GUIDE TO RACING. ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. ALL IN ONE PLACE.

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Betting Guide

The art of betting is as old as racing itself. Read our comprehensive betting guide to help you get started

There’s a unique magic to the feeling of backing a winner. You’ve made your choice, placed your bet and been rewarded with hard cash for your good judgement.

And here’s a warm welcome to the Racing Post betting guide, designed to help you make the right choices more often so you can maximise your chances of backing the right horse as often as possible.

Racing is a complex challenge for a punter. When any two Premier League teams do battle it is likely most of us will be able to quickly take a view on what is likely to happen, but working out which one of a collection of horses will cross the line in front is a different puzzle.

From assessing the state of the ground to the implications of a gelding operation, the process of picking the right horse can be confusing and complicated.

That’s where this guide is here to help. In plain English, without jargon, we will separate the red herrings from the key clues and help build your knowledge base so you are as well equipped as possible to win the war with the bookies.

We will also show you how using Racing Post products can keep you close to the action and increase your chances of success.

We hope the following chapters will offer insight and shed light on the many mysteries of trying to crack the code every time you study the form.

With a little extra knowledge, you can responsibly enjoy a happy betting interest. Good luck!

Bruce Millington, Racing Post editor

Betting odds explained

It’s a bit of a headache understanding odds, so we’ve devised a beginners guide to betting odds explained.

When looking at odds, you can view them in two formats; decimal and fractional. Decimal format refers to the total return including the stake, i.e. £1 at odds of 5.5 (9/2) returns £5.50 (£4.50 profit + £1 stake). Fractional odds are slightly more complicated but more commonly used amongst bookmakers and the industry professionals. 4/1 refers to the return based upon stake, i.e. a return of 4 units for every 1 unit staked (£4 return for every £1 staked).

See the below chart for a breakdown of odds in both fractional and decimal format. Also the returns for £5 level stakes can be found. Remember not to get confused with similar looking fractional odds. e.g. 4/5

If you want to work out your winnings from a multiple bet such as an accumulator, we recommend you use a betting calculator to do it for you. See our list of betting calculators here.

Knowing your odds

 

Fractional

DecimalWIN RETURNS FROM £5  (inc. stake)

1-2

1.5

£7.50

4-71.57

£7.86

8-13

1.62£8.08

4-6

1.67£8.33
8-111.73

£8.64

4-5

1.80£9.00
5-61.83

£9.16

10-111.91

£9.55

1-1

2.00

£10.00

11-10

2.10£10.50

6-5

2.20£11.00

5-4

2.25£11.25

11-8

2.38

£11.87

6-4

2.50

£12.50

13-8

2.63

£13.13

7-4

2.75£13.75

15-8

2.88£14.38

2-1

3.00£15.00
9-43.25

£16.25

5-23.50

£17.50

11-43.75

£18.75

3-1

4.00

£20.00

100-30

4.33

£21.66

7-2

4.5

£22.50

4-1

5.00£25.00
9-25.50

£27.50

5-1

6.00

£30.00

11-2

6.50

£32.50

6-1

7.00

£35.00

13-2

7.50

£37.50

7-18.00

£40.00

15-2

8.50

£42.50

8-1

9.00£45.00
17-29.50

£47.50

9-1

10.00£50.00

10-1

11.00

£55.00

25-126.00

£130.00

33-1

34.00£170.00
50-151.00

£255.00

Types of bets

There are many types of bets to choose from when placing a wager. From simple singles to complex multiples, we have a list of some of the most popular bet types.

Win

The bread and butter. A straight win bet, placed on a single event, yields a return only if the selection wins.

Each way

Comprised of both a win and place wager. An each-way bet costs double that of a traditional win bet – it’s effectively a two-part bet – and will yield a return if the selection wins or is placed. For example, you place a fiver each way (£10 in total) on a horse priced a 8-1 with a bookmaker offering 1/4 odds a place. if the horse wins you will pick up £60 (£45 for the win and £15 for the place). If your horse places (in this instance, finishes in the first four in a race with 16 runners or more), you will receive £15 (place part only).

Place only

A bet that yields a return only if your selection finishes in the placings – usually the first three, four or five, depending on the number of runners in the race. Place odds are a proportion of the win price of the selection.

Bookmaker place terms

All races less than 5 runners – win only

All races of 5-7 runners – 1/4 odds a place, 1,2

Other races of more than 8 runners – 1/5, 1,2,3

Handicaps of 12-15 runners – 1/4, 1,2,3,

Handicaps of more than 15 runners – 1/4, 1,2,3,4

 

Double

A single bet on two outcomes in different events. Both selections must win to guarantee a return.

