A beginner’s guide to betting

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  • If you fancy having a flutter on a horse race but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Here is our complete beginner’s guide on how to bet…

    Where to bet

    In order to place a bet you need to find a bookmaker either online or via a bookmaker’s shop. It is important that you use a reputable, reliable company. Good examples are Bet365, Betfair, Paddy Power, BetVictor and Coral.

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    How betting odds work

    In the UK, odds are specified as fractions, although in Europe and at betting exchanges they are usually expressed in decimal form.

    If a horse’s odds are 2/1 this means that if you bet £1, you make £2 profit — you get £3 back as you also get your bet, or stake as it is known, back. Decimal odds are the fractional value plus one: so 2/1 is 3.00. The decimal odds specify how much you will get back from the bookmaker based on a £1 bet including your stake, while the fractional odds say what profit you will make.

    Not all odds are described as “something to one”. If a horse is priced at 5/2 it means if you bet £2, you make a profit of £5, plus your stake.

    If a horse is a strong favourite to win a race it will sometimes be “odds-on”. As you look at the odds, this means that the number on the bottom/right (the amount you bet) is bigger than the number on the top/left (your profit). For example, if a horse starts a race at 1/10, it means if you bet £10 you would have got £11 back, a profit of just £1. As 1/10 is odds-on it will sometimes also be written, and particularly spoken, as “10/1 on” (10-to-one on).

    Different types of bet

    Win bet

    This is one bet that you place on a horse for it to win.

    Each way

    This is a bet that you place on a horse for it to either win or be placed. The place terms vary according to the type of race and number of horses in it, although it’s normally for your horse to finish in the top three. The place portion of your bet pays out at a fraction of the main odds and again this varies but is usually 1/4.

    So, if you have a £10 each way bet on a horse at 4/1 that will cost you £20, with £10 on the win and £10 on the place part of the bet. If it wins both bets win, so you get £10 x 4 = £40, plus your £10 stake back for the win portion. You also get your each way bet too, so ¼ of 4/1 is 1/1, or evens, so you get £10 plus your stake of £10 so £20 in total. Overall you get £70 for a profit of £50. If the horse finished second, third or fourth you would lose your £10 win bet but make £10 profit from the each way win to leave you level overall.

    Each way bets are usually only used on horses at relatively long odds as otherwise you can still end up losing overall if your pick doesn’t win but only places.

    Multiple bets

    There are numerous different types of multiple bet.

    A double involves backing two separate events, for example one horse to win the 1pm at Cheltenham (hypothetically at 2/1) and another horse to win the 4pm at Newbury (at evens). Both bets must win for you to succeed. A £1 double would cost you £1 and if both horses deliver you would get £6 back. After the first horse wins you effectively have £3 (£1 stake plus £2 profit) on the second horse at evens, resulting in a payout of £6 and profit of £5.

    A treble is the same concept but with three selections. As well as being called multiple bets, these are also known as accumulators.

    In addition to these simple multiples you also have various combination bets. With these you have multiple selections (for example a Yankee has four) and you cover the various doubles, trebles and, in this case, a fourfold. A Yankee is 11 bets in total: six doubles, four trebles and one fourfold. You need at least two picks to win to get anything back and as it is 11 bets, a £1 Yankee would cost £11.

    Straight forecast

    This requires you to pick the top two horses in a race, in the correct finishing order.

    Reverse forecast

    Similar to a straight forecast but the horses can finish in any order.


    This is where you pick the top three horses in the correct order.

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