For most spectator sports, betting is something of a side hobby designated for those who have specific interest in wagering on games. It’s available for most any sport you can think of, but the vast majority of spectators choose not to bet. However, when it comes to horse racing, this isn’t the case. In this sport, betting is a part of the culture. While it certainly isn’t required to bet on the outcome when you watch a race, many would encourage it as a way to enhance the experience and grow attached to the competitors.
Once upon a time, horse race betting was done primarily at the tracks’ betting booths. But now with the introduction of massive online sports betting sites, many spectators (and many who are simply tracking races from their homes or abroad) choose to bet on the Internet. And with major spring races like the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree’s Grand National coming up in the spring, now is a good time for anyone with an interest to learn how it’s done! So here are a few tips on how to bet on horse racing online.
To begin with, you’ll want to be sure you find a reliable site to place your bets on. Generally speaking, if you go to the website for an actual racing event, you will often find pages redirecting you to sports betting sites, and these can be trusted in most cases. Other than that, limit your search to sites that have been around a while, sites with clear security measures in place, and/or those that have sponsorships in place with athletic teams, events, and competitors. Established brands can usually be trusted.
Next, you’ll want to study up on how to read betting odds, if you’re new to sports betting. One of the most common ways to see odds displayed is in a fraction format. For example, if you see that a certain horse has 5/1 odds to win a race, it means that for every £1 you bet, your return (should that horse win) would be £5. If a horse is a particularly strong favourite, you may also see a fraction weighted in the opposite direction. For example, a horse with 1/2 odds would be viewed as a very strong contender. As a reflection of that strength, one would have to risk £2 just to win £1. This is how it works when you back one competitor to win a race.
However, you may also come across a different option that essentially allows you to bet against a single competitor. The Betfair Betting site was one of the first to offer the option of what’s called “lay betting,” which means betting on the field to defeat a given competitor. Generally, a lay bet will have reversed odds. So, if a horse has 5/1 backing odds to win a race, the lay bet—that is, the bet that any other horse will win the race—may be 1/5. You have a better statistical chance of winning when you bet on the field, but the margin for gain is much smaller.
You may also see backing and lay odds displayed as whole numbers or decimals,. This can be a little less clear to look at, but it ultimately amounts to the same thing. Basically, if you see a whole number listed as a competitor’s odds, you can think of it as 1 plus your potential gain. So if the number 5 is presented as a horse’s odds, you might think of it as £1 plus the £4 you stand to make if you bet correctly. In other words, for the purposes of sports betting, 5 would be the same as 4/1. If this is a little complicated at first, there are also tools available online to help. Sporting Life will directly convert decimal and fraction odds back and forth so you don’t have to!
Once you have a firm understanding in these areas—which site to use, how to read the odds, etc.—it comes down to personal decision making. You’ll generally be prompted to make an account at the site you choose and deposit money with which to bet, and at that point you can wager on the competitors of your choosing. There’s no sure thing in sports betting, but it would also be wise not to gauge things entirely by the odds. Intelligent betting requires careful research and attention. When you’ve seen tips from professional analysts and studied the different factors involved in a race (such as how a horse tends to fair in given conditions, how healthy a competitor is, etc.), you’re ready to place your bets!