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Considerations When Betting on Horses

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 26 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Betting Horse Racing Odds Favourite Tote

Horse racing is a big spectator sport in most countries across the world – and certainly the UK. One of the reasons it remains so popular – aside from the glamour and excitement – is betting. Betting on horse racing if huge – a phenomenonally big business.

From the people who have one flutter a year on the Grand National or Cheltenham Gold Cup to the people who bet on races every week, betting enhances the enjoyment of the sport no end. There are few things which can make you more interested in a sport than having money staked on it – from £5 to the huge sums of money some people bet. But betting can be confusing for the first timer, with several different types of bet available.

Normal Betting

Normal betting is the type of betting which you will do if you just have a flutter on the National, or perhaps stake some money a few times a year. You place the bet through a bookie or bookmaker and are given odds for each horse. These odds will usually take the form x/y with the first number being the amount you get back for each of the second number you stake. In terms of knowing what you can win or lose from your bet, this is the best one to go for.

With horse racing, you can either place your bet on the horse to win, or each way. Each way means you stake double the amount on the horse, to either win or place – that is come second or third. It is essentially the same as placing a bet to win and then another bet to place, but at the same odds. With normal betting, once you have placed the bet, the odds for that bet will not change even though the odds for your horse may move up and down.

You can also place a lay – lay on a horse instead of bet on one, and this means you are essentially betting for a horse to lose. This is a rare form of betting and the odds are generally poor – the reverse of the odds for the bet.

The bigger the difference between the two numbers in the odds, the more of an outsider the horse is. But, of course, the more you stand to win if you take a risk and back the horse compared to one with shorter odds.

There are also a number of variations of this type of betting such as accumulators, doubles and trebles. These are when you place several bets but they are linked and you need all of the events to happen to win the bet.

Betting on the Tote

Betting on the Tote is usually seen at racecourses themselves. The Tote stands for the Horserace Totaliser Board and is a way of pool betting on horse races. The gambler pays a certain, fixed amount into the pool and chooses a winner. The total in the pool is then divided equally among the winners. There are no odds at work in this form of betting, with it being more akin to a lottery.

Spread Betting

Spread betting is far more complicated and involves an index, set by an index company. These include the favourites and jockey index. The company decides how many favourites they think will score well and quotes a number of points. If you think they will get more, you can buy the index and if you think they will get less you can sell. The winnings or losses will be based on how many pounds per point multiplied by the number of points over or under you bought or sold for.


The office favourite – the sweepstake is usually only used on an informal basis around big races. The idea is that the names of all of the horses are put into a hat and everyone pays a fixed amount to draw one at random. The winner is the person who picked the right horse and they take home the money.

Horse racing betting can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. It can also be as skilled or as random, with spread betting at one end of the scale and the sweepstake at the other. But make no mistake about it; it is an exciting and glamorous way to liven up races for almost everyone watching.

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