Perhaps the best known of all football trading strategies is the “lay the draw” strategy.
Although its exact origins are unknown and a few different traders claim they invented it, the strategy of laying the draw on the betting exchanges appears to have arisen shortly after the formation of Betfair in 1999 and spread around the internet in the early 2000s.
Quite a few people cottoned on to the fact that when a goal was scored in a football match, the odds on the draw would jump upwards, sometimes quite dramatically.
This meant you could simply lay the draw in a lot of football matches – without any idea of who was going to actually win the game – and as soon as a goal was scored you could close out your trade for a profit.
As the years have gone on though and more and more people started using the strategy, the markets reacted less dramatically to a goal being scored and the edge gradually dwindled. Nowadays you would struggle to make a profit from just laying the draw in football matches, without any further research or refinement of your approach.
In fact, many traders now claim that lay the draw “doesn’t work any more” or is an “amateur’s strategy.”
We would disagree – it can still work, but just requires a little more nuance and skill these days to make a profit from.
We will have a look below at three strategies which show how lay the draw can still work as a trading strategy in 2021.
Strategy One – the Classic Lay the Draw Trade
The classic lay the draw trade involves laying the draw before kick-off and trading out during the game depending on how the action unfolds.
Here is an example of the method in action, with a very simple lay the draw trade:
This is a match between Leverkusen and Roma in the Champions League. This is a game we expect will have lots of goals based on the teams’ recent form and scoring records.
The odds on the draw before the start of the match are 3.95 to lay.
So we click on the lay button (pink) at odds of 3.95 and place a £10 lay on the draw, giving us a liability of £29.50 if the game does finish in a draw (but we will trade out before the end in any event).
Now the game goes in-running and we await the first goal.
Boom! After 3 minutes, Leverkusen score to make it 1-0.
Now just look at what happens to the odds of the draw on Betfair:
The odds on the draw have shot out to around 5.9 from their original price of 3.95.
That means we can lock in a guaranteed profit of £3.28 (which equates to 32.8% profit on our lay stake) by simply clicking on the “Cash Out” button. Easy-peasy! 🙂
What Sort of Games to Use Classic Lay the Draw In
So that is an example of a classic lay the draw trade. However, doing this blindly in all matches is not a good idea and you would be likely to lose money overall by doing so, as there is no specific edge in the trade itself anymore – the markets are too efficient for that now.
The key to making a profit on the classic lay the draw trade is to select your matches carefully and stick to certain criteria.
Below are the three principal criteria we focus on when selecting matches to trade the classic lay the draw strategy in.
Criteria One – Good Liquidity
The first point we want to make sure of is that there is enough liquidity for us to trade out of our bet when a goal is scored.
So we focus on matches where at least £30,000 has been matched pre-kick-off in the match odds market on Betfair (or another exchange you may use).
Here is an example:
In this game you will see that over £1.5m has been matched on the game before kick-off, which is excellent liquidity and means it will be a good game to trade from this point of view.
Criteria Two – High-Scoring Matches
The lay the draw strategy works best in games where there are likely to be lots of goals. It therefore goes without saying that we want to select high-scoring matches.
So how do we determine whether a match is likely to have goals?
Well, we can go to a website like soccerstats.com, and have a look at how many goals both teams score and concede per game and how many of their games finish with more than 2 goals (i.e. over 2.5 goals).
An easier and quicker approach though is to look at the correct score market for the same match. This will tell us the likelihood of there being a goal.
Ideally we are looking for games where the odds on the game finishing 0-0 – and therefore of our trade losing – are more than 15.0.
That means there is a less than 7% chance that the game will finish 0-0 and gives us good prospects of a winning trade – over 93% in fact.
So we go to the correct score market and have a look at the 0-0 odds:
Here you will see the 0-0 is 16.5 to back. Excellent, that is what we were looking for. This is potentially a game to lay the draw in.
