bet on something that is certain to not happen (also known as lay betting). The most common example of this occurs in horse racing. As only one horse can win, one can place a bet for a variety of horses to lose. Even though the odds are unfavourable, the bettor still stands to make a small profit given the high probability of the selected horses losing the race.