Treble

A single bet on three outcomes in different events. All three selections must win to guarantee a return.

Four-fold and above

The traditional accumulator comes in the form of four-folds and above. As with the doubles or trebles, this is a group of selections and all of the must win to guarantee you a return.

Trixie

A wager comprising three selections and four bets – three doubles and a treble. A minimum of two selections must win to guarantee you a return. For example a £2.50 trixie costs £10.

Patent

A bet involving three selections and seven bets – three singles, three doubles and one treble. It is equivalent to a Trixie but with three singles. For example, a £2.50 Patent costs £17.50.

Lucky 15

Arguably the most popular bet of its kind, it consists of four selections and 15 bets (hence the name) – four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold. Equivalent to a Yankee but with four singles, only one selection must win to guarantee you a return. The name of the bet refers to its link to bonuses, such as double the odds for just one winner. For example, a £1 Lucky 15 costs £15 and a 50p EW Lucky 15 costs £15.

Yankee

A bet consisting of four selections and 11 bets – six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold. A minimum of two selections must win to guarantee you a return. For example, a £1 Yankee costs £11.

Lucky 31

A wager consisting of five selections and 31 bets – five singles, ten doubles, ten trebles, five four-folds, and one five-fold. Only one selection must win to guarantee you a return. For example, a £1 Lucky 31 costs £31.

Lucky 63

A bet featuring six selections and 63 bets – six singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds, 6 five-folds and one six-fold. For example, a £1 Lucky 63 will cost you £63.

Forecast

A straight forecast is correctly predicting the horse to finish first and the horse to finish second.

Reverse Forecast

A reverse forecast is correctly selecting the first two horses past the finishing post, the selections can pass the post in any order.

Placepot

The Placepot is a popular bet among racegoers. Select one horse in the first 6 races at a specific racecourse on a  single day, and if that horse finishes in the placings you win a share of the total pool. One unplaced selection and the bet is off!

Jackpot

Quite possibly the hardest bet to win. Correctly predict the first 6 winners at a specific racecourse on a single day to win a share of the pool. One wrong selection and the bet is off!

Betting terminology

A-Z of betting

 

Accumulator – A series of bets on multiple outcomes and all of which must be successful to win the bet.

Ante post – Placing bets on markets weeks, months and maybe years in advance. This is usually because of favourable odds on horses before they are declared officially for races.

Banker – A selection that is strongly fancied, often the most secure bet of an accumulator.

Bar – The lowest odds of horses not mentioned in the betting forecast ’20-1 bar’ means those not quoted are 20-1 or bigger.

Canadian – A canadian consists of 26 bets involving 5 selections in different events. The bet includes 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 four-folds plus an accumulator. A minimum of two must win to guarantee a return

Cash out – An option in online betting. When a punter can choose to settle a bet before it has finished so secure profit or ensure further loss if confidence in the remaining legs decreases.

Drifting – A term used to describe an alarming or slight movement in price of a selection to larger odds, usually indicating that the bookmaker knows something the punter does not.

Edge – A punters advantage in a bet.

Exchanges – An exchange is a peer-to-peer betting network, enabling you to place bets and ‘match’ wagers placed by your fellow punters.

Fold – A fold represents the number of selections in an accumulator, a four-fold consists of 1 bet with 4 legs that all must win for a return.

Getting out stakes – The final race of the day, offering punters the chance to leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Goliath – A bet consisting of 247 bets involving 8 selections. The bet includes 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-folds, 56 five-folds, 28 six-folds, 8 seven-folds and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Hedging – This involves placing a bet on opposing outcome to the punters original selected outcome in order to guarantee winnings of cut losses.

Heinz – A bet consisting of 57 bets involving 6 selections in different events. The bet includes 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds, 6 five-folds and an accumulator. A minimum of two of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Lay – When a bookmaker accepts bets it is often said that they lay a bet. The punter can lay themselves on the betting exchange too.

Lengthen – When little to no activity on an outcome is seen, the bookmaker will increase the odds of that selection.

Long shot – A selection that is regarded as unlikely to win.

Lucky 15 – A bet consisting of 15 bets involving 4 selections in different events. The bet includes 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 fourfold. Only one selection must win for a guaranteed return.

