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Horse Racing Odds Explained for Beginners

December 28, 2020, 8:35


In this article, you will find horse racing odds explained in a simple way. We educate punters about the type of information they can get from the odds offered on a horse. We also teach how to calculate payouts and provide a dictionary of horse racing terminology that every punter should be familiar with.

What Are Horse Racing Odds?

Before you bet on a runner in a horse race, you would like to know how likely the horse backed by you is to win. You can find that out by comparing the odds offered on each horse. The odds offered on a runner reflect the probability that the horse will win. The payout you can expect if the horse wins can be calculated from the odds offered. The odds may be represented as 5-8 or 3-5. If the odds are 5-8, you can expect to win a profit of 5 on a bet of 8. Likewise, if the odds are 3-5, you can expect a profit of 3 from a stake of 5. There are a few popular formats used to display odds.

Fractional Odds

This is the conventional type of odds commonly used in the UK. For instance, a display of odds of 5/8 will be pronounced as “five to eight.” In other words, if you bet 8, you can earn a profit of 5 (in addition to your original stake of ₹8). So, fractional odds do not include the stake. 

Decimal Odds

This is a more recent form of display commonly used in Europe. If odds are shown as 3.50, you can expect to receive a payout of 3.50 on an initial bet of 1. You can simply multiply your stake by the decimal odds to find out the payout you can expect if you win. Thus, decimal odds include the stake.

How to Read Horse Racing Odds?

  • Before a race starts, officials at the track will assign a handicap for each runner based on the past performances of the horses on that track. These are known as “morning line” odds that will be displayed on the program and will be the first to be quoted by the sportsbook maker. As a punter, you cannot rely on these odds as they will change as people begin to bet.
  • The morning line odds will go on changing as more and more people bet on a runner.
  • From the odds displayed, you can find out which horse is the most favoured to win. If the most favourable odds are quoted on more than one runner, the display will include the acronym “JF,” to indicate ‘joint-favourite.’
  • Fractional odds indicate the probability that a horse will win. For instance, odds of 1/2 indicate that the horse has a one in two (or 50%) probability of winning. In other words, the runner is expected to win only once in every two races. Likewise, we can read the odds of 4/1 to indicate that there will be four failures for each successful race run.

Standard Win Bets and Payouts

The minimum standard bet for horse racing in India is 10. Before you decide to bet on a runner, you must be aware of the odds related to the bet you intend to place. In the chart below, we have shown what payout you can expect on a winning bet of 10 at various odds:

Odds Payout Odds Payout Odds Payout
1/8 11.25 7/5 24.00 7/1 80
1/3 13.30 9/5 28.00 8/1 90
2/7 12.80 2/1 30.00 9/1 100
1/2 15.00 5/2 35.00 10/1 110
3/7 14.20 3/1 40.00 11/1 120
4/7 15.70 4/1 50.00 12/1 130
1/1 20.00 9/2 55.00 13/1 140
7/6 21.60 5/1 60.00 14/1 150
4/3 23.30 6/1 70.00 15/1 160

Calculating Horse Racing Betting Payouts

Horse racing is especially difficult because of constantly changing odds. Odds change every time a bet is placed. Such change is attributed to pool betting, also called pari-mutuel betting. As a punter in horse racing, you don’t bet against the house but against other bettors. After a race is over, the house will pay dividends to people who bet on the winning runner after deducting its share. Depending on different types of bets, the odds on a race are calculated differently. 

Straight Bets

When you bet on a runner to win, it’s called a win bet. When you bet on a horse to come second, it’s a place bet. When you bet on a runner to come third in a race, it’s known as a show bet.

Exotic Bets

Exotic bets are of three types: Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta.

In an Exacta bet, you would have to pick the runners who will finish first and second in the correct order. In a Trifecta bet, you would have to pick the runners to finish first, second and third in a race in that exact order. There are two more variants of a Trifecta bet. In a Trifecta Box bet, you can pick the top three finishers in any order. In a Trifecta Key bet, you can pick the first finisher correctly while naming the other two in any order. In a Superfecta bet, you would have to pick the runners to finish first, second, third and fourth in a race in the exact order. There are two other variants of a Superfecta bet. In a Superfecta Box bet, you can pick the top four finishers in any order. In a Superfecta Key bet, you can pick the first finisher correctly while naming the other three in any order.

Given that there are many factors to consider, sportsbook makers don’t assign any exact odds for exotic bets. Usually, the house takes a cut of 15% and the remainder is shared among the winning bets. 

Assume that ₹40,00,000 is there in the winning bet pool.

Reduce 6,00,000 (15%) being the takeout of the house.

The amount available to be won is 34,00,000.

Total bets on the winning horse: ₹17,00,000.

Payout per rupee (decimal odds) = 34,00,000/17,00,000 = 2.00.

Your bet of 100 will pay back a total of 200.00.

You made a profit of 100 on a bet of 100.

Horse Racing Odds Explained for Beginners

Best Win Bets in Horse Racing

  • The BIGGEST PAYOUT you can expect will be from a SUPERFECTA type of bet. The chances of winning are extremely slim. You’d need deep pockets to bet with.
  • You can expect a HIGH PAYOUT from a TRIFECTA type of bet. With slim chances of winning, this is an expensive bet that involves playing with a lot of combinations.
  • An EXACTA type of bet can provide HIGH or LOW PAYOUTS depending on how much you bet on each selection.
  • You can expect MODERATE TO DECENT PAYOUTS from WIN BETS — which carry an AVERAGE RISK — depending on the odds quoted on each win
  • MODEST PAYOUTS can result from a PLACE BET that has GOOD CHANCES of winning
  • You can win MODEST PAYOUTS from SHOW BETS that have VERY GOOD CHANCES of winning though the payouts will be smaller than in a Place Bet

Horse Racing Betting Glossary

Carryover: If no member of a pari-mutuel pool picks the winners, the money in the pool gets carried over to be added to the next such pool.

Consolation: When nobody picks the winners, a play that “almost wins” will get a consolation in the form of a small payout which is usually a lot smaller than a full payout.

Fixed-Odds: These are the advertised odds you see when you place a bet.

Late Money: This refers to a large sum bet on a runner immediately before a race starts.

Long Odds: As the name indicates, you can expect a big payout if the runner you back wins the race. In other words, your backed horse is an underdog. An example of long odds would be 40/1, meaning that you can expect 40 on every rupee bet.

Minus Pool: If not enough bets have been received to cover the payment that must be made to the holder of a winning ticket, the law requires the track to pay a legal minimum (minus pool) to compensate.

Odds Board: This is the tote board displayed in the infield of a racetrack.

Odds-On: An odds-on favourite is a runner who is strongly favoured to win. The payout would be smaller than the stake. An example of odds on pricing is 1/4.

Short Odds: A quote of short odds translates into a high chance of winning but the one that offers only a small gain. An example of short odds is 7/5, in which a stake of 5 will only get you a profit of 7.

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