A day at the races can be a great way to spend an afternoon with friends. You can enjoy a few drinks and a variety of dining with mates all whilst enjoying the excitement of betting on horse racing. Some racecourses even host concerts after races to allow you to make a real day of it.
One of the biggest questions our members always ask is what is the best way to place bets at racecourses, so we thought we’d put together a brief guide to help you understand the various ways you can bet at a racecourse and the pros and cons of each option.
Placing Bets With On-Course Bookmakers
The most common way that racegoers bet is with the on-course bookmakers, and you’ll normally find these lined-up in front of the stands between you and the racecourse. The odds of each horse will be displayed on their betting boards
You can simply walk up to any of these bookmakers and ask them for a bet on a horse. The easiest way to do this is to tell them the size of the bet you want and the number of the horse you want your bet on. For example, “Can I have £10 on number 3, please”.
The bookie will take your money and give you a receipt saying how much you bet and what odds you took (check these are the same as they were when you asked for the bet). Your receipt should also tell you how much money you will get back if your horse wins and the place payout if you if your horse places if you bet each-way. If you win, you then queue up to get your money.
The temptation if you win is to put your next bet on with the same bookmaker, but it’s normally better to spend a few minutes walking around the various bookmakers to try and get the best price. Judging the market isn’t always easy, as some horses get backed in quickly. But the best prices about most selections are often available in the last few minutes before the race when the bookies are competing for your business and trying to balance their books.
One thing you need to look out for when betting with on-course bookmakers is their each-way terms. Naughtily, many bookmakers offer less favourable each-way terms than they should, but they do have to display these terms on a little notice somewhere on their betting boards. The reason many of them do this is so they can offer bigger win prices, allowing them to compete with the betting exchanges that many punters can access easily on their mobile phones.
Placing Bets at the On-Course Betting Shop
Some racecourses have an on-course betting shop, which is often Betfred or another big-name bookmaker. You can simply walk into these shops and place bets just as you would at any high-street bookmaker such as Ladbrokes, Coral, or William Hill.
If you’ve never been in a high-street bookmaker’s shop before, pick-up a betting slip when you go into the on-course bookmakers. You then write the name of the horse you want to back on the slip followed by the time of the race, name of the racecourse, and the amount you want to bet.
You then take your betting slip to the counter, where you can ask for the price that is currently available on the horse or you can leave it and take the starting price (which is whatever odds the horse is returned at by the racing industry).
Placing Bets at the Tote
Tote betting or pool betting is completely different from betting with an on-course bookmaker or at an on-course betting shop. That’s because you can’t take any odds on your selections, as the dividends paid out on winners and placed horses are decided by how many people have bet on each horse in that particular betting pool bet and how much they bet on it.
Because of this, don’t be shocked if a horse that is returned at a starting price of 2/1 only pays 6/4 on the Tote. But, equally, it’s possible that a 10/1 starting price could easily pay 20/1 on the tote. There’s no exact science when it comes to tote betting, it’s just potluck.
Tote betting also offers a variety of other pool bets that can make your day at the races even more exciting. There’s a jackpot pool where the aim is to try and pick the winners of the first six races on the card. There’s also a placepot pool where the aim is to pick one horse in each of the first six races on the card that places. Again, the dividends for these depends on the picks of the people who are betting rather than the odds of the horses – but dividends can be big or even life-changing.
If you’re sitting inside at the races enjoying a fine dining experience, or the weather isn’t encouraging you to venture outside, you’ll find that tote betting is often available in many restaurants and bars.
Betting on Your Mobile Phone
Mobile phones are one of the scourges of the bookmakers along with the betting exchanges that most frequent bettors can get on their mobile phones. But at least this stops the on-course bookmakers taking the mickey out of punters.
On-course bookmakers know they have to offer competitive odds if they want to get serious punters to bet with them, as anyone with an account at an online bookmaker or betting exchange can bet on their phone if the odds are better.
But if you do bet on your phone at the races, you aren’t experiencing a day at the races as it was intended. A trip to the betting ring can be electric as you watch high rollers bet thousands of pounds in the ring with bookmakers that have the kahunas to stand those sorts of bets.
You’ll see the professionals dash in and out of the crowd, rushing to take the price on a board of a bookmaker who has dared to offer a price bigger than anyone else. You’ll see bookies runners desperately trying to lay-off big bets that have left their books one-sided.
If you’re lucky, you may just see the start of a betting coup that has been planned for months in the build-up to a big race. If you’re even luckier, you might just overhear someone start that betting coup and decide to have a bet on that horse yourself.
How to Pick Your Horses at the Races?
No matter how you to choose to bet at the races, you still have the problem of working out which horses to bet on at the races.
You might choose to buy a program and follow the tips provided. You can also purchase a copy of the Racing Post at most racecourses, which will give you the chance to choose from a variety of tips provided by the Racing Post tipsters.
Another option is to sign up to receive free tips from expert horse racing tipsters who have proven themselves capable of making long-term profits and an excellent return on investment.