Match betting – A technique employed by many by using fixed odds on the exchange market. The technique covers multiple outcomes either through in-play betting or by finding differences in bookmaker odds. By covering multiple outcomes say by backing Team X to win and when/if they go up, by laying Team X to win, returns are guaranteed whatever the result.

Market mover – A selection that changes in price significantly either way, by increasing in odds (drifting) or decreasing in odds (steaming).

Nap – The best bet of the day for a tipster.

Odds on – When the returns on a bet is less than evens, e.g. £10 returns £8 profit – odds are 4/5

Odds against – The case for most horses each race, the odds are greater than evens, e.g. £10 returns £25 – odds are 6/4

Patent – A bet consisting of 7 bets involving 3 selections. Including a single on each selection, plus 3 doubles and 1 treble. Just one successful selection guarantees a return.

Round Robin – A series of three or more selections in 2-fold accumulators. A round robin means 3 selections in different races, in 3 doubles, 1 treble and 6 single stakes about bets.

Runner – Someone who places bets for another person.

Saver – Bet placed by punter in the belief that two bets will be less expensive than one.

Spread betting – Similar to the handicap betting system. If you back a team to cover the spread, so a team will lose bu no more than 5 points, or win by more than 6 points.

Steaming – A term used to describe the change in price of a selection that has seen a significant shortening in its odds.

Trixie – A bet consisting of 4 bets involving 3 selections. The bet includes 3 doubles and a treble. A minimum of two selections must be successful to get a return.

Yankee – A bet consisting of 11 bets involving 4 selections in different events. The bet includes 4 doubles, 4 trebles and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

 

Where can I place a bet?

Betting at Home

Online betting has totally eclipsed traditional telephone betting. Every bookmaker in the land now has a website and an app, chock-full of prices, markets, and offers. Placing a bet online couldn’t be simpler. Before making a bet, ensure you have enough money in your account (quick-deposit facilities resolve this problem in seconds) and head to the race in which you want to invest. The process is straightforward. Find your selection, click on the price and head to the bet slip (often as a pop-up) before inputting your stake and placing your bet.

Many bookmakers now allow you to watch the race live too, so if you have time on your side make the most of this luxury. Be savvy – open accounts with as many bookmakers as possible and make the most of the free bet offers. Having multiple accounts ensures you will have access to the best prices on offer and means you’ll never miss a trick. Especially the night before a race when the markets are still taking shape.

Betting Shops

Legalised in 1960 but on the basis that nothing must be done to stimulate the demand for gambling. Early betting shops were tucked away, spartan like, smoke-filled and uninviting. There were no window displays, no TVs, no refreshments and barely any seats, as loitering was to be discourages.

In those days, betting was dominated by horse and greyhound racing. It is very different now, when 7,877 of Britain’s 9,108 betting shops are owned by four companies – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred. In 2013, in William Hill’s 2,432 shops, horse racing accounted for just 24 per cetn of revenue and dog racing for nine percent. Football supplied 13 per cent of the revenue but a massive 48 per cent came from Hill’s 9,431 gaming machines.

Today, betting shops are bright, colourful, inviting places. With banks of TV screens, comfortable seats and refreshments. Many customers play roulette, blackjack, poker and slot games rather than back horses. There are now over 34,0000 gambling machines in shops .

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How to place a bet

Punters have never had it so easy in how to place a bet. Gone are the days of betting tax, smoke-filled shops and broken radio commentaries. The mobile-thirsty world in which we live – aided by advances in technology – has brought betting to our fingertips, and we are reaping the benefits. Here’s a quick guide to on how to place your bet:

  1. Select your horse from the racecard, remembering the horse’s name and number
  2. Set your stake, an amount with which you are happy to bet
  3. Decide the type of bet you would like to place (win and each-way most common)
  4. Choose your preferred betting operator, commonly known as a bookmaker
  5. Place a bet!

So, where exactly should you place a bet?

In the betting shop

We’ll start old school. If you’ve never been in a betting shop, you really are missing out. One of the great institutions of the British high street, your local betting shop can often be home to more than a few characters – young, old and older. They can be the source of magical moments, experiences you will never forget, and they deal in the best currency of all – cold, hard cash.

Parting with one’s hard-earned makes the event of placing a bet somewhat more real, and the fun only starts when the cashier gratefully receives your stake. Placing a bet is easy. Simply write down your selection(s) on a slip, usually housed on one of the counters in the shop, and hand it across to the cashier when complete. Whether you take the price or settle for SP (starting price at the off) is your choice, but be sure to keep your slip safe – you never know, it might prove lucky.