We believe the real skill of lay the draw trading is in selecting matches where teams are likely to win by big scores: 3-1 or 4-2 for example.
The Dutch and German leagues are particularly good for such games, but we would advise taking some time studying sites like soccerstats.com and finding out which teams have an affinity for these high-scoring matches.
These are the matches that will really enable you to profit from laying the draw.
Criteria Three – Matches Without a Strong Favourite
The types of games you choose to use the lay the draw in will depend to a certain extent on your approach to risk.
Personally, we like to stick to matches where our liability is not too high at the start.
We therefore stick to matches where the draw is priced at between 3.5 and 5.0 before kick-off. Anything above 5.0 and the liability starts to get a little high.
Here is an example:
This is quite an even game, in that the draw odds are 3.75, which gives us scope to trade if there is a goal, particularly if the first goal goes to Porto.
The reason for choosing at least 3.5 is that generally speaking, you will struggle to find many matches where the match odds are below 3.5 if the 0-0 is above 15.0. If it is likely to be high scoring, then naturally the chances of it being a draw – and particularly 0-0 – are less. So it is factored into the draw price to some extent.
What we want to avoid though are those very small number of matches where for one reason or another the teams have an interest in playing for the draw.
Perhaps they will both qualify for the next round of a tournament with a draw, or it is one of those “dodgy” matches you sometimes see in Italy where the draw price is spectacularly lower than it should be (like 2.0 for example).
In our experience, when the draw is priced very low and looks suspiciously low, it is one to avoid. It could be fixed, or it could just be a perception that it might be. But in any case it is best to avoid it.
On the other side of things, we tend to stick to matches where the draw odds are below 5.0 to try and ensure we make a profit – or at worst a small loss – if there is a goal.
What tends to happen if there is a strong favourite in a match is that if the underdog scores first, the draw price will actually come in – leaving you in a losing position on your trade.
In any situation where the draw odds are above 4, this will tend to happen. So some people would stick to matches where the draw odds are below 4.
We prefer though to include some matches between 4.0 and 5.0 where we consider there is a strong chance the favourite will score first and even if they don’t, the losses won’t be too bad. Anything above 5.0 though and you are talking about quite a significant loss if the underdog scores first
Summary – Selecting Matches for the Classic Lay the Draw Strategy
To summarise then, these are the three criteria to focus on when selecting matches to trade the classic lay the draw strategy in. We focus on matches where:
- Over £30,000 has been matched on the match odds market before kick-off;
- The odds of the draw are between 3.5 and 5; and
- The odds of 0-0 are 15.0 or above.
Strategy Two – Laying the Draw In-Play
The strategy described above involves laying the draw before kick-off and is the most common form of laying the draw.
However, there is another approach to the trade and that is waiting for a game to go in-play before entering a trade.
The advantage of this approach is you can see how a game is developing before you put any money down.
If it’s a tight game with few chances and little goal-mouth action you may decide to leave it alone and move on to the next game. Or if it’s an open, end-to-end game you might decide to enter a trade.
Either way it gives you the chance to monitor the action and make your decision based on how a game is panning out – which can often be different to what was expected before the match kicked off.
When exactly to enter the trade is an important question though. There is no right or wrong answer to this as such, but rather it depends on how much risk you wish to take and the timeframe you want to target.
If you are willing to wait until late in the game for example, it can be an opportune time to enter a trade.
The last 15 minutes of a game are often the most open as teams press for a win. Plus if you wait until then the odds will often have fallen below 2.0, meaning you have less liability than if you laid at the start at odds of 3.5 or above.
Equally, if there is a goal you can be sure the odds will rise considerably, giving you a larger profit on your trade.
The key to waiting until late on in matches is to:
- Watch how the match is going and how many chances are being created
- Focus on teams with a high propensity for late goals.
Using a site like soccerstats can help to identify those teams who score a lot of late goals.
Here is an example from the Premier League 2020/21 season showing goals scored and conceded in different time-bands for each team:
As you can see, there were big differences in the number of goals each team scored/conceded in the last 15 minutes of games.
