Building a Laying System – A hard task

I’ve had it in the back of my mind for a while now that there must be a way of tapping into the type of profits the bookmakers make,  but using Betfair. Now this task immediately becomes a mathematical nightmare right off the bat due to the commission and the uncertainty of exchange prices. But its my belief that whilst the most trade and liquidity revolves around the favourites in the market, that there’s not much it at the prices in terms of an edge one way or t’other. Also, its very apparent that the bookmakers offer no value whatsoever in the tail end of the market and those betting in the 20/1+ win markets had better be using the exchanges, where prices are often doubled or tripled. Conversely laying at 80.0 or 100 is never going to be my game and I really have no time for that.
Its the area in the middle, the 10/1 and below shots that can usually be matched on the exchange at similar prices to the industry SP where I want to look for profit.
So taking odds under 10/1 and looking at horses outside the top 3 in the betting, I looked for a specific angle where the strike rates where below 8%. This 8% equates to 12/1 or 13.0 in odds terms and by achieving average odds of below that, and a strike rate around 8% and under, a profit should in theory be made.

Ok so that brings me onto my blueprint for the system, I’ll maybe share the exact rules for this system later, but I’ll just show you the past results for now. I suspect there’s every chance this exercise could just be an example of how backfitting works. But it should be interesting none the less. I’ve also, perhaps against my better judgement, included Irish racing in this experiment.


Ok so you’ll notice the terrible ROI, this is of course hoping to be a lay system!
The Betfair Lay P/L column is the interesting one. It is something that can only be regarded as an indicator. I’ve set my percentages within HRB to hopefully make this a meaningful representation of potential profits. Here is how I have them set up:


The 6/1 – 10/1 figure is the important one here, and I’ve set that at 23% to take into account the higher odds on Betfair. This figure is absolutely critical with this but its very hard to get it nailed. So my next task was to look at the actual qualifiers from this and their real world Betfair SP’s.
For this I have to look at each horse and look up each result on the Betfair site individually, which is obviously a time consuming task. Here is what I got:
The scribbled stuff to the right is my note of the Betfair SP and the percentage difference to the ISP (Industry SP), these are taken from the Betfair/timeform results section and they take into account the commission as well. You’ll not that about two thirds of these are Irish racing and that the prices can sway massively, with one horse having a BSP of 23.13 despite an industry SP of just 11.0 The average is coming out at just under 22% from this small sample which puts my guess at 23% in the ballpark and a shade on the safe side.
I’ve underlined the two winners from the 30 bets and also those with BSP above 15.0, as in practicality you would have to set a limit and 15.0 seems a fair enough one.  So in this example you’d have lost 19.23pts from both winners, if you exclude those above 15.0 you’d have 25 winning lays making 25 x 0.95pts so 23.75 -19.23 = 4.52 pts profit. Having scanned the previous 90 odd bets as well, which include some groups of 30 with zero winners, its easy to conclude this to be profitable, especially if the lay prices hold true.
However this is all theory. For example it only includes horses that went off at 10/1 sp and below, when in reality you’d have to base the selections on forecast odds, and may end up laying some outside of these parameters. So even just monitoring this with Horseracebase will no by any means give an accurate guide to if it actually works, the only way is therefore to test it in the real world.
So that’s what I’ll be doing with this for the coming weeks, just to small stakes of course.
If I can get results like those on the historical results, then it will be interesting.

I ran with  the system live from the 13th Aug to the 3rd Sept, at that point I stopped as I’d ran into a problem. The system, as I have it on Horseracebase, has continued in the same vein, recording only 5 winners from the last 94 selections across August and September. But the issue that comes up when trying to follow the selections in real time is that the system requires the horse to be outside of the first three in the betting, the thinking being that I don’t want any significant market confidence behind them and very much want the type of horse whereby the jockey’s know that the market doesn’t expect them to win either. As I’ve been setting up the lays based on early markets or tissue prices, with a maximum BSP being the only stipulation, I’ve ran into a few that have ended up in the first three in the betting, even though I had checked that they were outside at the time of setting up the bet. I had hoped that this might not make a big difference to overall results, however just a short while into the trial I’ve found that it has indeed made a real difference. laying three winners that shouldn’t have been selections based on their market position at the off – see my sheet below. 2014-09-11_1919

As you can see from the above, laying three winners at these odds totally reverses the fortunes of the system. Summing up then, at this point the system although still having potential, isn’t practical at the moment.

What might be the solution is a betting bot, or software that will only bet the selections given that they match the criteria right before the off.

This may or may not be feasible/workable/cost effective and is something I’ll be putting on the back burner with a view to looking into at a future date.

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6 Responses to Building a Laying System – A hard task

  1. paulr says:

    Thinking about my calculations above – I think I’ve made a small error, that may be significant with the percentage difference between Betfair SP and SP, the Betfair percentage is taken from their site and it includes the commission at 5%, so it shows the percentage difference after commission taken off, bascially its meant from a backing perspective, from a laying persepctive they commission should not be taken off since you pay out the full price, i.e 13/2 +8% = 7/1 (ish) wheras above it shows as 2% becasue 7-5% comm = 6.65, roundabout 2% more than 13/2, (13/2 is shown as 6.5 on HRB, my handwritten odds are in decimal format)

  2. Paul says:


    Agree it is interesting and it has got me thinking…

    Best Regards

    The Racing Horse

  3. Mark Jackson says:

    Hi Paul
    we trailed the Bet Engine last year and I know your views on Betting Bots but it did the the trick. You can set all the rules of your system and as with your system one of our criteria was no favs or joint favourites and Bet engine checks this at the off and places the lay accordingly.
    If I remember rightly I stopped using it as my go PC kept hanging up during the day and I missed some lays which skewed the whole P+L But I think we will be having another go this season as I have invested in some new Tech!!

  4. Mark Jackson says:

    Hi Paul
    This is a good example of how hard it is to create profitable laying systems. We have a laying system for the all weather and have the exact same problem with the discrepancy between the BSP and the Industry SP.
    This makes it difficult in making the selections in a timely manner. I.e. we send out the “potential selections” the night before based on the Tissue prices in HRB, we then recommend that people use the Odds limiter function within Betfair to make sure that any selections that are at the higher end of the SP limit are not layed if they never achieve this in Betfair. i.e. Our upper limit is 6/1 SP but may be trading at anything above 7.0 so this wouldn’t be a lay unless it reduced to 7.0 or below.
    This has always been a problem for us from a reporting of P+L point of view. Also with price fluctuations in the market the only definitive result is looking at the SP at the off but for 99% of people this is un workable as they cant be sat at their computer all the time to look at the SP and Lay accordingly.

    Looks like you have the makings of a good solid Lay system here Paul as the Yearly results show for the Lay P+L which is the most important indicator.
    Look forward to seeing the actual system parameters. – Good work.

    • paulr says:

      Thanks Mark,
      Another one of the filters, is outside the top three in the betting, i.e I want to be avoiding anything thats particularly fancied or backed.
      That rule has already bitten me as laid one which went off favourite the other day, albeit at 6/1 I think.
      To get the exact thing nailed a check before the off is most likely necessary, but I’m hopeful of finding something that will be profitable as a “bet and forget” system. Am already using the upper odds limiter.

  5. malcolm says:

    Interesting !!! Keep us posted Paul

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