Racing Post website

The Racing Post website ensures you have everything in one place – slick cards, Spotlight comments and the ability to place bets with the click of a button. With prices available from some of the biggest bookmakers – Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes, bet365, Paddy Power, BetVictor, Sportingbet, Sky Bet, Boylesports and Racebets – you really do have a stable packed full of talent and the winners are just a second away. Visit here.

Racing Post mobile app

We couldn’t leave this beauty out. The award-winning Racing Post app, an invaluable resource for punters, is available via the App Store, on Android and on tablet. And best of all, it’s free. As well as providing in-depth cards and fast results, the app allows you to bet directly with your bookie of choice, with prices available from Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill. Click here to download now.

At the racecourse

On the busiest of days – think day one at Cheltenham – the betting ring is alive, the flow of cash resembling a river at bursting point. At each racecourse, you’ll likely have two options – bet on the Tote or its equivalent (there will be plenty of Tote counters and/or terminals throughout the racecourse) or place a bet with the bookmakers in the ring and on the rails.

These brave souls stand next to bright machines displaying ever-changing prices in all weathers imaginable in the hope of taking your cash. Take your time to scan all the odds on offer before taking the plunge and, if betting each-way, read the all-important each-way terms – you don’t want to be taking ⅕ odds on only the first three home in a big-field handicap.

Bookmaker websites

Every bookmaker in the land now has a website and an app, chock-full of prices, markets and offers. It couldn’t be simpler to now place a bet. Before making a bet, ensure you’ve got enough money in your account (quick-deposit facilities resolve this problem in seconds) and head to the race in which you want to invest.

The process is straightforward – find your selection, click on the price and head to the betslip (often as a pop-up) before inputting your stake and placing your bet. Many bookmakers now allow you to watch the race live too, so if you have time on your side make the most of this luxury. Be savvy – open accounts with as many bookmakers as possible and make the most of the free bet offers. Having multiple accounts ensures you will have access to the best prices on offer and means you’ll never miss a trick, especially the night before a race when the markets are still taking shape.

Betting exchanges

A medium that can prove the source of cheers, jeers and tears. But how do exchanges differ from ordinary bookmakers? On the betting exchanges, users have the ability to back and lay, meaning bettors can also offer their own odds on a selection to lose, effectively acting as the bookie. Known as peer-to-peer betting, exchanges offer decimal odds ranging from 1.01 (1-1000) to 1,000 (999-1). Users can choose whether they wish to back or lay, set the odds they wish to take or offer and input how much they wish to stake.

The bet is then matched in the same market by somebody who has taken the opposite stance. You are able to get involved in-play, watching the markets in real time and investing as the event unfolds. Be quick when you place a bet, though – the odds change in the blink of an eye. The main player in the market is Betfair, with other companies such as Betdaq, Smarkets and Matchbook making up the remainder of the sector. Net winnings are subject to commission charge – 5% is fairly standard – but more details will be available on the relevant FAQ pages of each site.

What is a free bet?

What is a Free Bet?

Free bets are given out by bookmakers to encourage loyalty and entice a punters’ custom. Punters often receive free bets by qualifying for a special offer. Common promotions include; new customers only, specific race offers and money back offers. These special offers are predominantly a benefit of betting online through mobile, desktop and tablet, as apposed to betting shops.

New Customer Offers

Most bookmakers will advertise an attractive sign-up bonus which offers the customer free bets as a reward for opening a new betting account. Free bets are often credited to the punters account after an initial sum has been deposited or a first bet has been placed. The free bet will often match the stake of the first bet with the bookmaker. Although this is not always the case and depends on the terms and conditions of each free bet.

Free bets, used by bookmakers to reward new customers, can be used in a number of ways (often apply to singles only). Click Here to see featured Racing Post Free Bets.

 

Existing Customer Offers

Once the punter has signed up to a bookmaker, they are no longer eligible to receive new customer offers again. However, most major bookmakers have special offers running which any and all customers can qualify for. These bets require you to place a minimum or maximum bet stake in order to qualify for the free bets, providing the required outcome occurs. For example; ‘money back as a free bet if your horse finishes 2nd by a head or less’ and ‘Money back special if your horse finishes 2nd to the SP favourite’ are two of the most common offers.

Prestigious race meetings such as Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival, are a great excuse to grab a  free bet. Bookmakers frequently promote offers during this time, which include free bets certainly worth taking advantage of.