Teams like Leicester City saw 33 goals in the last 15 minutes of its matches (23 scored + 10 conceded) and Newcastle 30 (15 scored and 15 conceded), whereas Arsenal for example only saw 14 goals in the last 15 minutes of their games.
Using this data can be a useful guide to help identify which sides you should focus on, but ultimately watching the game in-play is the truest indicator you can get.
It will allow you to see which games are very open, with sides pressing forward and defenses tiring, versus some matches that are dull and petering out towards a stalemate. Based on that you can make your lay the draw trades and the more matches you watch with this angle in mind, the better you will get at spotting the right matches.
Alternatively, a useful tool for identifying late goals has been developed by Trade On Sports, who have built a series of bots that monitor leagues from around the world and crunch a huge amount of data to identify value late goal opportunities.
In our own trial those bots made an excellent £5120 profit so are well worth checking out if you don’t have time to watch loads of games live.
Other times of the game
Of course, you don’t have to only focus on the last 15 minutes, there can be other times of a game to use lay the draw in.
You could use the chart above for example to focus on teams that tend to score (or concede) just before half-time, which is a common time for goals to be scored.
Or it might vary based on the game you are watching – perhaps it is mid-way through the second half and you are seeing lots of shots rain in on goal so decide to enter a trade at that point.
As mentioned above, there is no “right” or “wrong” time to enter the trade – the key to laying the draw in-play is making sure your setup is right and you are using stats (and preferably watching the game) to give yourself the best chance of profiting in the long run.
Strategy Three – Laying the First Half or Second Half Draw
Another approach to using lay the draw is to focus solely on one half of a football match.
The advantage this has is that it can focus the mind and reduce the risk at the same time.
Let’s say for example you chose to focus on the first half.
It would make sense to select the Half Time market rather than the match odds market in this scenario.
Here is an example from a World Cup qualifying match between the Netherlands and Norway.
Whilst the odds for a draw in the match odds are quite high at 4.5, for the HT draw they are around 2.48.
So to start off your liabilities will be lower in laying on the HT market rather than match odds – although of course your chances of there being a draw (and losing your trade) will be higher.
If there is a goal to either side in the first half though, the odds of the HT draw will rise – often significantly – giving you a chance to trade out for a profit.
The ideal scenario is a late first half goal, preferably to the Netherlands, which would you give you a very nice profit on the trade.
As with all these strategies, it pays with this approach to study the stats. In this case, you want to look at which sides tend to score (or concede) a lot of first half goals, as they will be the ideal ones to focus on.
Think of Liverpool in the early years of Jurgen Klopp’s reign for example, who were renowned for coming out of the blocks fast at Anfield and trying to steamroller sides in the first 30 minutes of games. They would be the ideal kind of side to focus on for this strategy.
Laying the draw in the second half
Alternatively, you could lay the draw in the second half of a game. There is no “second half” market as such for this, but you don’t really need one. You can just use the match odds market as it has the same effect (and is the most liquid market on Betfair).
Much like with the half-time market, the odds of the draw will have fallen significantly if a game is still drawing at half time.
The ideal odds band for this trade is between 2.5 and 3.0. This will mean you are laying at a low enough liability, but the profit will still be decent if there is a goal in the second half.
Again the ideal outcome is for the goal to come as late as possible in the second half (and to the favourite), thus giving you a larger profit on the trade. If the goal comes with the last kick of the game then you would be looking at 100% profit on your trade.
For those wanting a degree of protection on the trade, one option available is to cover the current score at HT. So if for example the game was 1-1 at HT, you would back the 1-1 score whilst also laying the draw.
This means you would not lose your whole stake if there are no goals in the second half. It does mean that you would break even or make a small loss overall if there is an early goal in the second half, but make a profit if the goal comes towards the end.
