Horse racing

What is betting on the horses all about?

Guide to Different Horse Race Bets


Of those who bet on horses on a regular basis, 97-98% lose.  With figures like these the punters are clearly up against it, but rather than give up and move on, all we need to do is apply logic and be willing to learn how to increase results.


Playing the betting markets is tantamount to assessing probability, it’s as simple as that, and there are various ways we can do this, so long as we first understand the different betting markets available to us.


Win Markets


A win bet is a bet, placed on a single horse, to win its individual race.


At the very entry level of betting on horses, some people forget that your overall return includes your stake amount, i.e. if you place £50 on a horse at 3/1, your winning return would be £200.


Accepting the current price on a horse, or leaving to the starting price, is a risk that is up to you.  Most online firms these days offer “best odds guaranteed” on most horse races so taking the price is advised.  This way should you accept 3/1 but then your horse goes off at 4/1 and wins, you will be paid out at the bigger price.


Ante Post


This term refers to markets built before the final declarations have been announced.  It could be a few days before the race, or in the cases of the world’s top races months in advance.


Odds in ante post markets are generally higher than they are on the day, as this will take into account the fact that we don’t know if our chosen horse will even run.  The earlier you are prepared to back a horse, the better odds you can expect.


There is naturally an element of risk attached to ante post betting; however, with betting exchanges we can play the part of the bookmaker.  This can allow you to back a horse in the ante post market, and if you feel things aren’t going the way you expected near race time, you may 'lay' the horse on the exchange(s) and potentially recoup some or all of your money.


Cover Bets


Cover bets, or ‘full cover bets’, are offered to punters who wish to bet in multiples on more than one horse.

A double is a bet on two horses, both of which need to win, a treble is a win for three horses.  Your odds will multiply, namely if you backed horses at 3.0 and 4.0 in a double then your winning odds would be 11/1.  This happens because your first horse is 2/1 and should it win you would receive your stake back and the whole amount goes on the next horse:

e.g. £1 @ 3.0 (wins) = £3.  £3 @ 4.0 = £12.  A £12 return minus your original stake is £11.


Many other cover bets are available for higher multiples, all with different names.  A yankee for example means picking 4 horses and placing 11 different bets = 6 x doubles, 4 x trebles and a 4-horse accumulator.


Should 2 of your horses win and 2 lose, then you will be paid out on one of the successful doubles.  Do remember though that your unit stake is multiplied accordingly, so should you place a £1 yankee then your overall bet amount is £11.


Super Yankee (5 horses, 26 bets), Heinz (6 horses, 57 bets), Super Heinz (7 horses, 120 bets) and Goliath (8 horses, 247 bets) are other popular cover bets used every day by online punters.


Betting Online


Although traditional betting shops still do a fair trade in places like the UK, betting online has been at the forefront of the industry for some time now, and this is where you will find the best deals & be able to bet in a more convenient way.

There is little excuse for bettors not finding the best odds available for their chosen horse, given that we can use oddschecker and other comparison sites, to see what prices are on offer for multiple bookmakers on a given race.


Payouts online are instant, and in most cases your returns will be in your account a minute or so after the result is called and be ready to withdraw or used again for another bet.


Betting Exchanges


These are betting marketplaces for players to essentially back and lay among themselves.


Often similar markets on all the regular races are offered on the exchanges, however you as the punter have the choice to buy or sell the placing of a horse - i.e. other words you may wish to 'back' the horse to win or ‘lay’ it to not win.


Laying a horse means you are playing the part of the bookmaker, e.g. you feel that a particular horse doesn’t have as much of a chance as what its odds suggest.  So, you can offer the horse at a slightly more attractive price to backers, who will back the horse with you.


Should the horse win, you will need to pay out (to an agreed limit), however should it be beaten then all the money gambled with you is yours to keep.


The exchanges generate their revenue by charging a commission, a percentage of customer’s winnings, and are seen as the fairest way to bet these days.


Choosing A Racing Bet


With some a small percentage chance of winning, how do pro gamblers choose their horses?


There is obviously no simple answer,  but a key recommendation is to set yourself some sort of betting rules, to ensure you do nothing silly. Stay disciplined, and don’t bet beyond your means.  Having a betting bank is a good way of doing this to start off with, the most popular form of such is to have aside the amount of money you would be willing to lose if it all went wrong, then bet with 10% of it at a time.


This makes your staking fluid, so should you have a £50 bank your first bet would be £5.  If it loses, your next bet would only be £4.50 (10% of £45).  The good thing about this is that you allow yourself to also increase stakes to maximise your profits if you are successful.  So when your bank reaches £80, you will be betting £8.


Make Sure You Get Value For Money


Professional horse racing gamblers will always speak about the importance of getting value for your bets. Too often this is an area ignored by amateurs. Finding good value is incredibly important as we are looking to get ahead of the bookmakers.


The reason for finding value is sound, but calculating value is the hard part. Understanding what the odds mean on each horse is the first step, as many just have a figure in their head and stick with it, even though it could be wrong.


A 2/1 favourite looks like a very solid proposition when you see it and some even call such horses “good things” or “shoe-ins”. In reality, a bookmaker offering 2/1 on a horse basically means that (including a 5% over-round for the bookie), they have placed a 35% chance on this horse.  So, generally speaking, 65% of such horses will be beaten.


In a typical 10-horse race, you may not have been able to completely discount many of the runners.  You need to be realistic though; even though you may strongly fancy a certain runner there are many others in the line-up that could also win.


So, let’s say you are pretty happy with your selection but place its chances of winning at somewhere around a 1 in 3 chance, then we should be looking to back it a price no shorter than 3.25 to make sure we’re ahead of the game long term.  If you like such a horse but cannot get better than say 2.5, then you should just leave the race alone.


Staking Plans


Other than having a betting bank and an understanding of what value means, it's also worth having a staking plan.

The easiest one to use is a points system, with confidence behind your horse being ranked 1 – 10 points.  A 10-point bet would rarely, if ever happen, as what you’re essentially saying is that you are 100% confident your horse would win - which is a situation we’re never really in.


With this system, you simply work out what amount of money you are willing to risk “per point” and then bet accordingly.  So, imagine you have a pretty strong feeling and rate your horse as a 50% chance, then you place a 5-point bet.  Had you been gambling at £5 per point, then this bet would be worth £25.


With such a system in place you will immediately be more disciplined, however you should not be scared to increase or decrease your stakes accordingly.  If you’ve had a bad month, you may reduce your stakes to say £3 per point until things get better.  On the other hand, if you are well ahead, an increase should be applied to ensure you are maximising your success.


Key take out


When placing horse racing bets, consider the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with all the markets available

  • Ensure you are getting the best price available for your horses(s)

  • Get value for money

  • Stay disciplined – if your horse does not represent value, then do not bet or take a 'punt'

  • Remain patient – even pro’s are happy with a 40% strike-rate so long as their bets are good value

  • Stick to a staking plan or points plan

  • Stay away from the unknown as much as possible – you want to know your horse has a sound chance