How to Bet and Basics of Horse Racing

Gambling is an integral part of horse racing, and it's often said that the sport wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact that betting is so popular. Betting on horse racing is a lot of fun, and there's money to be made if you know what you're doing. Despite this, many people are often reluctant to bet on horse racing believing it's too complex.

There are a lot of ways to bet and many different bets you can make, and this does admittedly mean there is more to learn about horse racing betting than some other types of sports betting. However, horse racing betting is, in fact, relatively straightforward once you understand the basics. One of the most complicated aspects of horse racing betting is probably the fact that both the sport itself and the betting aspect are somewhat different in various parts of the world.

Although the basic principle is essentially the same universally, horse racing in the US, for example, differs in a few ways from the sport in the UK. This pertains to the types of racing that take place, the terms used for the various bets, and the way in which odds are priced. Before starting to bet on horse racing, you should be aware of the range of bets that can be placed and what the odds mean. Additionally, you should understand the difference between fixed odds and parimutuel betting, and about assorted various ways you can bet on horse racing. Last, but by no means least, you need to learn about choosing which horses to bet on.

Types of Horse Racing Bets & Odds

The simplest way to wager on a horse race is to bet on a particular horse to win. If your chosen horse goes on to take the race, your bet will pay out. However, there's quite a range of bets that can be placed on horse racing, including betting on a horse to finish in the first few places, betting on two or more horses to finish in a specific order, and betting on the results of multiple races in one selection. As mentioned, such bets will often vary a little depending on where in the world you are, and the terms used for bets may differ. We have compiled a comprehensive list of various bets you can place on horse races, including the terms used, on the page: Types of Bets on Horse Racing.

The odds, or the price, of a particular bet determines how much money you'll receive if that bet is a winner. Understanding the odds is an important part of horse racing betting when you are doing fixed odds betting, but less so if doing parimutuel betting (more on the differences between these two forms of betting later). The easiest way to explain how odds work is to show some examples, but we should first point out that the odds of a horse are quoted in one of three ways: decimal odds, fractional odds, or moneyline odds.

Decimal Odds

This method for quoting odds is the most common everywhere in Europe and Australia, among other places. Decimal odds are basically a number that shows how much a bet will return (including the stake) if it's a winner for every unit staked. For example, decimal odds of 2.0 would return $2 for every $1 staked, so you would essentially double your money. Odds of 3.0 would return $3 for every $1 staked, while odds of 4.5 would return $4.50 for every $1 staked (and so on). Decimal odds of less than 2.0 mean that, although you will still make a profit if the bet wins, the amount won will be less than the amount staked. This is called an "odds on" bet. For example, a $1 winning bet at 1.5 would return a total of $1.50. You have therefore won $.50 from a $1 bet.

Fractional Odds

This is the traditional quoting method in Great Britain and Ireland. Fractional odds show how much a bet will return in addition to the stake placed. For example, odds of 2/1 (stated as two to one) would return $2 for every $1 staked PLUS the original stake. So a $1 bet at 2/1 would return a total of $3; a $1 bet at 5/1 would return $5 in winnings plus the $1 stake. Fractional odds can also be numbers such as 5/4, 7/2 or 11/10. Odds of 1/1 are referred to as "evens," because you would win $1 for every $1 staked (plus get your stake returned). Odds such as 1/3 (stated as one to three, or three to one on) or 2/5 are examples of "odds on" bets, where the amount of profit would be less than the original stake.

Moneyline Odds

This odds quoting method is generally favored in America. Moneyline odds can be either a positive number or a negative number. A positive number quotes how much would be won based on a bet of $100. So, for example, +300 would return $300 in winnings from a $100 bet (PLUS the original stake). Therefore, +300 would be 3/1 in fractional odds or 4.0 in decimal odds. A negative number quotes how much would need to be staked to win $100. For example, -200 would return winnings of $100 (PLUS the original stake). Therefore, negative moneyline quotes are "odds on" bets.

Fixed Odds Horse Racing Betting

Fixed odds betting is the term for placing a bet at agreed odds: whether decimal, fractional, or moneyline odds. The most common form of fixed odds betting is placing bets with a bookmaker, such as at any of the online sites recommended on You basically make your selection (such as the horse you think is going to win a race) and choose your stake. If your bet wins, then you are paid out at the agreed odds; and if it doesn't, then the bookmaker keeps your bet. It really is as simple as that.

If you are making a bet on a horse race that's some time in the future, such as a few weeks or months, this fixed odds betting is also referred to as ante-post betting, or futures betting. The principle is exactly the same: you place your bet at the agreed odds, and your bet is settled at those odds. However, there's a chance that your chosen horse will not run for some reason such as an injury, for example. Should this happen, your bet would lose. There's an advantage to ante-post betting, however, as bookmakers will offer bigger odds when you bet in advance.

A final point on fixed odds betting: you should be aware that with some horse races, you'll have to make your bet at the "Starting Price" (SP). This means your bet will be settled at whatever the odds of the horse are at the time of the race start.

Parimutuel Horse Betting

Parimutuel betting, also known as Tote betting, differs from fixed odds betting in that you aren't betting against a bookmaker, but instead are effectively betting against other gamblers on the same event. The way it works on horse racing is quite simple. Every bet a parimutuel betting organization takes on a race goes into one "pool" which is divided between the winning bets. If you have placed a winning bet, you do not get odds in the same way as fixed odds betting, but rather your payout is essentially determined by the number of people that made a winning bet and the total amount wagered on the race. A percentage of each prize pool is held back for tax purposes and often an additional levy must be paid to the relevant horse-racing authority.

Parimutuel betting is sometimes the only form of betting available at a racecourse, although there will often be bookmakers offering fixed odds betting as well. There are a number of parimutuel betting companies around the world, some of which cover races in a specific nation or even across the world. Others might only take wagers at one particular racecourse. Most parimutuel betting organizations automatically calculate roughly what odds a bet will pay out and display these so customers can get an idea of what kind of return they might get. Obviously, the potential odds can change as other people place their bets.

Where to Bet on Horse Racing

There are a number of outlets where you can bet on horse racing depending on where you live in the world. In some countries, bookmakers have retail shops where you can simply walk in and place your bets, while many also offer a telephone betting service. Of course, if you actually attend the horse race, you'll have options to bet on course. Ultimately, the principle of horse racing betting is very similar wherever you to choose to bet. The important thing, really, is to bet in a way that is most convenient.

We recommend online horse racing betting. It's the easiest way and has many advantages over traditional forms of betting. Most online horse racing betting sites give you access to races all around the world and offer bonuses and promotions to new and regular customers. If you want to give horse racing betting a go, you'll need to open an online betting account at a suitable site. For help on deciding where to bet and a list of the best sites around, please visit our Horse Racing Sites page.

Making Your Selections

Once you have got a grip on what horse racing betting is all about and the various ways you can bet on horse racing, you'll obviously need to start thinking about which horses to choose. Many people enjoy betting on horse racing simply as fun and will make selections based on horse names they like. This approach is absolutely fine if you are comfortable with it, and it's perfectly possible to win some money just by having some luck.

However, you are more likely to win money if you actually know what you are looking for and understand how to determine which horses are likely to win. For advice and guidance on how to choose the best horses to bet on, please visit Horse Racing Betting Strategy.