Whether you cover the current score depends on your appetite for risk, but either way trading the second half of matches can be a good way of using lay the draw. Again researching stats on teams that score (and concede) lots of second half goals is crucial with this strategy.
What to do if it Goes Wrong – and Right
Okay, so there are three strategies for laying the draw in football matches. These days just laying the draw before a football match and trading out after a goal is unlikely to make you a profit without further research and refining your strategy.
If you do work on finding a niche in laying the draw, it can really pay off though and there are plenty of traders out there using it on a regular basis.
Of course, nothing in life is as simple as we would like and inevitably some of the trades will go wrong. Here we set out our strategy for dealing with things if they go wrong – and some suggestions for maximising profits.
These suggestions all concern if you laid the game before kick-off.
There Is No Goal
Even when you pick matches where lots of goals are predicted, in some instances there will be a deadlock and neither side is able to break through.
If you laid the draw before the start of the game, the recommended option in such scenarios is to wait until the match hits 70 minutes or the draw odds hit 2.0 (whichever is the earlier) and then trade out.
Usually you will lose approximately 50% of your stake when this happens. It is frustrating when it happens but is part of the game. If we select matches carefully then it should not happen very often.
The other option is just to let the game run until full time and take the full loss if it stays 0-0. This is risky however and in our experience, if there have been no goals by 70 minutes in game then usually it will finish 0-0, so we find it better to trade out.
The Underdog Scores First
In matches where the draw odds are above 4.0, then generally if the underdog scores first, the draw odds will actually come in, putting you in a losing position on your trade.
In such instances, you can either trade out straight away and accept that it has gone against you this time.
Or you can stay in the game. The underdog may actually be dominating the game and you think it is more likely they will score again to make it 2-0, giving you a winning trade. Or it may be very early on in the game, and there is a good chance the favourite may turn things around and even go 2-1 up by half-time.
If you leave the bet running however, we suggest you trade out if it is either 1-1 or still 1-0 to the underdog and the match is approaching 70 minutes. In such scenarios, if you leave the bet running then you are leaving yourself open to losing your entire stake, which is obviously what we want to avoid.
The “Meltatone” Strategy
Some people even suggest laying the underdog when they score first – leaving a potential profit or at least break-even if the favourite does, as expected, equalise. This strategy became known as the “meltatone” in football trading circles.
However, we do not advocate such an approach. If the underdog scores again, you will be an even worse position, as whilst the draw odds will increase slightly, the underdog odds will crash.
If the match stays at 1-0, then the underdog odds will continue to fall whilst the draw stays roughly the same, again leaving you in a worse position.
No, we believe it is best not to risk making things worse, but to either trade out when the underdog scores first or allow a little bit of time for things to change, if the circumstances of the match suggest doing that.
Things Go Right – “Riding the Wave”
Of course in lots of instances the favourite will score first and we have the option to either trade out there and then and take our profit, or to let the bet run and see if they can score a second goal.
We usually look closely at how the match is going, how many chances the favourite is creating and their record that season in going on and winning games by more than one goal. If the stats look good, we will let the game run until half time or a little after to see if they can bag a second goal.
If they do then the draw odds will really rocket allowing you to pocket a handsome profit from the trade.
Lay The Draw Summary
Lay the draw is perhaps the best known and most popular football trading strategy on the betting exchanges.
Just blindly laying the draw in football matches is unlikely to make you a profit these days however – the markets are too efficient for that.
Lay the draw can still be profitable though, but like most betting and trading systems, it is as much about the way you trade it as about the system itself. Researching and refining your strategy and focusing on a particular niche – whether it’s the first half, late in matches, or concentrating on particular teams – is the key to success.
It is important to stay disciplined and stick to the rules you have chosen for laying the draw. Do not go outside them and allow fear or greed to dictate your decisions – that will be the quickest way to the poor house.
Take your time, learn the system and allow your bank to grow slowly and steadily over time. And most of all, only risk money you can afford to lose. After all, even with a good strategy, there are no guarantees of success in this game.